I love the holidays. To me, this season doesn’t mean rushing to the mall to buy useless stuff, or stressing about traveling, or family, or whatever it is that people hate the holidays for. Perhaps I should count myself amongst the lucky ones. I have health and a family I love, a roof over my head, lots of friends, the best dog in the whole wide world, and although I am quite tight on the budget, I am mostly happy.
So here is what the holidays mean to me: a chance to see friends that I don’t see often. A chance to reconnect with family members. A chance to donate time, money, or goods to help others less fortunate. The smell of a conifer tree inside my house. Christmas lights. Cooking. Lots of cooking. Sharing meals, drinks, and good times with people I love. Making homemade presents. Seeing my parents.
In this kind of holiday spirit, I will try to blog as often as possible to share recipes, cocktails, gift ideas, charity opportunities, cool happenings, and whatever else comes to mind during the last days of 2009. I welcome all input from you readers, so get in the spirit and share! Have a great recipe? A volunteer opportunity? An event announcement? Send it and I’ll post it! Send photos too, if you have them. It is my hope to infect you out there with good vibes and good spirits instead of stress, dread, and shopping frenzies. Deal?
I’ll start with a quick note on the garden. Expecting our first freeze of the winter, I picked a bunch of unripe fall tomatoes and put them in a basket on the kitchen table. The summer crop was non-existent and I won’t risk watching the fall crop turn to frozen goo. Last fall’s crop ripened just fine in the basket and we had tomatoes most of the season. It was great. I brought the citrus trees inside. The variegated lemon is loaded and the Key lime has a few fruit and loads of blooms. I picked a few beet, the last of the eggplant and poblanos and processed them into various things.
Here’s what I made with the eggplant. This Russian recipe was given to me by my friend Ed a few years back and it’s a favorite at the house. We eat in on crackers or crostini as a snack, but it would make a killer sandwich filling or pasta topping as a hearty vegetarian option. It is easy to make and freezes well, and makes a nice party hors d’ouvre.
Baklazhannaia Ikra (“Poor Man’s Caviar”)
2 pounds eggplant
6 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 tsps. salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
4-5 sprigs fresh parsley
Bake whole eggplants at 425 F, turning as needed until soft and skin is charred, about 30-45 min. depending on size. Cool. Meanwhile, sautee onions in 4 tbs oil until translucent, add green pepper (I used poblanos since I had them, added a nice bite!) and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes until all is soft. Transfer to a bowl.
Peel eggplant and chop it finely, almost to a puree. Heat remaining oil on medium heat and add eggplant, sauteed veggies, tomatoes, salt, sugar and pepper to taste. bring to a boil, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick to bottom of pan (a cast iron skillet works great.) Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for about 30 more min. until liquid is evaporated and mixture is thickened. Stir in lemon juice and parsley, adjust seasoning. Transfer to a glass bowl and chill until ready to serve.
Try this out and let me know what you think. Stay warm by cooking something delicious tonight! More recipes tomorrow!