Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cautiously Optimistic

Tonight went MUCH better!  While we still had minor issues, aka talking and stalling, and while Dad had Doody (duty), tonight's dinner was a success! My sweet P-nat even helped by making the dressing for the arugula salad! At the behest of my good friend, Claudia of Watson In The Kitchen, I BEGRUDGINGLY concasse-d all 50,000 cherry tomatoes as a variation of the recipe. I also de-bittered (I'm sure there is some hoity toity French word for that) the eggplant and then roasted it. Was that a spark of creativity?!?!
Despite my momentary lapse into total and complete sugar craving...sorry, I'm calm now...Lisa Leake from 100 Days Of Real Food  talked me down and offered a great recipe for chocolate "powerballs" and "tortes".  On a side note, I found her hot chocolate/mocha coffee recipe that hit the spot PERFECTLY!  It is simply 1/2 tsp cocoa, 1 tsp Pure Maple syrup in warm milk!  YUM!

                Eggplant Pasta and Arugula Salad         

                                                                                                    For Salad:
12 oz. whole wheat penne (I used WW spaghetti)                    2 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs olive oil                                                                      1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 red onion, chopped                                                          2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed                                          1/4 tsp kosher/sea salt
1 large eggplant, stem removed and diced*                              dash of black pepper
1 tsp salt                                                                             1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half**                           4 cups arugula or any European salad mix
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth 
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese for finish

Eggplant Pasta

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain fully (do not rinse) and toss with 1 Tbs olive oil.  Set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, heat remaining 2 Tbs olive oil over medium heat.
3. Saute onion for 2-3 minutes, until onions are softened.
4. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about one minute
5. Add diced eggplant to the saucepan and season mixture with salt.
6. Saute eggplant until cooked down, about 8 minutes.***
7. Add cherry tomatoes and basil leaves to saucepan.  Saute for 2-3 minutes.
8. Pour in broth and stir to mix.
9. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid reduces.  Check sauce every once in a while to ensure sauce does
    not burn or stick to the saucepan.

Arugula Salad

1. Whisk vinegar and mustard until well incorporated.
2. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil.
3. Season with salt and black pepper.
4. Dress arugula and red onions with vinegar mix.

*I chose to slice the eggplant, put the slices on a cooking rack, and salt each piece.  When the salt had drawn out the water, I turned the slices over and salted.  After the water was drawn out, I rinsed the slices and dried.  I then brushed the slices with olive oil and roasted in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

**Create a tomato concasse by scoring the tomatoes with an "x" at the top and dropped into boiling water for ONLY a few seconds.  Then immediately place the tomatoes in ice water to prevent further cooking.  Peel the tomatoes, cut in half, and deseed.  This process creates less fluid and mess in your recipes; not to mention our bodies can not digest the skin or seeds anyway!

*If you choose to salt and roast the eggplant, you won't need to saute for nearly 8 minutes.  Just a couple will do!


              FACEOMETER RATINGS:  4 forks!

Mom says: This Eggplant ragu on whole wheat pasta was so savory and delicious!  The fact that everyone loved it made my day! The vinaigrette dressing was AMAZING and perfectly saturated!

   Chocolate Torte with Whipped Cream and Chocolate Sauce

                                                For whip cream                       For chocolate sauce

1 tablespoon butter                       1/2 C heavy whipping cream           1 Tbs cocao

1 tablespoon honey                        1 tsp REAL Maple syrup                2 Tbs REAL Maple syrup

1 cup pecans
1 cup dried pitted dates
1 tablespoon unsweetened powdered 100% cacao
1 – 2 teaspoons water, as needed

Chocolate Torte

Using a frying pan, melt the butter on medium-low heat and then add the pecans. Pour in the honey and cook until the nuts are very slightly browned, 3 – 5 minutes. Be very careful not to overcook the nuts because they can go from perfect to burnt very quickly. Once the pecans are done blend them in a food processor with the dates and cacao. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of water or just enough until it starts to stick together a little. Take the chocolate mixture into your hands and pat it out flat onto a cutting board or counter until it is about ½” thick. Using a round cookie cutter or drinking glass turned upside down cut out circular shapes for the tortes. Alternately you can roll the chocolate mixture into little ball shapes and keep them in your fridge for whenever you need something chocolate! (PS – For coconut lovers you can also roll the balls in unsweetened coconut for added flavor).

Whipped Cream

 Using an electric mixer whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Whip in the maple syrup if sweetness is desired. Yes, it is that easy.

Chocolate Sauce

Simply blend the powdered cacao and maple syrup with a spoon until the mixture looks wet. It might take a few minutes to achieve the right consistency.