Tag Archives: eggplant

French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

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Are you ready for another family classic?

This recipe is something my grandma cooked and my mom cooked and I cook ALL summer long…and sometimes in the winter and in-between. In Russia it’s called “Baklajannaya Ikra” or “Eggplant Caviar”. Surprisingly enough the recipe is almost identical to French Ratatouille. There is also Sicilian Caponata that is oh so similar with an addition of olives and capers. After travelling the world and discovering all the food similarities you realise we are a lot more connected than we think.French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

This dish is incredibly flavourful and so versatile. It’s eaten as a warm side dish or as a tasty topping for your crusty bread, a favourite with Russian children. As a little girl I remember eating it cold with bread for an afternoon snack. I still love doing it but Brad really prefers it warm so you are going to discover for yourself which way is your favourite.
Ingredients:

  • Eggplant-2 medium
  • Zucchini-2-3 medium
  • Onions-2
  • Red, yellow, green peppers( I use whatever I have on hand)-2
  • Garlic-2-3 cloves
  • Parsley- 1/2 bunch
  • Cilantro-1/2 bunch
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Ketchup or tomato paste-1 tbsp.
  • Olive oil-2 tbsp.

Method:

There is a long version and a speedy version. The long one involves slicing eggplant, putting it in a colander and sprinkling it with salt and letting it sit for an hour under a heavy weight. That draws bitterness and extra moisture out. It really does. However, I often skip that step and never regret it. If you decided to skip the first step as well the dish will take a bit longer to cook. Lately I’ve been using a cast iron casserole which cuts the cooking time in half. After years of not wanting to spend the money I finally broke down and bought an Ikea version (still can’t bring myself to pay the Le Creuset price tag) and I’ve never been happier. A cast iron pot is truly a must have tool for every kitchen. Now I have a small size and a big size and 3 skillets!

Back to our Eggplant caviar. Dice your onions, eggplant, zucchini, red or green peppers, set aside. Preheat the olive oil in a heavy casserole type dish and add onions and peppers first, let them saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes and then add your eggplant. Eggplants takes longer to cook than zucchini so if you put them together zucchini will turn into a mush and eggplants will still be spongy. Cook eggplant together with onions and peppers until it’s nearly done, about 7 minutes, then add zucchini, parsley, cilantro, minced garlic and a tablespoon of ketchup. Here is my confession, I never cook with ketchup, I don’t even like it but I found it gives this dish just a right amount of sweetness! You can add  some tomato paste, it’s up to you. Cook it for 5-10 minutes longer.

You will see quite a bit of liquid after you’ve added zucchini, at this point you can turn the heat up and cook it down or keep it a vegetable stew consistency. Mine varies depending on how I feel or how hungry my family is!

The batch right here was pretty dry and perfect to use as a bruschetta topping.French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar The recipe given here is a basic recipe that you could be altered by adding any other vegetables that you like.
Just a few examples of what I’ve done in the past: At various times I’ve added green peas (frozen), asparagus, green beans, carrots, potatoes, chick peas and red kidney beans. They all work well. Play with it and find your favourite combo!French Ratatouille or Russian Eggplant Caviar

Hummus with Grilled Eggplant

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Hummus with Roasted Eggplant
When my life is super busy I like to keep tasty and nutritious snacks in the fridge that help me recharge during the day and hummus is one of those things. I usually make my own as I find the pre-made varieties are often overpriced and lacking in the taste department. I also love to mess with different flavour combinations which is exactly what happened last night. Our friends were coming over for a game night and hummus is a pretty safe snacky thing to server to a crowd.  So I opened a can of chickpeas and threw them in the food processor only to find out a minute later there was really nothing else to add to that!  I guess have been working a little be too hard on emptying the fridge before our holiday. I loving putting fresh herbs in my hummus like cilantro or dill but this time I had to go without and had to improvise…fast. After the second and more thorough look in the fridge I discovered a forgotten and pushed to the back jar of grilled eggplant packed in oil. I remember buying it for a pizza topping but not using it. I love eggplant as I am sure you’ve noticed by the frequency of eggplant posts in this blog. It must be a Russian thing.

