Eggplant, roasted mushroom, red bliss, spinach bake

Eggplant mushroom bake

There are certain things in the world I like a lot. I think of these things as “Claire-y.” Otters, for instance, or green chairs with unexpected drawers, or boxes with little secret compartments and little bottles in them. These things are claire-y. I was trying to think of a way to describe this, and I kept coming back to the word claire-y. I love eggplant, mushrooms, spinach and potatoes. I love them cooked these ways, and I love them all together. I also seem to be drawn to odd dishes that defy definition and categorization. I’m not sure what to call this? Is it a gratin? A tian? A bake? A casserole? (For some reason a casserole seems like something my fourth grade teacher from the 70s would make. The one with the polyester suit and the glasses on a chain.) As I understand it, most of these words describe the dish it was baked in. But I don’t know what my dish is called! ACK! I decided to call it a bake. Because it’s baked. Here’s what it involves…thinly sliced vegetables, each prepared in a slightly different way, layered together with some cheese and baked. That’s about it. The potatoes are boiled, the eggplant is fried, the mushrooms are roasted, and the spinach is sautéed. It’s quite easy though! It sounds like a lot of steps, but they’re all pretty easy and quick. And then when it’s done, what is it? It’s hearty and satisfying enough to be a main course, but it also works quite well as a side dish. It’s whatever you want it to be, I guess!

Eggplant mushroom bake

Today friends, instead of finding a song about casseroles, tians or bakes, I’m going to post this song that has been haunting me. It’s so beautiful and plaintive. When a song like this is an earworm, it’s like having a little ghost howling in your head! It’s Tommy Johnson’s I Want Someone to Love Me.

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red pepper semolina crepes with broccoli rabe & chickpeas

My favorite meal in the summer is any meal that involves a lot of different little dishes. A mezze or tapas type of situation. It’s sort of funny that this makes me think of summer, because in the summertime we like to eat outside. If you do the math, you’ll see that this means that we carry lots of little dishes out the kitchen door, down a small path, down a step, and onto the outside table. It’s worth it, though! I swear it is! It was crazy warm last week, so we ate outside, and I’ve already started in with the summer meals.

Let me tell you about this one. I like to make a kind of crepe, a kind of green, a kind of sauce, a kind of salad, and a kind of potato, and have them all together. However…although we’ve had exactly this kind of meal before, we’ve never had anything quite like this!! I made crepes with semolina flour and roasted red peppers. Delicious! Not thin and elegant, exactly, but very satisfying! I made broccoli rabe sauteed with chickpeas and grape tomatoes. Lovely! And I made thinly sliced roasted potatoes seasoned with sage and Spanish smoked paprika. Finished with a simple salad of baby spinach and baby arugula dressed with with olive oil and balsamic, salt and pepper.

I’m going to post Dead Prez’ Happiness at this point. I should probably save it for later in the summer, but I need it now. So here we go…
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Remy’s soup

Remy's soup

Have you ever wondered what Remy puts in the soup that Linguini nearly ruins in Ratatouille? Of course you have! We all have. Well, here in the test kitchens of The Ordinary, we’ve done exhaustive research to arrive at the definitive version of the soup, with the precise ingredients that Remy used. Precisely definitive! We watched this scene dozens of times. We’ve listened to characters’ descriptions of the soup, and we’ve analyzed the inner workings of the kitchen to arrive at a soup that is a “spicy yet subtle taste experience.” Let us walk you through it. To begin with, when Linguini nearly knocks the pot off the stove, the soup looks like tomato sauce. We determined, decidedly, that it’s probably some sort of tomato soup. We kept that part simple, but we did add a spicy element, because nothing we saw Remy add could be described as “spicy.” Linguini adds tap water, an entire bunch of scallions, white wine, and salt, lots of salt. Noted. Remy adds broth, cream, garlic, thyme, black pepper, cubes of potato, leeks, parsley, chervil, more salt, bay leaves and, we believe, basil. He later states, when questioned by Linguini, that he DID NOT add oregano or rosemary, which they both identify as “spices,” although we, here at The Ordinary, would call them “herbs.” The soup turned out delicious! Spicy, yet subtle. My son, something of a Ratatouille scholar himself, ate three bowls, but declared that the color was too rosy. I’m not an imaginary french rat, for heaven’s sake! I’m not actually going to add an entire container of cream!

