Monday, May 31, 2010

What's Cookin? Eggplant Parmesan

In honor of Memorial Day, I cooked up a red, white and purple dish for a pot luck. Yeah, I know...purple is close enough right? I love love love eggplant and since I've been nursing my little eggplant starters, it's made me hungry. I've been craving this dish for a while now.

I don't care for the Italian globe eggplants sold in most chain supermarkets. I prefer the Asian varieties as I find them sweeter and devoid of bitter seeds. I usually lean towards the Japanese eggplant but it was more expensive at time of purchase than the Chinese version. *I'm cheap like that* I'm waiting until my own little plants produce fruit so I have a ton of Japanese eggplant all to myself. Bwahahaha!! Just kidding, I'll share!
I love eggplant parmesan but don't like the grease involved. I usually bake my eggplant and use panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) to create delicious eggplant slices. I hope you enjoy!

Eggplant Parmesan
Adapted from a recipe from Whole Foods

olive oil cooking spray
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. water
about 1 c. panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
4-5 Japanese or Chinese eggplant (sliced into 1/4 inch slices)
1/4 c. plus 1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt & pepper to taste
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
8 oz. fresh baby portobello mushrooms, diced into small pieces
1 (26 oz) jar marinara sauce, divided
15 oz. part skim ricotta cheese, divided
2 c. thinly grated fresh mozzarella cheese, divided
1 c. grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese, divided

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 1 or 2 baking sheets (depends how much eggplant you have) with foil and spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray or brush with olive oil.
2) Beat eggs with water in a shallow bowl. Place panko on a small plate and arrange a dipping station. Dredge eggplant slices in egg wash, then dip in panko. Lay eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheet (if you have to slightly overlap them, it's okay).
3) Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake eggplant about 20 minutes until they are crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven and flip eggplant slices over. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. After they are done, set aside and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
4) While eggplant is cooking, heat a small saucepan with 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and saute until onions are transparent. Salt and pepper to taste. Add mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes. Add marinara sauce and mix well. Stir until heated through. Turn off heat.
5) Lightly spray a casserole dish with olive oil cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Cover the bottom of the dish with 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Add a layer of 1/2 of the eggplant slices. Using small spoonfuls, drop 1/2 of the ricotta cheese on the eggplant. Add a layer of 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese and then 1/2 of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Repeat the layering process again with the remaining ingredients.
6) Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and bubble, about 45 minutes.

Happy Memorial Day!

Hope you're all enjoying the extra day off (if you have an extra day off today). The forecast called for rain showers and a high of 66. We had mostly overcast skies this morning. Even that couldn't deter me from the yard work that never goes away. My Ms. Kim lilacs put on quite the show this year. However, once the high winds and constant rains hit, most of the blossoms that weren't picked ended up on the ground.

I cut and pruned the 3 shrubs of Korean lilacs today. I think I went a little too crazy. They have quite the haircut...think buzz cut! In the middle of my hard work, the sun decided to show up. Yeah! The sun played peek-a-boo for most of the afternoon. I was still able to snap this shot. Blue skies and sunshine! Woo hoo! We miss you!

By the way, according to the weather forecasters, May 2010 will finish as either the 2nd or 3rd wettest in the record books for Portland. Hah, and you thought I was just whining about the rain.

Happy Memorial Day! For all of those serving our country, we thank you!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gardening: First Fruits of Labor for the Season!

Despite the continued rain in Oregon, some of my plants seem to be taking it in stride. Take for instance the peas. The Snow Peas (Oregon Sugar Pod II) are out climbing all the other pea varieties. Today I was very excited to spot the first pea of the season. Ain't he cute?

Right behind him are a handful of other pretty white pea flowers waiting to be magically transformed into peas!

No flowers yet to be had on the shelling or snap peas yet but I have high hopes for them both!

