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Friday, August 21, 2020


This vegetable stew is one of my favorite things to eat in late summer when I have an abundance of vegetables in my garden. But it can be cooked any time if you choose to use canned tomatoes.

The author of this recipe utilizes a method that keeps all the flavors fresh tasting by keeping the parts separated a bit while cooking so it doesn't turn into a mushy mess.



Source:  The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook by Kim O'Donnel
Serves: 6

1 large globe eggplant (about a pound) or 3 thinner Asian eggplants
salt for leaching eggplant
5 T olive oil, divided
2 medium onions sliced thinly (about 2 cups)
3 red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and julienned (about 2 1/2 c)
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 large yellow or green zucchini, cut into half moons (about 2 1/2 c)
ground black pepper
6 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (about 3 c) or 1 (28-oz) can plum tomatoes
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teas dried
1 teas dried oregano
chopped fresh basil and/or parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Dice the eggplant into half-inch cubes (about 5-6 c). Sprinkle with salt and place on a rack or in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. (This leaching step is not required but it will reduce liquid.)

With a towel pat the eggplant dry. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 T of the olive oil. Toss and spread into a single layer. Put the eggplant in the hot oven and roast for 15 minutes until the eggplant browns and shrinks substantially. Take it out of the oven and set aside.

You'll need a large skillet as well as a large lidded saucepan or Dutch oven which you can keep on a burner on the lowest warm setting.

Heat another 2 T oil in the skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions until tender and stir in the peppers with a generous pinch of salt. Cook until the peppers are soft.

Add half the garlic and stir for a minute and transfer all from the skillet to the Dutch oven (or saucepan).

In the skillet heat 1 T olive oil over medium-high heat and add the zucchini and some salt and pepper. Cook until the zucchini is tender but still retains its color. Add the remaining garlic; cook for a minute and then add the mixture to the Dutch oven. Stir the vegetables together.

Chop or mash the tomatoes with a potato masher so they are broken up. Add them to the vegetables along with the thyme and oregano. Stir in the eggplant. This mixture will be thick but as the tomatoes release liquid it will loosen up. If it remains thicker than you like add a few tablespoons of water. Raise the temperature to medium-low and mix the ingredients well. Cover and allow to cook for 12-15 minutes until heated through. Taste for seasonings and remove herb sprigs. Serve.

This can be served with couscous, quinoa, or orzo. Crusty bread would be great, too.


If you can't entertain the idea of heating your late summer kitchen with a 450F oven, you can pan-roast the eggplant before you start cooking everything else. Heat the olive oil in your large skillet (can be nonstick if you prefer) over medium high heat and cook the eggplant after leaching and patting dry. Stir from time to time so it doesn't scorch and cook until browned and tender. Set aside in a bowl. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel and begin cooking the onions as instructed above.

If I'm in a rush, I'll employ more than one skillet and cook onions and zucchini at the same time but in separate pans and you'll be able to control how "done" each vegetable becomes. This will speed preparation somewhat but will make for more pans to wash, of course.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Second Best Pesto Method

Most of the experts I read indicate they think the best way to make pesto is in a mortar and pestle. 


Second Best Pesto Method 

The source is an article written by Ella Quittner in in which she reports on testing she undertook to find the best method to make pesto. She based her recipe on one found in a book published last fall Pasta Grannies by Vicky Bennison. (I just love the title of that book!)

Yields about 1/3 c or enough for 3/4 pound of pasta depending on your preference.

1 clove garlic
1/2 teas salt (rock salt can provide grinding traction, but coarse kosher is fine, as is table salt but use less table salt)
3-ish cups basil leaves (tender, young leaves if possible unless you grow your own)
3-ish T Italian pine nuts, untoasted, or chopped walnuts since true Italian pine nuts are expensive and you may not have them in your pantry
1/3 c mildly flavored extra-virgin olive oil
a heaping 1/3 c grated cheese (can be a mix of parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano)

Put all ingredients minus the cheese and olive oil, into a wide jar (a quart-size container or quart mason jar or a pickle jar; anything slightly wider than the immersion blender). With the immersion blender, blend as finely as possible. Stop and scrape the sides and the inside of the blender occasionally. You'll end up with a paste (I guess that's where it gets its name). 

Drizzle the olive oil in as best you can while still running the blender (or simply pour it in and then run the blender). Add the cheese and continue blending. I ended up with a nearly smooth product. 


I found it simpler to blend when I coarsely chopped the basil leaves and used something wider than a quart mason jar. Even a saved quart yogurt container works here and it's much easier to scrape out the finished pesto. When I tripled the recipe, I did it in a medium sized bowl.

I once saw a suggestion for using pecans. I haven't tried that yet but I liked walnuts more than I thought I would. 

I wanted the pesto to stay a bit greener so I added a half cup of parsley to the basil. I didn't notice much change in flavor.

I have enough basil I will need to freeze some of this for the winter. When researching, I found both pros and cons for freezing it with the cheese already mixed in. I ended up freezing mine without cheese and will just stir it into the pasta when I mix in the pesto. I find it easy to freeze in a quart-size freezer bag and then I can break off what I need.

White Grape Jelly

In the Ball canning book this recipe calls for scuppernong grapes. I don't grow those, nor do I know where to get them. I use a variety of white seeded grapes that was planted by a previous owner of my home. 


White Grape Jelly

Source: The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving
Yields about 6 half pint jars (I get 7 consistently)

3 2/3 c white grape juice obtained by your favorite method, see below
5 1/2 c sugar
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 (3-oz) pouch liquid pectin

Prepare jars for canning by washing and heating in very boiling water in your canner. Also wash and prepare lids and bands. Place the lids in a bowl of boiling hot water and let sit until you top the jars.

Combine grape juice, sugar, and lemon juice in a Dutch oven or very large saucepan or pasta pot. The jelly will boil up and a large pot will help contain it. Over high heat, bring the ingredients to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down. Stir frequently, especially as the bubbles rise.

Stir in the pectin, all at once, squeezing the packet to get all of it out of the pouch. Keep the jelly boiling hard while stirring constantly for one minute. Turn off the heat. Skim foam, if necessary.

Remove hot jars from canner and ladle the hot jelly into the jars leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Clean the  jar rims with a clean wet paper towel and set lids on top of each jar. Put the bands on and tighten with your fingertips. Place jars in the canner and ensure they are covered with water to an inch above the tops of the jars.

Process 10 minutes (sea level) and adjust for altitude:

1,001-3,000 ft--5 additional minutes
3,001-6,000 ft--10 additional minutes
6,001-8,000 ft--15 additional minutes
8,001-10,000 ft--20 additional minutes

When finished, turn off heat and allow jars to sit in the hot water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and set where they won't be disturbed for 24 hours.

Check seals; lids should be indented and you shouldn't be able to move them.

Wash jars, label, and store in a cool dry place for up to a year,


I use a steam juicer. If you don't have one use this method for removing juice from grapes:

Wash 5 1/4 pounds grapes, remove and discard stems. Bring grapes and 1 c water to a boil in a pasta pot or Dutch oven, stirring often. Boil for 20 minutes, stirring frequently or until most of the seeds have been released from the pulp. Mash the grapes with a potato masher to slip seeds from pulp

Line a large wire-mesh strainer with 3 layers of damp cheesecloth. Place over a large bowl and pour grapes into the strainer. Let drain at least an hour to get required 3 2/3 c juice. Discard solids.