Monday, July 28, 2014

Cooking for Two: Stuffed Eggplant with Chickpeas Bulgur Wheat and Tahini Sauce

This vegetarian dish is perfect for Meatless Mondays. The roasting sweetens the flesh of the eggplant while Harissa paste, chickpeas and cilantro give this a global, Moroccan flair.


Typically referred to as a vegetable, eggplant is a fruit, more specifically, a berry. However, it is cooked as a vegetable and develops a rich, rather complex flavor especially with roasting.

Eggplant never made an appearance in my house while I was growing up. I didn't try it until I moved away for college. I think I've mentioned before that it was my childhood best friend's older sister who introduced me to many new food experiences while I was away at school. I was attending art school in Oakland and she lived in San Francisco. Come weekends, Melba, and sometimes her then boyfriend (hubby now), would whisk me away from dorm life to experience new sights, sounds and tastes of some of the cultures in and around the San Francisco Bay area. I am indebted to them for helping to open up my world. Although the food I grew up with is my go-to comfort food, my tastebuds nonetheless often have me seeking out the foods they introduced me to: Greek, Persian, Indian, Thai, African, Cuban.


Whether the slim Japanese eggplants or the more familiar bulbous pear-shaped variety, eggplant has become a favorite to cook at home. From my version of baba ghanoush (think, hummus but with eggplants), to my simple eggplant parmesan or imbottiti, and whether I'm making the Greek version of moussaka or the Turkish, I simply love eggplant's ability to soak up whatever flavors you cook it with, creating a different experience with each preparation.


Simply roasting with a good quality olive and generous pinches of salt and pepper is by far my favorite way of quickly preparing eggplant. Stuffing it with leftover bulgur wheat and some chickpeas for some protein elevated this to an entree.

Added bonus: this meal can be very budget-friendly. The day I picked up this eggplant, Sprouts had them marked at 5 for $4.


Stuffed Eggplant with Chickpeas, Bulgur Wheat and Tahini Sauce
No need to salt the eggplant before preparing this dish. The roasting dulls any bitterness the eggplant might have had to begin with. 
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
_____________

For the bulgur wheat:
½ cup bulgur wheat (I get mine at Fresh & Easy as I like the size of their wheat)
¾ cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 clove garlic, crushed
pinch each of salt & freshly ground black pepper


1 large eggplant
Olive oil cooking spray
salt & black pepper, generous pinch each


1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, chopped fine
4 ounces garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (about ½ cup)
1 tablespoon Harissa paste, or to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup water
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese


For the tahini sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon Greek yogurt
salt & peper, to taste


chopped cilantro, optional


DIRECTIONS
_____________

1. Turn oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper; set aside.
2. Place bulgur wheat in a fine mesh sieve and rinse well. Add it to a medium saucepan along with the rest of the ingredients for the bulgur wheat. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce and let cook for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes, do not lift lid, turn off heat and allow to rest.
3. Rinse and dry eggplant. Slice in half length-wise. Carefully use a knife to cut down into the eggplant a quarter of the way in from the edge. Work knife around eggplant, taking care not to go all the way through and leaving about ¼ inch of flesh along the bottom of the eggplant as well. Next, beginning at the newly cut outer edge, cut vertical lines through the surface of the eggplant taking care not to go all the way through. Repeat with horizontal lines. This will make it easier to scoop out the flesh. Use a large soup spoon and starting along the edge, carefully scoop out the eggplant flesh into a bowl and set aside.
4. Place the hollowed out eggplant halves onto the prepared baking sheet. Lightly spray with olive oil (or use a pastry brush to cover the surface with olive oil) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on the middle shelf of the oven for 18 - 20 minutes or until the eggplant is easily pierced with a fork but not mushy. Set aside. 
5. Drizzle a large skillet with olive oil and place on medium high heat. When shimmering, sauté the onions until translucent but not browned. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring often, until eggplant is fork tender. Toss in the garbanzos, season with salt and pepper to taste and heat through. Reduce heat to medium-low and add ½ cup of the cooked bulgur wheat, stirring to incorporate (reserve leftover for another use later). In a small bowl, whisk together the Harissa, lemon juice, ground cloves and water. Add this to the skillet, stirring well to incorporate. Turn off heat and divide the filling between the two eggplant halves, mounding over if needed. Sprinkle eggplant halves with feta and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before plating.
6. Make the tahini sauce by adding the ingredients to a small bowl and whisking well to incorporate. When ready to serve, place each eggplant half on a plate, drizzle with tahini sauce and top with chopped cilantro. 