So I threw the eggplant slices in there, squeezed some lemon juice, garlic, salt and gave it a whirl. Not bad, not bad at all.  I always put tahini paste in my hummus but this time I wanted it to have a distinct eggplant taste so I held it back.

Note: The jarred eggplant I am using is this recipe is similar to a jar of artichokes and usually would be found in the deli section next to sundried tomatoes or olives.

Ingredients:

  • Chick Peas- 1 can
  • Lemon juice- from one lemon
  • Garlic- 2-3 cloves
  • Grilled Eggplant slices preserved in oil (from a jar)-1 cup
  • Oil from eggplant/olive oil- 1/4 cup
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients except for oil in the food processor and pulse until smooth, with the motor still running pour in the oil in slow and steady stream, blend for a few seconds longer, then stop the food processor, taste your hummus and adjust seasoning if needed.

Everyone absolutely loved that new concoction which tasted like a cross between a regular hummus and a baba ganoush that I briefly considered calling it Baba Hummoush but in the end decided to stick with a boring “Hummus with Grilled Eggplant”. If you can think of a more clever name could you please let me know?!!

Hummus with Roasted Eggplant

Get Your Picnic On!

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Roasted Eggplant Salad

Lately, I am all smiles. Why wouldn’t I be? The weather outside is glorious! I know I am not the only one who is loving sweet summer days that lead to wonderful outdoor dining. A while back I announced a contest. I suggested my readers would challenge me with any recipes/meal ideas and I would cook them, photograph them and report back. I was supposed to randomly draw up 3 winners. Drum rolls please….
The first winner is Noemi Hedrick. Here is what she requested, “I would love to see a picnic “done well”. Cold foods that make you want to picnic ALL DAY! I love chicken on skewers and dip. Can you deal with that?”

Absolutely!

I loved working on this post because it combined so many things that I adore-my reader’s request, Russian food I grew up on, endless tasting tests with friends and family while having picnics of my own.

The first thing I got working on was skewered meat with dip called Shashlik in Russian, which is mostly likely a borrowed word as it doesn’t sound Russian to me. 🙂 Shashlik is a marinated meat that is later skewered and slowly roasted over hot coals. It’s Russian campers’ favourite past time. All city dwellers will talk of nothing more than their desire to finish the work week and go to the countryside “na shashliki” (to have shashlik).  This tasty food came to Russia in the 19th century and was brought by Russian soldiers who fought in the Crimean War and fell in love with that local delicacy. Since then it’s been one of the most beloved foods and became the symbol for outdoor eating.Russian skewered meat "Shashlik"

My husband Brad was first introduced to shashlik by my two friends Marina and Misha in the country house outside of Nizhni Novgorod, Russia. He loved it so much that he made it his first project in our newly bought house to build a brick fire pit for making shashlik. It does tend to leave an impression on people!

Russian Shish Kebab "Shashlik"
Shashlik is traditionally enjoyed with fresh vegetables and simple salads.
        My Picnic Menu

  1. Pork Shashlik with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip
  2. Crudités (tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers or any vegetables you like)
  3. Grilled Eggplant Salad with crusty bread
  4. Mixed Olives
  5. Red Wine

Russian Picnic Menu
Russian Picnic Menu
Grilled Eggplant Salad
Ingredients for Shashlik:

Marinade:

  • Onions (sliced for marinade)- 3 large
  • Garlic- 1 head
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Paprika- 1 tbsp.
  • Oregano- 1 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Fresh Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2/3 cup
  • Lemon Juice- 1 lemon
  • Bay Leaf-2

Skewers:

  • Pork Loin- 2,5 lbs
  • Onions (quartered for skewers)
  • Bell Peppers- 2-3 (red, green, yellow)

Method:

{The night before}

In a large wide bowl combine all the ingredients for marinade, then add 3/4″ cubes of pork loin, cover with either a lid or a cling wrap and refrigerate over night.

Prepare hot coals for grilling until coated with white ash or use a gas grill.

Remove the meat from the marinade and string it on a skewer intermittent with pieces of bell peppers and onions. Grill the skewers sprinkling with marinade every 3 minutes for 9-11 minutes.

