Lamb, Bulgur and Chickpea Stew with Roasted Eggplant

lamb bulgur stew tastefood

The other day, for the first time I made kibbeh, the Lebanese version of kefta or croquettes. A key ingredient in kibbeh is bulgur (cracked wheat), which was a revelation to me. I was afraid the bulgur would add a mealiness to the croquettes, but in fact it remained firm, adding a satisfying bite (and crunch when pan fried) to the ground meat. I liked this combination so much I decided to try it in a stew with tomatoes, white wine and plenty of spices. The bulgur slurped up the liquid producing a thick and dense ragout. While it could easily have been served in bowls as a hearty stew, I spooned it over roasted eggplant to lighten it up a bit. The results resembled a deconstructed dolma or vegetable stuffed with ground meat and grains, typically served in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. All that was needed was a bit of crumbled feta and fresh mint to freshen up this lovely dish, and I know I’ll be making it again.

Lamb, Bulgur and Chickpea Stew with Roasted Eggplant

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup white wine
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juices
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzos) drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage

1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise 3/8-inch thick
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crumbled feta cheese
Fresh mint leaves, torn

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic and lamb. Cook until the onion softens and the lamb browns, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes, stock, bulgur, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander. Simmer, partially covered, until the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. The stew will have thickened at this point. If desired, add more water or stock to thin to desired consistency. Add the salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Stir in the chickpeas and cabbage and cook over medium-low heat until the cabbage is wilted, 10 to 12 minutes.

While the stew is simmering, arrange the eggplant slices in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil on the top rack of the oven until golden brown on both sides, turning once.

To serve, spoon the ragout over the eggplant. Sprinkle with feta and garnish with mint. Serve warm.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

ratatouille  salad

~ Grilled Ratatouille Salad with Couscous ~

It’s that time of year when the garden is lobbing bushels of vegetables at us faster than a tennis ball machine. And it means one thing: It’s time for ratatouille. Now, mind you, this is not your traditional ratatouille. Instead of simmering a stew of Provencal vegetables on the stovetop, I’ve thrown eggplant, squash, onions and peppers on the grill until lightly charred, then tossed them with olive oil and fresh herbs. It’s a lighter version that’s very versatile. I like to serve it over couscous, tossed with pasta or spooned on top of grilled garlic bread.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

If you don’t have a grill, the veggies may be broiled in the oven. You may either roast the tomatoes with the vegetables or toss them in at the end. (If you grill them, thread on pre-soaked bamboo skewers to prevent them from falling through the grates). If desired, sprinkle with crumbled feta or goat cheese before serving.

Serves 4.

2 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 red or yellow bell peppers, quartered, stems and seeds removed
1 small eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
1 large red onion, slice crosswise, 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded

Prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Spread the vegetables on a tray. Brush with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Grill until lightly charred and cooked to desired doneness, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut in large chunks. Place in a bowl with tomatoes, garlic, parsley and basil. Gently toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

vegetable lasagna tastefood~ Roasted Vegetable Lasagna ~

Eat your lasagna and have your vegetables too. Roasted strips of eggplant, zucchini and red peppers alternate with lasagna sheets in this veggie-enhanced family favorite. No worries, there’s plenty of gooey melted cheese and tomato sauce rippling through this version, the most adamant veggie haters (we won’t point fingers) will be hard pressed to complain.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Serves  6

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large red bell peppers, halved, stemmed and seeded
2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise, 1/4-inch thick
3 medium zucchiini, sliced lengthwise, 1/4-inch thick
16 ounces whole milk ricotta
1 large egg
2 to 3 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, shredded
1 box lasagna sheets (you won’t use all of them)
Fresh basil leaves

Prepare sauce:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion; saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cloves garlic and red chili flakes; saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, oregano, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Roast vegetables:
Heat oven broiler. Place peppers, cut-side down, in a baking dish. Broil peppers until skin is blistered all over. Transfer to a bowl and cover. Let stand 10 minutes, then peel away skin. Slice peppers in 1/2-inch strips.
Generously oil a rimmed baking sheet. Lay eggplant slices in one layer on sheet, turning to coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Broil until golden and tender, turning once. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with zucchini slices.

Ricotta:
Whisk ricotta, egg, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 cup Pecorino, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl.

