Posts tagged ‘books’

Striped Eggplant, Tomato and Cheese

Welcome to the newly improved Relishments…where cooking actually happens! Today will hopefully be the first of many recipes and recipe reviews to follow.

victory gardenIn an effort to find new vegetarian recipes to try out, I picked up my husband’s (and I guess now my) copy of The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash. The book is really useful because each chapter covers a different type of vegetable (everything from asparagus to turnips) and provides a wealth of background information about it ncluding yields, storage and hints.  And of course, there are recipes, centered around the vegetables.  I don’t know how I spent 6 weeks living with Brian without opening this cookbook.  It’s definitely going to be a go-to in my kitchen.

I decided to try making “Red, White and Blue-Black Eggplant”, based on the appetizing photo and the fact that I really like all of the ingredients.  By the time I was finished cooking, I’d made several alterations.

Striped Eggplant, Tomato and Cheese (serves 4)

You’ll need:
1 medium eggplant
2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
10 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 tsp dried basil

  1. Wash the eggplant.  I peeled mine per Brian’s request, but the original recipe leaves the skin on, hence the “black-blue” in the original title.  Cut the eggplant into slices about 2″ by 4″ by 1/2″ (this can be done by cutting the eggplant in half widthwise and slicing from there.  Mine were pretty randomly sized, actually)
  2. Salt the eggplant (this is exactly what it sounds like: sprinkle salt on the eggplant.  Don’t be embarassed, I had to look it up too).  Place the eggplant in a colander for about half an hour.  This removes the excess liquid from the eggplant.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°.
  4. Saute the onions in 2 tablespoons of oil for 7-10 minutes, until the onions are soft, but not brown.  Place them on a plate.
  5. Use paper towels to pat the eggplant dry.  Brown the eggplant in oil several pieces at a time using the pan from the onions.
  6. Lightly oil a 8×8 baking dish.  Put half the onions and 1 tsp dried basil on the bottom of the dish.
  7. IMG_1575

  8. Layer the eggplant, tomato and cheese slices vertically in the pan, creating visible stripes.
  9. IMG_1577

  10. When the dish is full (and hopefully you’re out of ingredients), cover the stripes with the remainder of the onions and basil.


  11. IMG_1579

  12. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  13. IMG_1583


This recipe was a little less simple to make than I expected.  Besides the fact that the original recipe left me with a tomato and a half too much, it also seemed to require more dishes than should be necessary to create what is actually a pretty simple dish. It’s also a little messy to serve:


The end result was less pretty than the picture in the book (big surprise, I know) but tasted really good.  It was a mess to serve and at first it appeared that there was a lot of liquid in the bottom of the dish.  However, by the time we’d eaten the entire dish, the amount of juice it seemed more reasonable.  The cheese and basil really helped make the dish for me and the amount of baking time left the eggplant super soft.

Eggplant is one of those vegetables that I’m satisfied for a while after just one meal, but I’d certainly make it again.  This is a handy recipe to make for a group, just double the ingredients and use a 9×12 or larger pan.

August 25, 2009 at 10:04 am

New Mark Bittman Book!!

Clearly getting married and then getting settled into my new life has kept me busy, because I was totally unaware that Mark Bittman published a new cookbook early last month! (Thank goodness for Facebook!)


The book, Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less, has 101 recipes for each season and according to the review they’re “delicious”, “sophisticated” and “simple”.  Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about this discovery.  I’m definitely seeing if I can get it from the library soon…though I’m pretty sure I’ll end up owning it.

Just when I thought my Mark Bittman obsession was fading…

August 4, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Vacation Is My Best Excuse

Posting’s been thin lately, but I have a good excuse (I think).  My sister and I were on vacation in Quebec City.

If you’ve never been (and we hadn’t), I highly suggest you go.  We had a wonderful time shopping, going to the Musée National des Beaux Arts du Québec, walking through The National Battlefields Park, and, of course, eating.

crepes burgers

I’m sure Quebec isn’t the end all, be all of fine cusine, but I took my mini-vacation seriously and ate whatever I wanted, not necesarily in terms of quanity-we stuck to 3 meals a day, and relatively cheap ones because we’re like that- but I ordered whatever I felt like off the menu, vegetarian or not.  We were only there for 3 days and it was vacation after all.  Everything we ate was delicious (who doesn’t love crepes?), and despite our lack of ability to speak French, the waitstaff in all the restaurants we tried were accomodating and helpful.

We finished up our wonderful trip to Canada by stopping at the Empire Grill in Skowhegan, Maine on our way home.  For those unfamiliar with the novel Empire Falls by Richard Russo, the Empire Grill is the restaurant owned by the main character.  The Empire Grill in Skowhegan was used as the site for the filming of the HBO miniseries based on the book which starred Ed Harris, Helen Hunt, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Newman, after which time the restaurant kept the Empire Grill name.  Empire Falls is one of my absolute favorite books of all time, so stopping at the Grill was a “must do”.  The restaurant far exceeded my expectations.  The portions were huge (I think they served my sister an entire fish with her fish and chips), the prices reasonable and the food delicious.  Even if you don’t care about Empire Falls (though you really, really should!), the Empire Grill is the perfect place to eat if you ever find yourself in Skowhegan.

May 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm 1 comment

Book: The Flexitarian Diet

It took me longer than it should’ve (I need to work on making reading a priority), but I finally finished reading The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life by Dawn Jackson Blatner. It was certainly one of the most educational books I’ve read on my venture towards eating better.

