Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fried Rice

I read those two simple words somewhere on my internet travels recently and they wouldn't leave my brain.  I became obsessed with making some for dinner.  My grandmother used to make it with celery, onions, chicken broth, and whatever else was in the fridge. There are infinite combinations, as this is a meal one typically makes when trying to create something new and inspired out of leftovers.  It just so happened that I had an eggplant to use (they continue to show up in the garden despite my saying they were winding down a half dozen eggplants ago) and a few of our smaller, just-harvested purple carrots.

So, I made fried rice, and I must say, it was FANTASTIC, though there was one little snafu. 

I tried to keep the recipe simple, taking a large part of it from a Mark Bittman adaptation (the video is worth watching) of a Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipe found via Smitten Kitchen, and little from a more traditional Food & Wine recipe, and a smidge from this Food Network recipe.  But it's simple.  Really.

The most important thing I learned from my internet research is that you must use leftover rice.  If you make it fresh, it'll be too mushy.  You can prepare fresh rice several hours ahead and then refrigerate it until dinner if you are not in possession of true leftover rice.  Also, it should be noted that Jean-Georges' version has a fried egg on top, which is a unique option that may really appeal to most people, but I have a thing about egg yolks, and prefer mine scrambled, so that is how I've done it here.  And, I've added shrimp, because, why not?

Shrimp Fried Rice
serves 4*

1/2 cup peanut oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups leftover rice (I used Basmati)
2 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 Tablespoon minced ginger
2 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts only (from 2 medium leeks)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 Japanese eggplant, diced small (about 2 cups)
1 carrot, diced small (about 1 cup)
16 shrimp, peeled and deveined
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Saute the garlic and ginger in 1/4 cup peanut oil over medium heat until brown, but don't burn it.  It should be crispy.  Remove the garlic and ginger with a slotted spoon and let cool on a paper towel.  Season with kosher salt.

Cook the shrimp in the remaining oil quickly until pink. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Add the rest of the oil and the leeks to the pan, cooking on medium low for about 10 minutes, until tender but not brown.  Season with kosher salt. 

Add carrots and eggplant, cooking for few more minutes.

Add the eggs and scramble until cooked. 

(This is where the snafu begins to reveal itself.  I panicked as soon as I added the egg, because it seemed to coat the vegetables, rather than breaking up into little bits.  You may wish to scramble the egg separately, but in the end, we had little egg bits, and it was fine.  It was just that... the egg bits were a lavender color.  The purple carrots stained the egg, and went on to stain the riceCan you see the little egg bits here?)

Raise heat to medium and add the rice, cooking until heated through and a little browned.  (I let it sit for a while without stirring to obtain the browning effect.)  Stir in the soy sauce, sesame oil, and reserved shrimp, garlic and ginger.  Serve and enjoy.

*This recipe does technically make enough for four people to have a decent-sized dinner, but we found it so irresistable that we couldn't help ourselves in consuming more than the allotted amount, despite its unusual color.

A very unique dish!  I strongly recommend making the fried rice, even if you just follow the Jean-Georges recipe. Or, add whatever vegetables you have in place of the eggplant and carrots. Or, use chicken or pork instead of shrimp. Or, if you have some purple carrots and want to eat something a little weird, feel free to follow my recipe to the letter!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Purple Carrots


Well, whaddya know?  I planted a few carrots back in June, and I've been waiting for the tell-tale sign that a carrot is ready to harvest: you can see the top of the carrot emerging from the soil.  I brushed off the soil around the base of each plant and didn't see anything.  I waited and waited and waited some more, then finally decided not to wait any longer, as the giant greens were spilling over onto the younger fall seedlings trying to make a go of it on either side.  We've yet to have much success in the carrot department, so I wasn't too hopeful, but I thought we might have a couple worth eating.  I dug in my spade and was amazed to find legitimate carrots!  Big, purple ones! 

It was so long ago that I had forgotten what variety of carrots I planted.  I never think that's going to happen when I plant something, but it inevitably does.

