Recipe: Eggplant Involtini

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(This is not the actual picture of the dish, but I don’t know where they have gone – so imagine these eggplant slices rolled around the cheese (which is dotted with fresh herbs) on top of couscous instead of salad!)

We got some really cute eggplants at the Farmers Market recently. I didn’t really have a dish in mind for how to prepare them, but I love eggplant, so I knew I would get inspiration at some point. They sat in the fridge for about a week, and then I got a bright idea! Recently we had gone out to eat and I had a rolled, stuffed eggplant dish that was breaded in panko and fried. I didn’t really want to fry the eggplant, but I wanted to roll them and stuff them. I love the combination of chevre and eggplant, and I had some nice chevre in the fridge. I stuffed the eggplants with fresh herbs and chevre and broiled them in the oven. I drizzled balsamic-pomegranate reduction over top and served it with raisin and pine nut dotted couscous. The flavors were really magical and took my taste buds to new heights! I was really pleased with the way the dish turned out – I think the combination of herbs really made it. This is a great dish for the last days of summer and I am betting it would be phenomenal on the grill!

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Daring Bakers: Za’atar Spiced Lavash Crackers with Spicy Walnut Dip and Cilantro Chutney

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When I saw the Daring Bakers challenge for this month, I was nothing short of ecstatic! Don’t get me wrong, I love the creativity behind all the cakes and pastries we have been baking as of late, and if I hadn’t done them, I would still be thinking that baking things like this was something un-attainable for me. But I am always much more into the land of savory. So this was going to be a real treat. I have never made crackers before, but I am a HUGE lover of crackers, eating them almost daily. So I figure it was high time to start making my own!

I was also excited because this is the first time the DB challenge is hosted by gluten free blogs, Natalie from Gluten A Go Go , and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl. So when you look at the recipe, be sure to take note that there is a gluten free and non-gluten free version available!

So what is Lavash? It is an Armenian flatbread which is traditionally cooked in a clay oven or Tandoor and is usually used like a tortilla – as in you wrap a filling in it (like a kebab) and eat it like a sandwich. But we bakers are daring, so we are all attempting to make it into crackers using conventional ovens! :)

I love the foods of the Middle East, so to fulfill the other part of this challenge – making a topping for the crackers, I decided to stay in the same vein by preparing an Armenian Spicy Walnut Dip

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and and an Afghani style Cilantro Chutney

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(this was a discussion on the Leftover Queen Forum and now I can’t find the thread and I can’t remember the creator of the thread….if anyone recalls, please remind me!!!!).

I decided to make this treat for movie night accompanied by the Lentil Koftas I made some time ago.

The lavash was nice and crispy and the toppings were both fantastic!- the cilantro chutney is full of clean green flavors, while the walnut was very earthy and robust. I even had some leftover dough so I made a few breadsticks!

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I loved that this challenge was something I have never made before, yet didn’t take hours or even days to complete! Plus, there is just so much wonderful versatility possible here! So I am no doubt going to be making them again very soon and just play around with the flavors!

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September 26, 2008 – Finest Foodies Friday

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As always here is what the FFF is all about. Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites yours! What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community (just under 2000 strong) to share ideas about all things food related.

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll widget on your blog. If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here!

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

Let’s get started:

As many of you know, I used to live in Norway. It is a beautiful country with a rich food tradition that is modern, clean, old-fashioned and close to nature all at the same time. Sure, there are ethnic restaurants in Norway, but I recommend the real deal – fresh salmon, reindeer, cloud berries, brunost, brown bread, and wonderful cheese and ice creams. I am always reminiscing about my time there, so you can imagine my delight when I came across Siri‘s blog, Transplanted Baker. Siri is from Minnesota in the US, but now calls Norway home. It is a great blog featuring delicious food! Oh and if you need to brush up on your Norwegian (like I do) she is now posting bi-lingually – English and Norwegian (Nynorsk – which is a different dialect than what I speak (horribly!). If only she had a way for me to get email notices of all her new posts! Tusen Takk, Siri!!

