Baked Eggplant & Tomatoes

This is a delicious dish that looks gorgeous, but is very easy and really ticks all the boxes for me! The eggplant gets all creamy and the cheese gets all melty, and the pesto gets all… pesto-ey. Well, you get the point.

Ingredients
1 large eggplant, stem end removed and sliced lengthwise in 1/2″ slices (save end pieces for another use)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Pesto
4-5 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/2″ slices (Any tomato is actually fine.)
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper the sliced eggplants and place in a bowl, leaning on the edge so the water can run off a bit from the eggplant. Let drain for at least 15 minutes.

Lay the first slice of eggplant in a 9×12 baking dish. Spread about 2 tsp of Pesto on the first slice. Top with a layer of tomatoes, and sprinkle on a spoonful each of Mozzarella and grated Romano. Slide the layer over until it is at an angle leaning on the side of the dish.

Repeat for the second layer, sliding eggplant over to partially overlap the first layer.

Continue with all remaining slices of eggplant. Sprinkle any remaining cheese on top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 20 minutes.

Serve hot – it’s so good!

Mel’s Kale & Chicken Salad

This is a super delicious, super satisfying salad from Mel’sKitchenCafé.com. I made it for lunch today and Ali, who had popped in for a bike ride with Kumy enjoyed it, too. It looks like a lot, but it was really just about enough for 3 servings as a main dish. It’s got enough crunch and texture to make it interesting and satisfying.

Fresh Kale by Deborah Rainford on Unsplash

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups cooked rice, slightly warm or at room temp. (Mel uses a wild rice blend, but I had Basmati in the fridge. Trade Joe’s has a great frozen rice blend that would be great, or you could use quinoa.
6 ounces (about 5 lightly packed cups) coarsely or finely chopped kale
5 boneless, skinless thicken thighs, cook, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium apple, cored and diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup Craisins
1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 medium avocados, diced

Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS
Cook the rice according to package directions, and let cool to room temperature.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil, season chicken thighs, and cook thighs over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Flip over and cook another 4 minutes or so, or until the chicken is browning nicely and cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Cut into 1″ pieces.

At the same time, start a smaller nonstick skillet on a low heat and add slivered almonds, shaking occasionally so they toast on all sides.

Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth and well-combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

Assemble the salad by placing the greens in the bottom of individual wide serving bowls. Top with rice, chicken, apples, almonds, Craisins, feta and avocados.

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately.

NOTES
You can also use 3 cups rotisserie chicken, chopped up, in which case you don’t need any olive oil, or you could leave out the chicken altogether for a vegetarian dish.

Kale, Lemon & Chicken Casserole

Lovely image of kale by Christina Rumpf on Unsplash.

I’d picked up kale planning to make soup or a lovely massaged kale salad, but somehow it just didn’t feel like a soup or salad night. Instead, I tweaked a Martha Stewart casserole recipe. We loved it – it was fast, easy and perfect for a weeknight supper. Next time – I’ll probably double the kale.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. shells or other pasta (bowtie or rotini)
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced or one heaping teaspoon garlic powder
1 package chopped kale (5-7 oz – but you could easily double it!)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup sour cream
Zest and juice of half a large lemon
3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (or Parmesan)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Add pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water, and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pot off heat.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan melt butter over medium high heat, add onion and cook 4-5 minutes until onion is softened. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring frequently.

Add kale, reduce heat and stir to combine. Cover and cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally until kale is tender. Add to pot with pasta.

Then add chicken, sour cream, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and 1/2 cup of Romano cheese, and blend together gently.

Check seasoning and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish, and top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with slices of fresh lemon for squeezing over.

Delish!

Salmon with Creamy Spinach and Tomatoes

Another delicious salmon recipe – and this one has plenty of veggies, with a delicious, creamy sauce – so it’s just the kind of recipe we love.

I made it last night, and we finished the whole thing – leaving not so much as a drop. It’s even possible that someone went after the skillet with a rubber spatula. So truly, not a drop was left, and yes it was me! Yum!

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 4-oz piece of salmon fillet, skin removed
2 Tbsp butter
1 chopped onion
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, or other tomatoes, cut into roughly 1″ chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup half & half
1 tsp lemon zest
4-5 cups baby spinach

Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Cook salmon for 7-8 minutes, gently flipping half way through. Remove salmon from skillet, and keep on a plate.

Add butter, and sauté onion for several minutes until softened. Stir in the flour and spices and stir for another minute or two. Add tomatoes, and cook 3-4 minutes or until softened a bit. Add wine and Dijon mustard. turn heat to low, and cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slowly stir in the half & half and lemon zest, and continue cooking another minute until it starts to thicken. Add spinach and stir until spinach is mostly wilted.

