mary bee’s marinated eggplant with balsamic vinegar + basil

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There’s a point every summer when the garden is far enough along and there are countless round, green tomatoes of all sizes weighing down unruly six foot-tall-plants. In that moment, I wonder why I thought we’d never have enough tomatoes or zucchini and I was convinced it was a solid idea to plant just one more seedling because we “have room!” I am very much my father’s daughter in this respect and I have to laugh at myself every year, thanking him from 130 miles away that I inherited his ability to max out whatever it is I’m doing. Tomatoes, especially. There will be time for us to talk about tomatoes soon enough. Today, we really need to talk about is this delightful and painfully easy marinated eggplant dish. All you need to do is make it to the market this week and find a fresh, young eggplant and heaps of fresh basil (or perhaps you already have some of both growing and at the ready). Don’t forget to pick up a good loaf of crusty bread because you’ll need that, too.

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This marinated eggplant is one of those recipes my mom always puts together when there’s an extra eggplant laying around the ‘frigo (that’s normal, right?). It’s sort of a staple – it’s always around and it’s always so, so good. Most of all – it reminds me of home. You have my Ma, Mary Bee, to thank for this.

UntitledThis usually makes an appearance on Sunday afternoons when my sister and I are both in the same place at the same time – an unfortunately rare occurrence these days as our adult lives keep us mostly in opposite time zones. We spend hours around our parents’ kitchen table in sweats and last night’s hair, talking about nothing and everything, eating obscene amounts this layered balsamic-y, garlicky, magical eggplant, among other marinated, grilled, roasted, and cured odds and ends. And bread, because… carbs are holy. Although home is not really that far away, this is one of those recipes that reminds me… Ma always knows best. Untitled

Make this – and if you can stand it – give it 24 hours to marinate. You might not be able to contain yourself, though, so no judgement here. The eggplant makes great for a quick before-dinner snack with a glass of wine, or in a larger serving with more bread can make for a great lunch on it’s own. Pair it with roasted red peppers and some cheese for a quick sandwich or as part of an antipasti tray for a weekend get-together. It’s incredibly versatile, but equally as delicious on it’s own.

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Recipe for Mary Bee’s Marinated Eggplant with Balsamic Vinegar + Basil 

Note: The measurements of oil and balsamic vinegar for this recipe are really subjective. You’ll need to at least a hefty drizzle to coat both sides of your eggplant for roasting, but for the marinade portion of the recipe, the balsamic and oil ration is really up to you. I prefer a pretty well-marinated eggplant so that each slice is easily recognizable as such, but that it’s easily spread onto bread. Garlic is also easily scaled up or down, depending on your preference for the zip of fresh cloves. You could also opt to roast the garlic with the eggplant if that is more to your liking. If you have the grill fired up, you could also throw the well-oiled eggplant on instead of for an extra dose of Summer.

Ingredients:
1 medium to large eggplant, as fresh as possible
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, at least a half cup
Balsamic vinegar, at least ¼ cup
1 cup fresh basil, torn into large pieces
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Make:
1) Preheat oven to 425F.

2) Slice: Slice eggplant: into ¼ – ½ inch rounds, as evenly as you can. Rotate eggplant as you’re cutting to help keep the slices at an even thickness.
Salt: Spread eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. You may need to do layer up the slices depending on the size of your colander and that’s and that’s ok. Let sit for about 15 minutes while your oven heats.

Note: If you end up with an eggplant that has a lot of seeds when you cut it open, let it sit for an extra 10 minutes. The salt will help draw out any bitterness the seeds impart on the fruit. Smaller, less seedy eggplants need less time.

3) Roast: Dry any moisture on your slices and arrange on a stainless steel sheet pan.

Note: I usually need two pans for one eggplant, so if you only have one just do this in two batches. Don’t overcrowd your pan.

Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle on both sides and black pepper on one. Roast for 25 minutes or so until slices are slightly browned on each side, flipping halfway through.

Note: You can also opt spray your pan if you’re worried about stickage. Just keep an eye on ‘em and they’ll be fine.

When eggplant are finished roasting, let them sit for about 10 minutes to slightly cool. You want them to be warm when you marinate, but not fresh out of the oven hot.

4) Layer It Up: Choose glass or ceramic container or bowl that can double as storage, especially if you’re going to wait to eat this until the next day. Ideally, one with a tight fitting lid. I like to give the whole mess a few good shakes at the end.

