Towering Food: Greek Eggplant Stacks

The eggplant is a vegetable famous for its glossy, deep purple beauty. With its pleasantly spongy texture and mild flavor, it complements any ingredient. Looking at the tear-dropped gem, we got creative and brainstormed whether to take an Italian route incorporating mozzarella and basil, an Indian route with curry and raisins, or a Thai route with spicy basil and coconut milk. Ultimately, we opted for a Greek-inspired stack. The salty, briny feta paired perfectly with the mellow eggplant. To add some pop in taste and color, we layered sautéed spinach and tomato sauce.s

When we prepare food, we almost always have the same vision. This time around, we had slightly different approaches, so decided to each make our own layered stack. While the eggplant towers both follow the same recipe, they differ slightly in presentation.

Eggplant, Spinach, Tomato and Feta Stack

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The Raw Continues Through Winter

In September I could already see winter and I vowed to enjoy eating quick to prepare, raw salads as much as I could. But now it’s November, the darkness swings in earlier, and I’m still compiling uncooked greens.

Cabbage is quite wonderful raw, actually.

Raw Cabbage Salad with Grains, Beans and Avocado

I sliced one large savoy cabbage leaf into confetti, letting the slim greens better succumb to a heavier dressing. However I decorate the greens, I let it sit for about 10 minutes to gather together before eating.

Yesterday I added bulgur wheat and butter beans (I had cooked a big batch of both earlier in the week), diced avocado, oven-dried tomato and parsley with a feta-cumin dressing.

Sometimes I add other vegetables, but I always try to cover the cabbage in a fairly substantial dressing, otherwise it’s just a bit too coarse.

(PS – Does anyone else think of their Cabbage Patch dolls when eating cabbage? And maybe feel a little guilty?)

More in>>> Dark Green Raw Salads

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ES Goes to the Circus

Instead of watching elephants balance on their hind legs and 90-pound women fly through the air, I ate lunch in the Pie Car, the dining area for the 300 or so members of the Ringling Bros circus. What does a circus performer eat? It’s certainly not the cotton candy found at concessions, but it’s not health food either. A few D.C. food writers were invited to eat in the dining car and try Chef Michael Vaughn’s food.

Think wedding food. Hotel meeting food. It’s not easy to cook well for hundreds of people, and in a tiny traveling circus train kitchen, it’s no different. The chef prepares breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks totaling 3,000 meals per week. Performers live 11 months out of the year on this train so everyone has some sort of cooking device in their “room,” from a microwave to a full-fledged range.

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Thursday Three: Arugula Recipes

Spring is officially here! Which doesn’t explain why I see snow on the ground and there still isn’t a goddamn thing worth buying at the farmers’ market. Seriously, screw you apples and potatoes. I’m done with you. Because arugula was basically the only thing providing a shade of green at the far mar this weekend, here are three vintage ES arugula recipes to get you through until we start seeing some serious spring veggies.

1. Feta and arugula spring rolls

2. Arugula pesto

3. Zucchini boats with arugula, black beans and mini tomatoes

Remember, you can find all kinds of vegetarian recipes in the ES recipe index.

A Date for Any Occasion

I met up with my friend Raya late last week. Her dog Sampson had died just a few days prior. We remembered the very, very large animal over a few Basil Haydens. I convinced her to put together a service of sorts for him. She agreed on a potluck for Sunday late afternoon.

I thought about what to make for the occasion. Originally I wanted to bring what I consider funeral food – a bagel platter with cream cheese, smoked fish (lox and whitefish) and all the trimmings (lettuce, onion, tomato, sliced cheeses.)  Sometimes being from a Jewish family is really delicious. But I decided instead to bring what could either be an hors d’oeuvre or dessert.

I wanted to mix and match sweetness and savory. It’s conflicting messages to the tongue, much like the death of a loved one. There’s sadness, yet comfort in knowing the person or pet is no longer in pain. Like dear Sampson. And while I’m on the topic of pets – I wanted to give a shout out to our beloved Bianca. She’s been featured on Endless Simmer for her delicious Halloween costume when she dressed as a Double Stuffed Oreo. Liza’s cat also passed away this year. We will miss them both.

But on to the food.

Feta Dates with Pepper and Honey

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Tahini: Round One

feta and tahini dip

The bottle of tahini in my cupboard expires August 2012. However, I’m not sure it will last that long. One, because I plan on using it, but two, can something like that be open for almost a year and still be okay to eat?

Anyway, my boyfriend and I recently went on a cleaning binge and although we didn’t tackle our food storage situation, I thought I would help out by using what we had in house and not buying cream cheese or sour cream as a base for my pending dip. And believe me, it is KILLING me not to have cream cheese in the house, especially with all of the pumpernickel loaves I’ve been buying lately.

Pumpernickel, I’ve been noticing, certainly has a wider meaning than I realized. I’ve found some fairly plain, some with caraway seeds (my favorite) and I just bought a loaf at the Columbia Heights far mar that has broad sections of poppy seeds on the top, and was nicknamed ‘Black Russian.” Now I’m on a mission to discover all the different intricacies in pumpernickel, a very underutilized bread.

In the meantime, here’s a dip that is fantastic with pumpernickel crutons.

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Jersey Shore: Converting Haters to Defenders

photo (3)

This past weekend I brought a few skeptics down the Jersey Shore. Many of my friends have only driven through New Jersey and bought into the crap spoken about this lovely state. Or believe what they saw from Snookie and crew on MTV.

But through our overwhelming intake of Jersey-style Italian food, I think I may have turned them into lifelong defenders of Jerz.

Speaking of food, with the pounds of pasta and side salads and creamy crab ravioli, we accumulated a ton of leftovers. Dedicating our fridge space to beer, I figured out a way to feed us all breakfast and get rid of the 4 rolls of garlic bread we still had from the night before.

garlic bread and feta egg bake

Garlic Bread and Feta Egg Bake

Egg bakes are perfect for feeding a ton of people and anything can be thrown in, as demonstrated by my collection of baked egg dishes. [See here and here.] But this one was just straight awesome and didn’t need much additional seasoning because of the flavorful bread.

I cubed the garlic bread leftovers from Uncle Gino’s in Ventnor. Placed them in a buttered oven-proof dish and then poured over a mixture of eggs, crumbled feta, a few splashes of half and half (don’t make the coffee drinkers mad!) and salt and pepper. Let the bread soak in the liquid for 10-15 minutes before baking uncovered at 375 for about 30 minutes.

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