Saturday, July 30, 2011

Stuffed Eggplant w/ a Middle Eastern Twist

Every Friday I head to the Farm at lunch to pick up my local CSA Farm Share.  The upside is that I constantly have a steady supply of fresh local and yummy produce.

mmm...  fresh veggies! (can you see my purple pepper?!)

The down side is I usually have more veggies than the 2 of us at our apartment know what to do with!

The majority of the greens I use in my smoothies.

But what is a foodie to do with enough eggplants & peppers for a small family?

If you said, stuff and roast them, then you sir/madam are CORRECT!

I tweaked my classic stuff pepper recipe to be more middle eastern.  Wherever I would usually add basil or oregano I substituted cinnamon, sumac, nutmeg and cardamon.

Instead of tomatoes and cheese I mixed in dried fruit, mint and parsley 
Pilaf Rice with assorted spices, onion, pepper, eggplant, mint & parsley

Previously mentioned spices
I roasted the eggplant for about 20 minutes while I was preparing the filling.  Then I added the roasted eggplant to the filling.  I filled one medium size eggplant (halved) and two medium size peppers with the filling.

I roasted this at 400* for about 25 minutes (till the peppers are soft).  About 5 minutes before it was done I topped with a bit of cheese.
mmmm... cheeese!



This dish was perfect!  It was filling, healthy and a great vegetarian option if you or someone you are cooking for are new to the world of meatless dinners.

Side note, I ate one 1/2 of an eggplant for dinner and was stuffed.  The pepper was a perfect leftover dinner the following night.  I might actually say that the dish was better the second day because all the flavors from the cinnamon and fruit had combined with the onions and eggplant perfectly!

I am very proud of this creation and can totally see myself making this again and even tweaking it to add other fruit/veggies/spices.

Stuffed Eggplant: Middle Eastern Style

1 med eggplant
1 box pilaf
1/2 yellow onion diced
2 gloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp sumac
lemon zest of 1 lemon
1/8tsp cardamon
1/8tsp chili powder
1/3c diced mint
1/3c diced parsley
1/3cup dried fruit (I used a TJs mix of raisins and cranberry)
splash of olive oil

Roast eggplant in half till center is soft and roasted.  While that is roasting, prepare pilaf per directions (do not add the spice pouch though).  In a bowl combine onion, spices, mint, parsley, dried fruit and olive oil.  When done, add in rice and roasted eggplant.  Mix together well.  Add filling to eggplant shells (and peppers if using).

Roast in oven at 375* for 25-30 minutes.

DEVOUR!

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Chef from Hell and a Top Chef

Every now and again you meet people that remind you why you love what you love.  If you haven't noticed one of my passions is all things food.  Today I was lucky enough to meet two Chefs who cook with intense passion.

One Chef who is known and respected throughout the industry and another who battled his way through hell to become an instant fan favorite

Saturday I told you how I was selected to judge a chef cook-off for the Cadillac Culinary Cookoff.  I am so happy I was, because getting to meet and listen to Jonathan Waxman and Jason Santos was one of the highlights of my summer.

I arrived about an hour before the event and had the pleasure to meet with David from Big Fuel, the events social media reps.  It was great to hear how they are using this event to connect with local bloggers all over the country.

Both chefs where given a specific ingredient to center a dish around.

Summer Squash

With the ingredient picked the chefs created their separate dishes.  Without planning they both picked lamb but prepared the dishes in completely different styles.  Lamb sausage Squash Ragu for Chef Waxman and a Grilled Lamb with Greek Style Summer Squash Salad with Black Olive Yogurt.


For about 45 minutes myself and a tent full of guests watched and listened while the two chefs and their teams prepared their dishes. From the very beginning of the challenge, the chefs were entertaining and inspiring. They talked about why those chose their ingredients, tips on how to cook , their time on Top Chef Masters and Hell's Kitchen and why they became chefs.

Chef Santos telling us that Gordon Ramsey is really a nice guy!!

Chef Waxman talking about the importance of seasoning your dish

Heirloom tomatoes and olive yogurt! Oh My!!

Chef Santos passed along a kitchen tip that blew my mind!  Ever try to cut more than 2 cherry tomatoes for a salad?  Yeah its painfully slow and painful.