Start with a swirl of olive oil and a little of the vinegar. Nestle in a few slices of eggplant; you can pack tightly here. Sprinkle with a bit of garlic and basil. Top with a bit more olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Repeat the layers until you’ve used all of your eggplant, top with one last drizzle of balsamic, cover and give a good shake or three.

If you’re sure how much vinegar to use, err on the light side. You can always add more.

Store this for up to a week in the ‘frigo, but it won’t last that long.

zippy spring quinoa, greek-style.

greek oregano, first of the season

In English, the French culinary term “mise en place” roughly translates as “put into place.” Read your recipe thoroughly. Gather your ingredients. Chop, dice, organize, and prepare. To put it another way –  “get your shit together.”

I raise my hand and hold my head in shame and admit that I often completely ignore the wisdom this endlessly useful concept. Sometimes outside of the kitchen, too, so let’s please not talk about my junk drawer at work.

A familiar scene around dinner time is as follows: me, part way through a recipe with a vague plan for changes and substitutions, pots boiling, and timers reminding me that very soon I’ll have charcoal briquettes instead of roasted this or that. [side note: vegetable ash. why?] Some ingredients are chopped while others are still waiting to be washed, opened, or even acknowledged, really. I know it’s bad when the Kitchen Assistants start to circle my feet like carrion birds, scooping up any morsel hastily flung overboard by my uncoordinated and sporadic activities up top.

Listen, I won’t cop to being totally disorganized, but I will say that there is a positive correlation between the amount of pleasure I take in the end result of whatever the endeavor and the level of sanity I arrive with at the end. Cooking included.

lemon vinaigrette

Enter this lovely recipe for a zippy spring Greek-style quinoa. A dish greater than the sum of it’s pieces and parts where there is no glory to be had for any single one on it’s own, because it is simply a dish of great combination. And it is even better the next day. Warm quinoa soaks up a tangy lemon and oregano vinaigrette and is tossed with garbanzos, zucchini, summer squash, greek olives, marinated artichoke hearts, feta, and bright springtime happiness.

If you can mise en place your life the night before and put this together for lunch the next day, I bet you’ll start looking at that junk drawer and wondering how life would be if *maybe* you just threw out all the pens that no longer work. Make this on a Sunday night and Monday just might treat you just a little better than you expect!

greek quinoa + lemon vinaigrette

If you can REALLY get your shit together and do the light chopping, measuring, organizing, and thinking this recipe requires before you even begin, well, then I think we might just be on to something here.

greek quinoa + lemon vinaigrette

Recipe for Spring Quinoa with Artichokes, Olives, and Feta

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 tbsp good olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, smashed
1 small yellow summer squash, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
1 12 oz. jar marinated artichokes, drained + quartered
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled and divided (or more to taste)
1/2 – 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered (use amount to taste)
2 tsp lemon zest (reserved from lemons below)
1 tbsp fresh greek oregano, chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt + pepper to taste

Dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice (about two very juicy lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh greek oregano, minced
1 tbsp red onion, minced

Notes: This dish can be served room temperature or warm and makes for some pretty killer lunch leftovers. If you prefer it warm, cook the quinoa in a larger pot and complete the last steps there.

Make:
1)   Make the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a small Mason jar or other sealable container. Shake like crazy until the lemon and olive oil have emulsified. Set aside. Pro-tip: let the minced onions hang out in the lemon juice for about 10 minutes before combining with the rest of the ingredients. This will help take the edge off of a super strong onion.

2)   Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Or, combine 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cut the heat to very low for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

3)   In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil over medium high. Be careful not to let the oil smoke. Add the smashed garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Fry the garlic for about five minutes, until it is just starting to turn golden brown. It helps to tip the pan to submerge the garlic, but this should be done VERY carefully – don’t tip too far! You do not need a grease fire in your life. Remove set these tasty nuggets aside. After they’ve cooled, mince.

4)   Add the summer squash and zucchini and cook for about five to six minutes.  Season with just a bit of salt and some pepper. Add garbanzos and cook until warmed through. Squash and beans should begin to have a bit of color, but should still be firm.

5)   In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, and the squash and garbanzo mixture. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, most of the feta cheese, the fried garlic, and the lemon zest. Add up to a cup of the dressing. Start with a half a cup, and add more to your liking. Toss gently together. Toss, not mash. (You can do it, Hulk!)

6)   Top generously with more feta, the minced oregano and parsley.