Maple-Mustard-Ginger Glazed Chicken

Another night at home? With no events to attend? Cooking for myself? With fresh veggies and fruits and a bottle of wine? This must be what heaven is like.

I had expected to have some friends over tonight, but the rain saw fit to give us a literal raincheck. Only wanting to cook something for one, as well as use up some stuff I’d bought a few days earlier at random, I threw together a pantry meal that made me as happy as any meal in a restaurant.

I had one chicken breast left over from Friday night, so I butterflied it and made a glaze of one part maple syrup, one part ginger and two parts Gulden’s brown mustard, with a pinch of salt, then set about pan-searing it. (With all apologies to Plinio, for whom the phrase “pan-seared” is offensively redundant.) In another pan, I cooked down some fingerling potatoes and multi-colored French baby carrots. I left the carrots a little crunchy, which is how I prefer them and — if I’m being honest — why I sometimes prefer cooking for one. We can indulge in all of our strange dining peccadillos without imposing them on others.

If I weren’t feeling so tired tonight (and if I hadn’t been so hungry), I would have breaded the chicken and stuck it into the oven with that glaze. Perhaps next time. As it was, it was quite delicious. And dessert — the rest of the strawberries and raspberries from this weekend’s FAILberry pie — with a little almond milk and sugar — wasn’t too shabby, either.

I could get used to this.

Sweet Potato Curry

I’ve been so busy lately that to get a rare night at home — on a weekend, no less — is pure bliss. I had intended to spend my Friday night cooking and baking — two things I haven’t been able to do at all recently — but the baking portion of the evening ended up as a big old pile of fail, and should never be discussed again. Luckily, my best friend invited herself over to “watch me cook,” which I found highly amusing but welcome, and the night turned into a cooking party for two.

It’s always nice to have another person in the kitchen, especially when they’re good at chopping vegetables. I’m so accustomed to cooking alone — which, like I imagine gardening or sewing are for other people, is extremely calming and meditative for me — that I’d forgotten how much fun it can be to create a meal with another person.

I made my mother’s lovely sweet potato curry, which is more of a winter dish but with liberal amounts of lime juice and cilantro can be easily perked up into a summer dish as well. Her recipe is below (p.s. Thanks for writing all your recipes down for me, mom and Meemo! Best. Gift. Ever.). It’s quick and easy to throw together and will feed at least four people, especially with a potful of Basmati rice to go along with it.

Sweet Potato Curry

  • 2 1/2 t. canola oil
  • 1 1/4 lbs. chicken or pork, cubed
  • 1 1/4 lbs. sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 1/4 T. fresh ginger
  • 2 T. curry powder (I prefer Maharajah curry from Penzey’s)
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1 1/2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 c. frozen green peas
  • 1/2 c. frozen edamame
  • zest from one lime
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Saute chicken or pork in canola oil until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In a deep pan or pot, saute shallot in oil. Add ginger, curry powder and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add chicken, sweet potatoes, coconut milk and two pinches of salt. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat and stir in frozen peas, edamame and lime zest. Serve over Basmati rice and top with chopped cilantro. I also like to add the juice of the lime I zested for even more pep.

—-

This recipe makes fantastic leftovers if you’re only cooking for one (as I usually am). But with Hala around on Friday night, I only had enough leftovers for one meal. Here’s to good friends and good appetites.

Cheers!

Giving Thanks

There’s a lot to be said for the traditional trappings at Thanksgiving: the goopy sweet potato casserole with tiny, burnt marshmallows on top; the sodium-soaked green bean casserole topped with tinny-tasting fried onions; gelatinous slices of canned cranberry “sauce”; boxed-broth flavored stuffing with the consistency of packing peanuts.

Wait, no… There isn’t.

Happy Turkey Day
Image courtesy of Flickr user jeffbalke.

Sure, everyone looks forward to the traditions at Thanksgiving each year — gathering with your close family or friends, stuffing your face, coming down off your food high in front of the Cowboys game or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, making turkey and cranberry sandwiches for breakfast the next morning, and eventually deciding that you don’t want to see another turkey until, well, next Thanksgiving — but no one said the food had to be traditional, i.e., boring and flavorless.

Why not start a new tradition for Thanksgiving? Why not prepare some easy yet amazing, simple yet delicious dishes that inspired by the season, not by the collective subconsious? Below are some of my favorite recipes; hopefully they’ll inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me.

