Tuesday, September 10, 2013


The real 'thing' with a CSA membership is getting what you get, based on the crops planted, the weather, the bugs, any plant illnesses going around and bunch of other factors you the consumer have no power over. Some people love the surprize element, some people hate it, some just deal with it.

This year we've been getting lots, and lots, and lots of Swiss chard. Now I love Swiss chard, its a definite favorite. Truth be told all the dark leafy cooking greens are. I can live without the lettuce but spinach, kale, chard, beet greens, turnips greens and any other of the non-lettuces? Bring 'em on. Apparently my fellow CSA'ers are not as keen on it. So last time we got chard not only did I get my bunch, but I got a bunch another member forced upon me (oh twist my arm!)

I tell other people all the time to just use it like you would spinach. Apparently this advice is not appreciated. I dont know why, but ok, whatever.

I have sauteed it, made pesto with it, mixed it into tomato sauce, mixed it with ricotta cheese, chopped some into curry - really I find it quite versitle. Tonight I made it into quiche.

I love quiche because its so adaptable. You can make it vegetarian (well ovo-lacto vegetarian anyway) or use any kind of meat you want. You can load it with veggies, or use veggies sparingly. Lots of cheese, or limited cheese. As far as I know the only required ingredients are a pie crust, eggs and some cheese. So go nuts, use what you have.

A trick to the chard, and the leeks, by the way, is a big bowl of water. Its simply put the best way to truly rinse the sand off. You just aren't going to get it all under running water, you aren't. So fill a giant bowl with water, or even just your sink basin, and roughly chop your chard and/or leeks and dump them in and swirl around for a bit. The greens float, the dirt sinks. Easy-peasy.

1 pie crust
2 egg whites
6 eggs
6 ounces shredded cheese (I used pepper jack)
2 ounces chopped pepperoni (I used low fat turkey pepperoni)
1/2 large bunch of Swiss chard, chopped (this would equal 1 grocery store bunch in my experience)
1 medium leek, chopped
2 tablespoons of sour cream (because I had it; I used low fat)
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Boil some water with a touch of salt and drop in your chard. Cook for about 2 minutes then drain. Once its cooled a bit give it a finer chop (I like to pulse it in the food processor, but you could chop by hand).
In a big bowl beat the egg whites and eggs, and after a while the sour cream, salt and pepper. Add the leeks, chard, and cheese and mix well. 
Pour into a pie shell and bake about 45-60 minutes.

Monday, September 9, 2013


I have many friends of Italian heritage, and many who have married into Italian families. In many ways I'm envious of the strong food traditions they learn from their families at large, after all Italian food is amazingly delicious. But one thing I don't envy them are the rules. For every "secret" and trick I've heard about Italian cooking I've also heard some obscure or oppressive rule, about how things have to be done. No thanks. No one imposes rules in my kitchen but me.

And so I present my Italian inspired but almost certainly blasphemous in some way eggplant-not-quite-rolatini. Its sort of a cross between eggplant parm and eggplant rolatini with a hint of lasagne method (because I didn't dare try to actually roll my eggplant) and cooked by an absolutely non-Italian New Yorker. And it is delicious. And rule free. Use any variety of tomato. Make it any time of the month. Packaged mass produced mozzarella cheese is fine. Go crazy. Heck here's a non-Italian trick for the mozzarella cheese: 30-40 minutes before starting anything put it in the freezer. Then use a food processor to chop it (or shred it if you have that attachment). So much easier then shredding squishy cheese by hand!

Like so very many of my dishes it utilizes what I had on hand. If you want to make it authentic to my recipe, then utilize what you've got, its a more honest following then to buy my exact ingredient list. I winged it, so you can too. I made my sauce because I had tons of tomatoes on hand from my CSA, but go ahead and open a jar if you prefer.

1 eggplant
ricotta cheese
mozzarella cheese, shredded
tomato sauce*
bread crumbs
Italian seasoning
2 eggs
cooking oil

For the sauce
4 medium fresh tomatoes
1 small or half a large [sweet] pepper
1/2 small onion (I use red, but white or yellow is fine)
2-3 cloves garlic
teaspoon of sugar or honey
olive oil

Set a pot of water to a boil.
Slice your eggplant to disks about 1/8 of an inch wide. Put a piece of paper towel on a plate, put down one layer of eggplant disks, salt lightly, add a paper towel and repeat until all your eggplant is salted and in between paper towels; weigh it down with another plate (if your plates are very lightweight, put a can of something on top of the top plate to give it some heft). This is one of those "Italian tricks" I've learned - its how you keep your eggplant from frying up slimy. Set aside while you make the sauce.  At some point in the middle of the next step come back and change the by-then wet paper towels for dry ones.

Drop 4 whole ripe tomatoes into the boiling water. Let them boil for about 1-4 minutes - until the skin cracks. Remove the tomatoes and run under cold water for a bit so you can handle them. Peel off the skin and quarter the tomatoes and remove the core bit. I also like to scrape out the majority of the seeds. I'm not obsessive about it but I get what I can out (this might require some more cutting, that's fine chop away.) Put the skinless, seedless flesh into a pot. Add the pepper and onion, roughly chopped, along with the garlic (I put it through a press first, but you can chop it if that's easier for you) and a dollop of olive oil. Set the whole thing to medium heat and cook for a few minutes. (This is a good time to change paper towels on your eggplant.) Using an immersion blender, puree all the veggies together. Add a decent shake of Italian seasoning, salt and the sugar, and stir. Bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, as you prepare the rest of the eggplant.

Prepare 3 small bowls and a drying rack. First bowl: flour, second bowl: 2 eggs well beaten, third bowl: bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Now is also a good time to start preheating your oven to 350.

With a fork or tongs, dip a slice of eggplant into the flour to coat each side. Then dip into the egg wetting both sides, then into the breadcrumbs encasing each side. Place on drying rack. Repeat with each eggplant slice. Drying the breaded disks for a few minutes before cooking is another "trick" I learned somewhere, it helps keep the breadcrumb coating from just sliding off when frying.

Heat some oil in a large skillet - enough to completely cover the whole pan but not so deep the eggplant will be submerged. Starting with the first slice you coated (as its the driest) place the eggplant into the pan and fry on each side for about 3-4 minutes. While they are cooking put a layer of paper towel on your drying rack, so as you remove the eggplant its going right onto the towel on the rack. If you will end up with two layers of eggplant on the rack, put a paper towel between them.

In a small bowl mix 1/3 of your mozzarella cheese with a few generous dollops of ricotta cheese.

Now assemble. In a baking dish add about 1/3 of your tomato sauce, just enough to coat the whole bottom of the dish. Place a single layer of eggplant disks. Cover with ricotta cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant. Repeat this until there is no more eggplant and ricotta (ending with eggplant as your top layer). Pour remaining sauce over it all. Cover it all with the rest of you mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. 
Enjoy! Makes 4 regular sized servings.