spicy eggplant + tomato curry with lime-cilantro jasmine rice

This dish incorporates a staple summer vegetable with a tangy, hearty twist on a traditional curry.

Bonus: it's easy and takes just about 30 minutes before the final product is piping hot on your dinner table.

Over the past couple of months I have been working on a really cool project submitting recipes to a San Francisco + Boston based start-up called PlateJoy. I recently became part of the recipe development team! I create ideas for 4 recipes per round (snack/breakfast/lunch/dinner), then cook the food, submit the recipe, and voila! It's added to their collection. 

The start-up focuses on quick, healthy meals for someone with a busy schedule to prepare after work or over the weekend. My latest submission relies solely on "accidentally vegan" ingredients, meaning no dairy substitutions or food advertised as "veganlicious" but still creating a filling meal with real stuff. 

So, this eggplant dish is part of my current series. I find that I eat totally accidentally vegan as easily as I can devour a huge plate of ribs. Sometimes it just happens that you want a full plate of cooked vegetables with hot sauce and some quinoa or beans or whatever (*cough* how my roommates eat 24/7). And if you're not vegan, sometimes it just happens that you eat an entire rack of ribs without an ounce of regret. It is summertime after all.

This is obviously a bit more planned, but the flavors come together so quickly that it can be the slam-dunk at your next dinner party or get together.

When shopping for eggplant at the market or farm stand look for ones that are heavy in weight with tight, unbruised skin -- always steer clear of eggplants with soft or wrinkled spots.

I always sprinkle salt all over the cut eggplant, allowing it to sit + perspire for 5-10 minutes dehydrating the flesh. This takes away any bitter flavors and quickens cooking time.

spicy tomato + eggplant curry with lime brown jasmine rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3-4 medium sized eggplants (any variety), sliced in quarters lengthwise + diced in 1/2 inch pieces

1 - 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp red curry paste

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1/2-1 tsp crushed red chili flakes

salt

for the rice:

1 cup dry brown jasmine rice*

1 tbsp rice vinegar

2 cups water

juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed

1/2 tsp salt

*You can really use any grain for this dish that you like or have in the pantry. E.g., white rice, basmati rice, cous cous, quinoa, etc.

Directions:

Dehydrate the eggplant by generously pouring salt all over the flesh of chopped pieces. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes then press liquid with paper towel trying to soak up the perspiration.

While the eggplant dehydrate, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil  in a large sauce pan or dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and lemongrass and cook for an additional 1 minute. Add the eggplant and continue to cook for 5 minutes until browned. Add the red curry paste and stir until evenly distributed among the vegetables. Cook for about 2 more minutes, then stir in the crushed tomatoes, rice vinegar, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until eggplant is softened to your liking.

Meanwhile, cook your rice according to the package and also add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar + a dash of salt. When the rice finished cooking, squeeze the lime juice + fluff with a fork. Serve with fresh cilantro.

Enjoy the curry over the rice! 

weekly wednesday - fourth of july in nevada

The Fourth of July certainly has a way of capturing feelings of joy, independence, and camaraderie each year as friends + family come together to celebrate all things American.

I love this holiday and all of the wonderful things that come with it like people, ice cold beer, barbecue (i.e., eating your weight in hot dogs), and sheer bliss. This year was a special year for me with new friends, in a new place, camping with hundreds of people brought together in a remote place surrounded by the desert in Nevada. It truly was a magical weekend.

I spent the weekend in Yerington, Nevada with my roommates, friends, and friends of friends from all over the place. I even met someone from Massachusetts! We all came together for Burning Girl: a tamed down spinoff of Burning Man with music, food, and art shared between everyone who drove down the 9-mile dirt road at less than 20 mph to have an unforgettable holiday weekend. (Thank goodness no flat tires ensued - it was a serious concern.)

A lazy river surrounded the property - home to a ranch, massage cabana, wine bar, saloon, and several campgrounds. We spent our days in the river floating down on tubes, BBQing in the wood stove, playing games, and sharing everything and anything with everyone. ("Cocksicles anyone?" - Camp Catnip's contribution, heavily boozed up popsicles)

Each night bands took stage to play all their songs and favorite hits while people danced for hours by the river under the stars. It really was such a blast and amazing time.

Standing in the wilderness with a spectacular view of the Milky Way I thought about how small we are in comparison to the world and all of the simultaneous experiences being had and shared under the same millions and millions of stars. 

I can't even begin to talk about all of the food that was consumed during this trip. From the essential road trip In N' Out to the hot dogs on the fire pit, s'mores to an immoderate amount of salt and vinegar chips... ya know, just all the camping essentials.

On our last night at the ranch we had a family style dinner with all the friends of Camp Catnip. We cooked sausages and mini hot dogs, made a huge vat of guacamole, a gigantic salad, and I whipped up a big batch of my favorite chickpea salad. I know, I have been all about the chickpeas lately. They are just so good.

A chickpea salad is the perfect addition to campfire hot dogs. The ingredients do not need to be iced, are easy to store, and just delicious together. 

Camping Chickpea Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 - 16 oz. cans of chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of 2-3 limes freshly squeezed

generous amount of salt + pepper

scant 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

dash of hot sauce (optional)

Directions:

In a medium sized bowl or container combine all ingredients and stir. Enjoy!

