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Monday, July 26, 2010

Eggplant poppers...

The summer farmshare season here in AZ calls for eggplant, and lots of it. This recipe is courtesy a friend of mine—also a fellow-devoted farmshare-er—in an effort to try something new and creative with her bounty of eggplants last year. She came up with this brilliant combination! The combinations seem so unlikely, yet they blend beautifully. The tanginess of the cream cheese and the creaminess, and the crunch of the pepper and the bite of spiciness are really a wonderful and surprising marriage of flavors. You will be surprised how addicting these little poppers are!

Here is how to make them:
  • 1 or more eggplants that are about 6 inches tall. You want about 30 slices when finished.
  • 1 package of cream cheese (or 4 oz. package of goat cheese)
  • 1/2 cup or so sliced jalapeƱos (fresh, or canned are ok). If you prefer no heat, use jarred Italian sweet cherry peppers; they are tangy without heat but have the right flavor profile.
  • Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.
Slice the eggplant very thin. You want it as thin as you can get it. Cut  it into strips about 1.5-2 inches wide. You might have to trim larger eggplants to size, or if you use smaller ones, they should work fine. Strips should be about 5-6 inches long and about 2 inches wide.

Lay the thin slices on foil that is brushed with olive oil. Sprinkle the slices with salt (try an herbed salt!)
Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes. Keep a close eye! They start to brown fast!!! You don’t necessarily want them brown, but they will become soft and pliable and roll-able.

Remove from oven, and lay them out and place a small amount of cream cheese (or goat cheese) on the end of each one, about the size of your thumbnail. Lay across a pepper slice, and any fresh herbs you have (Rosemary is very nice). Then roll! Roll each one up and anchor with a toothpick!

Serve these as a great vegetarian appetizer that is a real surprise in flavors.

Variation: A wonderful variation to using these as appetizers, is to morph them into a delicious and healthy version of eggplant parmesan.
To do that, layer all your rolled poppers (without toothpicks) into a casserole dish. Cover with red sauce, and sprinkle with gluten free breadcrumb all over the top. Sprinkle with a small amount of parmesan and bake for 25-minutes at 350-degrees.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The humble fig...

Behold, the humble fig. ‘Tis the season here in AZ and other parts of the country. As part of my “Know your neighbors, and what they grow” campaign, my wonderful ‘Fig Neighbor' has offered up a glorious bounty from their treasure-laden tree.

The fig is very unpretentious, not like the cherry-red shiny apple, kind of alike a lady with bright red lipstick, or the blond Rainer cherry, standing tall with its stem and shy-but beautiful blushed coat.

No—the fig has a dusty-colored purple, matte finish skin and sort of lumpy-plump little body, and sits there in its humble fashion. But, oh—the fig! It is so deserving of so much praise in taste and nutrition!
Here is how I use this seasons bounty of figs. Buy them up in large quanitites when they are on sale and make lots of things!

Fig Jam
  • 3 lbs ripe figs (stems trimmed off)
  • 1 lb sugar (by weight)
  • ½ cup water
  • Juice of two lemons

In a deep stock pot place figs, sugar, water and lemon juice. Cover and on medium high heat bring to a simmer. After about 5-minutes, smash the figs down with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook for another 10-minutes. Turn off the heat, and using an immersion (hand) blender, carefully blend the figs until a smooth jam forms (some chunks ok.) Ladle this into clean glass jars.
(Note: you can use a blender in batches, in lieu of immersion blender, but be careful, the jam is HOT).

Low Sugar Fig JamAn alternative to standard fig jam, which has a fair amount of sugar, try this one; pure fruit, enhanced by citrus, with natural honey for sweetness.
  • 20 or so fresh figs, stems removed, and cut in half
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Water
Place in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Crush figs with the back of a spoon as they heat. Liquid should begin to come out. Add zest and juice of the lemons. Add honey. If mixture is too dry, add enough water to make a simmer. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Liquid should begin to reduce and mixture should thicken slightly as figs cook. Blend with blender or hand blender, place in glass jars. Once cooled it should be a spoonable consistancy.

Dried figs (make honey-soaked figs)
Trim stems and half figs. Give them a stint overnight in your food dehydrator. Once completely cool, store in glass jars in your pantry.

As for the bounty of figs in general, here is how I enjoy them:
  • Jam on a gluten free cheese flavored cracker
  • Honey-soaked figs on yogurt
  • Turkey and mozzarella panini with fig jam or fresh sliced figs
  • Fig spread
    Mix ½ cup fig jam with 4 oz goat cheese until blended. Use as a spread on sandwiches, toast, or as a cracker spread or dip at your next party
  • Fresh: Take a bite, dip in brown sugar, take a bite—repeat.

Friday, July 16, 2010

S'mores in a Snap...

Summer. It's synonymous with camping around here. And we all know what must happen while camping…s’mores. For those of us gluten free, for a long while—well we have been left out in the cold so to speak. There is no real gluten free graham cracker to be found. I created a recipe that (if I do say so) is a very close rendition, and very delicious! (It is soon to be posted). However, sometimes life calls for s’mores in a snap (translation—not having to take the time bake something.) Now, I am not one known for impatience, after all, most from-scratch people are not likely candidates for impatience. But these are divine, more than you would even think, and fit the bill for a quick treat with a few store bought goodies…a welcome, and easy gluten free summertime treat!

  • 1 package store bought gluten free cookies (I used Pamela’s mini chocolate chip cookies, because I like them, and they are the perfect size. Use any kind you like.)
  • 1 jar of Nutella
  • 1 bag of large marshmallows
Roast your marshmallow to your liking. Spread desired amount of Nutella on each cookie, then sandwich the roasted marshmallow in between.