Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Kitchen is Calling Me...

By Xani

After the successful shopping trip to Wegmans the other night, I was excited to get in the kitchen and cook. Spending so much time on the road means I am rarely home to spend time in the kitchen, not to mention I never go shopping for food so very often to the cupboard is freaking bare! So with the exception of Sunday night feasts, I've been doing very little cooking, and it makes me antsy-- I want to get back in the kitchen. People who don't like to cook don't understand this at all. I remember watching Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill once, and he was doing his usual pre-show thing where he's walking around NYC, just purchased all his ingredients from some really cool little market, and he says something like "I've got all this energy; I want to get in the kitchen and cook." I told a non-cooking friend about that statement and how much I identified with it and she was like "um, yeah. I NEVER feel like that." But I think you other cooks out there know how I was feeling, and so I got down to some cooking…

First I threw together a batch of Chickpea, Tomato and Feta Salad. This isn't so much cooking as is it mixing a few ingredients together, but still. I got to chop things, pour things, crumble things—also this is one of my go-to recipes and I'm happy to be sharing it with all of you! Its so easy and delicious, and even though I don't keep the pantry nearly as well-stocked as the BCD parents, the ingredients in this dish are a few that I might actually have on hand. I will often throw some of this together to have in the fridge for an easy snack, or pack up some in Tupperware to take to the office for lunch. This time, I had picked up some beefsteak tomatoes at Wegmans so I chopped up those instead of using cherry tomatoes. Also, I used French feta cheese because it is my favorite (creamier and slightly less salty than other types I have tried)! Put the tomatoes, drained chickpeas, crumbled feta and chopped fresh oregano in a bowl, add lemon juice, olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. Stir. That's it!

The next recipe I tackled required more actual cooking. Eggplant Parmesan Stacks caught my eye in this month's Martha Stewart Living magazine. It seemed like a nice, simple summer dish, and the baby eggplants at Wegmans were just too cute!

Step one of the recipe was to slice the eggplant into rounds, season with salt, and fry them in olive oil until soft and golden:

Meanwhile. I started a simple tomato sauce in another pan by lightly sautéing some chopped garlic in olive oil, then adding chopped tomatoes and cooking them until they begin to break down.

Then I added this lovely pile of fresh herbs (oregano and basil):

You know you are jealous of my mad chiffonade skillz!

With the sauce made and the eggplant fried, it was time to assemble. Layer a slice of eggplant, then tomato sauce, then thinly sliced fresh mozzerella, then grated parmesan. Repeat. I only made my stacks two layers tall (Martha says three) because I was afraid they would collapse!

Next they went in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. When they came out, they looked like this:

Final plate (with crusty bread):

Overall this was a fun dish to make, satisfied my need to putter around in the kitchen, and was very tasty. My only issue with it is that it claims to be "light, summer cooking" yet it required the use of two burners, two pans, and the oven! Not exactly what you want to cook on a hot day-- and boy has it been hot lately (thank goodness for central a/c!). Any readers out there have easy, low-heat cooking ideas they want to share?



  1. I love Wegmans. We always make the best stuff after a trip there.

  2. Following the spirit of your Tomato, Feta, Chickpea salad, I love the combination of avocado, tomato, cucumber and radish with just a little olive oil, acid of choice (I vary between lemon, lime, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar), salt, pepper and fresh herb. I usually match the herb to the acid. Example if I use lemon, I had oregano for a Greek type flavor. If I use lime I add cilantro and Mexican oregano for a Mexican type. I have this almost every weekend with lunch during the summer. I love the combination of smooth avocado with fruity tomato and the crunch from the radish and cuke.

  3. Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

  4. Xani, I totally understand the urge! When I was homeless for a few months (waiting to here) I built up this incredible need to cook, culminating in a massive meal for my birthday last year.

    I would say a nice easy summer meal is anything with a lot of chopping and not too much time over a pan - oven, grill, or cold dishes. Although we certainly haven't had any trouble with heat here!

  5. "You know you are jealous of my mad chiffonade skillz!"

    It is true.

    What kind of language is that spam comment? portuguese?

    Another riff on your tomato salad is to do a bulgur salad. Bulgur doesn't have to be cooked you just pour the boiling water on it and then you can chop whatever veggies while it is absorbing. Smitten Kitchen has a yummy cumin dressed one, but the possibilities are endless. I think the addition of carbs makes it feel more filling too...

  6. Wegman's is great, except around Thanksgiving, when it is the nexus of hell. I am an impatient (though not aggressive) driver, and sadly I take this into the grocery aisles (you should see me at the mall if you think that's bad). Wegman's is worse than most places around this biggest grocery shopping day of the year - the day before Thanksgiving - because it is so BIG! And instead of it spreading the patrons around, more just pour in!

    One lovely thing about Wegman's, though, among many things, is how you can print up your own little labels and barcodes for your produce. I LOVE that!

    Delicious eggplant BTW. I will have to make it and pretend it's mine! :D j/k - I don't plagiarize.


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