redemption.

This weekend was jam-packed in Atlanta.  Despite the lucky ducks who were able to get away to the beach or the mountains for Labor Day, there were many celebrations taking place in-town.  From the Decatur Book Festival, to Dragon*Con, to a Whiskey and Beer Festival, to Atlanta Black Pride, to Braves games, to opening day college football, our local transportation system was flooded with folks who were all decked out, in fantastical costumes or in their team’s colors, having a good ole time.  And plenty of entertainment-seekers ventured out just to people watch.  I love that our city provides such a wide variety of opportunities for fun and games for “kids” of all sizes.

With that slew activities happening in our area and so many people vacationing, it’s understandable that the market was a little quiet this Sunday.  But, I kinda like it that way.  It was a peaceful, beautiful morning in Grant Park.

That butterfly almost landed on me on my way down to the market!

She’s a Gulf Fritillary.  I watched her flit about for a while, taking in her vibrant orange color and her lightness.

And look what else is orange!!!!  It’s pumpkin time!!  I can’t believe it, but it’s really happening.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah- it’s all going to come whipping right around the corner.  But, there are still tomatoes and a few watermelon reminding us to hang onto the last bits of summer time, thankfully.  Turnip greens and giant winter squashes

have come to stake their claim.

I told Nathan they should sell those guys with a machete or a pirate’s sword.  I don’t know if I have a knife big enough to handle one of those suckers!

This is the first kale of the new season.  Hooray!  It’s tender and delicious.  Hmm.  If I could have kale and tomatoes together year round, I’d be tickled pink.

White turnips and breakfast radishes are back in action, and I’m happy to utilize them in all manners of salads, soups, and slaws- especially with apples or pears.  Their slight bitterness and crunch helps them to play very well with others.

Peppers every shade of the rainbow are ripe for the pickin’.

I took some of those sweet peppers home with me.  Peppers and onions flavor the world, people, and it’s lovely to have the very freshest at our fingertips.

We wandered on down to H & F to snag some of their amazing bread too.

Their goodies are so wonderful.  We brought home the marble rye bread this time around, and it is outstanding!  I believe that the Spotted Trotter sells H & F baguettes at their store now too.  I’m such a fan.  Now you can grab the finest handcrafted meats,

along with cheese and bread on your way home or out to tailgate.  I’m excited to try their new chicken sausage this week.

I noticed that One Screw Loose has a new concoction too.  Orange Apparition- bet that’s awesome combined with tamari on grilled salmon.  I also bet my husband would opt for slathering it on a homemade biscuit with sausage for breakfast.

Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet’s beans caught my eye.  Love that yellow!  And they had a huge tub full of chestnuts.

I’ve never cooked with those, but apparently, they can be used in tons of recipes- soups, salads, breads, dips, rice dishes, fritters, and pancakes, just to name a few.  I’ve only thought of them roasting on an open fire.  Something new for me to explore!

After meandering about the market, it was time to get serious about this week’s Sunday Supper.  This is the final week that Jackson Lowe’s CSA community will receive eggplant, and I know that some folks are just plain eggplanted out.  I’ve been struggling a little bit with the eggplant myself, as I admitted last week.  So, Adam and I decided to give the eggplant its day in the sun at our house one last time this season and share it with you.

A staple in many cultures of cuisine, including Indian, Asian, African, and Mediterranean, eggplant is actually excellent for your brain, rich in antioxidants, and helps to lower cholesterol.  This week, we built a Mediterranean inspired dinner in honor of that purple oblong nightshade- and there wasn’t one ounce of mushiness on the plate.  I give you Yogurt and Herb Marinated Chicken Thighs with Stuffed Eggplant Rolls and Early Kale Salad.

First things first, we created our marinade.

2 lbs boneless chicken thighs

large container Greek yogurt, I think it’s about 2 Cups.

zest and juice of a lemon

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 heaping T paprika

1 heaping T coriander

2 sprigs basil, on the stems

small handful flat leaf parsley, on the stems

several sprigs oregano, on the stems

several good pinches salt (like you’re seasoning 4 breasts of chicken) and fresh cracked pepper

good glug of canola oil

 

I like to leave my herbs on the stems so they will be easy to remove before the chicken hits the grill.

Then, just use clean hands (or put on some gloves) and mix it all together.

Toss the chicken to coat it well.  Cover the dish and place it in the fridge for at least an hour, but up to overnight.

For the eggplant:

1 medium eggplant, top cut off

8 oz. Mascarpone cheese, softened

1 Cup feta cheese, crumbled

3 cloves garlic, pressed

zest of a lemon

5 – 7 basil leaves, chopped

small handful flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped

2 – 3 sprigs oregano leaves, chopped

pinch of red pepper flakes

couple pinches of salt and freshly ground pepper

1 jar sundried tomatoes, julienned or chopped (about 1/3 Cup) **Does not go into the cheese mixture.**

First, you need to thinly slice your eggplant using a mandolin or a knife.  Slice it long-ways, so you’ll have ample space for filling and rolling.

Then, lay your eggplant slices out on a sheet pan or on your counter on top of a towel.  Salt each piece and let it sit for 20 minutes to sweat.

Place all of the cheese stuffing ingredients into a bowl and stir/ smash to combine.

Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Yum!  It’s already so tasty!

After your twenty minutes have passed, go ahead and pat each piece of eggplant dry with a clean dish towel or with paper towels, and lay them on a plate.  Get ready to build and roll!