Chef's tip was to take two plastic deli covers and place the tomatoes in between.  Then with slight pressure on the top lid, slide your knife across the tomatoes and TADA!  Within seconds all your tomatoes are sliced evenly in half at once!  Simple and genius!


Chef Santos's Grilled Lamb with Greek Style Summer Squash & Tomato Salad with Black Olive Yogurt 
This dish was a perfect summer meal!  Light refreshing and full of different textures.  The lamb was grilled to perfection and the squash was a perfect compliment to the salty tangy bite of the Greek salad and creamy yogurt. (Note: this dish won our round of voting!)

Chef Waxman's Squash Ragout with Spicy Merguez
During the challenge I voted for Chef Santos because the dish was so different than anything I would think to make.  However, Chef Waxman's dish above hit every note of how I would describe comfort summer food.  It was a one pot dish full of Italian spice notes, cheese and reminded me of Sunday Dinner with my family as a child.

I was so inspired in fact, that I drove home and whipped up my own variation of his meal.  A summer vegetable ragout with pesto and orzo.  Yummy!
My own one pot dish of summer veggies!
This day was a day I will remember!  It reminded my why I love to cook, the influences that got me into the kitchen (yes my mom and grandmother!) and that you should never take food to seriously!  If you like something go for it.  Food is meant to be enjoyed not over analyzed.

Thanks again to Cadillac, Big Fuel and the Boston Food Bloggers for getting me involved!  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Judge! Who Me?!?!?!

That's right!  Tomorrow afternoon I will be one of several bloggers and Boston Foodies lucky enough to taste the dishes of two battling chefs at the Boston Cadillac Culinary Challenge at Legacy Place in Dedham Ma.

Thanks to Rachel from Boston Food Bloggers I was put in contact with the social media company hosting the event.  The event will allow guests to learn more about Cadillac and their vehicles and also see two amazing chefs compete for bragging rights!

Celebrity Chef Jonathan Waxman from Barbuto will go up against Boston's own Jason Santos from Blue Inc. Restaurant 3x on Saturday and another 3 times on Sunday. I am going to be one of the judges during the 2:30 challenge.

This event is free and open to all.  You can register here.  This will be my first official blogger/media type event and to say that I am excited is a bit of an understatement.  I am pretty sure I am more excited about the thought of an actual media badge then my niece was getting her first merit badge this week (wishing i was kidding....)

I will be sure to take TONS of photos and try to remember the English language if given the chance to chat with the chefs (for the record if I meet them I will be one degree of separation from Gordon Ramsey and ANTHONY BOURDAIN!!!!) Yes I am a dork, if you ever read this blog you already know that.....

So if you are in the area tomorrow please come on out and see me!  I will be the wide eyed blond blogger scarfing down every delicious morsel that crosses my path and trying not to make a fool of myself all at the same time!


PS: I am not being paid by Cadillac or Big Fuel to endorse/participate in this event.  My review is my personal opinion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guest Post - The Good (and Bad) of Food Labels

While I am working away here at the office I have a guest post for you all.  James from "food on the table" has offered to write a bit about food labels and what they really mean.
  
(I was not sponsored by Food on the Table nor do I have any connection with them.  I just think it is an important topic and also a nifty website to help organize your food shopping.)

The Good (and Bad) of Food Labels 

Food labels are something that you deal with constantly in your life. More than likely, a lot of your meal planning depends directly on those labels and what they tell you about the food you’re buying. With something so important, it’s good to know exactly what you’re reading, so here are some of the most important food labels to know about.

One of the most common and useful food labels is “certified.” In the words of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, certified product is judged on “class, grade, or other quality characteristics.” That might not seem like the most useful definition, but don’t worry: certified meat is significantly better quality than meat that is not certified.

Another shining star of the food label world is “organic.” Organic food is “produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation” and is from farms and processing facilities that have been examined by a government-approved group to make sure that they hold up certain standards. And, if that wasn’t enough, organic labels will actually tell you what percentage of ingredients in a product are organic. Something that says “contains organic ingredients” has 70% or less organic ingredients, for example. The others are: “made with organic ingredients” for 70% or more, “organic” for 95% or more and “100% organic” for all organic ingredients.

