Wordless Wednesday: Evening Garden Discoveries

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Not. Even. Once. …instant eggplant addiction happens.

Pretty sure I just accidentally cooked meth…with eggplant and bacon and goat cheese. And some other stuffs too. We’ve all seen the commercial and I think it just happened in my kitchen. Here’s what happened–

I was starving. This is how these things always start. Scavenged through my fridge and garden and pulled together a grouping that looked nice together. Yes, I do put together foods like other people put together outfits.

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The color combo pleased me, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with what I had in front of me. I thought about ditching the bread because I didn’t want a sandwich for dinner, but I hadn’t had a good baguette in so long, I decided to work it in somehow. Going through a few options in my head, I started with chopping up the eggplant and bacon, tossing them in olive oil, and roasting them. While those were cooking, I bit off the butt of the bread and decided I’d do an open-faced type sandwich after all. I sliced up the red pepper along with white onion and caramelized them on my cast iron griddle with some of the now rendered bacon grease from the roasting sheet poured on top.

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If you think you don’t like eggplant, roast it on a pan with bacon. You’ll change your mind. The eggplant soaks up all that smokey, salty flavor and gets crispy on the outside while staying soft on the inside. The bacon turns into morsels of perfection.

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While all of that worked itself into what would become the meat of the meal, I mixed together the goat cheese with some olive oil and fresh English thyme, making a spread for the bread slices. When the red pepper and onions were almost done, I threw on some chunky pieces of one big garlic clove until it was ever so slightly browned. Moving that to a bowl, I used the leftover bacon grease and flavors on the griddle to toast the baguette slices.

Cooking is much easier for me than baking. I can time everything and this meal came together all at once, just like it needed to. The bread was heavily slathered with the goat cheese spread, covered with the eggplant and bacon, topped with the onions and peppers, and garnished with sliced fresh basil and scallions. The deep purple skin of the eggplant with the bold red of the pepper, the bright green of the herbs, and the cream of the cheese all came together into a thing of beauty. It was stunning. It was like the “whatever is a high-end brand of clothing” of the dinner plate world.

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I mean, really? Yes.

And then I took a bite and realized it was, in fact, crack. Worse. I had cooked meth. I wanted this meal every damn day. The flavors, the textures, the colors…I couldn’t handle it. I’m telling you, if you think you don’t like eggplant, you’re wrong. This meal right here will become an instant eggplant addiction for you. I’m warning you though, like the commercials, if you don’t want to spiral into a world of fiending for your next eggplant fix…NOT. EVEN. ONCE. Close out of this page right now and never look back. Or stay and try it and cry on your shower floor this winter because eggplant isn’t in season anymore. Either way.

Ingredients and such:

one medium eggplant, chopped with skin left on

3 slices of uncured bacon, chopped

half a large red pepper sliced

half a white onion sliced

one large garlic clove cut thick

1-2 ounces goat cheese

olive oil

about a tablespoon each of fresh thyme, basil, scallions

baguette

Toss the eggplant and bacon with about one tablespoon of olive oil and roast on the middle rack at 425 for a total of 25 mins. turning about every 7-10 mins.

Slice the pepper and onions and use some of the poured off bacon grease from the roasting pan to caramelize them. Add the chunky garlic near the end.

Mix the goat cheese with a tablespoon of olive oil and the fresh thyme until it is easily spreadable.

Toast the bread on the griddle with the leftover bacon grease.

Slice the basil and scallions as a garnish.

Stack and serve immediately. This is one you’ll need to time right so nothing gets mushy.

Use What Your Garden Gave Ya: Meatless Monday Meal

I’m a huge proponent of home veggie gardens. There are many advantages to growing your own food, but my favorite aspect is being able to walk out my kitchen door into a glorified pantry of freshness all year long.

This evening, I found a ripe ‘Black Beauty’ eggplant, basil that needed to be used or lost to the heat and rain, scallions, and just enough parsley that the butterfly caterpillars left for me to enjoy. I knew I wanted to do a quick stir fry with my finds and the rest of whatever was in the fridge that needed to be used up. I can’t stand food waste and will  frequently concoct some strange combinations just to use whatever I have on hand. This time, it actually all made came together and made sense.

The look of the food, from the prep to the plating, is important to me and I believe affects the entire experience of the meal. Presentation was something I learned while working in kitchens and it has carried over to homemade meals even when only cooking for myself. I like pretty food and that means a lot of color. Eating all the colors is also the easiest way to have a healthy diet without dieting.

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Back in the house, I pulled out the leftover red cabbage, the butt of a zucchini, half a yellow pepper, red onion, garlic, and extra firm tofu to add to my garden finds. I was craving vegetables after a weekend of many meats and carbs. Meatless Monday feels slightly hippy to me, but I’m going with it. No, I won’t be doing any yoga after dinner. I can’t even touch my toes and I like it that way.

I do try to stick to an anti-inflammatory diet to help with my syndrome, but I definitely get off course sometimes. This past weekend was one of those times and my joints told me all about it today. Starting Monday off with this meal will get me back on track to make better decisions the rest of the week.

wpid-wp-1440459274049.jpgInto the medium-heated pan went about two tablespoons (I don’t actually measure) of coconut oil along with the tofu, eggplant, yellow pepper, and a few dashes of salt. Once the eggplant started to become slightly transparent, I threw in the red onion and zucchini. At this point, I spiced it with cumin, cayenne, turmeric, and red pepper flakes (I just eye it to my preference). I cooked the red cabbage in a separate pot–to prevent it from turning everything purple–with a little water, cumin, and turmeric, and added that to the mix at this point along with garlic, basil, and a few splashes of apple cider vinegar. With the veggies and tofu browned, I drizzled a bit of olive oil over everything, added the parsley and tossed it all together to pour into a bowl and garnish with the scallions.

The tofu and eggplant soaked up all those spices so well and complemented the sweet crunch of the pepper and onions. I ate two big bowls without anything else, but this stir fry could easily be put over rice, quinoa, or wrapped up in tortillas. I just wanted all the veggies and I was pleased. It was fresh, spicy, and delectable.

ALL. THE. VEGGIES.

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So I finished this Monday on a good note and hope to continue to make healthy decisions throughout the week. Having fresh produce in my backyard is an advantage to making better choices. While I’m enthusiastic about my fall tomatoes coming in and more peppers, I’m really looking forward to getting the winter garden going and all the greens and root and tuber vegetables that will be flooding my kitchen for soups and stews, which also means the end of 90% humidity, mosquitoes, and a break from weeding. Bring on the cooler weather! I’m ready.