I’m kind of a fan of travel shows. While most are gimmicky, some can be really fun to watch. I was watching one on Sicily, and they mentioned an eggplant dish called caponata. It seemed like a straight-forward enough concept, similar to ratatouille, so I decided to try to make some.
1/3 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ of a medium eggplant, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1-2 tablespoons tomato sauce
½ tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
Basil and parsley, to taste
7-8 olives, chopped
¼ cup pine nuts
Saute the onion and garlic in a large frying pan with olive oil. After a minute, add the chopped eggplant. Eggplants soak up oil quickly, so make sure to get all the pieces coated when you start cooking. Once the eggplant is soft (10-15 minutes) add the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Then add the sugar and wine vinegar. Keep cooking, and occasionally mash up the eggplant a bit with your spatula. After 10 minutes, it should be about done. Add basil, pine nuts, and chopped olives. The adjust vinegar and sugar to taste. Let it cool before serving.
This is such a yummy dish. One of the few that really does taste better cool than warm. You can eat it by itself, but I like scooping it onto a slice of bread. Obviously, being Italian and a summer dish, you want to serve it with white wine, or a European rose. Rose gets a bad rap in the US, but French roses are not sweet – they are refreshing and relatively light but still more of a half-way point between white and red. Finally, the song of the week: At the Zoo, by Simon and Garfunkel, because I went to the zoo recently. Because pandas and orangutans (other animals too, but those are my favorites).
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m ethnically Russian. Combine that with a career in international relations, and you get sporadic attempts on my part to learn Russian, the most proactive of which I am currently undertaking. This week, I finally moved from Level 1 Russian to Level 2 in Rosetta Stone and my dad (who speaks it fluently) told me I should celebrate … by cooking Russian food. Specifically, kapusni perog, or cabbage pie. Of course, my logic was, why stop with that? Clearly this requires a whole themed meal of awesomeness. So the menu became kapusni perog, hard-cooked eggs, a side of beets, and all served with Moscow Mules.
Moscow Mules: Fill a tall glass with some ice. Pour in 1 1/2 shots of vodka, the juice from 1/2 a lime, and maybe 1/2 a can of ginger beer (not ginger ale). Mix with a spoon and enjoy.
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup salted butter
some cold water
Put flour in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter (or a fork if you don’t have one) until it is all incorporated, and the dough can almost clump together. Add the water, a little at a time, stirring it in with a knife and your hands until a nice dough has formed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the filling is done.
3-4 cups chopped cabbage
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons butter
To make the filling, chop up 1/2 an onion and several cups of cabbage. Saute in a large pan with a couple tablespoons of butter. Butter, not olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and saute until the mixture is done.
Split the dough into two equal parts. Roll out one of the balls and use it to line a pie plate. Place the cabbage mixture in the pie plate. Then roll out the other half of the dough, and lay it on top of the mixture, crimping the edges together with the bottom crust. Prick the top crust with a fork. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
1 medium beet, either golden or normal
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Peel one medium beet, and slice into relatively thin half-circles. Toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees until tender – make sure to flip the beets over once during the cooking process so both sides cook evenly. Let the beets cool. Once cool, spread a little goat cheese on each beet slice, like you would with a cracker. Drizzle a little honey over it all and serve.
The whole meal was delicious. Basic, simple foods can be delicious if cooked well. Food doesn’t have to be complicated. But really, the most fun about it is the whole cooking and meal experience. Everything was just super enjoyable. Ok, so the beets were more French than Russian, but well-educated Russians all secretly wanted to be French back in the day – blame Peter the Great for that. Song of the week: “To Life” from Fiddler on the Roof. I have loved this song since I was little. Now, this may seem weird, given that the Russians were horrible and the bad guys in the movie, but this song at least is a happy bubble of tolerance and thus is appropriate enough I think.
I have an absurd fondness for bunnies. Seeing a bunny is a good-luck omen for me (which is a very long story). So naturally, my amazing BFF last year sent me a picture of a loaf of bread, shaped like a bunny. It was so cute and I had to make it. But then I didn’t. This year, when Easter rolled around, I knew the time had come, the time for bunny bread.
Rather than trying a new type of bread, I went with my standard yeast dough. I use this dough for everything: rolls, pizza, pide, baked with brown sugar and cinnamon, etc. It is simple, quick (for a yeast bread) and amazingly versatile. For the record, this is a template; I don’t actually measure:
2/3-3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 package yeast
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups flour
Start by heating the water. I describe the proper temperature as “tea temperature,” hot, but not so hot you burn your tongue. Too hot kills yeast. Add the brown sugar and yeast, stir until its all dissolved, and let it sit until the yeast is bubbly, about 10 minutes. Once that happens, add the olive oil and 1 cup of flour or so. When the dough is sticky, but has largely come together, sprinkle on the last bit of flour, and knead that into the dough until it is elastic. Cover and let rise for about an hour.
The dough my be mine, but the construction technique is absolutely the hard work of a different blog, which you can (and should) check out here. Once the dough has risen, punch it down to get the air out. Rip off about half of the dough and set it aside: its the bunny’s body. Take about 1/3 of the remaining dough and roll it into a fat, long-ish sausage, and set it on the baking pan. Take another, smaller hunk of dough, and do the same thing, only make it more of a U shape. Then take the big blob of bunny body, and set it on top of the the 2 sausages. Tada, legs! Pull off a small piece of dough, and make a short little sausage, and stick half of it under the bunny’s butt for its tail. With the remaining dough, make it into a tear-drop shape, and place it where the bunny’s head goes. Slit the pointy end of the teardrop head in half, separate, and press down, to make the ears. Let it rise for another 30-40 minutes.
Once it has finished rising, stick it in a pre-heated oven at 400 and let it bake until golden brown about 30 minutes or so. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack immediately. Once it has cooled, enjoy!
As you can see, the bunny bread is both adorable and delicious. The only problem with it was that I felt really awkward about cutting it, and had a difficult time figuring out how to cut it. I was laughing at myself for having this problem, so I figured the best thing to do would be to chop off its head, and get it over with. As with any loaf of bread there are a million things to do with it, but I decided to add to my ridiculousness, and make Welsh Rarebit, using the bunny bread. Song of the week: Rose Tattoo by Dropkick Murphys. They are one of my favorite bands, and I absolutely love this song – its amazing.