Leslie , The Hungry Housewife is a favorite blog of many. She is not about stuffy or fancy food, but you might be fooled looking at the beauty of some of her baked goods – she certainly has a creative knack, let’s just say that for the moment. She also makes a lot of really good comfort foods and savory dishes! Whenever I visit her blog, I always see something that I want to make! So head on over there for some fun ideas!

Another blog in the vein of, I want to eat everything she posts, is Pam‘s blog, For The Love of Cooking . I just love her food and her blog. She always uses fresh ingredients and makes all the classics from scratch. She is also very down to earth. She makes delicious dishes that I have forgotten about, or haven’t had in years and so I always enjoy her posts to see what she is going to make next! Her pictures are beautiful and crisp and really reflect the wholesomeness of the food!

Julie’s Raw Ambition is another great and inspiring blog. She travels a lot and so I really enjoy her travel posts. But she also makes some really elegant, beautiful and fresh food when she is at home, and I am always impressed how she can make raw food look so inviting. As I have mentioned about a million times before, I am always looking for raw food ideas to add to our diets, and this blog is some more fodder for that!

Jude‘s blog Apple Pie, Patis, Pâté is another blog where everything looks so clean and crisp and delicious! He would rather cook at home than eat out because he finds the process of learning and creating new dishes from scratch very addictive. Something I think a lot of us can relate to. He also enjoys wandering through the ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago in search of new and exciting raw materials for his kitchen experiments!

Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them.

Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

I also want to remind everyone about the O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Contest! Please see this post for more details on how you can win a $50 Amazon gift card or a copy of Gina De Palma’s Dolce Italiano Cookbook!!!!

Have a great weekend everyone! :)

Recipe: Three Sisters Casserole and Healthier Fry Bread to celebrate World Food Day (oh, and a new friend!!!)

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As many of you know, I spent some time living on the Navajo (Dine, meaning “The People” ) Reservation, at Black Mesa/ Big Mountain many years ago.

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It was a very transformation period in my life, educationally, personally and spiritually. I always look back on this time fondly, not only because of my own personal development, but because of the people I met, the bits of language I learned and especially how these people who really don’t have much, made delicious food based on the foods that are around and the plants and animals their people have raised for generations. If it were not for their sheep (and other livestock) and their gardens, many would be on the verge of hunger all the time, or relegated to eating foods full of preservatives and chemicals from the government. The people I lived with tried to feed the government cheese to their dogs, and they wouldn’t touch it.

Perhaps the most important food in the Dine’ culture (besides sheep) are the Three Sisters: corn, squash and beans. These three crops form the foundation of their diet and are planted together in mounds – corn in the middle and squash and beans surrounding it. The corn is planted first, once it has grown some, it provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide necessary nitrogen to the soil that the other plants need to grow and the squash spreads along the ground, using up most of the sunlight, preventing weeds. The squash leaves also act as a “living mulch,” that retains moisture in the soil, while the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests.

Pretty cool, huh?

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Well, what is just as cool, is Valli and Ivy‘s food blogging event based on, World Food Day held by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Their goal is to raise awareness through the blogosphere for “World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy.” Something that I felt driven to participate in.

Since the Dine’ are environmentalists at the core of their culture and many of them don’t even have electricity or running water where they live, I felt food that reflects their culture and relationship to the Earth and the planet would be appropriate here. For Val and Ivy’s event they are asking that we submit a recipe which represents our country (these are the first Americans) that would feed at least 6 people (check). They are looking especially for family favourites, regional favourites that uses local and perhaps seasonal ingredients (check again!)

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So in order to honor the time I spent with the Dine’ I really wanted to make a dish that incorporates the Three Sisters and serve it with some fry bread. Fry bread is a necessary part of all Dine’ meals. Sometimes there is corn bread (some of the best corn bread is made with blue corn meal), but fry bread is the most common. I know that with the family I stayed with, it was made first thing in the morning – each loaf was kneaded and then fried in a cast iron skillet. Usually enough was made to last the whole day. It took me quite a long time to get it halfway decent- as I am not a kneader by nature. Everyone always knew when the billigana (“white girl”) made the fry bread as it was usually not as soft and always oddly shaped…still is… :)

This time, I also tried to make the fry bread a tinsy bit healthier by using some whole wheat flour as well!