Note: Do not use the onion slices from the marinade on your skewers as they were in contact with raw meat for hours and might be unsafe to eat.

Ingredients for Minted Greek Yogurt Dip:

  • Greek Yogurt-1 cup/250ml
  • Lemon Juice-1/2 lemon
  • Fresh Mint- 3-4 sprigs, leaves only (to taste)
  • Cucumber (diced)- 1/4 cup
  • Radishes (diced)-1/4 cup
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Recruit your spouse or partner to grill the meat. This way you can get all the side dishes ready. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, mint, salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and radishes right before serving as the vegetables will release quite a bit of liquid and will make the dip too watery if combined too early.

Also prepare a selection of raw vegetables and arrange them on a platter. They will be delicious with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip.

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Ingredients for Grilled Eggplant Salad:

  • Eggplant- 2 medium
  • Eastern European style or Italian marinated mushrooms (usually in the deli section)- 1 small jar
  • Bell peppers (red, orange, yellow)-  2-3 mini peppers or just the number according to the size
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)- 7-8
  • Olives (optional)-1/4 cup
  • Flat leaf parsley (chopped)- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic (crushed)- 1 clove
  • Red wine vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

While your barbecue is warming up, cut the eggplants into 1/2″ slices and leave them in a bowl filled with water and 1 tsp. of salt for 30 minutes. Then remove them from water and put on the skewers, brush with a bit of olive oil or spray with a calorie reduced cooking spray. Grill on the barbecue for 10 minutes, test for doneness, they should not be spongy but have a soft and silky texture.

While your eggplant is getting grilled, prepare the dressing for the salad. Mix together oil, vinegar, crushed garlic and chopped parsley, set aside.

As soon as you take the eggplant off the grill, put the slices in a salad bowl and pour the dressing on them while still hot, then add the remaining ingredients, season with salt if needed.

Set aside for the flavours to meld. This salad is delicious both cold from the refrigerator and at room temperature. Perfect picnic food!

{Note: Grilled Eggplant is also great just on its own with the salad dressing as pictured in this post.}Grilled Eggplant SaladRussian skewered meat "Shashlik"
So what do you think Noemi? Did I handle it alright?

Spring fresh or a Bruschetta Trio

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Bruschetta party
We’ve been hit by some amazingly beautiful weather lately. We are approaching our third summer in London and boy did we learn fast! Sunny and warm days are so rare and far in between that you gotta grab them as soon as you see a small clearing in the sky. You know you’ve met a true Londoner if he is sporting shorts, flip flops and pale legs in 17C weather. I believe we are quickly moving in that direction.

Balmy days call for picnics and fresh food. Nothing could be better than stretching out on a blanket  in the Greenwich park after the empty picnic basket has been tossed aside and enjoy watching your little ones run wild. That’s exactly what we did this past bank holiday Monday. And the food was definitely worth writing about. Fresh, simple, quick and delicious.

My picnic menu was inspired by these things: a baby olive tree growing in my front yard and a bowl of ripe red tomatoes.

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A Bruschetta Trio was born. Eggplant and Mint.  Artichoke, Lemon and Mint.  Tomato and Basil.
Brad and I really enjoy a meal of little bites, one that could be thrown together within minutes but lingers in your memory for days. This is one of those meals! Colours, smells, textures will send all of your senses into overdrive.

A Bruschetta Trio
Ingredients for Eggplant and Mint Bruschetta:

  • Eggplant-2 medium
  • Olive Oil-2 tbsp.
  • Balsamic Vinegar (or any other vinegar)- 1 tbsp.
  • Fresh Flat leaf Parsley- 4 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Fresh Mint- 6 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

Slice eggplant 1/8″ thick and grill on a hot grill or griddle about 3-5 minutes on each side or until cooked and not spongy anymore. While eggplant is getting grilled. Mixed together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped parsley and mint, finely chopped garlic. Add the cooked eggplant to the bowl, mix with a pinch of salt and pepper. Done.Grilled Eggplant Mint Bruschetta

Ingredients for Artichoke, Lemon and Mint Bruschetta:

  • Artichokes- 1 jar 
  • Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Mint- 2 sprigs
  • Olive Oil (optional)
  • Salt

Method: 

If your prepared artichokes were packed in oil like mine skip adding oil to your bruschetta. Chop up artichokes in bite sized chunks and add the rest of the ingredients. Voila your Artichoke and Mint Bruschetta is ready. I told you it was easy. It should also be noted that although it doesn’t look as appealing as eggplant and tomato it can definitely rival them in taste.

