Sundays are a great day to bond with your couch, and often I like to putter a bit in the kitchen in between.
Like any “normal” person, I tackled the pile of dishes in the sink that built up during the week. Somehow every coffee cup ends up in the sink instead of the dishwasher. After KP is completed I pulled out the produce that was waiting in the fridge.
I am cooking for breakfast and lunches during the week. Dinner tonight is already sorted out, minestre from Nonni’s recipe and meatloaf that I made on Friday night.
It helps me figure out what to cook when I see what I’ve got to work with, so I heaped everything on the stove and decided I would make:
o Melitzanosalata or Greek eggplant salad
o Broiled tomatoes
o Sautéed chard
o Gratined chard stems and leeks
o Rainbow quinoa
o Lemon tarragon vinaigrette
The eggplant gets baked until very soft and a bit smoky from the browned skin, so I pricked it all over with a fork and got it settled in a hot oven on a piece of foil.
The quinoa was next, it’s extremely easy to make, just boil water! Add a bit of salt and while you’re waiting for the water to boil, measure and rinse your quinoa. I use a cone shaped strainer that gets used for everything from straining stock, sifting flour and draining pasta.
I set the quinoa to simmer while I prepared the tomatoes.
The tomatoes are an heirloom variety from a local organic market, so they’re especially juicy and flavorful, yet another reason to love California produce in the spring. I cut off a tiny sliver from the bottom and removed the stem end and halved them, and nestled them in a gratin pan. I sprinkled them with a sea salt blended with bell peppers and dried onions, and a grind of pepper and a pinch of harissa spice. Then I sprinkled over a little bit of bread crumbs from one slice of bread chopped in the food processor. A hearty drizzle of local, peppery olive oil and they are ready for the oven.
The timer for the eggplant sounded so I pulled it out of the oven to cool, and popped in the pan of tomatoes.
The eggplant is cooked when it’s sort of collapsed looking and is as wrinkled as a surfer after a long set.
I cut it in half while it was hot, and trying not to burn my fingers and with the help of a paring knife, I flipped over the eggplant and peeled off its skin. The skin comes off easily with a tug from the knife.
The eggplant needs to have all of the liquid removed while it is still warm, so using my trusty strainer I put in the peeled eggplant and used a spatula to squish out all the liquid I could.
The eggplant cooled off in the strainer for a while to drain a bit more while I removed the quinoa from the stove.
I let the quinoa cool for a few minutes then fluffed it with a fork. The quinoa still had a bit of texture to it, not mushy, but nutty and fluffy, and it absorbed the lightly salted water and was perfectly seasoned.
The timer went off for the tomatoes and I pulled them from the hot oven. The tomatoes were still holding their shape but soft and bursting with juices under their crispy breadcrumb topping.
Back to the cooled eggplant, it was a small one so I put it in my mini chop with a small clove of garlic and enough plain yogurt to help the mixture purée smoothly was added, along with the juice of a lemon. Since my lemons were minis, I used three!
When the eggplant was perfectly smooth, I poured in some olive oil and let it purée a bit more to emulsify. A quick check for seasoning a added more lemon juice and then decided to eat it right away. All of this cooking is making me ravenous.
Before I had my snack, I cooked the chard quickly. A quarter of a slivered onion went in the pan first with olive oil and was sautéed until soft. The rinsed and chopped chard leaves went in next with a splash of water to cook until they are tender, this takes just a few minutes.
When the greens were cooked I put them in a bowl to cool with a bit more olive oil and crunchy sea salt. The chard is tangy from the lemon and I think they taste far better than spinach.
I rinsed out the pan and added the halved leeks and chard stems with a little broth so they could simmer until soft.
While they simmered, I had my little melitzanosalata and pita bread for lunch and watched the rest of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
The eggplant is light and lemony with a pleasant earthiness from being roasted. It tastes fantastic at room temperature or cold. I also like to put inside sandwiches but I polished off this batch quickly. Next time I will buy a larger eggplant so I can use the melitzanosalata for other purposes.
Since the lemons were so tiny, I abandoned my plans to make a vinaigrette and saved the last one for a cocktail.
The leeks were finished cooking by the time I was done with my lunch. Using a spatula, I lifted them out of the skillet and placed them in a gratin pan, added cream and a heavy grating of Romano cheese and put them in the oven so that the cream thickens and the cheese browns. I saved the 1/2 cup of broth leftover from the braising leeks and added it to my minestre; it had great flavor and would be a shame not to use it.
The gratin smelled divine, the leeks are sweet and meltingly tender and the chard is toothsome and coated in rich cream and the savory, salty browned cheese on top was the perfect mouthful.
When the gratin was done I had a glass of wine before tackling the KP duties again. All this lovely food was done and cooling.
Tonight I will have half a tomato with my meatloaf and a cup of soup. For breakfasts I can have the quinoa topped with chard or with a tomato half. For lunches I can have the gratin with a the leftover meatloaf or a tomato half. They all work together in various combinations, and it’s comforting to know I don’t have to worry about going out for a meal at work and accidentally eating eggs. Plus, all of these dishes are nutritious, besides being very tasty.
It’s still early on Sunday, there’s time for a nap or some knitting or some more bonding time with my couch or perhaps all three!
Recipe: Melitzanosalata – Greek Eggplant Salad/Dip
Gratineed Leeks and Chard Stems