Return salmon fillets to the skillet, and cook two minutes or so until the salmon is heated through. So good!

Classic Pork (or Vegan) Stew from Southern Boys Dishes

With the arrival of Fall weather, I’m starting to think of stews again. I made this stew a while back and it was delicious! One of those recipes that you save in your inbox so you remember to make it again – rich, hearty and super flavorful.

Looking at the recipe recently, I realized it could be made vegan super easily – by substituting Seitan for Pork. Or you could honestly leave the meat out altogether and just enjoy it as a hearty veggie stew!

Ingredients

2 ½ pound boneless pork roast, cut into 1″ cubes
Or, for a vegan version, use 2 lbs. Seitan cut into cubes
1/4 cup flour
2 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small leeks, white and green part thinly sliced
1 cup chopped shallots
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4″ pieces
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1″ cubes
2 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
10 oz button mushrooms, halved
Chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. In medium bowl, toss pork or Seitan cubes in flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Place one half on the pork or Seitan in an even layer in the dutch oven. Do not overcrowd. Brown for two to three minutes. Turn each piece and brown for two to three minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining pork or Seitan, transferring to plate when browned.
  3. Add leeks, shallots, and garlic to dutch oven and saute for two to three minutes until the leeks are wilted. Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove browned bits.
  4. Add carrots, potatoes, chicken or veggie stock, tomatoes, vinegar, bay leaves, basil, oregano, thyme, two tsp salt, and one tsp pepper to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, mixing well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes.
  5. Add pork to the stew, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
    (If using Seitan, see note below.)
  6. Add mushrooms and continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately garnished with chopped parsley.

Note: I believe Seitan can be added in the last 5 minutes of cooking, since it’s basically just being rewarmed. The gravy and delicious flavors will be coat the Seitan so it should be fine. (I’ve never cooked Seitan for a long time in liquid, like in a slow cooker though I’ve seen some recipes for it, so you could definitely try it.)

Mustafa’s Daal (Lentils)

After visiting Kumy’s Mom at the beginning of last year, we were reminded how incredibly delicious Pakistani food is!  We were also lucky enough to learn how to make Daal from Mummy’s cook, Mustafa, who is an amazing cook.

It’s a fairly easy recipe, and uses a “bagaar” to add flavor.  It was one of the first things we made when we got back.  I’m happy to say it was just about as good as Mustafa’s and a welcome reminder of our visit back “home”.

Ingredients:

1 cup Masoor Daal (small, round, split red lentils)
1/2 cup Moong Daal (small, oval split yellow lentils)

4 cups water
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (add more if you dare – it was originally 1 1/4 tsp – but that was too hot!)
1/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 cup diced onions
3/4 cup diced tomato  (Can also substitute 1 can of Rotel Tomatoes for the tomato and jalapeno.)
1/2 jalapeno, diced, optional
1/4 cup cilantro, rough-chopped, optional

Bagaar:
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/4 tsp whole cumin
3 dry red chilis/peppers (small, round ones, but you can use two long red ones instead.)

Wash both daals well, swirling and rinsing until the water is mostly clear. Add to a large pot. Then add water, garlic, salt, cayenne, turmeric, onions and tomatoes. Cook 30-40 minutes.

Whisk well and add water to get a thick gravy consistency, as needed. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the daal, but be careful not to over do it. Add Jalapeno and Cilantro, and cook 10 minutes more.

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and add the rough-chopped garlic, cook for a minute and then add the dry red chilis/peppers and cumin seeds. Cook 30 seconds more and pour oil mixture right into the daal. Stir to combine and serve with basmati rice or Naan. Can also add a squeeze of lemon when serving if you wish.

Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

My dear friend Tammy came over yesterday and we made dinner together. Fresh asparagus from the garden, roasted butternut squash salad, and this amazing salmon dish, cooked in a cast iron skillet. We ate in the backyard as the sun slowly set and it was truly magical.

Tammy actually made the salmon dish and it was just incredible! Kumy said, “this is it – we don’t need to try any other salmon recipes” and I have to say I agree! We got the recipe from Katerina on Diethood.com, with a few modifications.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 (6 oz. each) skin-on salmon fillets
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

For the Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

1 Tbsp butter
1 cup half & half
1/2 Tbsp all purpose flour (or 3/4 tsp cornstarch for a gluten-free version)
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 big cloves garlic, roughly minced
1 tsp dried dill
3/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat and add the olive oil. Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper and add the salmon fillets, skin side down. Let cook for 6 minutes without moving or lifting the fish.

Gently flip the fish over and let it cook 2 more minutes, then remove to a plate.

While fish is cooking, whisk together the half & half, flour, cheese, lemon juice, garlic, dill and thyme in a small bowl. Add ½ tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper to start. (You can always add more salt and pepper at the end.)