The book’s goal is to educate ordinary people (such as myself) about easy ways to eat less meat and be healthier. It contained tons of helpful information, such as the number of various types of nuts in an ounce (eating 1 oz of nuts five days a week has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by 30%, p. 30), a good list of umami foods (p. 32), a list of what fruits and vegetables are available during each season (p. 38) and a chart of grain cooking times (p. 44).  Surely this information can be found elsewhere, but its wonderful to have it explained clearly in one book.

The Flexitarian Diet also contains 100 recipes. Now, if we’re being honest, some of the recipes aren’t “recipes” as much as they’re guidelines for what is healthy eating, but I appreciated being reminded of healthy, simple snacks such as baked pita chips and peanut butter on celery, and the actual recipes are appetizing and simple.  I would add, however, that the two recipes I have made from the book resulted in much more food than expected (each recipe is supposed to make 1 serving).   Double (or more) the recipes with caution, or you’ll end up with more food than you may want.

All the information was a bit overwhelming at times and I had to remind myself that it’s acceptable to make one or two changes to my diet at a time.  It’s not necessary to do everything Blatner recommends overnight. One of the most important lifestyle changes I made immediately was trying to only eat grains with “whole wheat” as the first ingredient (processed grains lack 25% of the grain’s protein and 15 of the key nutrients, p. 43).

This is not a cookbook for foodies, but if you’re a new flexitarian (or vegetarian) its a great resource for eating nutritiously and cooking simply.  I found it very useful in trying to make meat-free meals that have high nutritional value.

April 12, 2009 at 11:17 am 1 comment

Lime Sugar Cookies with Pumpkin Seeds

Yesterday I finally got around to making Lime Sugar Cookies with Pumpkin Seeds from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook.  I borrowed the cookbook from the library months ago, and the cookies were one of the few things that really intrigued me at the time.  I found them both easy to make and delicious.

Generally speaking, cooking is still not something that comes naturally to me, at least creatively.  I never would’ve thought of these cookies on my own.  It’s just occurred to me, however, that it’s just a sugar cookie recipe with lime zest, lime juice and rough chopped pumpkin seeds (pepitas).  I really should work on coming up with these sorts of ideas myself.

Anyway, I highly reccommend them, and the cookbook, which probably deserves another look from me.  Everyone in my family is eating these cookies, which really says something.

April 5, 2009 at 8:00 am

The Garden and Cookbooks

The Garden:
@matthewharris tweeted this great map of the White House garden this morning. Impressive.  Someday I would like to have a garden of my own, but I suspect it will be on a smaller scale.

Bill Niman and Nicolette Hahn Niman of The Atlantic agree that the new garden is great, but would like to see it taken one step further. Should the Obamas add a flock of chickens to their garden?

Another cookbook aimed at flexitarians like me was just published this month. Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond was mentioned in the New York Times, along with three of the book’s recipes.  Definitely adding it to my “to read” list.

That reminds me, I have The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life by Dawn Jackson Blatner sitting at home.  At first glance (which is really all I’ve given it) the book seems a little overwhelming and features too many specific plans for my taste (I’d rather just have a cookbook), but I’ll give it another look and let you know what I think.

All this talk about cookbooks reminds me that I really need to get back in the kitchen.  I’m not sure where I’ve been spending all my time the past few weeks, but it certainly hasn’t been cooking.  However, my lunches are becoming increasingly depressing and I’m ready to try making some new stuff.  One thing I know, I’m making another version of the granola bars.  Food shopping after school, we’ll see what comes out of that!

March 25, 2009 at 3:00 am 3 comments

Have I Made This Before?

My apologies to those who are pretty sure I’ve made this recipe already…olive oil, garlic, canned tomatoes…I’m sure its starting to sound familiar to any frequent readers of my blog.  Nevertheless, that’s the direction this recipe’s headed;  I’m just warning you.  However, it does satisfy my new promise to myself: vegetarian lunches.

This recipe is adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook: 350 Essential Recipes for Inspired Everyday Eating by Jack Bishop.  I borrowed the cookbook from the library, but may have to purchase soon because I really like it.  It’s different from other vegetarian cookbooks I’ve used because none of the recipes include tofu, tempeh, or seitan, which I’m sure are all well and good, if you like them, but my foray into vegetarianism hasn’t quite gotten that bold.  The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook is full of variations of normal sounding food made with normal sounding, generally ordinary and accessible ingredients.

Anyway, without further ado: Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers

You’ll need:
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 3 tbsp.)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped*
1 3.8-ounce can sliced black olives
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1 lb. spaghetti (I used whole wheat spaghetti)
Salt, to taste

*The original recipe lists canned whole tomatoes, chopped but if I make this recipe again I may use canned diced tomatoes because chopping the whole tomatoes was a rather messy experience.  But its up to you.

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add garlic and red pepper flimg_0336akes and cook over medium heat until the garlic is cooked, about 2 minutes
  3. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the skillet.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
  4. Toss the spaghetti with the tomato sauce and mix well.
  5. Serve.


As you may be able to tell from the photo, my pasta turned into little one inch sized pieces by time I was done cooking it and then reheated it once (timing was a little off at my house).  I don’t know why, perhaps because it’s whole wheat pasta? Or I overcooked the pasta?  Anyone else ever have this experience?

February 9, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Books to Watch

Mark Bittman, author of “How to Cook Everything,” writer for the New York Times and a Today Show show regular was on the Today Show this morning promoting his new book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating.


There’s video on the Today Show website, but darned if I could get it to embed.  It would be worth it for you to check it out, however.  Bittman’s book is about eating better-more plants, less meat and helping the environment at the same time (flexitarian, anyone?).  Amazon calls his plan “flexible, simple, and non-doctrinaire,” which sounds good to me.

At any rate, I’m definitely adding Food Matters to my list of books to read.  Review to follow, eventually.

January 7, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Fight World Hunger

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