A Bruschetta Trio
Ingredients for Tomato and Basil Bruschetta:

  • Ripe Tomatoes (deseeded)- 5 medium 
  • Fresh Basil- a handful
  • Garlic- 1-2 cloves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze the seeds out, chop them finely or chunky-your choice, put them a bowl. Tear basil leaves into the same bowl, add garlic, olive oil and season with salt and pepper. It’s very important you only use very ripe tomatoes and good quality olive oil because that’s where your flavour is going to come from.

Finally, slice a loaf of crusty bread (ciabatta is my favourite) and grill the slices until a bit crispy. Load up your bread right before serving, otherwise it will get soggy very quickly or let your guests do the work themselves. They will love it!
To round up the meal serve with some olives, salami and cheese or use the Bruschetta Trio as a lovely starter.

Bruschetta party

Eggplant, Red and Yellow Pepper and Feta Galette

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Eggplant, red and yellow pepper galette with feta Not so long ago my friends Scott presented me with a challenge to devise a full-on vegetarian meal – a task not so easy for this meat-loving Russian. Don’t take me wrong, I adore vegetables. I buy them and cook them in every way possible but they are always served as sides. It’s almost impossible for me to go out for a meal and NOT order meat. I am sure all the vegetarians at this point stopped reading but if you are still with me  you’d be happy to learn about this Eggplant, Red and Yellow Pepper and Feta Galette. It’s full of flavour, you won’t miss meat one bit! Galette is a basically a free-form tart, so easy to make and it’s charm is in how rustic it looks, which means there is no need to worry over making it just perfect!

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant-2 medium
  • Bell Pepper-1 red and 1 yellow
  • Feta-150 gr (crumbled)
  • Sundried Tomato Pesto -2 tbsp (Feel free to use Basil Pesto if you prefer)
  • Pre-made pie crust (Jus-Rol or your favourite brand)-500 gr
  • Basil- 5-6 leaves or 1/2 tsp of dried basil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Olive Oil-1-2 tbsp.
  • Egg-1 (beaten)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C and take your prepared pie crust out of the fridge.
Slice the eggplants 1/2″ thick, brush the slices with olive oil and arrange them on a parchment paper on a baking sheet. Grill until brown for 12-15 min. until soft all the way through and the eggplant lost it’s spongy texture. Remove from the oven and place it on a plate and let it cool off.
Eggplant, Red and Yellow Pepper and Feta Galette
Grill peppers with skin side up. When peppers’ skins are blackened and blistered, remove from heat. Put the peppers in a ziplock bag and close it, let them sweat. When they are cool enough to handle, take them out and remove blackened skin which should be pretty easy at that point.
Eggplant galette
Slice the peppers.
Here are all the ingredients for your galette. Simple and delicious.
Eggplant, Red and Yellow Pepper and Feta Galette

Dust your work surface with some flour and roll out your pie crust in a circle 14″/35 cm in diameter. Slide it over on the same parchment paper you baked eggplant on and spread pesto on it leaving about an inch border pesto-free. Arrange the eggplant slices overlapping in a circle, then put pepper slices on top in any fashion you like, then spread your torn basil leaves on top and finish with feta cheese. Fold the border over the vegetables while brushing the pleats with a beaten egg to seal it. Then brush the egg all over the crust which will give the galette a beautiful colour. Bake at 400F/200C for 20-30 min until the crust is golden and the cheese is slightly coloured.
Eggplant, Red and Yellow Pepper and Feta Galette
It’s incredibly easy and fast, especially if you use a pre-made crust.
Eggplant, Red and Yellow Pepper and Feta Galette