Of Eggplant, Zucchini, and Burittos

Having been able to devote some time to cooking this weekend and today, I decided to try out some new things. Each night offered its own challenges, though, and a much different approach to cooking.

Sunday night is “big meal” night here. Its developed into family tradition that I spend a lot of time in kitchen preparing a tasty and elaborate meal, often with a desert, that we can use to close out our weekend. This is usually followed by a rousing game of Boggle and some Uno, both of which She-Who-Hums does pretty well at for her age. TPE and I both look forward to these nights of good company and good food. I really hope She-Who-Hums looks back on those nights fondly when she is our age and carries the tradition on.

Anyway, I figured last night was as good as any to finally try eggplant with TPE. We had a very small one procured from the farmer’s market, allowing her to experiment without a ton of it sitting around. And it can take a while to cook, making the weekend a good time to try it. I opted for a eggplant, tomato, cucumber pita with a red pepper raita for two reasons. First, the recipe called for the eggplant to be battered and baked, meaning that she’d be getting something close to fried. Second, the flavors more generally are familiar to her. I was basically trying to make the experience go well. Since its a big night in the kitchen, I also tried out the zucchini fritters from the other night, but substituted feta for goat cheese.

The meal was a mixed bag for TPE. On the one hand, she grew from uneasy acceptance of the fritters to enjoying them (especially with some of the raita). On the other hand, she took one bite of the eggplant and gave me the potato look. ( You know, the POTATO! look.)  The pitas were flimsy therefore detracted from the experience, but it was a pretty nice end-of-summer kind of meal.  Refreshing pitas with nice Greek flavors, along with savory fritters stuffed with cheese.  Not bad, all in all.  She-Who-Hums even got in the act and at a bologna pita (don’t get me started…at least her vegetables weren’t pickles and olives for once).

Tonight was a different story.  We decided early on that we’d have a black bean burrito kind of thing, having been inspired by She-Who-Hums suggestion that we go to the “Mexican” restaurant.  (We would’ve gone, but she declined to pay.  He’s absolutely hoarding money in her room, so yeah…I would’ve let her pay.)  Surprisingly, there wasn’t one black bean burrito recipe in any of my trusted vegetarian cookbooks.  So I improvised.

I know what you’re thinking, “He thinks he’s so bad-ass, just throwing things together in the kitchen.  Mr. Kitchen Know-It-All!”  While I assure you my ego is alive and healthy, improvised cooking is outside of my comfort zone.  Sure, I can make do when ingredients of a recipe are gone or I need to adjust, but that’s not me making decisions.  I’m still basically following orders; and that’s easy.

Nevertheless, I pressed forward.  We decided that we wanted black beans, rice, and “lettuce…AND CHEESE?!” (the last part was TPE’s contribution).  The problem was that she also didn’t want anything that you would put in a burrito like, you know, Mexican-themed seasonings like cumin.  (She suggested using taco mix.  REALLY!)  Anyway, I busted out my copy of THE FLAVOR BIBLE to get some ideas.  Seeing nothing all that inspirational, I made the rice and seasoned it with oregano and other assorted herbs and then make a fajita-like mix of peppers, onions, fresh corn, black beans, and diced tomatoes.  I went with about a 1/2 tsp of chili power, salt, and pepper.  I added some stock to let those flavors seep in as well, especially as the tomato broke down.  The resulting dish was fun (we built them at the table), tasty, and very filling.

So, here are my questions:

  1. What are your family food traditions?
  2. And, do you follow directions or just through stuff in a pot that sounds good?

All for now, dear reader.

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  • Ellen Berg  On August 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Does pizza on Sundays count as a family food tradition?

    Seriously, most of our food traditions come during the holidays or at breakfast. Greg and I cook one good breakfast every weekend, either Saturday or Sunday, and read and listen to music together. Breakfast is either egg sandwich (which Greg is a master of) or some sort of pancake/French toast/waffle and fruit compote kind of a deal. Greg makes the flapjacks, and I make the compote out of whatever fruit we have on hand and fresh. Some maple syrup, a little oj, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves and you’ve got a tasty compote.

    In terms of using a recipe or winging it, I do both pretty equally. If I am using a recipe, I usually adapt it to our own taste, eliminating ingredients we don’t like and adding heat–most recipes don’t come close to having any kind of a kick to them, and we like it spicy! A lot of times, though, I just take ingredients I think will taste good together, use the cooking techniques I know, and test it out. Most of the time it works, but some of the time it’s less than wonderful. Never had to throw anything out yet, though.

    The rest of the time we’re eating stuff that requires as little preparation as possible. Tonight is veggie burgers (for Greg), corn, and salad (for me). If I were having a burger, it would be bison, because even with beans and an iron supplement, this gal gets big old bruises if she forgoes the animal protein completely.

    My favorite eggplant dish is Julia Child’s ratatouille; it’s surprisingly simple and completely delicious. Spoon it over brown rice, and you’ve got a damn fine meal.

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