“Best Ever” Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

20130206-171307.jpgI believe that roasting vegetables brings out the most intense flavor. Root veggies, squash varieties and tomatoes become sweeter; cauliflower and broccoli take on an almost creamy texture; peppers become smoky and tender. Thus, I had never imagined a way to make simply roasted carrots and parsnips, already sweet and tender, even better until I read Francis Lam’s recipe on Gilt Taste for the best ever roasted carrots.

What elevates roasted carrots from simple–possibly boring–side dish to best ever, a food that you would crave and maybe want to snack on like popcorn? The answer is so simple and genius it made my mouth literally drop open: parmesan cheese in frico form. I had to go home and make this dish immediately, and then again as a brunch side dish a couple days later. Amazing, decadent, delicious in 15-20 minutes!

Of course I made my own spin on it, adding the even sweeter parsnips and turning to my favorite and pantry-staple manchego instead of the parmesan and adding a pinch of cayenne for some extra heat. The result was delicious, a sweet, salty, spicy, nutty combination of flavors that set off fireworks in my brain like in Pixar’s Ratatouille when the mushroom and cheese combined over the smoke of the chimney. Yum! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Materials and Methods for “Best Ever” Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Materials

  • 1/4 c. manchego cheese, finely grated using a microplane
  • 3 carrots cut into equally sized rounds or chunks (keep rotating the carrot a quarter turn and cutting on a 45 degree angle)
  • 3 parsnips cut into equally sized rounds or chunks
  • 1 T. garlic oil
  • pinch cayenne (whatever that means to your palette, optional)

Methods

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Make three equal piles of cheese. Sprinkle one of the three piles on the bottom of an ungreased baking dish.20130206-171328.jpg
  3. Toss the carrots, parsnips, garlic oil and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Add one of the two remaining piles of cheese to the carrots and parsnips and toss to coat.
  4. Place the carrots and parsnips evenly over the cheese. The goal here is not to move the cheese layer on the bottom so actually use your fingers and place them one at a time.
  5. Sprinkle the last pile of cheese over the top of the carrots and parsnips to fill any gaps in the cheese layer.20130206-171335.jpg
  6. Stick in the oven and roast until the carrots and parsnips are tender and at their sweetest and the cheese is golden brown. 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes.
  7. Using a spatula, scrape the cheese and veggies off the pan and into your serving dish. Enjoy!

FODMAPs/Lactose-intolerance note: Any hard, aged cheese is actually devoid of any lactose so both manchego and parmesan are good choices if you have a cheese craving. This recipe is a lovely, FODMAPs friendly side dish!

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Posted in FODMAPs friendly, Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Sides, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eggplant “Steak” and Eggs

Saturday6Brunch is one of my favorite meals. On the weekends, there is nothing nicer than a mellow morning where you get up at a leisurely pace and make something decadent for breakfast. It is especially nice when you can leisurely get the day started with your Emergency-Medicine-Intern-Boyfriend who usually works on the weekends. At least with Emergency Medicine, there are a fair number of shifts that start late. That means that brunch becomes the only meal we can really have together. His dinner will be spent in the hospital cafeteria (don’t worry, I generally don’t make him eat cafeteria food at least!) and mine will be spent catching up on some reading.

eggplant steak and eggs

Yesterday, I announced I would make steak and eggs for breakfast. Roger’s face lit up. I then said, “Well, without the steak…” Roger’s response: sad face. I assured him he wouldn’t miss the meat.

When I make brunch, I like to include a hearty dose of veggies. I try to start the day out right, well on my way to 8-10 servings of fruits and veggies (more veggies than fruits). Traditional steak and eggs deviates from that desire so I decided to riff on the idea of steak and eggs but with veggies galore. Plus, in my opinion, no one needs 8-12 oz. of red meat to themselves, no matter how good it tastes.

So, what to substitute to make the meal amazing without the meat? Eggplant to the rescue.

Eggplant is such a delicious and meaty option and really goes well with eggs. To make it seem more steak-y, I made a dry rub that included smoke paprika and smoked chipotle powders along with Hawaiian sea salt and black pepper. I rubbed both sides of the eggplant steaks with garlic oil and then rubbed the spice mixture. The “steaks” were then grilled on medium-high heat using my Cuisinart Griddler. Meanwhile, I poached eggs using the magic microwave method. This was served alongside the most amazing roasted parsnips and carrots.

runny yolk

The eggplant flavor was smoky and salty with a bit of heat from the chipotle and pepper and some of the eggplant’s inherent sweetness deepened by the grilling process; the texture almost melted in your mouth. The fat in the runny yolk perfectly cut the salty and smoky spiciness of the dry rub. The sweetness from the roasted carrots and parsnips with their crunchy addition of parmesan complemented everything in a way that homefries or hash browns cannot achieve. Meat and potatoes, you have met your match!

