I’m a little apprehensive about this post. We’re getting into an area I’ve never done before – writing recipes! I tend to go into the kitchen with guns blazing, with no measurements and often no complete idea of what the dish will be until it’s close to done. That was tonight!
We’ll just write this in a stream-of-consciousness fashion and hope it works.
Tuesday, the kids and I dropped by the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market in Argenta (downtown North Little Rock). For some reason, I had never been. I’ll detail that trip later (local honey! watermelons! bliss!), other than to say my purchases included some beautiful squash and fairy tale eggplants.
I had never seen these cute little eggplants before, and really don’t even care for eggplant. But the young man from Hardin Farms was packing up to leave, and I just couldn’t allow them back on that truck.
What to do, what to do….
I pulled them out tonight, cut off the tops and halved them. Then I dipped each cut side (tops included) into a dish of kosher salt, and placed them cut side down on a drying rig (a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet). The salt draws out moisture and bitterness from veggies, and I wanted to do both.
One hour later, you can see the drippings on the sheet. Now, you can’t tell me that’s not a cool food trick.
I wiped off the salt and moisture, brushed on a one-to-one mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil and placed under a medium-high broiler for three minutes. (Mine is adjustable; if yours isn’t, no worries…check on it after one or two minutes.) Standard broiler procedure, until you’re really comfortable with a recipe: don’t walk away. And don’t add any more salt yet, or they’ll get soggy.
When they’re browned to your liking, take ’em out and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve quickly, before the salt draws out more moisture!
OK, the eggplant has been taken care of. My moral obligation to use up what beauties I purchased has been met, at least for tonight. On to the main course, which, of course, was prepared at the same time.
In case you didn’t know, bruschetta is basically toast and toppings, usually something cheesy and something tomato-y. But just about anything can be used for the topping. Hubby wanted meat.
I purchased a lovely loaf of Italian bread at my local Kroger for a measly $2 and sliced it into one inch slices. I brushed on some olive oil and placed them on a baking stone in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. (Again, times will vary…just watch and touch until they’re crunchy and slightly browned on the edges.) If you don’t have a stone, a baking sheet would be fine. After coming out of the oven, I sprinkled on some kosher salt, thyme and finely ground pepper.
Here’s the easy part: Open a can of diced tomatoes. If you’re really a purist and want to chop your own, by all means, do it. Rinse and drain in a strainer. Stir in some chopped basil. (You could REALLY cheat and use one of those cans with the Italian herbs already in!) Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. If you like, add minced garlic. Tomato topping done.
Next, my favorite cheap, fancy protein…flank steak. I purchased a nice one-pound specimen for about $5.
I hope at this point that you’ve read all the way through before cooking (gosh, is anyone really cooking from my blog?). This should be the FIRST step!
Put the flank in a gallon storage bag, along with equal amounts of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, about four tablespoons each. Throw in a crushed garlic clove or two (I realized I was out and had to use powder), about 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano, and two whole green onions, crushed a bit and torn into pieces. I left this on the kitchen counter to marinate for about 30 minutes, but you can put it in the fridge for longer, even overnight.
Get a grill pan (or regular grill) smokin’ hot over medium high heat, pull out the steak while removing as much marinade and chunkage as possible, and lay it on. Cook about 3 minutes each side, without moving the steak around.
Let the steak rest for at least 10 minutes, then move it to a cutting board. Cut thin strips against the grain. Mine was beautiful but still a bit rare in the middle for the kids, so I put the strips back in the pan for a minute. (I know, blasphemy!)
Now, assemblage. There are no rules. If you don’t care for tomatoes, skip it. Want some mozzarella? Add it. I piled on the ‘maters and laid a couple strips of beef across them. Serve the eggplants on the side.
Whew, I’m exhausted, how about you? I would just do take-out tomorrow, but I’ve GOT to use up those gorgeous yellow squash and bell peppers. I think it shall be ratatouille, in the style of Ratatouille, the movie. Morgan’s request.
And that means homemade tomato sauce. A great, much simpler recipe for tomorrow!