Hope you enjoy this Native American inspired meal! Great for the fall, especially….click through to meet our newest family member…

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Recipe: Pomodori e Riso Romano – Food 911 by The Leftover Queen

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I have been hearing about Pomodori e Riso (tomatoes and rice) for the past two years. This is one of Roberto’s favorite dishes that he misses the most since moving from Rome to the US. Like his mom’s Involtini, tortellini soup, and roasted potatoes from the Rosticceria, he mentions pomodori e riso often with a dreamy faraway look in his eyes. Pomodori e riso, roasted potatoes and roasted chickens are on offering in many a Rosticceria in Rome. I have been hearing about how great the food is from these places, that when I finally make it to the Eternal City, I imagine that they will be built of gold and marble. Not only this, but I really want to do my best to replicate Roberto’s favorite dishes and give him a sense of home. But Roman cuisine is all uncharted territory for me, as my Italian ancestors are from much farther South and therefore the cuisine is an entirely different animal! But I am always up for a good challenge in the kitchen!

My attempts at making the tortellini soup went over pretty big a few years ago (before I had this blog), so when we found ginormous tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market last week, and he got the pomodori e riso bug, I was all for it. I put on my proverbial chef hat, and my geeky researcher glasses and in a very Food 911 fashion, I asked a lot of questions about how it was supposed to taste and why his past attempts just didn’t do it for him.

Here were the problems with his past attempts:

1) The tomatoes and potatoes were too hard – the ideal texture is soft on the inside, but crispy on the top of the tomatoes and the outsides of the potatoes from sitting in the rosticceria all day getting nice and slowly cooked.

2) The tomatoes were too small and therefore not up to par

3) The sauce needed some help – it had been too bland in the past

4) Rice was not the right texture

So I thought about how to improve on the recipe, and came up with these solutions:

1) I have perfected roasted potatoes. So I knew how I was going to cook them (see recipe method), as for the tomatoes, they needed to be cooked a little ahead of time to get them to the right texture and then but under the broiler (with a little grated parm) at the end to get the crispy top.

2) Use the season’s bounty of beautiful big tomatoes (I don’t think these kinds of tomatoes grow very much in New England)

3) I made the sauce by using the insides of the tomatoes, some Pomi tomato sauce, fresh basil, fresh garlic and salt, sugar, balsamic and pepper to make a delicious and fresh tasting sauce

4) I used arborio rice and pre-cooked it, but added a little extra water so that when it was baked inside the tomatoes, it wouldn’t get hard

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September 19, 2008 – Finest Foodies Friday

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Well today is our 5 month wedding anniversary! I can’t believe how fast time flies! :)

One month from today we will be in New England, enjoying in the autumnal bliss! Can’t wait for sweaters and socks and pumpkin and maple EVERYTHING.

Hard to imagine because is still sweltering here in FL!!!

But anyway, onto the main event – Finest Foodies Friday!!!

As always here is what the FFF is all about. Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites yours! What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community (just under 2000 strong) to share ideas about all things food related.

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll widget on your blog. If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here!

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

Let’s start the ball rolling today with Nikki from Nik Snacks
Here is a Southern woman who has the art for baking, from perfect biscuits to muffins and also the savory side of things. Nikki is one of my blogging buddies who always has a great sense of humor and is just so down to earth. She teaches culinary classes, bakes for a local bakery and owns her own catering business besides being the editorial assistant for for a local newspaper! I just don’t know how she has all the time! For more about her exciting life, please drop by and say hi!

Let’s talk about Rosa’s Yum Yums
She is not kidding about the Yum Yum factor. If you have not been to her blog, I can hardly believe it. She is a Daring Baker extraordinaire and loves eating it up in Switzerland! Rosa is one of those bloggers who is extremely professional – her posts are always informative and her goodies delectable! Plus she also does Weekend Cat Blogging, which is just way to much fun! When you want a treat, go check out Rosa’s offerings!