Instead of bland, flavorless cornbread stuffing, give one of these phenomenal stuffings from Bon Appetit a try: Wild Mushroom & Spinach Stuffing or Bacon, Apple and Fennel Stuffing. The latter is particularly fitting for the season, with succulent little fennel bulbs and crisp apples. And the former can easily be adapted for vegetarian or vegan friends and family.

Instead of dumping out a can of cranberry sauce and listening to it slide sickeningly out of the tin with little belches before landing on the plate with a sound that can best be described as “giving up,” why not just make some cranberry sauce from scratch? It’s easier than it sounds, trust me. Try this: Cranberry, Pear and Ginger Chutney. Apple cider vinegar, ginger and onions give this sauce a tangy bite that gives way to the sweetness of the pear, cinnamon and orange zest. An extremely well-balanced recipe if I’ve ever seen one.

Instead of that godawful sweet potato casserole that only the folks sitting at the kids’ table enjoy, try this recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers: Molasses Glazed Acorn Squash. My love for acorn squash is exceeded by very few other foods, and for good reason. It’s gorgeous to present, naturally sweet (even better when roasted), and extremely good for you. No tiny marshmallows needed here.

Instead of serving your family and friends a week’s worth of salt in one fell swoop with that soupy green bean casserole, give this amazing Brussels sprouts recipe a shot: Pan-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion, Chili and Cumin Seeds. Unlike most Brussels sprouts recipes which call for heavy cream, bacon, butter or pork fat, this recipe calls only for olive oil and allows the sprouts to shine while allowing you to have a healthy yet hearty dish.

Of course, there are some Thanksgiving food traditions that aren’t to be meddled with: sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie and pecan pie, the triumverate of Thanksgiving desserts that should grace every sideboard or kitchen counter. But that’s just me.

What about you, sweet potatoes? What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Would Thanksgiving be meaningless and empty without a certain dish or two?

Happy Halloween!

Hope you’re all enjoying a happy Halloween so far!

We’re gearing up for a serious potluck lunch here at the office — tamales and empanadas are out in full force — so this afternoon should be filled with the sounds of overly-full moans and heavy sighs from people who’ve overindulged in the feast and are no longer as comfortable in their skintight flapper or pimp outfits as they were this morning.  Thankfully, yours truly came prepared in a roomy Dynamo jersey and jeans.  I plan ahead like that.

To celebrate the day, here’s a great article from one of my favorite websites, Serious Eats:

Halloween Recipes Roundup

The great thing about these recipes is that they’re perfect not only for Halloween, but for the rest of the year, too.  Hellooooo, spiced pumpkin bisque!  So enjoy those autumnal ingredients, crisp spices and yummy root vegetables while the cool weather lasts!

And as one last treat, can you guess the best and worst Halloween candy?  Don’t worry if you can’t; MSN is there to be a spoilsport and try to convince you that everyone loves Tootsie Rolls and sticks of gum for Halloween!  Don’t fall for it.  You’ll be hated almost as much that woman at the end of the cul-de-sac who gives out toothbrushes and can’t figure out why her house always gets egged.  Stick with Snickers tonight and you’ll be golden.

Happy Halloween!

Southern Fry-Up

A few weeks ago, I shared my incredibly complicated recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes with y’all (slice, dunk, fry), but I didn’t have any pictures of this highly-technical procedure to share, thanks to a broken camera.

Well, I decided to bust out said broken camera and see if it would take pictures even if it doesn’t act like it’s taking pictures or display said pictures on its little LCD screen.  And…it works!  I mean, the focus is out of whack and I have no idea what the pictures will look like until I upload them to my laptop, but…it works!

So without further ado, I present: Fried green tomatoes for breakfast. Try to ignore the poor quality of the photos themselves and focus on the TOMATOES!

Assembly Line
The assembly line, ready for tomatoes.

Dredging
Putting the tomatoes through the paces. And that is not my stomach, thank you very much, that is my boob. Also, that long, bedraggled hair no longer exists, as I cut off 10 inches of hair on Saturday for Locks of Love.

Tomatoes in Skillet
Going to town in the skillet. Look at ’em sizzle!

Tomatoes and Toast
Finished product. Richard prefers his fried eggs on toast; it’s an English thing.

Ready to Eat
And my delicious-looking plate, ready for devouring.

Hope you enjoyed this afternoon’s serving of fried green tomatoes. The summer’s not over yet, so go and grab some for yourself from your local farmers market while you still can!

