And we’ll keep eating strange vegetarian food like these eggplant and chickpea croquettes! I roasted and pureed the eggplant, so the croquettes were quite smooth. Like savory cookies, almost. Which is how we sold them to the boys, who liked them quite a bit. I made a fresh-tasting salsa of tomatoes, roasted peppers and tamarind to have with the croquettes, but you could use any salsa or sauce that you like.
So…kale! We got some kale from our CSA, and some red peppers, and some eggplant and of course, some more tomatoes! I decided to boil up the kale, and treat it like lasagna noodles. I washed it and removed the stems, but kept the leaves long. I boiled them for about twenty minutes, so they were quite soft, but still bright, and not falling apart. And I stretched it out like lasagna noodles, layering it with ricotta, roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes. I had some leftover eggplant anyone can love, so I added a layer of that. It was delicious, but if you don’t have it, or have time to make it, this dish will still be very delicious! I broiled a red pepper, let it steam in a covered bowl, and then removed the skin and seeds. you want to be sure to let it sit for a while, and discard any moisture that collects. As with any lasagna that contains vegetables, you want to be sure the veggies are quite dry before you add them, or the lasagna will form a broth. This broth happens to be quite tasty, though, so if you have some bread to sop it up, you’re golden!
I love gestures. I love that we can convey meaning without words. I like carefully planned and highly stylized gestures – the kind you see in old movies or certain ceremonies. I like gestures unwittingly made – graceful movements of the hand or head that say things we don’t even know we’re saying. I try to pay attention to gestures, but it’s difficult because there’s so much noise. It’s the words that you notice. And sometimes, of course, we misread people’s movements. The other day I took Malcolm down to the river to swim. A couple floated by, each in their own giant tube. They were floating next to each other, and I watched curiously as they touched each others hands, and then their own lips. Touched hands and then lips, touched hands and then lips. They seemed very happy, and it struck me as odd and beautiful. And then it dawned on me that they were sharing a smoke of some sort of other. Heh heh. We were at the shore the other day, and I spied a mockingbird. Mockingbirds are beautiful, clever-looking, sweet, flashy birds, with white-patched-wings and long tails. This particular mockingbird landed not far from us. He raised his wings, half open, in a precise and snappy fashion, and then he opened them further and held them in a sort of arc away from his body, then opened them fully and held them stretched, then closed them. Four jerky, careful steps. Then he turned and faced a new direction and did the same thing. He flew from place to place – fence post to ground to rooftop – performing the same series of gestures, turning in a different direction each time. It was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen. I followed him for a while, watching him show off his lovely white wing patches. When I tried to film him, he flew to a wire, pumped his tail a few times and left. I’m so enamored of this mockingbird and his beautiful gestures! I read a bit about mockingbirds. Did you know that they’re very social, and they’ll play with birds of a different species? They play with their young. And, apparently, this series of gestures is a display to attract a mate. I didn’t see any other mockingbirds around, though. Maybe he was practicing. Maybe, like me, he just likes the feeling of stretching out his wings. Maybe he’s sharing his beauty with the world. I’ve been feeling a little discouraged lately. I feel overwhelmed, sometimes, when I think about everyone trying so hard, working so hard to say something to people, or show people something they think is worth seeing. But everybody’s talking so loudly we can’t hear what anyone is saying. Or maybe we hear but we miss the gestures. When I think about all of the words in all of the books in all of the world, and all of the work and passion that went into recording them, I become completely exhausted. One could almost ask oneself, “why bother?” But now I think, when I feel that way, I’ll think about the mockingbird, and his perfect dance for no bird audience.
And, thus, I’ll keep on telling you about these crazy recipes. This one was gooooood. Everybody liked it, even little Isaac, our toughest food critic here at The Ordinary. It’s very simple and summery. It’s not ratatouille exactly, I know that. But it’s a sort of take-off on ratatouille, in that it involves eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs like thyme and rosemary. I’ve kept the eggplant separate, and coated it with a crispy cornmeal coating, and roasted it till it’s like a crispy chip. And I’ve added chickpeas and olives, which are really lovely together, really lovely with eggplant and olives. Isaac used the eggplant slices like little taco shells, picking out a few chickpeas and olives to stuff inside. David made little stacks of eggplant and ratatouille. I put the eggplant chips on top, like a sort of crispy topping. However you do it, you can’t go wrong!
