Yesterday, we received the “soft proofs” of At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking and Entertaining. Looking great. We are now less than a month from having books in hand and ready to ship. If you are enjoying these posts, you will love the book — sort of these posts on steriods multiplied by 512 pages! If you buy the book now you will receive a signed, limited first edition.
Two More Do Ahead Labor Day Recipes
Ah, Labor Day Weekend! The third and last of summer’s holidays. Memorial Day weekend, summer’s just begun and produce stands and stalls just tease us. Come July 4th, summer’s in full swing — except maybe for corn. But by Labor Day, market baskets are brimming with peppers, tomatoes, beans, eggplant, herbs and, of course, corn.
Grilled Eggplant & Assorted Sweet & Hot Peppers
My Maple Acres farm stand always has an array of small multi-hued and unusual eggplant and a rainbow of sweet and hot peppers. Grilled together these make for the ideal Labor Day do ahead dish — whether a part of your backyard menu or your contribution to someone else’s party.
I love mixing mildly hot peppers into a mix to provide an occasional surprise in the mouth. Some recipes are more idea and technique with some seasoning than they are a careful step-by-step procedure and this is one. Pay attention to the tips and hints and you can then set this actual recipe aside and just do it. My apartment does not have an outdoor grill so I do my grilling in a grill pan. Works just fine, but this goes much more quickly on a grill with generous cooking surface. I have to do mine in several batches.
Do Ahead I would happily make this two days before serving. Store, well-covered in refrigerator and allow to reach room temperature and re-toss before serving.
2 pounds assorted sweet and mildly hot peppers – 2-3 times sweet than hot
2 pounds assorted small eggplant
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1. Combine garlic and olive oil in large bowl. Mix well.
2. For eggplant, remove stem end and discard. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Down length of each half, cut deep slits into flesh about 1/2-inch apart taking care not to cut all the way through. These slits allow oil to penetrate without drenching eggplant in oil, helps steam escape during grilling and generally facilitates cooking.
3. For the peppers, remove the stem and top and discard. Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove all seeds and trim away membrane. Take care in handling hot peppers not to touch soft membranes like your lips and eyes or you will cause burning. Wash hands well after handling hot peppers.
4. Prepare eggplant for grilling. You can’t just toss eggplant into garlic oil. Eggplant acts as a sponge and that’s not good. One eggplant could absorb most of this oil. Instead, place your fingers into garlic and oil mixture. Generously rub and coat each eggplant. Continue with all eggplant. Eggplant should have modest patina of oil.
5. Prepare peppers for grilling. Unlike eggplant, peppers do not absorb oil. Combine what’s left of garlic oil with peppers and toss well.
6. Preheat grill to moderate.
7. To grill peppers, start peppers skin side down. Cook until scorch marks are formed — three to five minutes. Turn peppers and continue cooking until peppers become very limp. Transfer to bowl and stack. Stacked peppers will continue to cook from their own internal heat and you want this to happen. Allow peppers to cool.
8. To grill eggplant, start flesh side down and cook until well scorched and marked — about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn so skin side is down. Continue cooking. You will see moisture within slits bubble and steam and eggplant will swell as internal moisture turns to steam. Oil will also seep into eggplant through slits. Skin protects eggplant through this process. Continue cooking until eggplant are limp and very pliable. Undercooked eggplant is not a good thing. Set aside to cool.
Here I use my Grill Press to facilitate “marking” by putting downward pressure on eggplant. A Grill Press is a recommended but not essential list of kitchen equipment. You will get my full recommendations in our upcoming book.
Eggplant are well marked and spend a while “on their backs” as they cook fully through. Look for the sizzling in the slits as a sign that heat has deeply penetrated eggplant.
9. Cutting peppers and eggplant. There are two approaches to this – big pieces or more fork-friendly pieces. If you are using small eggplant, these look better as they are without cutting them up. Depending on size of peppers, you may have to cut some into somewhat smaller peppers. This approach assumes your guests have a knife and a stable place to cut the peppers and eggplant on their plate. Neither are easy to cut with a fork as each has a skin. Alternatively, cut peppers into generous, but not too long strips. Cut eggplant into large chunks, but not so large that your guest could not fit it into their mouth.
Eggplant cut into manageable pieces.
10. Toss together eggplant and peppers in bowl. Add lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and toss again. In addition to flavoring the dish, the acid from lemon juice or pepper serves to cut the richness of oil. To serve, spread onto low platter taking care to have a nice mix of peppers running throughout.
Looks pretty good!
Yield A pound of eggplant and a half pound of peppers will serve 6-8 depending on what else is on the menu.
Yellow & Green Bean Salad
This very simple salad is both colorful and has a distinctive flavor that results from being dressed in lime juice and a touch of sesame oil. With this salad I cut beans into half-inch lengths — an unexpected look for what is typically a salad of long beans — and much more fork friendly.
Do ahead Beans may be cooked up to a day ahead but best not to dress salad until ready to serve.
1/2 pound yellow beans
1/2 pound green beans
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, about half a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional
1. Snap stem end of yellow and green beans. Line up beans and cut into 1/2-inch lengths.
2. Bring a generous amount of generously salted water to a full boil. Add beans and return to boil. How long to cook depends on tenderness of beans. Young and tender beans will cook in 4 to 5 minutes with more mature beans taking longer. The best thing to do is taste as you cook until beans are tender, but still al dente. Once beans are cooked to your liking, drain and immediately run under cold water to stop cooking and set color.
3. In a bowl, combine beans and lime juice and toss. Add olive oil, toasted sesame oil, salt and pepper. Top with optional toasted sesame seeds.
Yield 1 pound of mixed beans will serve 4 – 6, depending on what else you are serving.
To toast optional sesame seeds
While you can toast seeds and nuts in the oven, I find the quickest way to do a small batch is in a small fry pan over medium heat.
Place seeds in cold fry pan over moderate heat. Shake occasionally. Once seeds begin to tan, shake frequently until they reach a deep tan. Be careful at the end to not let seeds go to far.
Turn seeds out on to a plate to stop cooking.
Tomorrow: Lemonade Alternative: Lime Rickey
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