Fried Green Tomatoes (and other such nonsense)

Richard spent the evening at the driving range yesterday, so I took the opportunity to cook a little dinner for one and had a few of my favorite things:

Cream peas (also called crowder peas or cowpeas) with salt pork,

…a hot, fresh pan of cornbread (I love Anson Mills, but this recipe is a complete joke; I’m putting a link to it here SOLELY as a CAUTIONARY TALE),

Cornbread

…and my beloved fried green tomatoes (oy vey, I know: the movie! enough already with the movie!).

Okay, that’s obviously not my photo.  But I recently broke my camera, so you’ll just have to bear with me until it’s fixed.  Besides, that’s a pretty good representation of how they came out.  Just…not with quite such an elegant presentation, jar of Tabasco and what-have-you.

Richard doesn’t care for the tart green tomatoes or their cornmeal and buttermilk batter, but that’s okay — more for me!  The recipe is simple enough and is oh-so-satisfying after a long day.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Serves: 2 (or 1, if you’re a piglet like me)

1 green tomato
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. buttermilk
salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes
vegetable oil

Slice your tomato into at least four thick slices.  If you can get more slices out of it, more power to you.  Just make sure they’re about 1/4 of an inch thick.

In a bowl, mix together your buttermilk with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.  I use about three good pinches of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and about 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes.  But I like my tomatoes spicy and peppery.  If you don’t, just omit the red pepper flakes.  If you like them really spicy, make sure to mash on those flakes (put them in your palm and rub them with your thumb) before you throw them in, to release even more flavor.

In a pie pan (it’s just easier this way, okay?), spread an even layer of cornmeal.  Begin battering your tomato slices with buttermilk first, then cornbread.  Make sure they’re well coated on both sides and on the rind.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add about a half-inch of vegetable oil when the pan has gotten hot.  Gently put your tomato slices into the hot oil and let cook for four to five minutes per side.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels before serving.  Add a little pinch of salt and a lot of freshly-ground black pepper to the fried tomatoes and dig in!

Your tomatoes will be crunchy and crispy on the outside, warm and melty and succulent on the inside.  It’s the perfect pairing of textures, and the tartness of the tomato is absolutely wonderful on a hot day.  Especially when it’s served with a soft, buttery slice of cornbread!

*************

See?  This is what happens to me when summer rolls around each year and I can get all the quality foods of my youthful summer months spent in East Texas:  I turn into freaking Paula Deen.  Oh, well.  At least I’m enjoying the hell out of the summer produce while I experience my mid-year transformation into half-crazy, middle-aged, drawling, David-Yurman’d-within-an-inch-of-her-life, owns-stock-in-Aqua-Net, Southern lady.  The regular me should return sometime around September…

Fried green tomatoes picture courtesy of www.liketocook.com.

Breakfast Strata and Buttermilk Apple Cake

I suppose it’s a good sign when the food you make for your coworkers is eaten far too quickly for you to even take one picture.  In the words of our (far younger) temp: “Yo, K, they tore that shit up!

So you see how sticking my face in there even for one picture would have been dangerously similar to sticking your arm in a piranha tank.  I should have just taken a few before I left the house this morning…

Since the food was such a smash, I figured I could at least post the recipes here, if not the pictures.

The breakfast strata is a straightforward recipe that we’ve all seen a million times, but I tweaked this one based on the ingredients I had on hand and my coworkers’ predictable tastes.  It ended up a million times better than any other strata I’ve made before, and will now be my go-to breakfast casserole.  Hope you enjoy!

Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Strata
Serves: 8 to 10

1lb. ground sausage
8 slices white bread, cubed
2 c. potatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 c. shredded cheese
8 eggs
3 c. whole milk (none of this skim milk crap!)
2 Tbsp Worcester sauce
2 tsp Potlatch seasoning (if you don’t have this, just use seasoned salt)
4 to 5 big pinches of koshering salt
several good grinds of black pepper

Don’t preheat your oven!  This strata — like all others — needs to be refrigerated overnight to set.  You’ll bake it tomorrow…

Cook your ground sausage in a pan over medium heat.  I prefer hot Jimmy Dean sausage, but my weenie coworkers don’t.  While it’s cooking, dice that onion.  After the sausage is cooked, remove it from the pan to drain on some paper towels but leave the drippings in the pan.  Saute the onion in the sausage drippings until translucent.  When done, combine the onion and sausage in a bowl and set aside.

