Sunday, July 31

Solar Crunchy-Crusted Eggplant Parmigiana

I know. I know. It seems impossible, but, I did it. It all started with reading Jaz's fantastic October Farm blog where she was cooking eggplant parmigiana, and I had this big eggplant in my fridge begging to be a featured player in a solar menu. You need to know, up front, that there's no contest between Jaz and me when it comes to cooking (she wins, hands down, in my opinion) -- well, when it comes to anything, really. Suffice to say, I covet her cooking, her yard and gardens, her dog Teddy, her whole togetherness, and, if you check her out, I know you will, too. BUT -- and this is a BIG but -- she fries her parmigiana in about an inch of hot oil and, well, that just doesn't work in a solar oven. That just means I had to find another way to get my tender eggplant in a crunchy crust just like hers, and do it by solar cooking, too. Well, slap my knees and just call me fritter-pated!  It worked! So good, I've submitted it to It's a Keeper Thursdays. Check it out and add your own!

I used my own tomato sauce and cheese recipes, along with farfalle, but you owe it to yourself to try out Jaz's recipe. I was focusing on a process and wasn't going to let lack of some ingredients stop me. Cook the pasta according to package directions or use my simple bring the water to a boil, add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then cover and remove from heat. In 15 minutes for thin or 20 minutes for dense, your pasta will be a perfect al dente. Use your favorite tomato pasta sauce and combine any three of your favorite cheeses. I used Colby, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack. The green dollop is Pesto Sauce from last year's basil harvest and frozen into little cubes for an ever-ready supply.

  • The Process: Preheat solar oven. Use pan with cooling rack to hold eggplant above pan bottom to have surround heat. Preheat SolarWear(R) Heating Bag to use beneath pan.
  • Sliced unpeeled eggplant into 1/2" slices, crosswise. Pulse one sleeve of saltines in processor and place in flat bowl. Place two beaten eggs in second flat bowl.
  • Dredge each eggplant slice, twice, in beaten eggs and then crumbs, for a nice coating.
  • Place on rack and bake in solar oven approximately 45-50 minutes. Use a fork to test for doneness. (Expect some resistance with the coating and then an easy slide into the eggplant.)

  • To Serve: Place a nice layer of drained pasta on plate.
  • Add eggplant slice. (I like to turn it over so that the grill indentations will catch more sauce.)
  • Spoon a layer of your favorite pasta sauce over eggplant.
  • Dab a little Pesto over tomato sauce.
  • Pour cheese sauce over top and add just a bit of Pesto for garni.
Enjoy your tender Solar Eggplant Parmigiana, with a crunchy crust.

Sunday, July 24

A Southern Kosher-Mexican-Indian Chili at Midtown

It was such a beautiful day at the Midtown Market! 99F degrees (index 111F), a constant breeze to keep me cool, and the live music was soft 70s with an island mix. Very easy to pretend I was at the beach. Many people come just as much for the morning music as they do for the vendors. If you're old enough to remember going to town on Saturday mornings to catch up with family and friends, you have a pretty good idea of what the North Hills Farmers Market is like.

But, of course, there was work to be done and food to get ready. Nothing cools you off faster than a hot chili. I don't pretend to understand the mechanics of the 'pepper in the belly so cooler on the outside' process. I just know it works. So, I decided to prepare some for my samples today. Now, here's the dilemma: I'm a Yankee gal who married a Southern boy. In case you didn't know, Southerners put meat on meat. What?!?! Oh, yeah. Hot dogs are served with a generous dollop of chili, cheese, and cole slaw. On the other hand, Yankees serve their hot dogs with ketchup, mustard, onions, and relish -- and, you can still SEE the hot dog! But, any other meat is served at a different meal. On the other, other, hand, NC is considered the South. On the other, other, other, hand, I wasn't there to serve hot dogs with all the accoutrements to a crowd of people -- just wanted to give samples of solar cooking. Sooooo, I came up with this Southern Kosher-Mexican-Indian Chili! And, my visitors loved it. And, not just the crowd, either. The BEES decided to stop by and check out my samples, too, so I had to take out the old cover.

