Sunday, August 29, 2010


So much going on as the summer draws to a close! But I wanted to take a minute to thank just a few of the fine folks who've fed me - literally, inspirationally, even monetarily :) - in ways that have made this a great summer I will be sorry to see end.

First up, Cooking With Caitlin, whose Fried Green Tomato Burger with Remoulade at the top of this post last Tuesday was, sadly, my last opportunity to taste their food this summer. I've been eating Caitlin's inventive little burgers every Tuesday this summer when they've participated in Market on Fountain Square, including this awesome burger with asparagus slaw I blogged about here.
Tuesday Market on the Square continues through September, although last week, alas, was CWC's last outing at this season's market - my first jolt, other than all that back-to-school morning traffic, that summer has about run its course. Thanks, gals, for your big smiles and delicious food all summer long!
Next, for those of you who've been following the Culinary Smackdown cooking/blogging competitions I've participated in a few times now - Battle Lobster, Battle Picnic (which I won), and Battle Summertime Veggies (which I hosted) - a big thanks to Doggy Bloggy of ChezWhat? for his ongoing culinary inspiration, as well as doing a fine job hosting this month's Culinary Smackdown. Check out Doggy's wrap-up of the Battle Sandwich entries for some wide-ranging and delicious sandwich inspirations. I believe he drew in a record number of participants, including Anette of Krakilette, from Norway, who was this month's winner! Here are Anette's details for the September Culinary Smackdown: Battle Chocolate.
Dog upped the stakes for the August Smackdown by offering a $100 CSN Stores gift certificate. Imagine my surprise when the same day I learned I did NOT win one from him I also learned I DID WIN one for $60 from All Top Chef. If you're a Top Chef fan and don't already know about this blog, you'll find lots of newsy tidbits about chefs from all the seasons, plus terrific podcast interviews with each week's auf'd contestant by the fabulous Laura Kluvo, founder of Blogging Project Runway, which I discovered in its infancy and which inspired me into the blogosphere in the first place.You'll also find linkage to Top Chef recaps, including the hysterically funny ones from hard-working ATC team member, cartoonizer, and dialectician Minx Eats.
I also want to give a shout-out to Findlay Market and the team of stellar Cincinnati chefs (including Jean-Robert de Cavel, Julie Francis, Joanne Drilling, and Summer Genetti) who will be bringing their talents to bear at the Lunch on the Land benefit for Findlay Market September 19 at organically certified Turner Farm.
For more details, and a video from last year's fundraiser, click here.
Photo courtesy of J. Greg Henry of
Finally, if you're looking for corn recipes, you will find a spectacular array of them over at Sippity-Sup, who has just finished a week-long "Sweet on Corn" blogathon that includes:
Grilled Corn with Feta and Lime
and his final, knock-out installment, a savory Corn Brulee and Tomato Sorbet - hint, bacon is also involved! Go check these out. You will find gorgeous photos and outstanding dishes that just may convince you there's a whole 'nother world of things you can do with corn besides dousing it in butter.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this roasted corn shot I took myself. What are you eating as Labor Day approaches?

Monday, August 23, 2010


Yes, I know this is month's Smackdown is Battle: Sandwich, not Battle: Corn. But bear with me, friends, while I explain. You might recall that recently I received a thoughtful surprise package from my thoughtful and surprising sister.
It contained Iowa sweet corn!
I set about looking for new ways to use my sweet corn bounty and, inspired by a post from this month's Culinary Smackdown host and last month's winter, Christo aka DoggyBloggy at Chez What?, tried my hand at Mexican street corn.
I also tried oven-roasting corn for the first time. Husk on for about half an hour at 400 did the trick.
I mixed up some mayo with this chile lime salt and tossed in some roasted red pepper for good measure.
I doused an ear of corn in the sauce and added a squeeze of lime - which is key for this dish! Since I couldn't locate any cotija cheese, I rolled my coated corn ear in some feta, which has a similar crumbly consistency.
Yes, my first attempt was pretty goopy. But what good goop! I mixed leftover sauce with some corn off the cob, and it was heavenly.
My second attempt was a little more restrained, but I still couldn't get the deliciousness of these flavors out of my mind.
I realized the flavorful corn-lime-chile mayo would make an interesting sandwich condiment, and I set about building my Smackdown sandwich from there. Here's my trial run with chorizo atop Mexican street corn mayo on baguette.
My photo may not have turned out too well, but the sandwich sure tasted good.