Assemble lasagna:
Heat oven to 350° F (180° C). Spoon a thin layer of sauce in bottom of 8 x 10-inch baking dish or gratin. Place a layer of lasagna sheets over the sauce, breaking them to fit to size as necessary. Smear ricotta over pasta. Arrange eggplant slices over the ricotta. Spoon a little sauce over the eggplant. Sprinkle with Pecorino and scatter some of the mozzarella over. Place another lasagna sheet over the eggplant. Repeat the layering process, substituting the zucchini for the eggplant. Repeat again with the red peppers. Top with the last layer of lasagna pasta. Smear with ricotta. Top with any remaining vegetables. Spoon sauce over and around the vegetables. Sprinkle with a final layer of Pecorino and mozzarella.
Bake in oven until thoroughly cooked through and cheese is bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm with basil sprinkled over.

Farmer’s Market Provençal Salmon Couscous

Farmer’s Market Provençal Salmon Couscous

~ Salmon, Cherry Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Leek, Couscous ~

It’s Provençal vegetable season. Peppers, eggplants, squash and tomatoes are impossible to miss (and resist) at the farmer’s market. Tables stacked with teetering piles of gypsy, poblano, Hungarian and myriad chile peppers vie for attention, showing off their glorious colors and funky, gnarly shapes. I pass a table of eggplant where shiny black beauties, the sturdy workhorse of the eggplant family, sit proudly with their brethren: skinny, lilac Chinese no thicker than a fat finger, purple and white zebra-striped Sicilian, baby ball-shaped Thai.  It’s impossible not to pick up too many, simply because they look so pretty. At home, I fill my refrigerator with as much as I can fit and save the prettiest to display in baskets and bowls on our tables.  The challenge is to remember to eat them.

Provençal Salmon Couscous

Any vegetable that you like to roast will work with this recipe, but it’s especially delicious with late summer veggies. Feel free to mix and match to your taste. I roast the vegetables separately from the salmon (except the leek) so that they won’t absorb too much fish flavor while cooking.

Serves 4.

4 thin, small Chinese eggplant, sliced diagonally, 1/2-inch thick (or one medium dark beauty eggplant, cut in 3/4-inch chunks
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, halved, thinly sliced
1 sweet red bell pepper (or other peppers you might like), stemmed and seeded, halved, thinly sliced
1 cup small cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 large leek, white and pale green parts sliced 1/2-inch thick
4 salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each
2 tablespoons, plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/4 cups hot water
4 scallions, white parts removed (save for another use), green parts thinly sliced

Prepare:
Heat oven to 375 F (190 C). Toss eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and garlic in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Transfer to a baking dish. Bake in oven until vegetables are tender and slightly colored, 45 minutes.

Place leeks in a rectangular baking dish. Nestle the salmon filets between the leeks. Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, Sriracha, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over fish and leeks. Using your hands, gently turn the fish and leeks to coat. Place in same oven with the vegetables. Bake until salmon is just cooked through and beginning to color on top, about 30 minutes.

While the salmon is baking, prepare the couscous. Place couscous in a large bowl. Pour hot water over. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir once or twice. Cover and set aside until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. Stir in scallions.

To serve, spoon the couscous onto a large platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle the roasted vegetables over the couscous. Place the salmon filets in the center and scatter the leeks around the salmon. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Ratatouille Gratin from TasteFood
Sambal Eggplant from Rasa Malaysia
Oven Roasted Fish with Provençal Vegetables and Basil from TasteFood
Eggplant and Red Pepper Terrine from Simply Recipes
Pasta Provençal with Basil, Tomatoes and Olives from TasteFood

Roasted Provençal Vegetable Salad

Roasted Provençal Vegetable Salad

~ Roasted Provençal Vegetable Salad with Couscous ~

Consider this as a deconstructed ratatouille – which happens to be oven roasted. The same cast of characters applies, only the method differs. An end of summer symphony of squash, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes are tossed together with olive oil and roasted in the oven until softened and gently charred, instead of simmered and thickened in a pot. The traditional ratatouille stew morphs into a roasted vegetable salad, freshened with a shower of fresh herbs and served over a bed of couscous for a light and healthy meal.

Roasted Provencal Vegetables Salad with Couscous

You may either roast the tomatoes with the vegetables or toss them in at the end for extra freshness. The salad is delicious as is or served over couscous, pasta, or quinoa. Serves 4 -6.