Add the vegetable oil to the sausage/onion pan (see? all cooked in one pan!) and heat over medium.  Once the oil is hot, add the diced potatoes and cook until slightly browned, turning often.  When finished, remove the potatoes from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Cut the bread into cubes.  Take half of the cubed bread and toss into a greased 13x9x2 casserole dish.  Toss in half the cooked potatoes and half the shredded cheddar cheese on top of the bread.  Spread the sausage and onion mixture evenly across the top of the bread/potato/cheese mixture.  Then take the rest of the bread, potatoes and cheese and toss on top.  Basically, you’re making three layers here (I’m seriously terrible at writing recipes…).

In a separate bowl, beat the eight eggs together well.  Add the three cups of milk, Worcester sauce and Potlatch seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour egg and milk mixture evenly over the three layers in the casserole dish.  Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove the casserole dish from the fridge and let stand for 30 minutes.  During this time, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  After 30 minutes has passed, put casserole dish into oven and bake for one hour (60 minutes) or until set and cooked in the center.  Enjoy!

Buttermilk Apple Cake
Serves: 6 to 8 

This recipe would normally be used to make muffins.  However, upon remembering last night that I loaned out my muffin tins, I made this into a coffee cake-style recipe at the last minute.  Although still delicious as muffins, I rather liked the cake instead.  It was a unique twist on what everyone initially thought was coffee cake until they got to the sweet little nuggets of apple inside…

1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
1 c. brown sugar, divided into 1/4 c. and 3/4 c.
3/4 c. walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon, divided into 1/2 tsps. (please use real cinnamon here, not cassia!)
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 and grease a square baking dish.  Combine 1/4 c. brown sugar, walnuts and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and remaining cinnamon (I added just a smidge more cinnamon here than 1/2 tsp.).  In a separate bowl, combine remaining brown sugar, buttermilk, vegetable oil, beaten egg and vanilla.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture a little bit at a time until just barely blended.  Add the diced apple and mix well.

Pour batter into baking dish and top evenly with brown sugar/walnut/cinnamon mixture.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  If desired, sprinkle top with confectioner’s sugar after it has cooled off.  Enjoy!

Image courtesy of Flickr user StarbuckGuy, who does awesome nature photography.

Lamb Chops in a Balsamic-Syrah Reduction with Swiss Chard and White Potatoes

This is about as fancy as I get, folks.

But, lord.  Was it ever good.  I called my mother five minutes after I finished eating, specifically to tell her that it was the best meal I’d ever cooked, if not one of the best meals I’d ever eaten.  I don’t believe this is a great tribute or testament to my cooking skills, per se, but more to the lovely simplicity of the recipe and its various ingredients.

The Syrah was a wonderful accompaniment not just to the reduction itself (with the balsamic vinegar and shallots), but also tasted perfect alongside the lamb at dinner.  And the spice rub was subtly magnificent, not overpowering in the least.  Last but not least, the Swiss chard — which is shamefully underrated — added an ideal undercurrent of sweetness to the richness of the lamb and tangy bite of the reduction.

Spice Rub
Spice Rub

All of the elements in the meal seemed perfectly synchronized.  Eating it was like watching an expertly-perfomed ballet.  I can’t recommend this recipe highly enough.  And to think that it was inspired by a recipe on Allrecipes.com…

My mother had purchased some beautiful lamb chops for a client, but ended up not needing them after all.  So, the plump little delicacies were delivered to yours truly, who wouldn’t normally purchase lamb chops for $15 a pound.  I ended up casually browing Allrecipes for a recipe that wouldn’t require me to purchase anything else outside of what I already had at home (I enjoy the challenge of cooking with what I have on hand, as I’m sure you all know by now).

What I found was a recipe for lamb chops in a balsamic reduction, served with potatoes au gratin.  Richard prefers his reductions with only a hint of balsamic (…heathen) and I prefer serving healthier items than au gratin potatoes, so I bastardized the recipe into what follows.  And for a bastard recipe, it ROCKS.

As a quick note, the Syrah I used was from the Chateau Ste Michelle vineyards in Washington state (of which I have very fond memories involving aggressive peacocks and drinking wine out of plastic cups), and it was absolutely divine.  Just goes to show that a Syrah doesn’t have to be from California or cost $30 a bottle to be wonderful.