Then it occurred to me shrimp would go exceptionally well with the Mexican street corn mayo. So here you have my entry for this month's Culinary Smackdown - Mexican street corn shrimp salad sandwich with cilantro, lime, and feta, and a mixed tomato salad on the side.
I'm looking forward to checking out everyone's Smackdown entries. Head on over to ChezWhat? to see DoggyBloggy's round-up of the entries tomorrow (I think). And may the best sandwich maker prevail!

ETA: Dog's round-up of the entries and announcement of the winner is now up here.What a terrific array of sandwiches - and what a huge turn-out! Great job by all the entrants, and a big thanks to DoggyBloggy aka Christo for being such a great Smackdown host!

Friday, August 20, 2010


Here in the Intuitive Eggplant Kitchen, I love dishes that take well to adaptation, especially when they inspire me to come up with tasty uses for my overzealous farmers market purchases - or to stretch what I have on hand.

Panzanella is just such a dish. Dating back to 14th century Italy, it originated as a peasant dish to breathe life back into stale bread. More recently it has spawned year-round adaptations - even a dessert or brunch twist or two. I love it when my creative juices are sparked by chefs, bloggers, and quirky home cooks like myself sharing their own innovations. You'll find a round-up of wide-ranging panzanella recipes later in this post. But let's start with the fresh summer version I made this week.

First you start with some bread. I had more than enough on hand in anticipation of upcoming Battle Sandwich.
In particular, I needed to use this lovely baguette from Jean-Paul's Paradiso, which started to do its authentic baguette thing and dry on me before I could make my way through my bonanza o' bread.
It was "panzanella perfect" when I broke it down like this.
For a classic Italian summer panzanella, you need tomatoes, and I had a superlatively juicy large red one that needed to be used, as well as sweet yellow pears at their ripe peak.
Although some panzanella recipes suggest hydrating your bread with a vinaigrette, I opted to add as much juice as possible from my overly ripe red tomato, holding off on the dressing until after I'd added more veggies to my bowl.

First, I added sliced raw okra. If you'll indulge me in a quick okra detour, I must confess that I've never purchased or attempted to cook with fresh okra before. But after eating fried okra from Andouille Restaurant's back-yard garden recently, I couldn't resist the chance to do something with okra myself when I found mounds of it at a farmers market. When you can find okra this fresh, there's no slime factor whatsoever (a perceived deterrent some of you commented on). I tasted a few slices to see how okra tastes raw, and sold myself on the idea of leaving it that way, without sidetracking myself with further research about how to prepare this lovely veg.
Next I added farmers-market-fresh cucumbers and some green onions I bought as an after-thought at the supermarket. Thinly sliced red onions, shallot, and/or garlic would be excellent substitutions or additions.
I drizzled my summertime salad with olive oil and added splashes of both sherry vinegar and balsamic, since at first I inadvertently picked up the balsamic when I thought I had the olive oil. Both vinegars marry well with the fresh veggies in this salad. I'm just glad I remembered to hold my index finger over the top of the bottle to slowly dribble out its contents - the better to catch my "mistake" and to keep from overdressing my dinner.
Fresh basil may be the classic summer panzanella herb, but thyme or rosemary work too. Go with what you have on hand. Trying to photograph in natural light on my porch before the sun got too low, I skipped the tedious process of stripping fresh thyme leaves from their stalks and just tossed in some dried thyme and a little salt and pepper. Darn, the days are getting shorter.

To finish my salad, I topped it with some roasted red pepper, parmesan, and kalamata olives.
Summer in a bowl! But you can also adapt this dish to highlight the flavors of fall, winter, or spring. On to my panzanella recipe round-up.

Ina Garten takes summer panzanella in a Greek direction with this recipe featuring feta, lemon, and olives. She also offers a grilled panzanella and goes with capers, bell peppers, and cucumbers here.

Alton Brown adds bacon for a BLT twist in this recipe.

For autumn, you could use butternut squash, cauliflower, and Asian pear as in this recipe. Or sweet potatoes and pumpkin seeds as in this one.

For a panzanella version of Thanksgiving dressing, you could try mushrooms, celery root, lentils, and turkey stock, as in this Bill Telepan recipe (on page 13, from Martha Stewart).

Smitten Kitchen makes a winter panzanella with butternut squash, sage, and brussels sprouts here. Or you could use beets, pancetta, and goat cheese as this blogger did, based on a Tyler Florence recipe. Blogger Sippity Sup takes things in a Nicoise direction with this winter panzanella of cranberry beans, white beans, green beans, and tuna.