The radishes are getting closer to harvest. They've been teasing me for weeks now. I really want to harvest them and have them on a salad. But nah, I'll wait a little bit more. Patience really is a virtue! These are Easter Egg II Radishes. I love the pretty colors! How fun!
Here's a row of radishes alongside slower growing carrots. I took advantage of the break in the rain to plant another batch of radish (this time Watermelon Radish) and Carrots (Parisian Market and Little Finger).

I'm super super excited about this snapshot. My first tomato of the season!! It's from my cherry tomato plant. I'm so excited because both of the cherry tomatoes are flowering now. It makes my mouth water to think about delicious cherry tomatoes. Most of these never make it inside the house. I have them for snack fresh from the vine. Mmmm.....I can't wait!

I also have flowers forming on both the Brandywine and Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato plants. I think we're finally clearing 50 degrees at night (FINALLY!!) so I took down the walls of water. These flowers will soon need the bees to find them. I just thought I'd make it a little easier for the bees.
OMG! It's almost strawberry season. I've been eyeing these guys for the longest time. I'm drooling just thinking about how good these will taste. That's right, they WILL taste good. I'm trying to psych myself up.
There's more fruit ripening every day. So far the Topsy Turvy Strawberry planter is kicking butt! Remember how I was talking about patience? Well I have to admit I couldn't help myself and pluck one of the strawberries above for a taste. They were sweet. I can only imagine how yummy they'll be fully grown and ripe!

I'm so excited to finally see fruits of my labor. It's hard not to be too disheartened when these babies show up! Most of my cucumbers are dead so I re-seeded them outside this weekend. I hope they pop up in time for the harvest!

Here's one of nature's creatures hanging out on my plum tree. I hope he's doing his part to keep the bad bugs at bay! Cute little sucker isn't he?

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend everyone!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What's Cooking?: Tabbouleh

I have to preface this recipe by saying that I'm not a fan of raw onions (so I usually leave them out). I also don't like too much parsley. Although most Middle-Eastern cooks make their tabbouleh with flat-leaf parsley, I like the more mild taste of the curly-leaf parsley. I'm a big fan of lemon and mint so I usually increase these. I've adjusted this recipe to my taste. Feel free to do the same with yours! I love how pretty and vibrant this side dish is. This ended up being the perfect accompaniment for my delicious Copper River Salmon!

Adapted from (by Kathleen Daelemans)

1/2 c. medium grain bulgar
1 and 1/4 c. water
1 and 1/2 c. loosely packed, roughly chopped curly-leaf parsley
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 c. loosely packed, roughly chopped mint leaves

juice from 1 medium lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch salt
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1) Bring 1 and 1/4 c. water to a boil in a small saucepan (make sure it has a lid). When the water comes to a boil, add bulgar, stir and cover. Turn off heat and let pot stand for about 25 minutes.
2) When bulgar is done cooking. Pour into a fine strainer to drain off excess liquid.
3) Prepare dressing in a small non-reactive bowl. Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, salt and olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

4) In a large bowl, toss together parsley, tomatoes & mint. Add cooked bulgar. Pour dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
5) Cover and place in the refrigerator to soak up flavor. Toss just prior to serving.

Copper River Salmon Time!!

Yipee! It's that time of the year when tons of Copper River Salmon are shipped all over the Pacific NW. It's what chefs and home cooks live for. It also makes them giggle with delight. What is Copper River Salmon, and what make it so special? It's only the most delightful and tasty salmon you'll ever have! Well that's just my humble opinion anyway.

I picked some up at Fred Meyer. They were $14.99/lb with $5/lb off. You had to buy the whole fish but that's no biggy! I freeze extras so I'll have this yummy salmon all year-round. My fish ended up being a little over 4 lbs. The fish monger nicely cut my whole salmon into yummy fillets. Mmmm.....salmon!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gardening: Some Veggies Love the Rain

It seems like not all of my veggie starters are drowning. These guys seem to be doing okay on the deck.