Here’s a blurry sort of video of a mockingbird doing his displaying dance.
And here’s Aretha Franklin singing Mockingbird. Happy song!
We don’t have a lot of chances to go bird watching any more, what with children and real life and all of their demands. But we went on a lovely bike ride this morning, and it makes me happy to know they’re all still there. We can still catch a glimpse of a bird and know what we’re seeing. We’ll hear a sweet little song, or a hoarse call, and we know what we’re hearing. We’re still part of their world, and they’re still part of ours.
So! Eggplant pie! It’s got thin layers of crispy rosemary/balsamic-marinated breaded eggplant. It’s got layers of chard and spinach, sauteed with garlic and red pepper and mixed with quince jam. It’s got layers of crispy toasted hazelnuts, and it’s got layers of melted cheese. Odd combination, you say? Oddly perfect together!! All in a crispy crust. If I do say so myself (when have I not, eh?) it turned out really delicious. I think this would be nice for a party or a picnic, because it tastes good even when it’s not hot out of the oven, and it holds together well for carrying around with you. So you can take it for an evening-time picnic, and walk around with it as you look for all the birds that come out at in the gloaming!
I decided to make a sort of distillation of ratatouille. An intense concentration of the flavors and textures, which uses wintery ingredients to produce a memory of summer. Obviously, I don’t have fresh tomatoes and peppers from the garden. I have a can of tomatoes and a jar of roasted reds- So I sofritoed it. In this way, you can still get a fix of warmth and sunshine to get you through the chilly months. I combined all the signature ratatouille ingredients – zucchini, tomato, red pepper and herbs – and I cooked them and cooked them until they were meltingly delicious and very very flavorful – almost like a chutney. I have to admit that I don’t really like mushy eggplant. I only like eggplant if it’s sliced thin and crisped up. Even in the summertime, when I make ratatouille – even if I get the eggplant right out of my garden – I don’t cook it with everything else. I slice it thin, bread it, and bake it in olive oil till it’s nice and crispy. And then it goes perfectly with the ratatouille!
So that’s the story about that. We ate it with slices of bread I’d baked with my OOTO spice mix (more about that later!) and some grated mozzarella. Malcolm made little sandwiches with eggplant on the outside and ratatouille and cheese on the inside. And we had a salad, of course! Baby spinach, baby arugula and some grape tomatoes.
The culinary history of Beef Wellington is a bit of a mystery, with far too many theories, (and all of them lacking in any hard evidence) to put this dish any earlier than the 20th Century – it certainly does not appear in any Victorian recipe books. So ignoring for now the myths surrounding this recipe we should instead concentrate on making it.
Indeed we should! For my vegetarian version, I decided to wrap the pastry around eggplant anyone could love (marinated, breaded, baked), I topped it with roasted mushrooms and shallots sprinkled with sherry, and I put a layer of sautéed chard in the middle. It turned out very well indeed! Tasty, and substantial, but not overly heavy considering it’s really only vegetables inside. (And a few slices of cheese!)
It’s not a last-minute meal – it did take a bit of time because there are a few parts to contend with, but most of them could be made earlier in the day, or even the day before. And if you buy your puff pastry, you’d cut down even more time. (I’d be more likely to cheat and use a quick paté brisée before I’d buy frozen puff pastry, though.) It’s very fun to make, too – and a delight to take out of the oven. I felt so proud of myself! It makes a nice crowed-pleasing meal for a special occasion. Like Christmas dinner!
We ate it with a lovely tomato & port wine sauce that went perfectly with all the flavors and textures.
If you liked this, you might like to also try my Portobello Wellington.
If you’d like to compare this to genuine beef wellington, check out Felicity Cloake’s article in the Guardian.