The Burning Girl

pan-fried salmon with summer squash, fennel salad + lime vinaigrette

This dish.

Copper River salmon is a big deal in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Seattle. People go nuts over it, and rightfully so - it is considered the richest, fattiest and therefore tastiest fish out there. This is because of the strenuous and long journey this particular fish endures from Copper River in Alaska to Cordova; the Copper River salmon becomes very strong with loads of body fat (the good kind) and natural oils making it soo delicious and sometimes expensive unless you happen to find a sale.

This type of salmon pairs well with something light, refreshing, summery. This salmon only comes around from May to June. 

This meal is definitely one of my favorites I've made. I am a huge fan of salmon and did not realize it until a few years ago. My mom has a strong dislike of fish and shellfish allergy, so it was a rare occasion either entered our kitchen growing up. Seriously, she's missing out.

pan-fried salmon with summer squash, fennel salad + lime vinaigrette

Serves 2 very hungry eaters, 4 petitely

Ingredients:

2 - 6 oz. filets of salmon, or 12 ounces (I used Copper River)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small summer squash, sliced thinly

1 small zucchini, sliced thinly

1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly

1 small handful baby arugula

for the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

Generously sprinkle salt and pepper on the flesh side of the salmon filets.

Using a mandolin, thinly slice the summer squash and fennel. Combine in a large bowl with handful of arugula. Prepare the vinaigrette: in a bowl or mason jar add all ingredients. With a whisk, stir until completely emulsified. Pour an appropriate amount over the salad. There will be some vinaigrette left over - store in the fridge in a mason jar or other covered, airtight container.

In a medium sized frying pan, heat + swish one tablespoon of evoo to evenly coat the pan. Turn heat to medium and add the filets of salmon, flesh side down first. Fry on each side, first for 5 minutes. Cover the pan. Flip, fry for an additional 4 minutes covered.*  Serve over salad and enjoy!

*Note: Every stove is different in terms of heat levels - you may need additional time to fry the salmon if you don't like a very pink fleshy center. 

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brown sugar, thyme + red plum galette

It's plum season!

I would be lying if I told you that this galette lasted more than an hour out of the oven.

On Saturday morning, my roommate and I walked down to the Ferry Building farmer's market to poke around and hit up the fish market for some salmon for a dinner I was preparing. We were fully aware that the marked would be jam packed with people from all over, and then we spotted some nude performers in the park across from the Ferry Building, kid you not! It is San Francisco.

The Ferry Building breeds chaos on a Saturday, but absolutely worth the trip if you are feeling patient and can handle the crowd. People are running around inside and out between the farm stands, the markets and shops. Samples are always handed out from olive oil + vinegar to truffle salt, chocolate almond brittle to fancy California cheeses. There's ice cream, and oysters, Blue bottle coffee and gourmet empanadas. It kind of reminds me of Pike Place Market - sans fish throwing.

I picked up some incredible king salmon filets (recipe soon to follow!), flowers for the apartment, and these gorgeous Santa Rosa red plums. The idea of a galette came immediately to mind when I brainstormed the perfect way to showcase these stone fruits.

These plums are so juicy and vibrant alone, and then when cooked burst in your mouth with immense flavors. The thyme and brown sugar really intensify the sweetness of the fruit without overdoing it.

brown sugar, thyme + red plum galette

Ingredients:

1 pastry dough recipe

2 cups thinly sliced red plums

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp thyme leaves

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

sugar for dusting

Directions:

Prepare the pastry shell according to the link above. After refrigerating, roll out while still in plastic wrap on wax paper until 1/8" thick. Remove the plastic wrap. (Note: I always transfer the rolled out pastry shell with its wax paper underneath onto a baking sheet before adding the fruit.) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium sized bowl combine the plum slices, brown sugar, and thyme. Set aside to macerate for 10 minutes. Add the plum mixture to the center of the pastry shell in one single layer, leaving about 1 to 2 inches of the dough to pull in to the center. Fold the edges over one another moving along the edges.

With a pastry or silicone brush, evenly spread a thin layer of heavy whipping cream. Dust with sugar. Place in the center of the oven for 35 minutes, half way through rotate the pan. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack and continue to cool for 15 to 20 minutes (or longer). Slice into triangles and enjoy!

chili-lime roasted chickpeas

I seriously can't stop snacking on these. 

I have made these three times since Sunday. I ate them plain. Shared them with my roommates (they were equally as loved by them). I put them on an arugula + quinoa salad. They are so good and way too easy not to make. Seriously. Less than 15 minutes. 

They sell crunchy chickpea chip things at the grocery store now, but these aren't like that. They are not crunchy at all and a lot easier to chew (in my opinion). Roasting the chickpeas warms and browns them, and allows the garbanzo bean to soak up the olive oil and lime juice.

Note: There is always room for more lime juice. 

chili-lime roasted chickpeas

Serves 2 hungry snackers, or up to 4 snackers

Ingredients:

2 - 16 oz. cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (depending on your preference)

freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime, scant 2 tbsp

lime zest (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine the chickpeas, olive oil, lime juice, and spices. Mix until well coated.

Place the chickpeas in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, add some lime juice if you'd like, and enjoy!