Remove any skin that has stuck to the skillet, and reduce the temperature to medium. Add the butter, let it melt and then pour in the sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, whisking constantly for a minute or so until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the fish carefully into the sauce, skin side down, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Leave the tops of the salmon uncovered so it looks pretty.

So good!

Brazilian Seafood Stew (Moqueca)

I made this remarkably delicious stew last night and it’s a keeper. With a coconutty, fresh lime and cilantro focus, it’s light and the fish and shrimp taste wonderful with it. I’ve tweaked a recipe originally from the New York Times, and everything is very easily available except Dende oil. It may be worth ordering some – since I will definitely make this again.

Ingredients

12 oz peeled, deveined shrimp
12 oz cod fillet, cut into 1″ pieces
kosher salt
2 limes (juice of one and the other cut into wedges)
2 Tbsp olive oil (Or Dende oil – traditional but less easily available)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 large bell peppers, cut into 1/4″ slices, and halved
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes, drained and juice reserved (Or 1 lb. tomatoes, cut in 1″ wedges, and 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, whole and pricked all over with a a knife.)
1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
steamed rice for serving

Directions

In a bowl, squeeze the juice of one lime and add 1 tsp salt. Place fish chunks in bowl and let marinate.

In a large, deep frying pan, heat olive oil. Add garlic and cook for a minute, then add onions and cook another few minutes. Turn heat up a bit and add the peppers and drained Ro-tel tomatoes. (Save the juice!) Saute for 5 minutes or so, until the peppers are starting to soften.

Reduce heat and add the coconut milk, the Ro-tel juice and simmer about 10 minutes. Add half the chopped cilantro, and the shrimp and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gently place fish and marinade into the pan, and cook 2-3 more minutes until fish is cooked through. Taste and add salt if needed.

To serve, place some steamed rice in the bottom of the bowl and ladle stew over. Top with a squeeze of fresh lime and more chopped cilantro. Delish!

Chicken Karahi (Stew)

I’ve always loved Chicken Karahi from when we lived in Karachi, but really never made it until I snagged a Shan Masala mix for it. It’s a surprisingly easy dish and Kumy and I both loved it with fresh hot Roti (like whole wheat tortillas.) Another good Shan Masala mix – though it’s pretty spicy when made as directed on the box. I might try doing half the mix in the box if you don’t like things too spicy, or using just one chili.

Also – you’ll note that the recipe on the box calls for 1 1/2 cups of oil, and a 1/2 cup of butter, but have mercy – that’s just too oily! The oil and butter are important to this recipe though, so 1/2 cup of oil and the 1/4 cup of butter are about right.

Ingredients

1/2 to 1 box Shan Karahi Seasoning Mix
3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 Tbsp crushed garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp ginger, julienned
5 tomatoes, diced
4 little green chillies
(You can also substitute 1 can Rotel and ½ can diced tomatoes for the tomatoes and chillies.)
½ cup olive oil + 1 Tbsp olive oil
½ stick butter
3 Tbsp fresh chopped Cilantro

Mix crushed garlic, grated ginger and shan masala mix in a medium bowl. Add chicken chunks and stir until everything is well coated. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan, and add meat mixture. Stir fry 5-6 minutes on high heat. Reduce heat and add juliened ginger, cvoer and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.

In a separate pan, heat a Tbsp of olive oil, and saute tomatoes and peppers for a minute or two stirring frequently. Reduce heat and cook 5-6 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cooked tomatoes and peppers to the chicken mixture, and increase heat to medium. Cook stirring gently but frequently to prevent burning.

Stir in butter and garnish with Cilantro.

Serve with Naan, roti or tortillas.

New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John

It’s a Southern tradition to eat Hopping John (Black-eyed Pea Stew) on New Year’s Day for good luck all year, and this year, I’m not taking any chances!

I started with Ree Drummonds recipe. Ree adds a ham hock and says that you can also add a can of diced tomatoes, or a few cups of torn-up Kale. I skipped the ham hock, but may try the tomatoes or kale the next time I make it. If you don’t like black-eyed peas, it’s also good with black beans – it’s a great, comforting dish perfect for a cold Winter’s Day!

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter (or 2 Tbsp bacon drippings & 2 Tbsp olive oil) (Or just 4 Tbsp olive oil for a vegan version)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 14-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegan)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Good pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
White rice

Heat butter or bacon drippings and oil in a cast iron skillet. Add, onions, bell pepper and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add black-eyed peas, chicken stock and seasonings. Don’t add the vinegar yet! Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook 30 minutes. Remove lid, stir and let cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vinegar and stir. Check seasonings. Serve in a bowl over hot rice.