For spring, try this winter panzanella from 101 Cookbooks featuring asparagus, peas, and spinach. Or this "late spring" version with patty pan squash, sugar snap peas, leeks, and pea shoots.

Taking panzanella in a sweeter direction, this Guy Fieri recipe includes strawberries, onions, tomatoes, and blue cheese. At first I thought that sounded like an odd mash-up of flavors, but then I remembered the classic Italian salad of berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries - take your pick), balsamic, basil, and blue cheese. If you've never tried it before, you should. You won't believe how well balsamic complements the berries.

And for a brunch version of panzanella, Michael Chiarello uses almonds, brown sugar, fresh lemon and orange juice, strawberries, blueberries, golden raisins, balsamic, and mint, with a vanilla yogurt topping.

So what panzanella adaptations do all these variations bring to mind for you? What about using panzanella to stuff tomatoes or portabello mushrooms? It occurs to me I could do a sausage panzanella based on that Alsatian salad of marinated sausage and gruyere I made for the Picnic Culinary Smackdown and added rye croutons to.
I'd love to hear your ideas. And don't forget that panzanella isn't just for summer. Because, darn it, the days are getting shorter and the season will be over before we know it.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I should subtitle this post "Oops, I did it again." Brought home a great haul of farmers market goodies this weekend, plus a plethora of bread in anticipation of Battle Sandwich for the August Culinary Smackdown: Battle Sandwich, hosted this month by DoggyBoggy at Chez What? Details here, plus he's offering a $100 gift certificate to this month's winner.
Thanks to all who commented on my last post featuring links to recipes for eggplant/aubergines and contributed to my growing list of recipes to try - especially my brand new international commenters! And a big thanks to my sister, who sent me Iowa sweet corn!
The tastiest new thing I made this weekend was Mexican street corn. I'm borrowing this pic from DoggyBloggy because I still haven't gotten through all  200+ photos I somehow managed to take this weekend..

More to come this week, including a possible round-up of corn recipe ideas. What are your favorite and different ideas for preparing in-season corn? I didn't think corn could get much better than fresh, simple, and straightforward until I finally tried this street corn version I keep reading about. But now I'm a convert.

Happy Monday to all!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Here at the Intuitive Eggplant kitchen, we aim to please. This post will be neither as celebrity-studded nor as fashion-filled as Big Shamu's close encounters of the Michelle Bernstein kind in answer to a question from Moi. But I recently received a plea from Grumpy Granny for recipes to use the abundance of eggplant ripening in her garden - preferably without tomatoes.

So I went through my bulging files of saved recipe links and shared them in the comments to Grumpy Granny's own post.
Then I thought to myself, GG may not be the only reader looking for new and different recipes to use - or use up - eggplant this season. So I offer you here links to some eggplant recipes I've collected over the years - both with and without tomatoes - in case you find yourself in a rut and in need of new inspiration. We've got Thai, Indian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Greek, Turkish, not just Italian (a rut I tend to fall into). We've got wraps, roulades, salads, grain-based dishes, and pizza. We've even got a recipe for eggplant pickles (I'm all about the pickles)!

I share these with you with a few caveats. 1) Sadly, I have not actually ever made any of these recipes myself. 2) If you try any of them, please come back (via comment or email) and let me know what you thought of them or how you tweaked them. 3) I believe a few people have stumbled upon my humble blog thinking it is solely focused on eggplant recipes - not so. Someday I may post about how I came to have this screen name. Until then, on to the recipes!

Best Eggplants Ever – That's the title the Food Network gave this Madhur Jaffrey recipe with a tomato-chickpea sauce with yogurt and Indian spices.

Grilled Eggplant with Garlic Sauce and Mint – Bobby Flay goes a little Asian with this one.

Grilled Eggplant Wraps with Lemon Aioli, Feta, and Mint – The title of this Sara Moulton recipe pretty much says it all.

Herbed Broiled Eggplant with Capers and Olives – The eggplant in this Batali recipe gets an interesting stuffing treatment.

Shlada De-al Bedenjan – The lemons and spices in this Moroccan salad intrigue me.

Grilled Eggplant and Goat Cheese Salad – Personally, I’m a sucker for anything with goat cheese and pine nuts.

Pasta Shells with Roasted Vegetables – The artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers in this one, plus balsamic, Dijon, and fresh herbs, piqued my interest and could probably be adapted any number of ways.

Nonna's Pickled Eggplant – Need I say more?!!!!

