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 with ground pork in a spicy Asian brown sauce. I used our recipe for Steamed Japanese Eggplant with Green Onion-Ginger Sauce as a starting point. Though I wanted ground pork, all I had on hand were chicken thighs. So I ground them in the food processor, and cooked them with garlic and ginger. I steamed the eggplant longer to get it softer, then I doubled the sauce and added a little cornstarch to help it thicken, plus dark sesame oil for nutty flavor. YUM. Or at least I thought so. Full disclosure: My husband and one of my kids didn’t like it.
As for the bell peppers, I have to say they’re not my favorite. They certainly 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 meat sauce for pasta. Unless I can figure out how to use them in a gin or bourbon drink, that is.
Confession: I never made the Haricots Verts with Browned Garlic from last week's share. So the plan was to make them as part of a small dinner party. Alas, when I checked on the green beans that were to masquerade as fancy Frenchmen, I found most of them had turned from vert to jaune (that’s yellow for those of you who slept through French class). Thinking they were maybe ok, but not wanting to harm my guests (and, ok, honestly looking forward to more mingling time instead of shouting “Huh?” and “What did you say?” from the kitchen) I concluded that 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 to attempt grilling salmon on a cedar plank again (my first try went up in flames). There were sparks, but the result was awesome, especially accompanied by Tangy Cucumber Sauce. I was amazed that the salmon was so flavorful on its own with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper (I’m used to drowning it in marinade). The cool, tzatziki-like sauce elevated it to make-it-again status. Call me a cedar plank convert—-they were only a few bucks at Costco—-and am ready 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 the online reader reviews, which recommended halving the recipe. There was enough field-pea dip to feed an entire football team (if you didn’t tell them it had peas in it), so it’s a good thing it turned out so yummy. I swapped cilantro for parsley--primarily because I was in a hurry and they look similar, but also because I much prefer it. I’d like it even better with grilled corn and a little squeeze of lime.
The recipe called for canned field peas, but since I only had fresh—the opposite of the situation in which I normally find myself—I found reliable instructions via our recipe for Cooked Field Peas. While I’m not the best dinner party hostess (Confession 2.0: I’m frazzled and slightly resentful by the time guests arrive), this menu was pretty easy to prep ahead of time, leaving me plenty of time for wine and late-night laughs with my good company.
With five ears of corn, creamed corn seemed like an clear choice, and Creamed Corn with Bacon and Leeks was named one of our all-time best recipes for a reason. This recipe is fantastic (though cutting the kernels off all those ears takes some time), but creamed corn always reminds me of school lunch. So what better to make with it than sloppy Joes? I like spicy, so I went with Chipotle Sloppy Joes. The caramelized onion topping is a great idea—try it on burgers or really any kind of sandwich.
A real school lunch would probably have included fried okra. Oh well, mine wasn't authentic. I addressed my okra with my standard go-to method for roasted veggies: Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever seasonings you want, then cook at 450 degrees until done to your liking. This will work with pretty much any vegetable out there, and fits any meal because you can change the seasonings to match your main course. It was very good, and not slimy at all.
The obvious choice with the soybeans was edamame, so I made that for a snack a couple nights after my school lunch dinner. Just boiled 'em for about 2 minutes, then sprinkled with salt. Yummy, simple, and full of protein.
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.