Materials and Methods for Eggplant Steak and Eggs

Materials to make 2 servings

  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. smoked paprika
  • 1 t. smoked chipotle chile powder
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 2  3/4″ slices of eggplant cut lengthwise from the center of the eggplant (use the edges in some other recipe, I used mine to make a stir-fry the night before)
  • 1-2 T. garlic oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 t. white vinegar
  • 4 eggs

Methods

  1. Preheat your grill pan of medium high heat or Cuisinart Griddler to medium high.
  2. Mix together the salt, paprika, chipotle powder and black pepper to make the dry rub.
  3. Rub slices of eggplant with garlic oil. Sprinkle/rub the spice mixture on both sides of the eggplant. Use your judgement as to the amount. Any extra can be saved in an air-tight container for another day.
  4. Grill the eggplant for 8-10 minutes per side (or 10 minutes in the closed Griddler). If you are feeling fancy, you can execute the quarter turn to the eggplant steak to make the crosshatch grillmarks.
  5. Meanwhile, poach the eggs.
    1. Heat water to boiling in a kettle.
    2. Fill a microwave safe mug halfway with the boiling water. The size of your mug will determine the amount of water but you then add vinegar in a ratio of 1 cup water to 1/2 t. of white vinegar (the vinegar is important for keeping the egg whites around the yolk).
    3. Crack your egg gently into the water.
    4. The amount of time you microwave varies from oven to oven. I find that 30 seconds works in an 8 oz. mug (so it has about 4 oz. of boiling water and 1/4 t. of vinegar). The trick is to stop the microwave after 15-20 seconds and gently flip the egg over before finishing out the thirty seconds. That assures that the white is fully cooked and no portion of the yolk is cooked to hard. Use your judgment. If thirty seconds isn’t long enough, try adding 10 more seconds. Beware, if the yolk gets too hot it can explode so only add time in small increments past the thirty seconds. If egg looks nearly done, but not quite there, leave it in the hot water for a little more time, perhaps 10-15 seconds.
    5. Remove the egg from the water as soon as it is cooked to the ideal temperature and drain on a towel. Do this for all 4 eggs.
  6. Serve the eggs over the grilled eggplant. This is amazing with a simply dressed green salad but I served it today with manchego roasted parsnips and carrots. Toast is the ideal medium for sopping up any missed yolk. Enjoy!eggplant steak and eggs
Posted in Breakfast, FODMAPs friendly, Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Saturday's Brunch Ideas, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aww, Shucks! An Oyster Party

“It was a brave man who first ate an oyster.” -Jonathan Swift

We love oysters. They are briny and taste of the sea in the best of ways. Fresh, sweet, salty…they dazzle the senses. Add just a touch of tartness in the form of lemon or vinegar and you have something that touches every taste receptor in your mouth, that dances across your tongue with a myriad of different sensations. They are a joy to eat and we would like other people to relish in that joy in the same way.

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Oysters are one of our favorite things about New England. The bounty of Atlantic oysters and the seasons, particularly Autumn, are the best things New England has to offer. I’m not sure in what order. Our oceans abound with perfect conditions to farm oysters and, lucky for us, it’s not too difficult to get our hands on large numbers of them to have an oyster shucking party. 12 friends, 130 oysters, several good oyster knives, a good first aid kit, and beer, cava and sake–the perfect recipe for a fabulous night! There are a ton of good descriptions of how to shuck an oyster on the internet or in A Geography of Oysters by Rowan Jacobson so I won’t attempt to describe the best way. I will say, practice makes perfect and it certainly is a lot of messy fun!

20130127-170640.jpgThis was a party for the first year Emergency Medicine residents and friends at Rhode Island Hospital. Lucky for us, Rhode Island is a hot bed of good oyster activity. Our 130 oysters came mainly from Rhode Island and Massachusetts but we did get one delicious variety from Prince Edward Island as well. Here is our recipe for oyster success:

Oysters:

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We got 50 Walrus and Carpenter Oysters, farmed in nearby Ninigret Pond. These were sweet and plump with a deep cup; deliciously briny with a clean finish. We picked them up from owner and farmer Jules at his house in Providence and look forward to continuing to use him as a source of oysters in the future. It also feels great to support local entrepreneurs!

