So, yes. The first made up (right? right?) thing that I want to share is an eggplant dish. Mike had his friend and her girlfriend over for dinner a few months ago, and I got all intimidated and decided to make 15 different things because I didn't know what they'd like. They liked this.
Eggplant with Goat Cheese
(maybe it's a rollatini, but I'm not really solid on the definition thereof so let's just keep it simple)
- Eggplant appropriate to the number of people you are feeding; 1 should do the trick if it's a big un
- A package of goat cheese, softened a bit
- Tamari soy sauce
Instructions (please interpret loosely):
- Slice up the eggplant into thin rounds.
- Put it on a baking sheet and bake it (I just do it at whatever temperature the oven is already at - anywhere between 350 and 425 has worked fine for me) until it is done. You know, until it's soft and has browned a bit but isn't yet charred to the point of being cancerous.
- Let cool down a bit. In the meantime, chop up the basil and add to the bowl of softened goat cheese.
- Throw in some soy sauce, maybe a glug or two to start, then mix all together until the consistency is malleable but not goopy.
- Taste to see if the mixture is pleasing. If not, you messed up somewhere along the way and should probably have another glass of wine.
- If it is delicious (as it should be), add a teaspoonful to each eggplant round, roll the eggplant up, and place seam-down onto a platter.
- Repeat until your eggplant-to-cheese ratio starts to get weird. At this point, I sometimes make towers with alternating eggplant and cheese levels to even the score a bit, or I may just use the eggplant to clean the bowl and shove it all in my mouth.
- Shut up, I'm the cook.
- Serve warm.
Another invented crowd pleaser is twice-baked squash, which can serve as either a side dish or a main course. It is freaking GOOD.
(Origin: Thanksgiving 2005, when simultaneously faced with a terrifying amount of butternut squash from Katie and Larry's farm and a new vegetarian roommate named Mike that I wanted to impress.)
A big old butternut squash
Onions or leeks
Cheese, grated (any hard cheese - cheddar, swiss, etc - according to your pleasure)
Kale or chard
Whatever other vegetable seems like it would be tasty to throw in the mix.
Oh, and add herbs as you desire - a little bit of rosemary or sage never hurt anybody.
- Cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds, place face down on a baking sheet and bake at 400 or so for 45 minutes (ish) until the sucker is done. If you need precision in your life, use a cookbook for this step.
- When squash has cooled, scoop out meat and place in a mixing bowl.
- Veggie prep a la Genevieve (i.e., do as you wish): brown the garlic, onions or leeks in a skillet with some olive oil. Steam, saute, or nuke the kale or chard, just to take down its volume before adding to the squash. If you're going to add bell peppers, carrots, or other veggies, you might want to get them at least partially cooked in your preferred manner first.
- Add garlic or onions and veggies.
- Add dairy to desired consistency. I usually throw in a few tablespoons of the yogurt, then more if it isn't moist enough. You want it damp but not wet. Word? Word.
- The cheese is also up to you, Cap'n. I like a cheesy gooey mess when all's said, so I do a decent-sized block of cheese.
- Mix it all up in the bowl, plop it back into the squash, and bake it until the top is browned, usually 30 minutes or so.
I really do not think you can go wrong with these, but my inability to follow a recipe has also led to an ok instinct for what will be gross and what will be tasty. But I believe in you, friend.
Below you can see the eggplant, just behind the pepper mill, and the squash to the right. Some spread we had, huh?