Monday, July 18

Garden Produce Means Get to Work Canning, Preserving, & Dehydrating

Elephant Garlic, Buds, and Cloves
No, I haven't disappeared -- although, I know it feels like it. It's just that time of year when food calls for interaction and some things (er, ah, like, uh, blogging) is not number one on the list.  This is rotation-resting time for this year's garden, so I've supplemented my chard, tomatoes, banana peppers, onions, and beans with some help from the local Farmer's Market. This also gives me a chance to try new veggies grown locally and keep up with new methods. Cucumbers, squashes, eggplant, silver corn, and fresh garlic will give the garden a rest and stop the squash bug cycle. (Haha. Like that's going to work!)  Andrea Meyers has included my Granny Grumbles Soup Base/Dip recipe in her Grow Your Own Roundup, along with some fabulous recipes from around the world. They all look delicious and I know you'll want to try at least one, if not all of them.
But, this is what I've been doing for the past few days:
  • Prepared carrots, zucchini, onions, cauliflower, and cucumbers for sweet mixed pickles, Mixture is in ice water and I have to run out and get more pint jars! Aaargh.
  • Prepared and dried tarragon, Thai basil (new herb, to me), garlic buds, and stevia. (Garlic flower buds are so much  more intense in flavor but great in stews, so I like to have some on hand. A little goes a long way.)
  • Roasted tomato mixture for soup and sauce base: roma tomatoes, onions, banana peppers, sprinkling of above herbs, salt and pepper, olive oil.
  • Canned seven pints of roasted tomato mixture.
  • Prepared soup with extra roasted tomato mixture plus odd pieces of vegetables left after cutting even-sized pieces for dehydrator.
  • Prepared and dehydrated eight pints of delicious sweet cantaloupe and Japanese melon for snacking, later. (Okay. So, I tried some, but just to make sure it wasn't poisoned!.)
  • Working on a brand-new recipe for garlic, cheese, pastry, and...  will get back to you...
Thai Basil - Isn't it pretty?

[ This section added after first posting so you can see the pickles.] Didn't have time to run to the store, so decided to just use these quart jars. They don't last long, anyway. The mixed pickle jars contain cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, and onions. I like pickles in my sandwiches and hate those little circles, so these go from edge to edge of the bread and give me a taste in each bite. They also make lovely little platters for salsas on your plate, too!

So what have you been doing these past few days?

Saturday, July 9

Stuffed Shells a Hit at Midtown Market

Getting ready for Midtown Market had an added touch of tension, this week. Weather reports said that there would be heavy thundershowers throughout the weekend. Gulp! Coming up with something that will solar cook in that small window of cooking time is hard enough without worrying about a thundershower, too! From set-up at 7:00 a.m. until almost 9:15 a.m., we had ominous heavy clouds blocking the sun and I was sure the day was going to be a bust. But, with hope eternal in my heart, I put the stuffed shells in the solar oven and let whatever was going to happen, happen. Ta da, sunshine! Ta da, stuffed shells! Ta da, success! By 10:30 a.m., I was sharing samples with as many folks as I could and delighted when they came back for more.

Prep work was done, yesterday, so no-rain dancing was the biggest thing on the agenda! One comment was that my pasta shells were just right -- not too mushy nor too hard. The trick is to not cook them longer than 15 minutes in the salted water. I removed them with a spider strainer from the boiling water into the colander; then, ran them under cold water to stop further cooking.
Don't worry about separating the ones that have worked their way inside others, you can do this when it's time for stuffing. I fixed a whole box of the large pasta shells. 

Filling:  1-1/2 cups scrambled, cooked, lean hamburg
               10 oz. diced tomatoes, peeled, cored and seeded
               8 oz. chopped green chili peppers
               8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. Colby cheese, shredded
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  4 oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup sour cream
1-1/2 Tablespoons parsley leaves
2 teaspoons marjoram leaves
2 teaspoons oreganoa leaves
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients, except eggs and olive oil, and puree in food processor. Pour into mixing bowl, then stir in beaten eggs. Mixture will be very soft.

Lightly grease pan with olive oil. Fill each shell cavity with mixture, then place side by side in pan, filling to top.

            Cover and bake in preheated solar oven for approximately 1-1/2 hours.  Normally, I would serve these shells in either a Bolognese or Alfredo sauce; but, that just seemed too messy for folks to be walking around with and most were more than happy with the filled shell, by itself. They were cut in three's to fit the mini-cups.
  All in all, a lovely day at the Market 

Monday, July 4

A Solar Fourth Of July - Redux

Happy Fourth of July!

Enjoying the holiday with family and friends and thought I'd repost last year's holiday meal to remind you how easy it is to combine dishes in a solar oven to create some fabulous meals. I still hate the looks of that delicious succotash -- definitely needed that red plate! Enjoy the Fireworks!!

Solar American Meal for Fourth of July
This is a short post with mostly pix of a solar cooked Fourth of July American Meal.
Starting top right, cooked in the husks corn on the cob; lower right, tender-roasted country-style beef ribs in sauce; garden-fresh succotash; and hook-sinking potato salad (for you single gals). Eggs and potatoes were cooked in the solar oven, yesterday, because the potato salad is fantastic after a night in the refrigerator. When they were done, I popped in a Blueberry Pandowdy for today's dessert.
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