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Did you see some broiled, miso-glazed eggplants hiding out amongst the pork belly stew last time? If you did, my dear hawk-eyed reader, then perhaps you also thought to yourself, “Forget the pork belly! Tell me how to make those eggplants!” For surely, this little scene did not only happen in my head.

Well, here, at long last, is that eggplant recipe!

It now seems silly that I took so long to write this follow-up post. Seriously, these eggplants are easier to make than, well, just about anything else (except maybe toast since you know, toast is pretty easy). They make a great side dish and an even better snack, especially with some cold sake. In fact, the first time I had these was at an izakaya which, as an aside, I must say that the Japanese have us Americans beat when it comes to bar snacks.

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables but it’s also one I cook with at home rarely. Have you noticed that most recipes involving eggplants also involve cuploads of oil? Many eggplant-based dishes call for deep-frying the eggplants, including my beloved Fish-Fragrant Eggplants (which, as another aside, has my vote for most misleading name for a dish ever, since there’s no fish involved and it certainly doesn’t evoke the ‘fragrance’ of a fish either). While I will happily eat deep-fried eggplants at restaurants, I personally don’t ever get the urge to deal with large volumes of oil at home. So whenever I find eggplant recipes that manage to not resort to deep-frying, I jump for joy.

*Jump*

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Szechuan-style Green Beans

Green beans is one of these ingredients that has always stumped me. Whenever we get a big bag of them in our CSA box, I inevitably throw them in the fridge, ignore them for as long as possible, and then wind up just blanching them and eating them in giant dinner-size salads. Which, admittedly, is not such a bad thing every once in a while, but even I can’t bring myself to eat giant dinner-size salads more than once or twice a week.

It seems, then, that I need an alternative green bean strategy. For a while, I attempted the ‘French tactic’ – by purposely calling them ‘haricot vert’, I thought it would make them sound much more exotic and delectable. But sadly, I found that while I did enjoy saying the phrase (especially many times in a row), I still had no good ideas on what to do with this giant pile of now-fancy ‘haricot vert’.

So when we recently got another big bag of green beans (ahem, ‘haricot vert’), I opted for a ‘Chinese tactic’. I had eaten a Szechuan-style dish featuring slightly charred green beans in this deliciously salty/sweet/tangy sauce a long time ago and I decided to try to recreate this dish. After some research, I learned that the biggest trick is to ‘dry-fry’ the green beans until they get slightly soft and blistery – this actually takes longer than you would think for a vegetable that usually only takes a few minutes to blanch. But while you wait, you can mix up a sauce and chop up big piles of garlic, green onions, and ginger. Then you just throw everything together and the solution to the Green Bean Dilemma will be literally at your fingertips.

I will never dread the arrival of green beans again.

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Asparagus Bread Pudding

As you can probably tell by the infrequent posting, life has been a bit hectic lately and I’ve been having trouble finding the time to share my cooking adventures with you. What with a wedding to plan and grad school work ramping up, I haven’t been attempting many ambitious cooking projects at home. (Case in point: you should see my poor sourdough starter, which has been sadly sitting in the fridge unused for a couple of months now when I’m sure all he wants to do is come out and play. Hopefully, I won’t have to keep him pent up much longer.)

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking – it’s just the focus lately has been on simple, easy, super quick meals. After much internal debate, I’ve finally decided that I would write about these anyway and hope that one day, it’ll help someone (possibly even me, since I have the worst memory in the universe) whip out a quick dinner without running to the store. So you’ll start seeing posts about these improvised “recipes” soon – although I hesitate to even call them recipes since I’m never that careful with measuring things when I’m improvising.

But before I start busting out the improv (ha), I want to encourage all of you to try this awesome recipe from none other than Heidi at 101 Cookbooks, one of my all-time favorite recipe blogs. Take advantage of those gorgeous asparagus before they go completely out of season!

Of course, you can replace the asparagus and mushrooms with any other vegetables your heart/stomach desires that day. In fact, I’m day-dreaming about how mighty fine a bread pudding like this would be with some wilted leafy greens, capers, fresh tarragon, and maybe even some roasted fennel. Why, what a lucky coincidence – I have those exact veggies sitting in the fridge at home!

Tortilla de Patatas

Ahh Thanksgiving… an entire day devoted to cooking, eating, and hanging out with friends and family. My sister and I spent a relaxing and mostly lazy Thanksgiving day cooking various things from my ever-growing collection of cookbooks: roast chicken with bread salad a la Zuni Cafe, Heidi’s always-awesome brussels sprouts (you will not want to eat them any other way after you try hers), a simple creamed spinach from Alice Waters, plus freshly baked French bread (courtesy of The Bread Bible), topped with tapenade and white bean-garlic spread. To round out this already giant meal (remember, we only had two people!), my sister made a cranberry-apple crisp. Oh and let’s not forget the big pitcher of sangria to quench our thirst. Cheers to another successful Thanksgiving!

Of course, now that the big dinner’s over and I’m hiding out at home to avoid scary Black Friday madness (have I told you that I find crazed shoppers really, really creepy?), I’m no longer thinking about Thanksgiving recipes. And thanks to some self-restraint on our part, I don’t even have to think much about using up leftovers and my stove can get some well-deserved rest today.

Although… there are a bunch of unused potatoes sitting in the fridge that’s just asking to be used in a Spanish tortilla. Well… I’m sure the stove won’t mind doing a little more work.

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Sweet Potato and Leek Latkes

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Ok, ok, so I didn’t actually know that Hanukkah has already started until my friend Noah told me about it yesterday. Being non-Jewish, I feel like maybe it’s ok. But then again, I do have a lot of Jewish friends, so you would think I would pay attention to stuff like that. I guess I’m just a terrible friend.

To make up for my ignorance, I tried my hands at making latkes. I have to preface this by admitting that I wasn’t too hopeful since I’ve attempted latkes twice before and both times, they ended up as soggy messes that failed to hold together. But I refuse to let latkes defeat me! So in Battle of Latkes III: The Reckoning, I decided to cheat just a little and use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes.

Not only did a semi-sweet latke sounded lovely to me, but sweet potatoes are also much drier than regular potatoes, so I might be saved from the cursed sogginess. Since they are drier than regular potatoes, though, I actually had to throw an extra egg into the mix to get the latkes to bind. I also threw in a little bit of cornstarch as extra binding insurance in addition to the flour that’s usually in latke recipes. Finally, I up-ed the cooking time since sweet potatoes require slightly longer to cook through.

The result, as you can see above, was not too bad and definitely my best and proudest attempt to date. I might even go so far as to say I’ve defeated the latke this time around: Angi 1/Latkes 2. The latkes held up relatively well and tasted quite yummy, especially with a horseradish yogurt I whipped up last minute. Basically, we had some yogurt in the fridge and some horseradish leftover from a Bloody-Marys morning long ago. Also, I was too cheap to splurge on creme fraiche or even a tub of sour cream that I’m only going to use a little bit of (welcome to the life of a grad student!). I still think I have some playing around to do in order to get the latkes to be crispy without being too burnt, but perhaps that battle can be saved for next Hanukkah.

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