Stuffed Eggplant with Sun-Dried Tomatoes – From Courtney at Epi-Ventures, a local blogger who cooks in, dines out, is going to culinary school, is (or soon will be) working in the kitchen at one of my favorite restaurants, and unfailingly delivers beautifully written and photographed posts that inspire me.

Spicy Grilled Eggplant with Red Pepper and Parsley – From blogger Kaylin of Kaylin’s Kitchen – her post also includes links to a bunch more eggplant recipes!

And this up just today from Joanne at Eats Well With Others, a witty and culinarily fascinating blog I’ve recently discovered: Sultan's Delight or Hunkar Begendi or Turkish Beef Stew with Eggplant Puree.

Then there's the wealth of inspiration you can find at Smitten Kitchen, one of my go-to sources for veggie-based recipes that appeal to my personal taste. Deb’s blog also features great writing, photos, and search capability, and she credits and links back to the original sources she adapts from. Here are a few of her eggplant offerings.

Lebanese Stuffed Eggplant – Another interesting middle eastern dish.

Or if you're an intuitive cook who gets your inspiration from great photos (but infrequent recipe posts - lol), you can check out this kicked-up Eggplant Parmesan from DoggyBloggy at Chez What?
As last month's winner, DoggyBloggy is also hosting the August Culinary Smackdown: Battle Sandwich. The Smackdown is a friendly little cooking/blogging contest where the victor usually takes only bragging rights and the opportunity to post this badge on their blog.
But DoggyBloggy has upped the incentive this month by offering a $100 CSN gift certificate to this month's Smackdown winner!

So get your sandwich ideas together and throw in for this throwdown. Or send me your favorite corn recipes, because I received a delightfully unexpected package today.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


When the fine folks at Anna Ree's Andouille posted these photos on their Facebook page, announcing they were ready to serve up dishes at their restaurant featuring fresh veggies from their own garden out back, I couldn't wait to taste what they had in store.

My friend Cindie called Friday night to rave about the fried green tomatoes she'd just eaten there and to ask if I wanted to meet her there for a late lunch on Saturday. The answer to her question, in my mind, did not require a yes or no response. Cutting to the chase, I asked, "What time?"

My cooking and dining preferences don't tend toward fried food. And truth be told, my previous, limited experience with fried green tomatoes had not, shall we say, left me lusting after them. But these particular fried green tomatoes from Andouille were amazing (even if my photos were not).
Tomatoes with full-on, fresh-from-the-garden flavor and tenderness. Encased in a light crispy batter. Perfect with the spicy dipping sauce Cindie calls "Cajun ranch," although I didn't sense much "ranch" about it (it's hiding behind the more salsa-looking sauce in the above photo).

This was one of those "now I get it" moments. I will no longer be reluctant to try fried green tomatoes, although any fried green tomatoes in my future will have to measure up to a very high bar and announce their presence with authority.

But there were more fresh-from-their-own-garden delights on Andouille's specials board. And we wanted to try all of them. Here's the cucumber salad I insisted on ordering, and was glad I did.
As simple - and flavorful - as it gets this time of year, especially when you have homegrown ingredients. Cucumbers, onions, some remarkably tasty grape tomatoes from Andouille's out-back garden. They added a few Kalamata olives and marinated the whole she-bang in their house vinaigrette (less vinegary than how I typically do this dish at home). But the freshness of the veggies absolutely sang on this plate.

And then there was the okra - Andouille's has a huge crop growing out back. I had never, in my midwestern upbringing, tasted okra until I lived in NYC. I was introduced to it by the mother of the woman I shared my first Manhattan apartment with, a friend of a friend from college, from Meridian, Mississippi. Every time I think of okra, I hear in my head the sound of said roommate's overbearing Jewish/Southern mother finally arriving after a harrowing cab ride, describing her frustration in trying to communicate to the driver (whose first language was likely not English). Meridian mama kept trying to explain in her deeply southern accent: "I wanna go to Sevety-Naunth Street. Sevety-Naunth Street." But when she finally got to our apartment, she came bearing pickled okra, and I've been a fan ever since.

Here are the garden-fresh fried okra Cindie and I ate yesterday at Andouille. A burst of freshness, and nothing remotely slimy (which some people associate with okra). We ate 'em like popcorn.

Life doesn't get much better here in the Ohio River Valley than when the heat and humidity finally break, and you can actually enjoy some outdoor time. Cindie and I hung out on her deck overlooking the river, catching up last night.

And this morning, we took Cindie's dog, Oscar Doodle, to play in the river. Plenty o' barge traffic. Plenty o' good times.

Hope all is well in your world and that summer wherever you are is treating you well,