Lamb Chops in a Balsamic-Syrah Reduction with Swiss Chard and White Potatoes

Serves: 4

  • 3/4 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • koshering salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 4 lamb chops (3/4 inch thick)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. minced shallots
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. Syrah (Cabernet or Port would also work)
  • 3/4 c. vegetable (or beef) broth
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard 
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 lb. white or Fingerling potatoes

The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects

First, assemble your spices and combine the rosemary, basil and thyme in a small bowl.  Add the koshering salt and pepper to taste.  Pat the spice mixture onto the lamb chops, covering both sides well.  Place the chops on a plate, cover with a paper towel and set aside for 15 minutes to let the chops absorb the flavors from the spices.

Lamb Chops
Lamb Chops, Prepped

While your lamb chops are soaking up their spice treatment, prep the Swiss chard and potatoes.  All that you need to do with the Swiss chard is to cut off the lovely red ends and tear the leaves into somewhat smaller pieces.  Upon cooking, it will wilt quite heavily — like spinach, not like kale — so you don’t have to make them bite-sized.  Put the leaves into a pot and add a small amount of water for steaming.  You’ll want to start steaming the Swiss chard as soon as you put your lamb chops into the pan, since it takes longer to steam than spinach does.

Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard

As for your potatoes, you can either roast them (…yum!) or boil them.  I boiled them only because Richard adores boiled potates (seriously…you can take the man out of England, but you can’t take the love of English cuisine out of the man).  However, I would recommend roasting them in all other circumstances.  Either way, get your taters to boiling (or roasting) while your lamb chops are finishing up their spice bath.

When all of that is finished, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the pan is hot, add your olive oil.  This will help prevent any sticking, which is definitely crucial when dealing with delicate meat and reductions.  When the oil is hot, place your lamb chops in the skillet and cook for about three minutes per side for medium-rare.  If you insist on having your lamb any more done than medium-rare, well…I guess that’s your perogative, but it sure won’t taste as good.  Remove the chops from the skillet, and keep warm on a serving platter.

Add the minced shallots to the skillet, and cook for one or two minutes, just until browned. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and Syrah, scraping any bits of lamb from the bottom of the skillet, then stir in the vegetable broth. Continue to cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half.  You may feel inclined to add a knob of butter at this time; I say, go ahead.

Lamb Chops with Swiss Chard and White Potatoes
Plated

The Swiss chard and potatoes should be done by this point.  Plate the lamb chops on top of the steamed and drained Swiss chard and pour the balsamic-Syrah reduction on top.  Serve alongside your roasted (or boiled) potatoes and enjoy!

Spinach and Watercress Salad with Pomelos and Roasted Beets & Pan-Fried Eggplant

Enough about raw meat…  I’ve been properly shamed by my admissions of popping grease fears and pitiful meat-cooking techniques.  On to something that I do do well: vegetables.

Beet Stems
Beet stems and leaves.

These beautiful beets were part of the Farmers’ Market haul from Saturday morning, as was the rest of our meal on Tuesday night.  I decided to do a twist on a typical Southern meal, using very Southern ingredients while keeping the meal fresh, contemporary and healthy (sorry, Miz Deen).

Fresh Beets
Fresh beets.

First up was roasting the beets for the salad.  I chopped off the stems and leaves, saving those for a later meal (you can eat beet greens, just like you’d eat any other greens…collard, mustard, kale, etc.).  I trimmed some of the rougher spots off the beets, roughly chopped them and tossed them with some olive oil and koshering salt.

Beets
I love my knife.

I threw the beets onto a cookie sheet and into a 375 oven for 45 minutes. I covered the beets with a layer of tin foil, but removed it for the last five minutes of cooking. Some people/recipes may tell you to put water into the pan while you’re roasting the beets. I disagree and feel that the beets do much better on their own, like any other root vegetable (sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, etc.).

Unroasted Beets
Ready to rock.

While the beets are roasting, you are free to tend to other tasks around the kitchen.  For me, this meant cleaning and prepping the spinach and watercress for the salad, making the vinaigrette, slicing and prepping the eggplant and creating a little workstation for the flour/egg/cornmeal bath that awaited the eggplant later on.

Watercress
Fresh watercress.

First things first: cleaning and prepping the spinach and watercress.  Spinach, especially, tends to be very sandy and loamy and requires a lot of washing.  The watercress, thankfully, requires just a quick rinse.

Oranges
Oranges, prepare to be juiced.