Nutritional data per serving:
Calories: 598
Total fat: 36.7g (Saturated fat: 6.4g; Trans fat: 0)
Cholesterol: 9mg
Sodium: 812 mg
Potassium: 817 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 59.3g (Dietary Fiber: 20.2; Sugars: 9.5g)
Protein 15.9g
Vitamin A 2%
Calcium 19%
Vitamin C 28%
Iron 39%

Analysis: 
• Very low in cholesterol
• High in dietary fiber
• High in maganese
• Very high in vitamin B6

Enjoy! Until next time, friends …
xo, 
Ani

Monday, July 21, 2014

Get ready for Alex's Lemonade Stand + {Recipe} Meyer Lemon Plum Upside Down Olive Oil Cake

**This post is sponsored by Melissa's Produce to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand: Foundation for Childhood Cancer.


Close your eyes. Imagine the excitement that surrounds the impending birth of your first baby girl. Imagine the joy in your heart as you prepare to celebrate her first birthday. Are you with me? Now imagine being told by your pediatrician that your beautiful baby has cancer. 

Imagine that little baby beating the odds and making it to her second birthday, her third … 

Then, the day after her fourth birthday, the doctors say the tumors have returned and your little darling goes back into the hospital for a stem cell transplant. 

Now, your little girl has become your little warrior and upon leaving the hospital, announces that she wants to help her doctors fight cancer. She decides to raise the money with a lemonade stand. By the time your little inspiring warrior reaches 8, her lemonade stands have inspired other communities to participate and the monies raised by them reaches $1 million. That's what happened to Liz and Jay Scott who's daughter, Alex, finally succumbed to her battle with cancer at the age of 8 but not before spawning a movement of awareness about childhood cancer that has now reached hundreds of communities across the nation each holding their own Alex's Lemonade Stand events to help fund research.


Mark your calendars because this Saturday, July 26th, 

Alex's Lemonade Stand returns to San Diego.


When: Saturday, July 26 from10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Where: 3366 Adams Avenue, 92116 at the Masonic parking lot.
Details: FM 94.9 will be broadcasting live the entire duration of the event. In addition to the lemonade, there will be live music, a silent auction, kid's activities, and more!


This lemonade stand is the biggest fundraiser in California and one of the top ten Alex's Lemonade Stands in the country. Since its inception, Alex's Lemonade Stand has raised over $80 million for childhood cancer, and has funded more than 450 research projects at 94 institutions. They also help families struggling with childhood cancer through a Travel Fund and an annual Educational Symposium.

If you can't attend but would still like to help, make a donation on the event page. Your donation of $50 funds one hour of research. Let's help the Miller Tribe reach their goal of $15,000 this year, getting them to $100,000 for the nine years they've been running the stand.


Meyer lemons that I incorporated into my challenge recipe:
Meyer Lemon-Scented Plum and Champagne Grape Upside Down Olive Oil Cake.
Yes, I know, that's a mouthful but it's now 1 a.m. Monday morning and have run out of time to think of a clever name.

This week, I'm partnering with fellow San Diego Food Bloggers to support this cause and raise more awareness with an Online Lemonade Challenge sponsored by Melissa's Produce. Melissa's sent all of us participating bloggers some beautiful produce like the Meyer lemons above and more:

Lemons
Key limes
Champagne grapes. These babies are juicy! And tiny! Smaller than a pinto bean. 
Organic plum bites. Loved these little guys.