1 medium eggplant, cut in 1/2 inch slices, each slice quartered
2 small zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 small yellow squash, cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 large red onion, halved horizontally, each half cut lengthwise in 4 thick chunks
6 baby sweet peppers, stemmed, seeded halved
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
Optional: Crumbled goat or feta cheese as garnish

Heat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Place all of the eggplant, zucchini, squash and onion in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat. Arrange on 2 rimmed baking sheets in one layer. Place in oven. Bake until vegetables are tender and turning golden brown, rotating baking pans, to ensure even roasting. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Add tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs. Toss. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve over couscous. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese if using.

Ratatouille Gratin

~ Ratatouille Gratin ~

It’s that time of year when the vegetables sneak up on you. A month ago, summer squash were elusive, appearing in the markets in small groups at a price. In the garden they were merely a hint of themselves peeking from their flowers. Purchases felt premature, tasting a little bitter, and costing too much for something you knew would soon be prolific.

~
Then, before you know it, a month has passed and squash are teeming everywhere. The garden is lobbing them to you like tennis balls, the market shelves are stacked with zucchini, crooknecks, and patty pans, ripe and ready for consumption. With the bounty, it’s time to get creative, because, ironically, it’s easy to tire of this abundance, and that is a shame.  So, yesterday I was determined to use my imagination to celebrate summer squash. Instead of a traditional ratatouille, I made a gratin. And before I made the gratin, I played a little bit with my food and made Ratatouille Stacks.

~ Ratatouille Stacks ~

The ingredients are identical, only the arrangement is different. Serve the gratins as side dishes or a light vegetarian meal. The stacks are fun appetizers.

Ratatouille Gratin with Goat Cheese and Basil

Try to choose squash and eggplant of a similar diameter. This recipe makes enough for an 8 to 9-inch square or round pan. Alternatively, you can arrange the vegetables in smaller individual gratin dishes.

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4

1 narrow eggplant, about 10 ounces
1 medium zucchini, about 6 ounces
1 medium yellow squash, about 6 ounces
1 large red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn into 1/2-inch pieces, plus extra for garnish
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven broiler.
2. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash crosswise about 1/3 inch thick. (If the eggplant is much wider than the squash, quarter lengthwise and slice 1/3 inch thick.)
3. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and peppers in one layer on an oiled baking tray. Brush the tops with additional oil and lightly season with salt and black pepper. Broil on the top shelf of the oven until the vegetables are tender, but not mushy, and brown in spots, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. Remove and cool to the touch.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil an 8 or 9-inch square or round gratin dish. Arrange the vegetables, alternating and slightly overlapping, in rows or a circular pattern. Tuck the basil between the vegetables in a random pattern so that it is evenly distributed. Scatter grape-size amounts of the goat cheese evenly over the vegetables.
5. Bake the gratin in the oven until the cheese is soft and light golden in spots, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with extra basil if desired.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

Ratatouille Salad

Grilled Salad?  You bet. This version of ratatouille is perfect in the summer when the season is lobbing a kaleidescope of Provençal vegetables our way. Instead of simmering eggplant, squash and peppers with tomatoes on the stove in the traditional Niçoise fashion, try grilling all of them on the barbecue.  Bright, colorful, and pleasantly charred, Grilled Ratatouille Salad is a healthy, summery side dish or salad.  Serve as an accompaniment to grilled meats and fish or as a smoky, crunchy stand-alone salad with crusty pain paysan. Alternatively, head further south in the Mediterranean for inspiration and add feta cheese and kalamata olives for a twist on Greek salad.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad
Serves 6 as a side dish

2-3 bamboo skewers
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 large, firm eggplant, cut horizontally in 1/2 inch thick slices
2 large red onions, cut horizontally in 1/2 inch thick slices
2 thin zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 thin yellow squash, halved lengthwise
2 red peppers, halved, seeded, stems removed
1 poblano pepper, halved, seeded, stem removed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves minced
1 small bunch Italian parsley leaves, stems removed, chopped
1 small bunch basil leaves, ripped in half

Soak skewers 30 minutes before grilling.  Prepare grill for a medium-heat. Thread tomatoes on skewers.  Arrange the vegetables and tomato skewers on a large baking sheet.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat thoroughly.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Transfer to grill (or broil in oven). Grill vegetables over medium direct heat, turning, until lightly charred and tender.  Transfer to platter; allow vegetables to cool slightly. Remove tomatoes from skewers and place in large bowl. Cut eggplant, onions, zucchini, squash and peppers in 1 inch pieces. Add to bowl with tomatoes.  Toss vegetables with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, parsley, basil. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with extra parsley and basil leaves.