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The remaining oysters we got from American Mussel Harvesters as walk-ins to their wholesale business. If you just call a little ahead, they have the oysters all ready for you. From them we got 30 Quonset Points, 30 Wellfleets and 20 or so Raspberry Points. The Quonset Points are farmed in Narragansett and are sweet and plump with interesting orange shells. The Wellfleets are the intensely salty, delicious examples of the bounty of Cape Cod and were definitely some of the first Atlantic oysters I had ever tasted. They are sometimes difficult to shuck because they don’t all have deep cups but their texture and flavor made them a favorite of many of our partygoers. Lastly, the Raspberry Points, amazing, large creatures from P.E.I., Canada. Sweet, briny, perfection. Just amazing! We saved these for last and it was well worth the wait. I’m salivating just thinking of them.

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All of the oysters were delicious as is, without the need for lemon, horseradish or other accoutrements. Still, what is an oyster without a little lemon, a little tang to cut through the salt every now and then?

Oyster accompaniments:

Of course we had lemons and horseradish out for the oysters. But Roger and I also made some delicious sauces to accompany the oysters. Each was delicious in its own way, making oysters more accessible to the newbies and elevating the flavors of each oyster.

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Spicy tomato granita: This is my answer to cocktail sauce using ingredients classically used in a bloody mary. Roasting the tomatoes for an hour or so provides sweetness that is picked up in the oysters. Added bonus, ice crystals stay put on the oyster long enough for it to reach your mouth, no spilling of precious flavor!

Cucumber water: This was delicious and fresh. The cucumber gets at the sweeter, more delicate flavors while the ginger and jalapeño add the spicy sensation that activates endorphins even more than the act of eating oysters itself.

Lemon-Chive Mignonette: Traditional mignonette uses shallots, vinegar, and pepper. This version has a little more brightness from the lemon and all the floral aroma of the lemon zest, chives provide a herbaceous onion element (plus it’s FODMAPs-friendly). Yum!

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Drinks:

Cucumber and Lime Infused Sake: This drink is bright, crisp and refreshing, the perfect complement to sweeter oysters. The floral aroma of the sake complements the gentle freshness of the cucumber extremely well! It only takes a small amount of planning for the infusion needs at least two days but it is well worth the wait.

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Several Belgium-style or pale craft beers and sparkling wine. Plus of course sparkling water! Oysters are delicious accompanied by things with bubbles!

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Materials and Methods for Cucumber Lime Sake

Materials

  • 1 english cucumber, cut into wheels
  • 1 lime, cut into wheels
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 750 ml bottle of sake

Methods

  1. Muddle the cucumber, lime and sugar in the bottom of a large pitcher using the back of a long wooden spoon.
  2. Add the sake and infuse for 2 days in the fridge.
  3. Strain the cucumber and lime out (these won’t be as pretty any more).
  4. Before serving, add a few wheels of lime and cucumber to the pitcher. Serve chilled with lots of ice. Enjoy!
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Mignonette is traditionally made with vinegar and shallots. I find the citrus is more pleasing, especially with the addition of lemon zest, which truly makes the sauce and elevates this far more than a simple squeeze of lemon. This would be equally delicious with whatever your favorite citrus is and whatever you have on hand, from oranges and tangerines to meyer lemons.

Materials and Methods for Lemon Chive Mignonette

Materials

  • zest of two lemons
  • lemon juice from 2 1/2 lemons (2 is fine but I had a spare half)
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 2 T. chives, thinly sliced

Methods

  1. Mix all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Let chill and the flavors meld for at least one hour.
  2. To serve, drizzle sauce over oysters, it’s that simple. Enjoy!
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Materials and Methods for Cucumber Water

Materials

  • 1 large english cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar
  • 1 T. grated ginger

Methods

  1. Put all ingredients into a blender and puree until very smooth.
  2. Strain into a container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the flavors mellow. The sauce will seem spicy at first but will mellow to perfection.
  3. To serve, drizzle a little cucumber water onto freshly shucked oysters. If desired, top with cilantro or chives. Enjoy!
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Materials and Methods for Spicy Tomato Granita

Materials:

  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. vodka
  • 1/4 c. sherry vinegar
  • zest of a lemon
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 T. olive brine
  • 1/2 t. Cayenne pepper
  • Serve with oysters on the half shell

Methods:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cut tomatoes in half and place on a greased sheet pan cut side down. Roast for 1 hour. Let cool completely.
  2. Using a blender, puree remaining ingredients (except oysters) until very smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and put in a 9 X 13 X 2 in pan.
  3. Freeze. Every thirty minutes or so break up the granita using a fork until the granita is fully frozen. This can be stored in the freezer for up to two weeks.
  4. To serve, put a 1/4 t. or however much you prefer onto freshly shucked oysters and slurp them down! If you like extra spice, add some horseradish. If you are serving at a party buffet-style, it helps to chill the bowl and spoon in the freezer so that you have a little bit of a buffer before the melting begins.
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