Rachel, The Crispy Cook has a blog featuring gluten free foods with an emphasis on vegetarian and pescatarian food, cooking from the garden, naturally gluten-free recipes and some other tidbits. This is one of those blogs I can’t believe I haven’t already featured! Rachel has been an avid Royal Foodie Jouster since she joined the Foodie Blogroll. She and her husband also own a used and rare bookstore in upstate New York. Even if you are not gluten free, the food on her blog is certainly yummy!

Dee from Choos and Chews is filled with lots of treats – have you seen those Milk chocolate mini cakes with chestnut cream filling , because if not, you need to – they are awesome! But this blog is not all about baking, it is about forays into good eating, while raising a child and working from home. Because hey, sometimes you just have your eye on a pair of Choos! Just go check it out.

The Home Cook, from A Taste of Home Cooking
is an inspirational blog. I was re-introduced to the blog when it was nominated for FFF by someone who began their own blog because of The Home Cook.  Her nominator says that “she makes consistently good, tasty food and is never afraid to admit her errors either. Love her.” Well that certainly sold me to go check it out. I have to agree, there is a wealth of wonderful ideas here that just could be dinner tonight!

Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them. I NEED NOMINATIONS!!!!!!

Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

Have a great weekend everyone! :)

O Foods: Oatmeal Carrot Date Bread, the Banana Bread Alternative!

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Here is my O Foods recipe. If you have not heard about the O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness month contest, please check the details on my last post!

Quick breads are like cake to me. I am not a big fan of icing and so for me the subtle sweetness that quick breads offer is perfect for me. I love the idea of banana bread and there are variations on banana bread wherever you turn, but I am not a lover of bananas. For some reason I just never really got into them. I find that their taste overpowers everything and for me they mess up and overwhelm and ruin the flavor of smoothies to quick breads. I understand that they add sweetness and bulk, and are great for binding ingredients together. But I am still plagued by childhood memories of the banana in my lunch box that made my turkey sandwich taste like bananas, and my chips too!

So when I came across a recipe for oatmeal date carrot mini muffins, I knew that I wanted to experiment with making it a quick breakfast bread. It is chock full of great ingredients that are healthy and delicious! I changed it up a bit using what I had and it turned out moist, flavorful and filling. This is a great bread for breakfast or snacking and perfect for an afternoon spot of tea (or coffee).

This is adapted from floridagirlinsydney‘s blog Deviously Delicious
Don’t forget to start coming up with your O Foods recipe! :)

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O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Contest!

Some of you may remember last year’s Dolce Italiano contest to spread the word about the wonderful cookbook by the 2008 Bon Appetit award-winner for best Pastry Chef Gina DePalma.

A few months ago, I found out from some my other Dolce Italiano participants that Gina was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was undergoing a whirlwind of treatment. A few of us decided that we wanted to lend Gina our support by raising awareness through the blogosphere – because that is what bloggers do best! Michelle from Bleeding Espresso got in touch with Gina to see how we could help.

Gina was already on our wavelength thinking about what she could do to raise ovarian cancer awareness and money to fight the disease. So a few of us from the Dolce Italiano contest got together and we proudly announce:

O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of Gina DePalma, author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen and Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy, Jenn of The Leftover Queen, and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are asking you to donate to the:

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund

and then, out of the goodness of your hearts and to be eligible for the OFoods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Contest, please do the following:

  1. Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato) and include this entire text box in the post;

    OR

  2. If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word about the event and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

    AND

  3. Then send your post url [along with a photo (100 x 100) if you've made a recipe] to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on September 30, 2008.

We will post a roundup and announce prize winners on October 3.

Prizes:

  • 1 Recipe Prize for best “O food” concoction: $50 gift certificate to Amazon;
  • 1 Awareness Prize for only publicizing event: Copy of Dolce Italiano cookbook.

———

From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

  • Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,650 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2008 and about 15,520 women will die from the disease.
  • The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.

  • In spite of this patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.

  • When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.

Please donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
and help spread the word!

Please join us today by spreading the word about Ovarian Cancer Research!