August 20, 2009

Ann, senior food editor: Japanese eggplant, green bell peppers, eggs

I was stoked to go home with Japanese eggplant—beautiful,pale-purple, slender, delicately curved. I love this stuff cooked withground pork in a spicy Asian brown sauce. I used our recipe for Steamed Japanese Eggplant with Green Onion-Ginger Sauceas a starting point. Though I wanted ground pork, all I had on handwere chicken thighs. So I ground them in the food processor, and cookedthem with garlic and ginger. I steamed the eggplant longer to get itsofter, then I doubled the sauce and added a little cornstarch to helpit thicken, plus dark sesame oil for nutty flavor. YUM. Or at least Ithought so. Full disclosure: My husband and one of my kids didn’t likeit.

 The eggs, oh those lovely fresh eggs. I can get down on eggs just aseggs—scrambled, over-easy, poached—I don’t usually want to “hide” themin a recipe application. Three days in a row, my husband and I enjoyedour favorite summer breakfast: toast slathered with Romesco sauce(I can’t get enough of that stuff!) and topped with garden-fresh tomatoslices and poached eggs. The yolks are so deeply colored they’re almostorange. And the eggs themselves are like heaven: super-fresh, creamy,delicate, and fluffy.

As for the bell peppers, I have to say they’re not my favorite. Theycertainly weren’t met with the same excitement as the eggplant or eggs.I’m sliding those in wherever I can. I used one to make sloppy Joes,and another in tabbouleh. I plan to use the last one tonight in meatsauce for pasta. Unless I can figure out how to use them in a gin orbourbon drink, that is.

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Cindy, associate editor, healthy living: Cucumbers, field peas, green beans

Confession: I never made the Haricots Verts with Browned Garlicfrom last week's share. So the plan was to make them as part of a smalldinner party. Alas, when I checked on the green beans that were tomasquerade as fancy Frenchmen, I found most of them had turned fromvert to jaune (that’s yellow for those of you who slept through Frenchclass). Thinking they were maybe ok, but not wanting to harm my guests(and, ok, honestly looking forward to more mingling time instead ofshouting “Huh?” and “What did you say?” from the kitchen) I concludedthat les haricots and I just weren’t meant to be together. C'est la vie.

On to more positive pairings: For our main course, I wanted toattempt grilling salmon on a cedar plank again (my first try went up inflames). There were sparks, but the result was awesome, especiallyaccompanied by Tangy Cucumber Sauce.I was amazed that the salmon was so flavorful on its own with just asprinkle of salt and pepper (I’m used to drowning it in marinade). Thecool, tzatziki-like sauce elevated it to make-it-again status. Call mea cedar plank convert—-they were only a few bucks at Costco—-and amready to expand their use with other grilled things.

As an appetizer—and then again as a side, since the yield was so generous—we had Corn-and-Field Pea Dip from Southern Living.Lesson learned: pay attention to both serving yields (8 cups!) and theonline reader reviews, which recommended halving the recipe. There wasenough field-pea dip to feed an entire football team (if you didn’ttell them it had peas in it), so it’s a good thing it turned out soyummy. I swapped cilantro for parsley--primarily because I was in ahurry and they look similar, but also because I much prefer it. I’dlike it even better with grilled corn and a little squeeze of lime.

Therecipe called for canned field peas, but since I only had fresh—theopposite of the situation in which I normally find myself—I foundreliable instructions via our recipe for Cooked Field Peas.WhileI’m not the best dinner party hostess (Confession 2.0: I’m frazzled andslightly resentful by the time guests arrive), this menu was prettyeasy to prep ahead of time, leaving me plenty of time for wine andlate-night laughs with my good company.

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Jason, editorial assistant, culinary school student: okra, corn, soybeans

With five ears of corn, creamed corn seemed like an clear choice, and CreamedCorn with Bacon and Leeks was named one of our all-timebest recipesfor a reason. This recipe is fantastic (though cutting the kernels offall those ears takes some time), but creamed corn always reminds me ofschool lunch. So what better to make with it than sloppy Joes? I likespicy, so I went with ChipotleSloppy Joes. The caramelized onion topping is a great idea—try it on burgers or really any kind of sandwich.

Areal school lunch would probably have included fried okra. Oh well,mine wasn't authentic. I addressed my okra with my standard go-tomethod for roastedveggies: Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever seasonings youwant, then cook at 450 degrees until done to your liking. This willwork with pretty much any vegetable out there, and fits any mealbecause you can change the seasonings to match your main course. It wasvery good, and not slimy at all.

Theobvious choice with the soybeans was edamame, so I made that for asnack a couple nights after my school lunch dinner. Just boiled 'em forabout 2 minutes, then sprinkled with salt. Yummy, simple, and full ofprotein.

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CJ, administrative coordinator: heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, cherry tomatoes

As soon as I saw the gorgeous picture of the Roasted Vegetable Pizza in our 5-Ingredients, 15 Minutes special edition, I knew that was what I wanted to make this week. The recipe seemed easy enough, but it taught me a few important lessons about cooking.

First, read the directions carefully. If they call for "coarsely chopped" squash, if would be useful to notice that before you've sliced the squash into your prep bowl.

Second, humor is a secret ingredient.

Third, don't be afraid to experiment. When things go wrong, you learn. When things go right, it leads to a sense of confidence in the kitchen. Case in point: I dared to change the recipe by adding roasted red peppers. I don't own a jelly-roll pan, so I used one of the trays from my toaster oven for roasting the veggies. I used a baking stone for the pizza. It all worked out. Except one small thing:

 If you are planning to photograph your pizza, go easy on the cheese. (Compare my photo to the professional shot to see what exactly I mean.)

I used the heirlooms in the Tomato, Avocado, and Onion Salad. The heirlooms were so pretty when sliced, and the avocado, onion and basil combined to make a very easy-to-prepare and colorful dish. It gains flavor marinating overnight.

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