Balsamic vinaigrette is one of my favorite things to make, since there are endless permutations and variations and methods of creating it.  Tuesday’s vinaigrette was my favorite recipe yet and was composed — on the fly — of the following ingredients:

  • juice of half an orange (above)
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 oz. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • pinch of koshering salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper

Most people prefer a 2:1 (or, worse, 3:1) ratio of olive oil to vinegar, but I prefer the sharpness and tang of a more evenly-matched ratio (1.5:1).  Make sure to adjust for your personal preferences.

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette
Handy cruet with recipes on the side.

Once the salad was prepped and ready to go (by the way, there are no pictures, but just take that pomelo, slice the rind off with a sharp knife and cut it into chunks along the membranes…don’t bother with peeling it, since it will take you FOREVER), I started prepping the eggplant.

There is the traditional “Italian” way to pan-fry eggplant, after dredging it in breadcrumbs.  And then there’s the Southern way, which uses cornmeal.  Slice your eggplant into half-inch thick slices, and walk it down the line:

  • Dredge it in flour
  • Give it an egg bath (one egg and a little bit of water, whipped together)
  • Coat it in cornmeal
  • Lay the slices in a pan with hot oil (I use canola), two at a time

You’ll need to turn the slices only once, cooking for about three to five minutes per side, depending on thickness.  After each batch is finished, let them drain on a plate with some paper towels to absorb any excess oil.  Your eggplant will have a delicious, crispy exterior and a melty, creamy interior that’s a miraculous combination  of textures.

When everything was finished, I plated the eggplant with just a little smidge of the salad for garnish, while the rest of the salad went into wooden bowls:

Spinach and Watercress Salad with Pomelos and Roasted Beets
Finished salad.

The roasted beets are sweet and earthy, perfectly paired with the crisp, almost bitter taste of the watercress and the tangy, full-bodied vinaigrette.

And last, but not least, the eggplant:

Pan-Fried Eggplant

OG Southern-style, cornmeal-battered and pan-fried.  You may be saying to yourself: But, K, that’s not exactly “healthy.”  Well, it’s certainly healthier than deep-frying it or using an entire stick of butter.  Plus, let’s count all of the fruits and vegetables that have gone into this meal…  Beets, spinach, watercress, eggplant and pomelo.  I think that a little pan-frying won’t hurt anyone, especially in the presence of all that wonderful, fresh food.

Happy eating!

Back To Basics

I’m back…sort of.  I’m still pretty loopy from the pain medication (what kind of doctor prescribes morphine these days?  not that I’m complaining, mind you, it’s just…bananas and very confusing).  And I slept for 48 hours straight, missing what all of the weathercasters were apparently referring to as the “best weekend on record” here in Houston.  Damn.

It’s taking me about five times as long to do anything right now, including typing.  I feel like molasses on a cold day; like a 45 LP played at 33 1/3 rpm.  And — most distressing — I’m not hungry.

I was only hungry for about an hour yesterday when I woke up sometime around midmorning to Bobby Flay, that little shrew-faced man-harridan, devoting an entire show to beefless burgers.  What?  Beefless burgers?  Why?  Irritating already…

But.  Oh.  Tuna burgers.  Like, fresh, sushi-grade tuna burgers with this tapenade aioli that looked like savory divinity.  And chicken cobb burgers with my two.favorite.things.EVER: bacon and blue cheese.  And these scrumptious little Mediterranean turkey burgers that were stuffed into hearty pitas with fresh apple raita.  Oh, God.  I was suddenly and desperately starving, and all I could eat was Jell-O!

And then I had an epiphany.

I don’t hate Bobby Flay.  How could I have hated him all these years when he makes such amazing food?  How have I ignored this simple, basic fact for so long?  I watched his nimble, clever hands work and I drooled — and not from the medication, either.  His food was so fresh and basic and accessible, but without being pedantic or contrived.

And here’s where I was going wrong: I was concentrating so much on his tannic personality that I couldn’t get past it long enough to appreciate his talent.  True, in some areas, you may never be able to ignore a strident attitude or general arrogance.  But cooking is not one of those areas.  If you can produce — and produce well — it doesn’t matter.  I don’t care how much of an asshole he may be in real life or even on his show, I now love Bobby Flay.

Ebuillient and satsified with my newfound live-and-let-live attitude towards celebrity chefs, I rolled back over and fell asleep, while dreams of tiny turkey pitas danced in my head.