Honey Garlic Grilled Eggplant

Eggplant

One of the few vegetables I allow myself to buy at the farmer’s market is eggplant. Our plants haven’t really started producing yet (see above picture – I *think* that’s an eggplant bud), and its one of my favorite vegetables! Last week I finally decided to try white eggplant. I don’t know why I was so dubious about it before – but the gal at the market said they were less bitter, much creamier, and if I hadn’t tried them yet I DEFINITELY needed to! And she was so right!! I’ll still buy the purple ones too, or even the zebra-striped, but the white had a noticeably creamier texture to them that I really liked. Its too bad that cooked eggplant isn’t all that photo-friendly – it doesn’t retain its coloring very well. But it is high on taste so I guess that is the more important factor!

Eggplant couscous

I can’t remember how I found this eggplant recipe – probably through Tastespotting, which I regularly peruse for inspiration (and occasionally have submissions accepted!). But this recipe is now destined to be part of my repertoire, because it is easy, requires ingredients I always have, and is versatile for many uses. I made it last week to go with grilled zucchini, tilapia, and basil/parsley flecked couscous. And I made it again the next day (I still had 2 eggplants left) but instead of grilling it, I sauteed it and mixed it with chard, rice, white beans, and feta for a wrap. I’ll include that recipe too!

Eggplant

Honey Garlic Grilled Eggplant

(Original recipe here)

2 small/medium eggplants
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt/pepper

Slice eggplant into ½ inch thick circles. Sprinkle eggplant generously with salt on both sides and lay out on a colander. The eggplant will release a lot of liquid. This will help get rid of bitterness (if any) and make the eggplant more succulent and less watery after it’s cooked. Let sit for 15 minutes, then dry both sides well.

In a large bowl, mix honey, olive oil, garlic, paprika, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Dunk both sides of each eggplant slice into this marinade.

Preheat the grill to high. Grab a wad of paper towel with tongs, dip it in oil, and brush it on the grill. Place the eggplant slices on the grill, cover, and turn down the heat to medium. Grill until marked, about 3 minutes. Turn 90 degrees to make cross-hatch grill marks. Grill until marked, about 3 more minutes. Brush the slices with remaining marinade, flip and repeat the grilling procedure on the other side. Regulate heat so that the eggplant is browning, but not burning. Remove to a plate, and drizzle with olive oil.

Eggplant wrap

Eggplant-Chard-White Bean Wrap

1 recipe Honey Garlic Grilled Eggplant (see above)

One bunch chard, central rib removed and torn into smallish pieces

1 Can White Beans, drained

Salt/pepper

3 servings cooked rice (I used a pre-cooked package from Trader Joe’s)

Feta cheese

Whole Wheat Tortillas

Either grill eggplant as above, or slice eggplant into bite-size pieces and saute until nearly done. Add the chard and cook until wilted. Mix in the rice and beans, salt/pepper to taste, and heat until warm. Wrap it up with feta cheese (and some lettuce/tomato too if you’re inclined!)

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Roasted Beet, Carrot, and Israeli Couscous

Israeli Couscous salad

At that same Tour de France potluck last week, our host Ben made up a great dish consisting of beets, carrots, dill, and Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (Israeli couscous, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa). On Tuesday, as I was roasting up some vegetables from the garden, I decided to use Ben’s dish as a basis for design. I roasted three kinds of beets – Early Wonder (deep red), Golden, and Chiogga (red and white stripes).

Carrots

I also roasted some carrots and green beans, and cooked up the beet greens. It turned out very colorful and tasty. The red beets bleed into the couscous a bit, so by day three it was quite pink! I also used some dill from the garden, which has started to flower.

Dill

On a completely unrelated note, yesterday we picked the first ears of corn! They didn’t quite develop uniformly plump kernels, so we ended up just eating the cobs on the spot without cooking them. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had corn that fresh! (Corn is something else that would go well in the beet couscous.)

Corn

Roasted Beet, Carrot and Israeli Couscous

6-8 beets, approx. same size (larger beets should be cut into similar-size pieces)

10 small-medium carrots, cut into similar sized pieces

Beet greens, stalks removed (could also use chard or kale)

Large handful or two green beans, ends snapped off

Olive oil

1/2 package Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (or 1 cup Israeli couscous, prepared with vegetable broth)

Balsamic vinegar, several splashes

Salt/pepper to taste

Handful dill, chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Toss the beets in olive oil/salt/pepper, then spread them onto a baking sheet. Golf-ball-ish sized beets usually take ~50 minutes. After 15-20 minutes, toss the carrots in olive oil/salt/pepper and add them onto the baking sheet (they usually take ~30 min). When you have 20 minutes left, toss the green beans in olive oil/salt/pepper and add them onto the baking sheet too. Once all vegetables are finished, allow them to cool.

