I haven’t been cooking much of anything new and exciting lately. Mostly I’ve been sticking to tried and true favorites, adding more veggies, steaming, trying some different spices, that kind of thing. But recently I made a couple of dishes I really liked, and they were pretty quick and simple, so I figured I’d share them.
Our new favorite snack around the grumpy household is my homemade roasted red pepper hummus. I usually make this in the summertime (not sure why), but the other day I really wanted some, so I tossed it together and it was so good, I knew I’d be making it much more often. It’s quite simple and quick:
1 red bell pepper
1 can of garbanzo beans
2-3 cloves of garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Approx. 2 Tbl. tahini (sesame butter)
Cilantro (optional–I know some folks hate it)
Approx 1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Halve the pepper, rub with olive oil, and put on a sheet pan under the broiler (I line the pan with foil for easy clean up). I have an electric stove, so this is the most time consuming part. You can do it ahead of time, and roast more than one pepper, and freeze the rest for later. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in a zip bag for best results. Broil until the skin of the pepper begins to char and turn black. You might have to turn them around a couple of times. Then the skin looks all black and bubbly, remove the pan from the oven, and put the peppers in a double layer of plastic bags (grocery bags are great) with paper towels on the bottom. Tie the first bag then the second bag closed and let the peppers cool till easy to handle. The steam generated by the hot peppers will loosen the skin even more and make them easy to peel. This sounds more complicated than it is. I usually do this at night, put the bagged peppers in the fridge overnight and peel them the next day.
Put the peeled pepper in the food processor, add the garlic cloves. Drain the beans, reserve about 1/3 cup of the water in the can, rinse, then add the beans, bean water, lemon juice, a good drizzle of olive oil and the rest of the ingredients to the processor. Process till smooth. Correct the seasonings to taste. I’m trying to stay away from salt, so I usually add more lemon juice.
And that’s it. Scrape into a container, and serve with raw veggies and/or crackers:
It’s also great as a sandwich spread. I used it yesterday on a grilled Munester cheese and turkey pastrami sandwich instead of mayo or mustard. It was insanely good.
The other yummy thing I did was a slightly different riff on eggplant parmesan. I bought an eggplant the other day and was trying to figure out what to do with it. I also had about 3 cups of marinara sauce in the freezer, left over from our summer canning when I ran out of jars. I thawed it and it was a little watery. I started thinking. I didn’t want to do the frying thing with the eggplant, then I remembered a technique I’d used the last time I made moussaka. The wheels got turning, and I let it flow, and what turned out was great! It was fairly quick, NOT messy or greasy, and just what I wanted. So, here’s Grumpy’s Eggplant Parm (sorry, no photos)
Approx 1/2 c flour
Approx 1/2 c Parmesan cheese + more for layering
3 eggs, beaten
Dried basil, approx 2-3 Tbl
Approx. 3 cups marinara sauce
Mozzarella cheese (I had maybe 1/2 a cup to use up, use more or less to your taste)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I peeled the eggplant and sliced it into thick rounds, a little less than 1/2 inch. I did not salt the slices but went right to it. Mix the flour, Parmesan cheese and dried basil together in a large bowl. Beat the eggs together with a little water in another large bowl. Dredge the eggplant slices in the egg wash, then lightly in the flour/Parmesan mix to coat well. Shake off excess and place on an oven rack set on a baking sheet. Once all the slices are done, bake for 20 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake for another 15 minutes. When done, the eggplant slices will feel very light when you pick them up with a fork, and the coating will be fairly crisp.
In the meantime, I put the sauce in a pan and let it simmer until it was thicker. Oil a casserole dish and place approx. 1/2 a cup of sauce in the bottom. Layer eggplant slices until the bottom is covered. Overlap if necessary. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Spoon more sauce over and sprinkle that was more Parmesan. Continue layering. I used a smaller round casserole and the one eggplant made two layers. I used all the mozzarella in the middle, so just put more Parm on top. Then pop back into the oven for approx 30 minutes. Let sit for 10-15 minutes and Bingo! This is one yummy dish. It was really good last night, so it will be fabulous today. And, no frying, no gooey, oily eggplant. Baking the eggplant first really worked out well. Good flavor and texture. If you need to make a bigger dish, use 2 or 3 eggplants. This would make a great potluck dish, and it’s veggie, though not vegan because of the eggs and cheese. If you want to add mushrooms, spinach, whatever, go ahead, it’s a great way to use up little things you might have in the fridge. Be creative. Have fun. And always, eat well!