Aren't they pretty?

This is what they look like all cut up. 

They should be purple, through and through. Some of them were whiter in the middle, which I'm guessing is a sign of age?

We have lots more carrots growing, in a variety of colors, that I planted at the end of July.  They should be ready in another month or so. If the weather cooperates, maybe we can hang on and harvest them close to Thanksgiving.

We've trimmed the greens off the top (leaving only an inch) and plan to use these few carrots in the next week or so. 

If we had enough to store, they could keep for months in a barrel filled with damp sand or sawdust in the basement.  Maybe someday we'll get to try that, but I'm happy to have these for now!

I will note that my fingers were slightly purple after peeling and cutting these, not quite like handling beets, but noticeably stained.  You can see how they bled a little onto the cutting board.  That leads to a funny story, which I'll share in my next post.

Happy weekend!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eggplant with Ground Beef

It appears that the Japanese eggplant may be winding down, though we've had a really good run.  There were some bugs that ate a few holes in the leaves, but they didn't affect production at all.  Once again, eggplant was a winning crop for us this year.

We had a couple of eggplant to use for dinner last night, but this recipe isn't really about the eggplant, as much as an excuse to share the way I prepared the ground beef that goes with it.  I grew up eating, and my mom still often makes Moussaka a la Greque, originally from the New York Times Cookbook, which is a delicious, but heavy meal, and a labor-intensive casserole to prepare.  I think I might have made it once.  But I use part of the recipe- the seasoning and the ground beef (traditionally, it's ground lamb)- all the time, with eggplant over rice, or sometimes as the stuffing in red peppers, topped with tomato sauce.  It starts with onions and butter, which is just the beginning of good smells wafting through the house, and then you add the ground beef, red wine, tomato paste, parsley, and cinnamon.  Yes, cinnamon.  It works so nicely.  I highly recommend it.

Eggplant with Ground Beef

2 thin or 1 large eggplant, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 pound ground beef (Note: I go for 85% lean with this recipe; too lean, means less flavor)
2 T butter
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup red wine
1 1/2 T tomato paste
1/8 t cinnamon

Sprinkle the eggplant with salt.  Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high and saute the eggplant until cooked through, and a little browned.  Set aside.

Melt the butter in the pan and saute the onions on medium, until they are slightly browned and softened.  Add the ground beef and stir until cooked through.  Then add the tomato paste, red wine, parsley and cinnamon, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the eggplant back in, and season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve over rice, and with spinach, or haricot verts (my favorite), or no green vegetable at all if you're able to rationalize for yourself that the (few) vegetables you had at lunch are good enough for one day. 

It's not much to look at (I'm sure someone else could photograph it better), but the smell is irresistible.

One of these days, I do plan to return to posts about more than what we grow (or fail to grown) and what we eat.  My sister and I went to the Brimfield Antiques Show last Friday, and I picked up a few items that will be used to decorate our new bathroom.  Matt has been caulking and priming and we're very close to running out of little details to wrap up.  I've also been painting a few small things in the basement, including this cute but sad little table I picked up for free early this summer.
It feels good to get back into project mode, and I look forward to sharing a few things with you soon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Purple Cherokee Tomatoes

I am loving these Purple Cherokee tomatoes, and they're still looking good, despite the late blight slowly destroying all thirteen of our tomato plants.

I think they are my second favorite next to the Brandywine, which so far cannot be surpassed.  But these are similar in texture and flavor, and they have a nice purple color.  I'll have to be sure to save some seeds for next year.

They're good sliced for sandwiches (BLTs, tomato/basil/mozzarella, grilled cheese and tomato are a few we've tried so far),
and they made a perfect end-of-summer tomato salad alongside our steak and corn-on-the-cob last night. 
I just drizzled them with enough olive oil to make them glisten, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  A little garlic or onion or fresh herbs might have been nice, but I decided to let them be.  They were delicious on their own.
I hope you all had a nice weekend!