After mulling over the ingredients for a few days and knowing that lemons had to for sure be incorporated into my recipe, I opted to make a fruit cake. But not the hard doorstoppers you find at Christmas time and hope you don't get. No, I wanted to make one that was filled with the tastes of summer.

Recipe at end of post

Last month, in an effort to feel better and get my health issues under control, I went cold turkey off all white food: no white flour, no white sugar, no white rice, no starchy vegetables and no processed foods. It's amazing how much you learn to appreciate the flavors of real food and fruit when you've broken your addiction to white sugar. And this produce did not disappoint. The smells, textures, sweet and tartness were front and center from the moment I opened the box. 


So I was totally up for the challenge of baking with no white flour. Instead, I've used sprouted whole wheat flour and almond flour. Of the produce sent to me by Melissa's Produce, I used the Meyer lemons, the organic plum bites and the champagne grapes.


Definitely making this cake again. The texture is not light and fluffy like white flour cakes are as I used mostly almond flour but it was slightly nutty, lemony, sweet and tart all in one bite. 

More than a dozen San Diego Food Bloggers will be cooking with lemons in support of Alex's Lemonade Stand. Check out their lemony recipes posting today thru July 28. All of their recipes will be linked at the end of this post, too, as they appear on their respective blogs. 

Participating bloggers: 

Confessions of a Foodie 

Event Partners: 

FM 94.9, broadcasting live all day 




MEYER LEMON-SCENTED PLUM & CHAMPAGNE GRAPE
UPSIDE DOWN ALMOND OLIVE OIL CAKE
YIELD: 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
_______________

Melissa's Produce organic plum bites or small plums, sliced in half and pitted
⅓ cup Melissa's Produce champagne grapes, generously measured
2 tablespoons brown sugar
butter for the pan
1 cup almond meal/flour, plus 1 tablespoon to flour the pan
½ cup sprouted whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs, separated
½ cup Splenda Granulated, or regular sugar if you aren't watching your sugar intake
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 3 Melissa's Produce Meyer lemons
¾ cup Melissa's Produce Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed (I used 4 lemons)


DIRECTIONS
_______________

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
2. Trace the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan onto baking parchment paper, cutout parchment and set aside. Butter the bottom and sides of the cake pan; place the parchment on the bottom of the pan, then butter the parchment paper. Holding the pan vertically, place 1 tablespoon of the almond flour on to the inside rim of the pan, swirl pan so that the flour coats the sides, shake excess off. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar in the bottom of the pan. Starting closest to the sides of the pan, place the plums, cut-side down, in a circle spaced evenly apart. Make a second circle inside the bigger one until all plums have been placed. Sprinkle the grapes over the plums, filling in the gaps. Then, sprinkle the remaining brown sugar over the fruit. Set pan aside.
3. Whisk the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. 
4. In a separate medium-sized bowl, beat egg yolks, Splenda, olive oil and vanilla until smooth. 
5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yolk mixture.
6. Whip egg whites in a clean, dry bowl with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks hold their shape. Carefully fold the whites into the batter a third at a time until smooth and incorporated. 
7. Add the batter to the pan, spreading it smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, on the center rack turning the pan halfway through to ensure even baking. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack or serving plate. Remove parchment. Cake is best the day it's made but will hold in a cool room at room temperature covered for a day or for three days refrigerated.


A special shout-out to Melissa's Produce for letting us combine the San Diego Food Bloggers Summer Fruit Challenge with the awareness campaign for Alex's Lemonade Stand. And to Stephanie Weaver of Recipe Renovator for organizing. 