Here’s Souped Up from the Ratatouille soundtrack to listen to as you leap over the pot, gleefully adding ingredients.
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Patatas bravas and cauliflower soup

You know that Spanish tapas dish, patatas bravas? The one with potatoes in a spicy, smokey tomato sauce? This is my soup version of that. Plus cauliflower, for texture, flavor, and because potatoes and cauliflower are such good friends. It’s an easy soup to make, and the broth – warm, rich and spicy, is perfect for the freezingly dreary weather we’ve been experiencing here lately. I wanted it to be very brothy, but if you wanted a thicker soup, I think it would be nice to add a picada at the end…a mixture of toasted almonds, bread fried in olive oil, and garlic, all roughly ground together. I might try that some time! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Here’s Mississippi John Hurt’s beautiful Spanish Fandango, and Elizabeth Cotten’s equally heartbreakingly beautiful Spanish Flang Dang.
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Potatoes, sofrito, fennel, mmmmmm

Potatoes, so mild-mannered and comforting, meet some spicy, vibrant friends in this very pleasing, intensely flavored dish. The potatoes are sliced thinly, and layered with sofrito, olives, capers and fennel, and they all combine to create wonderful tastes and textures.

I just discovered this song, but I really like it! Tony Touch, the Beanuts and D’Mingo with Sofrito Mama.
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vegetarian cornish pasties


We got some beautiful little turnips from our CSA, so I decided to make vegetarian cornish pasties. I’ve made them in the past, and I keep tweaking the recipe a bit to add more flavor. Potatoes and crust are both very understated and comforting, but I add some sharper flavors. I add shallots, mixed with herbs and sweetened with balsamic; and turnips, of course; and gruyere cheese, which is pleasantly sharp and nutty. And I added some greens this time, because I love them. I tried to maintain the uncooked-filling rule, though, because it intrigues me.

Here’s Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie, by Belle and Sebastian. I have no idea what they mean by it (and I’m not sure they do, either!) but it fits this blog, if by pastie you mean savory pie (no, Tom Waits, not those kinds of pasties) and by bourgeois you mean thoroughly ordinary.
Belle and Sebastian – Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie

If you’d like to see how it is really done, watch this video. It’s of Kay Bolitho, who cooks at the Port Eliot estate in Cornwall. I love everything about this video! The kitchen is beautiful, and I love the strange little objects around and about. And I love her gentle, measured voice.
Making Pasties in Cornwall

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Savory vanilla sauce & roasted french fries

vanilla tarator sauce
The other night, during a bout of insomnia, I started thinking about vanilla, as one does. I love the scent and flavor of vanilla. (I have recurring dreams about vanilla essence, actually. Wonder what that means?) I think vanilla has been unfairly labeled as plain and pale – almost a non-flavor. In fact it’s wonderfully flavorful. I started to ponder the fact that, in my experience, vanilla is always used as a flavoring in sweet dishes. Why shouldn’t vanilla find its way into a savory dish? Other sweet staples, like cinnamon and chocolate have done it. Then I started thinking about fries and a vanilla milkshake. Such a perfect pairing. One hot, crispy and salty, and one cool and vanilla-y. That’s when I came up with the idea for this combination.

The sauce is a tarator sauce – it’s nut-based, and though it’s quite creamy, there’s no dairy in it at all. And the french fries are actually roasted in olive oil in the oven, but they become as crispy as you could hope for. Keep reading for recipes…

Roasted french fries

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