One label that has become more popular recently is “fair trade.” Though it doesn’t directly address the quality of a product, the “fair trade” label says a lot. The company FLO-CERT makes sure that every product with the “fair trade” label benefits everyone involved in its lifecycle fairly. To make it simple, the large corporation that buys, say, coffee beans from small farmers in poor countries have to give the farmers a good deal under fair trade guidelines.

All of those labels seem pretty useful. However, you should always remember that food labels are also there to make a product look good. Take everything you see with a grain of salt. As an example, when you see the label “natural,” you shouldn’t just immediately lump it into the same category as everything you saw that was labeled “organic.” In the words of the FDA, natural food is “food [that] does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.” The reason why you should be cautious with this label is that that definition leaves a lot of leeway for food manufacturers. Rather than looking for a “natural” label, you’re far better off to just look at the ingredients list to figure things out for yourself.

An even worse label is “local.” If things were as they should be, a “local” label would mean that a product was grown within 100 miles of where it is being sold. The problem is that there is no regulatory group that checks this claim, so that “local” food is not necessarily from right down the corner. If you want local food, you’re better off in a place that is probably without such labels: the farmer’s market.

Food labels, while incredibly useful, are also things that should be approached with caution. Do your own research and trust your own intuitions so that you aren’t fooled by any flimsy claims of “all natural ingredients” the next time you walk into the store.

James Kim is a writer for foodonthetable.com.  Food on the Table is a company that provides online budget meal planning services.  Their goal is to help families eat better and save money.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight

During my first days at MMA I learned the following sea rhyme:

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning”


Last night that saying came true thanks to an Alumni Networking event at Red Sky in the Faniuel Hall area of Boston.  From the moment I entered the bar, it was like I was 21 again and surrounded by a great many dear friends that for whatever reasons I have not seen in many years.

It was wonderful to catch up with everyone.  I am not surprised to see how successful we have all become (although still a bit shocked to realize that many of us our managing MAJOR shipping projects!)  Where does the time go?!

For 4 hours it was just as if not a day had passed since we threw our caps in the air on Cape Cod almost 10 years ago.  I am so thankful for such a great group of classmates!

The other awesome part of last night was finally putting faces to names of graduates above and below me that I see throughout the "interwebs".  My school may have been small (under 900 students during my years) but the brother/sisterhood that continues post graduation is second to none! 

Thank you to Danny and Steph for getting this together.  Thank you to Red Sky for hosting and of course thank you to all my classmates for attending!  I have not laughed and smiled that much in years!!!
Source

Friday, July 1, 2011

June Recap

Hey everyone,

So after my last post I promised to come back quickly with happier posts.  Well this will definitely be a happier post because this girl has had a crazy busy month!  I will get into details later this weekend but thought you should see what a break up motivates you to do in 30 days!
Post work cocktails at Marina Bay in Quincy

Lots of beer (perhaps too much) but its sooo tasty
 
Quiet time at the beach

STANLEY CUP FINALS!!!  WE WON!!!!!!

BASEBALL

Lots of raw bar ..... Summer, outdoor seating & raw bar = HEAVEN

More beer!  (what I power washed an entire house!!!)

10 minute dinners when it's too hot to cook

Almond Flour crackers (70% successful....)

More Baseball with clients (yes it is POURING! but we won 10-4)

Power washing!

Green Monster smoothies to counter act all the beer....

Turkey sandwiches in the sun...

yup.....

Home Improvement Adventures....

Yard is surviving!  Makes me happy!

Before

AFTER!!!

BEFORE

AFTER!  God I love what a can of paint can do to a house!

TADA!

So yeah.. It was a crazy month of being a weekend warrior to MV and back every weekend.  I did drink my fair share of beer but to be fair 10-12 hours of manual labor calls for cold beer.

I have also been reading/watching a lot on the food industry (thank you Netflix).  I foresee a post coming about why I am soo happy to be part of a farm CSA.

How did you spend your June?   Any plans for the 4th or Canada Day?  I have several BBQs and need to decide what to cook for them!

Have a great weekend!