December 20, 2013

Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Tomatoes

If your holidays are anything like mine, then the next week or two will be a study in decadence. There will be rich, roasted meats, hearty sides, and of course, lots and lots of cookies. Christmas only comes once a year, and I don't intend to shy away from its culinary celebrations.

But that means eating sensibly in the weeks before and after the holidays. With snow on the ground and temperatures already plummeting into the 20s, though, it's just too cold to pick at a bowl of lettuce.

What's a girl to do? One solution is to go heavy on the veggies. Mixed with just enough pasta and cheese to satisfy the entire family. 

This dish features eggplant, cooked until silky and tender. And tomatoes, warm and bursting with juice. It's a great way to feel virtuous while treating your tastebuds.

Peel and chop the eggplant. Sprinkle with salt and let it drain over a colander for 30 minutes.

Rinse well and pat dry.

Saute eggplant in olive oil until golden brown (dark in some spots). Remove will a slotted spoon and set aside.

Cook carrots and celery in the same pan.

Add onion and garlic and cook until everything is golden and tender.

Turn off the heat and add back the cooked eggplant.

Then add the orzo and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, thyme, lemon zest, salt, black pepper and stock to the pan.

Finally, add the cheeses and give it a good stir.

Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish.

Bake until pasta is cooked and liquid is absorbed.

Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Tomatoes

Adapted from a recipe by Yotom Ottolenghi

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery stalk, in a 1/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces orzo, rinsed
1 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp grated lemon zest
3 medium tomatoes, diced
4 ounces firm mozzarella, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and black pepper

1.    Sprinkle eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry.

2.    Preheat oven to 350°F.

3.    Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the eggplant. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally, until golden brown and dark in some spots. Remove with a slotted spoon.

4.    Add celery and carrots to frying pan and cook for 3 minutes. Then add onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat.

5.    Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more.

6.    Off the heat, add the thyme, tomatoes, fried eggplant, lemon zest, salt, black pepper and vegetable stock. Finally, add the cheeses. Mix well.

7.    Transfer mixture to 1 2-quart ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You may need to bake it a bit longer until the pasta is cooked and all of the liquid is absorbed.)

8.    Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

December 3, 2013

Cod Cakes

Psst. Over here. Come closer. A little closer. Okay. I have to tell you a secret. I don't like leftover turkey. At all. In any form. Not sliced in a sandwich. Or shredded into soup. Not cubed into a pot pie. Or minced into a meatloaf.

But leftover mashed potatoes? Now that's another story altogether. A nice big scoop served with a ladleful of gravy? Yes, please.

But since that's not the *healthiest* option, I often transform leftover mashed potatoes into cod cakes. The potatoes give these cod cakes a delicate, melt-in-you-mouth texture. They're light and creamy on the inside, golden brown and crispy on the outside.

Of course you don't need leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes to make these cod cakes. But if you've got some, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try.

Place mashed potatoes in a bowl. Reheat to lukewarm if cold.

Saute onion, bell pepper and celery until tender. 

When cooled, combine the vegetables and potatoes.

Add lemon zest and egg. Set aside.

Season fish with salt and pepper.

Saute over medium-high heat until fish is cooked through, about 2 to 4 minutes per side. Place in a bowl and flake into large chunks. 

When fish has cooled, gently mix into potato mixture. Add just enough breadcrumbs so that the mixture is no longer loose. 

Form into burger sized patties. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Place cod cakes into a hot skillet. Cook for 4 minutes per side, over medium to medium high heat, until the cod cakes are dark golden brown.

Serve warm.

Cod Cakes

Recipe by TheGarlic Press

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 small celery, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Old Bay or cajun seasoning (optional)
3 cups (or so) leftover mashed potatoes (gently reheated to lukewarm if cold)
Zest from 1 lemon
1 pound cod fillets
1 egg
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (or more, as needed)
olive or canola oil

 1.    Saute onion, bell pepper and celery in olive oil until tender. Season with salt, pepper and Old Bay or cajun seasoning (if using). Once cooled, combine vegetables with mashed potatoes. Season mixture with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

2.    Add  lemon zest and egg to potato mixture and stir to combine. 

3.    Season cod with salt and pepper. Cook on skilled over medium-high heat for 2 to 4 minutes per side, until cooked through. Cool slightly and break into large chunks.

4.   Gently combine fish with potato/vegetable mixture. Add breadcrumbs. Mixture should just hold together. Add more breadcrumbs if needed.

5.    Form mixture into burger-sized patties. Place on baking dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

6.    Pour enough canola or olive oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat. When hot, add the cod cakes (don't crowd the skillet; work in batches if you need to).

7.    Cook cod cakes until brown and crisp, about 4 minutes per side.

8.    Serve warm with lemon slices and remoulade or tartar sauce.

Makes: 6 cod cakes