This is a mixture of various left overs: lettuce, gai lan, baby bok choy.

The Swiss Chard I grew from seed are loving it!

Rain drops keep falling on my head...

Holy smokies! Just when I get my hopes up that the rain will stop, we get another downpour. Yesterday we had a horrible storm. I was driving home from work and needed to stop by the bookstore.

Getting onto the freeway, it was coming down hard. I could barely see the road! As I approached the bookstore, pea sized hail came throttling down. I'm sure my car has marks on it because it was coming down so hard. I reach the bookstore, only to leave again. The parking lot was literally a swimming pool. The heavy downpour was overwhelming their gutters and rain was pouring down the side of the store. There was no way I could make it out of my car. I had left my canoe at home.

*sigh* All I could think about was my poor veggies outside getting assaulted by Mother Nature. I like rain, rain is good. But please, moderation is good too.

Some of my heartier plants are enjoying the cool weather and soaking rains. Can't we find a happy medium?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bird Socialization

The other day I walked my by window and noticed my back fence full of birds. There must've been 10 of them sitting on the fence and chirping up a storm. By the time I grabbed my camera and zoom lens and opened the back door, a few had been scared off.

These guys were still there, chattering up a storm.
This little guy was perched in the tree nearby.

CSPI 2010 Xtreme Eating Awards-Most Unhealthy Restaurant Foods

I saw this on the news the other day and was so appauled! These are 9 meals served in chain restaurants across the country that made the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) list of the most unhealthy restaurant food. It's amazing how some of these meals contain your total recommended caloric intake for the day. Take a peek at some of these and be blown away!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gardening: Square Foot Garden Update

I wish I had better news to report but it looks like it's more of the same gloom and doom weather for the Pacific NW. It's been pouring here and looks like we're not getting a pass anytime soon. So much for getting a head start on vegetable gardening. It seems like all my crop may drown! How I wish for sunshine! Someone tell Mother Nature that it's almost June. I think she didn't get the memo!

My cukes are still droopy. Two of the Boston Pickling Cucumber plants are standing today. I hope it means they still have some fight left in them. *sigh* Poor plants! They're really taking a beating outside with the downpour.
Luckily I had covered my square foot garden project with row covers. Originally, I had covered it for other reasons....namely that pesky moth that seemed to be leaving eggs on my kale. I had placed the row cover to keep it out of my kale. I was glad I had done it. It was serving as excellent protection from the elements.

I uncovered it today to sneak a peek. Looks like there's a spinach plant peeking out on the left. The one on the right may have met it's afterlife.

My baby bok choy seem to be doing okay.
The kale plants are doing well and thriving. These are Lacinto Kale. I love how it's turning the pretty blue color.

The Arugula are also doing well under the covers.

Some carrots are also poking up.

My surprise yellow iris has 2 blooms on it today. I just keeping looking for positives here!

Be sure to view other garden goings-ons with Jami at An Oregon Cottage:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gardening: Mass Casualties!!!

This nasty end of May weather sucks! I'm so sad. We had a horrible weekend (weather wise). It was storming and pouring down rain. I checked on my seedlings today and was devastated. We've got mass casualties to report! Cucumber down, cucumber down. Even one of my patty pan squashes bit the dust. *sniff sniff*
The body count ended up being 3 of 4 Boston Pickling Cucumber plants, 1 of 2 Patty Pan Squash plants, 2 of 3 Lemon Cucumber Plants and the Oregon Spring Tomato that I chose as the sacrificial lamb. It's lifeless body just flopped over. I have more of those that I've been nursing in the hopes they'd get a little bigger. They're so sad looking!

This is the other sad looking Roma tomato. I'm hoping he did a little better with my improv greenhouse AND a wall of water to protect him.
My cherry tomato leaves took a hit too. I think this is likely weather related. I hope they are able to bounce back!

One piece of good news in the garden. My surprise plant, the yellow iris bloomed. So pretty!