Thursday, April 9, 2009

What to call this dish?

Madame and I went to the farmers' market on Sunday and now have ridiculous amounts of tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, beans, mangoes, lettuce, cucumbers, yellow squash and eggplants. So we have been steadily working our way through them.

One evening, I thought it would be fun to make a kind of veg casserole. However, not the normal thing – no canned soups, no nasty ingredients at all! This was essentially just a roasting of onions, yellow squash, eggplant and mushrooms, but with a twist. I also wanted this to be done in my customary 45 minutes.

The big question was how to make sure it all cooks. Luckily there is a fair bit of leeway. They key was precooking various ingredients so they didn't have to all warm up together in the oven.


1 Large eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾ inch (2cm) cubes

3 yellow squash (could use zucchini(courgettes)) sliced into ½ inch (1.5cm) thick rounds

6T Olive oil (divided use)

3 large ripe tomatoes (weighing about 2lbs/1Kg)

1 large onion (12 oz/300 gm) sliced thinly into rings

A large handful of unpitted olives (Nicoise and Picholine) making sure you have a good variety of size and color

A few sprigs thyme

4 Portabella mushroom caps (see treatment in method)

Salt/pepper to taste. Be careful, olives are quite salty in their own right

A drizzle of balsamic cream or balsamic vinegar

A drizzle of high quality (extra virgin) olive oil


To serve, 4 slices grilled bread – preferably artisanal and day old.



Heat oven to 400F. Place gratinee dish and 2T oil in oven to warm up

In a large skillet heat 3T of olive oil. When smoking add the eggplant and squash, turn heat to medium and cook, tossing often, for about 10 minutes, The egg plant should almost cook through. While the eggplant/squash are cooking add the sliced onion to the hot gratinee dish and return to the oven. When the egg plant and squash are cooked, add them to the onion in the gratinee dish. Layer the contents roughly and return to the oven,

Heat the tomato slices in the skillet until they are hot through (about 2 or 3 minutes) and toss in the olives. Heat until the olives are warmed. Add the tomatoes/olives to the gratinee dish and mix to ensure the olives are well distributed. Add the thyme and mix in.

For each portabella, remove the stalk carefully, and then slice the mushroom cap horizontally so that you end up with two pieces each looking like a lid. These will become the lid of the dish.

Add salt/pepper to taste to the dish, then cover the dish with the portabella lids. Drizzle the remaining oil over the portabella lids, sprinkle a little salt/pepper on them, and return to the oven. Reduce the heat to 375 and bake for about 20 minutes – or until the mushroom caps are cooked.


To Serve

Grill some thinly sliced artisanal bread. Lay the toast slices in the bottom of a soup bowl. Spoon the vegetables onto the bread, making sure you get some juice to soak into the toast. Top with a portabella cap, drizzle some balsamic cream or balsamic vinegar and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pickled Mushrooms and other Antipasti

On Sunday evening Madame wasn't due home until after 7 – she had been playing tennis and was likely to be hungry, but not to want anything terribly heavy. I also didn't know exactly when she would arrive, so figured that if I made a nice antipasti plate it would survive the unpredictability of her timing.

We had been to the Farmers' market in the morning and had lots of tomatoes (East Texas), red peppers (South Texas), Mushrooms (some rotting stump some where), mangoes (Mexico), grapefruit (The Rio Grande Valley) and some other local stuff. This wasn't all going to work, so I improvised with some of the wonderful 7 year old parmesan from Sigels, some salame, olives, roasted peppers, roasted tomatoes and pickled mushrooms.

Since we had so many mushrooms, I decided to pickle some myself rather than buy them. This was an experiment – one that worked out well, even if the flavors weren't very Italian.


1 Cup white vinegar

1 Cup water

4 T Kosher salt

2T light brown sugar

6 green cardamoms

1 inch fres ginger

1 inch cinnamon bark

1t cumin

12 black pepper corns

12 coriander seeds

24 button mushrooms washed with stalks trimmed



Place all the ingredients into a sauce pot and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and allow to cool. Discard the cooking liquid.


What could be simpler?