Until next time friends, please consider making a donation to Alex's Lemonade Stand either by showing up in person or online if you can't make it. 

xo,
Ani

*Disclosure: Melissa's Produce supplied the fruit for this post. I was not otherwise compensated and am not compensated by Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for this post. As always, all opinions expressed are my own and not influence by the sponsorship.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Mexican-Style Grilled Corn-On-The-Cob {Recipe}

Brining brings out corns natural sweetness while the post grilling addition of queso cotija and Tapatîo gives it a Mexican spin.


Growing up in Southern California with a dad who loved to fish, summer weekends meant we had a lot of beach family barbecues. The first thing he’d do, even before he broke out the fishing poles? Grab a bucket, walk down to the water, and fill it with seawater to get the corn soaking right away. Four hours later, when it was time to start preparing our meal, that corn was the first thing to hit the grill. A little butter + a little cheese + a little Tapatîo = sweet, cheesy corn with a bite. Ah… summer! Hello, there!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Food Styling & Food Photography with White On Rice Couple {Workshop Wrap-up with Photo Tips & Styling Essentials}


There is something quite transformative that happens when you surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Gone is the feeling of self-consciousness. No longer must you feel like you have to self-edit before speaking your mind or sharing your vision. There is a common language and a shared understanding that needs no explanation or polite apologies about our obsession over plates, knives, stemware, beautiful produce, the texture in a piece of linen, chipped and aged boards, or the perfect curve in a stem of parsley. There is no jealousy over camera brands or equipment. There is only the photographer with his/her camera, the subject on the table and the light. Always the light.

Yeah, we get each other.

Monday, June 30, 2014

{Party Food} Harissa Chicken Wings with Herbed Yogurt Dipping Sauce

These tender baked Harissa Chicken Wings are addictive. The heat, not overpowering but definitely there, builds slightly with each wing. Paired with my Mint and Cilantro Yogurt Dipping Sauce, and the heat is easily tamed. 


Two birthdays ago, wanting a low-key dinner, Auntie took me to The Cheesecake Factory (cheesecake being my favorite dessert). Have you been? The dinner menu goes on forever and it's quite global. I ordered the Moroccan Chicken, first asking the waiter what Harissa was as I had never heard of it. "It's chile paste used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking." Uh-oh. I'm a wimp. I asked him to hold it and bring me everything else. "No, I can't do that." What?? "You'll totally miss the full experience of the dish. The Harissa sauce really elevates the chicken." Hmmm. "How about I have the kitchen put it on the side so you can control how much goes on the plate?" Hesitation. "Just promise me you'll try it, OK?" Fine. I gave in. His argument was quite passionate.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Lemon Scented Churros with Chocolate Sauce

Nothing satsifies a sweet tooth like fried dough. These Mexican Churros are crunchy crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside just like they make 'em on the street corners in Tijuana. I've added a twist to the flavor profile with just a hint of lemon. Try them the Spanish way - dunked in a luscious dark chocolate sauce with just a bit of heat.



Exactly when it was the first time I bit into a churro, I can't say. I do remember being preschool age and taking occasional trips to Tijuana (TJ) with my parents and grandparents to shop and bring back kilos of fresh corn tortillas (nowadays, in almost every neighborhood in San Diego you can find a tortillaria but back then, you pretty much had to go across the border for them). The best part of those trips for me was heading home because that meant a wait in long lines at the border crossing with guys carrying huge brown sacks filled with hot churros walking up and down those lines hocking them to the Americans waiting to get home and me saying, "Mommy, can I have a churro?" which of course, I always got.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Easy Strawberry Shortcake Semifreddo

Summer in a bite, this Strawberry Shortcake Semifreddo incorporates all the flavors of the classic dessert into a creamy, cold, light dessert that's perfect for summer.


It's no secret that I have a fondness for strawberries. I especially have a fondness for them when they are paired with something cool and creamy. Last year during strawberry season I created these yummy Strawberry Cheesecake Bites that proved to be a hit with everyone who made/tasted them.

This season, I was given the opportunity to work with Driscoll's in creating my interpretation of strawberry shortcake just in time for National Strawberry Shortcake Day which is this Saturday, June 14th.