Prepare couscous per directions. Once it is ready, put it into a large bowl. You can use the same saucepan to steam the beet greens – just put a little water in the bottom, add the greens and a lid, and heat over medium heat for a few minutes until they wilt. Drain and chop into small pieces, then add to the couscous.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. Slice beets and carrots into bite-sized pieces, and slice the green beans in 2-3 pieces. Mix beets and carrots into the couscous mixture, along with a few splashes of balsamic vinegar and the chopped dill. Taste, and add salt/pepper or more balsamic/dill as neessary.

Zucchini-Chard Couscous with Herbs

Zucchini with Couscous

Last week I volunteered at a kids day camp with Wilderness Youth Project. I spent 5 days at Goleta Beach, exploring the beach and slough with 12 6-9 year-olds! It was great to spend so much consistent time with the kids and really see them get more comfortable in the water and with each other, and I think I got just as much out of it as they did! But boy, was I wiped out by the end of the week!

Cucumbers

On Friday we went to a hastily-planned potluck to watch the Tour de France, so I needed to throw together a dish quickly.  Because we had a few cucumbers, I quickly sliced them and then coated them with a lemon juice/olive oil/salt mixture – light and refreshing!

Then on to the main course – I found this recipe for “Saffron, Zucchini and Herb Couscous” from the Food Network that seemed simple enough, but with subtle additions to make it interesting. I added swiss chard and garbanzo beans (for a little protein), which made it more filling but not heavy by any means! Like most recipes, I think other vegetables could be easily substituted, and if you don’t have saffron on hand, you could leave it out. I really liked the basil and parsley addition, and I thought the couscous was even better the next day after the flavors had time to meld!

Zucchini Couscous

Zucchini-Chard Couscous with Herbs

1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp saffron threads

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 zucchini, large dice

1 bunch chard, chopped into ribbons

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous

1 cup chopped basil leaves

1 cup chopped parsley leaves

Bring the stock to a boil in a small saucepan, and turn off the head. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and saffron threads and allow to steep for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and melt the butter in a saute pan. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the chard and cover with a lid until wilted. Turn off heat. Bring the stock just back to a boil. Place the couscous in a large bowl and add the garbanzo beans. Pour the hot stock over them. Cover the bowl tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Add the zucchini and chard, basil and parsley. Toss with a fork and serve warm or at room temperature.

(original recipe is here)

Vegetables in the Wilderness

Temple Crag

Last week, Matt and I took off to the Eastern Sierras for a backpacking/rock-climbing adventure at Temple Crag, where we would attempt a 1,500′ climb (~20 pitches) that ended at 13,000 feet. I’ll save you the technical details (unless you really want them!), but the short story is that we backpacked in on Thursday afternoon, left camp at 6am Friday for the climb, successfully made it to the top, and got back to camp ~10pm (thank goodness for headlamps!). Beautiful perfect Sierras weather and views, great rock and climb , and, minus a raging headcold I acquired on the drive up there (oh and some voracious mosquitoes), a fantastic experience!

Looking up the route

I’ve always been a little stymied when it comes to backpacking food, because you want to eat well without adding too much weight to your pack (since you have to carry it, and in the Sierras you usually need a bear canister), you don’t have refrigeration, and being smushed in a pack means your food needs to take a little abuse. There are all kinds of freeze-dried, dehydrated, backpacking-specific options out there, but… we like to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. They do take up more space, but once they’re gone your pack is just that much lighter. We pretty consistently take bananas, oranges/apples – and other great vegetable contenders are cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onions, and if you can protect them, avocados or tomatoes.

Camping stove veggies

We of course had vegetables from the garden, so I took a bag of green/purple beans and some zucchini/yellow squash.  After a quick saute over the backpacking stove, I mixed in a can of tuna and one of those Trader Joe’s pre-cooked multigrain pilafs. Not the best combo in the world, but it would have been a lot more boring without the fresh veggies! Pasta, rice or couscous would also work well – I like couscous because it cooks so quickly. Anyone else have suggestions?

Since this isn’t a recipe post, persay, I thought I’d share some photos from the garden. We took out the yellow squash plants this week because they were all covered in powdery mildew (kind of a relief – I was getting tired of yellow squash!). We did a fairly large harvest on Sunday since we’d been gone for a few days on our adventure. We got our first cucumbers, and the green beans have been coming in fast and furious!

Sunday Harvest

The plums are starting to ripen up for eating, and the strawberry plants perked up again with a new crop. The two peaches on our tree were ripe today so I will be enjoying those in the morning!  One of my favorite things to watch is the watermelon plant – in just a week it went from the size of a marble to softball size!

Marble Watermelon

Softball Watermelon