Simply smear a thin layer of cheesy-herby goodness all over each slice of eggplant and sprinkle on a few sundried tomatoes.  They are tangy and salty, s0 try not to over-do it!

Then, roll ’em up!  Start from the skinnier end and roll toward the wider end, and place them, seam side down, in a baking dish.

All that’s left to do is drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper.  I didn’t add more salt here, since we’d already salted the eggplant ahead of time.  They need to bake in a 400° oven for about 25 – 30 minutes.

Meanwhile…

we had started working on our kale salad with warm bacon vinaigrette.

For the salad:

1 head tender kale, rinsed, spun dry, and chopped

3 radishes, sliced into semi-circles

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained well

pinch of dried oregano, salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:

4 pieces thick cut bacon (You can totally get by with just 3, but my husband requested 4, because he loves bacon too.)

2 T apple cider vinegar

1/2 t whole grain mustard

1/2 t or so of honey- a little squeeze

1 clove garlic pressed

juice of half a lemon (a post photo decision, we added the lemon juice once our salad was tossed.  I felt like it needed a little bit more acidity.)

 

Such a pretty sight!  Just brown up that bacon in a pan over medium heat.  When it’s nice and crispy, remove it to a paper towel lined plate to drain.  Then, I actually turned off the heat and poured all of the grease out of the pan and into a measuring cup, because I only wanted 4 Tablespoons for the dressing.  You can reserve the extra bacon fat for another time.

So, back into the pan went 4 T of bacon fat.  To that, add the garlic, vinegar, honey, mustard, lemon juice, and black pepper.  Whisk it all together, letting the garlic heat through, and give it a taste, adjusting salt or honey to achieve balance.  It should be tangy and bacon-y and delish.

While your bacon is cooking, you can tend to the garbanzo beans.

Heat a medium skillet with a good drizzle of canola oil to medium heat.  Once your oil is hot, add your garbanzo beans, a pinch of dried oregano, and salt and pepper.  Let those chick peas cook for about 7 – 10 minutes, tossing occasionally as they brown.  Be careful- the beans like to dance in the hot oil.  Wear an apron and protect yourself.  Turn the heat down if they start getting too crazy in there.  And taste one along the way to see if you need to add more seasoning.

Once the garbanzos are golden brown, turn off your heat and spoon them into a brown paper bag.

Close up the bag and shake, shake, shake.  This is my mom’s trick, and it helps remove any excess oil.  Once that’s done, you can add the beans to your bowl of kale and radishes.

Then pour your warm bacon vinaigrette right over all of the salad ingredients and crumble your bacon over the top.

Use big spoons to toss the ingredients to coat them well.  The heat and the vinegar will begin to wilt the kale promptly, and it will continue to wilt over time.  Give your salad a taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Let it hang out on the counter while you grill your chicken.  That’s also a perfect time to put your eggplant in the oven to cook.

Yes, the chicken.  Take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook it, just to take the chill off.  And fire up your grill!  If you can, heat one side to medium and the other side to low.

As you remove the chicken from the marinade, pull off the herbs and slices of garlic as best you can, setting them aside to discard.  I find it’s an easy job if you do it with gloves on.  Grill your chicken on a well-oiled grill for 3 – 4 minutes on each side over the flames, just long enough to make nice grill marks and cast a little of that char on there.  Then, move chicken over to the cooler side of the grill and close the lid to finish.  Chicken is ready to come off the grill when it reaches 165° in the thickest part of each thigh.

Let the chicken rest for about 5 – 7 minutes before serving and pull eggplant rolls out of the oven.

Looks like we had some oozing during the cooking process, right?  Not to worry.

Those babies plated up beautifully.

Time to put it all together!

Mmm mm mmmm.  I loved this meal!  First and foremost, I must give props to the eggplant.  The texture was perfect and there wasn’t a hint of bitterness.  It acted like a lasagna noodle, really, cradling the inner ingredients and transporting them to my mouth with a gentle, slightly toasty, eggplant flare.  The combination of the feta and Mascarpone was a rich, salty, magical one, and the tang of the sundried tomatoes surprised me in a very happy way, mingling effortlessly with the Mediterranean herbs.  These rolls are simply a template for your pleasure.  You could switch up the cheeses inside easily- or add caramelized onions or arugula or mini-meatballs- or anything you like.  The methodology is solid.  Redemption has come for the eggplant.  And I will leave this season with good memories…

That yogurt marinated chicken is on my new favorites list.  I’ve been cooking it for many clients lately and it has been getting rave reviews.  It’s amazing how the yogurt really tenderizes the meat, and the herbs and lemon radiate, while the spices dial everything up a notch.  You could add ginger and curry powder (subtract the oregano) and turn that into the star of an Indian dish in a snap.  Or- go all lime, cilantro, and chilies on it!  The yogurt is just an awesome catalyst for flavor and a big promoter of juiciness.

Oh, early kale salad with bacon and radishes and toasty garbanzo beans, I love you.

I scarfed that bright, crunchy salad down like it was my job.  There was quite a harmonious balance of flavor between the slight bitterness of the kale and radishes, downplayed by the warmth and acidity of the vinaigrette, and the saltiness of the bacon.  Plus the combination of textures was intriguing too- the chew factor of the chick peas against the soft kale and the crisp bacon and radishes.  On Monday night, I opened the lid of the leftover salad and I couldn’t put the brakes on.  It was superbly awesome on day two.

Separately, each component of this dinner was scrumptious.  But together, it was such a pleasure to eat!  All of those Mediterranean herbs came through boldly, and with the lemon, truly tied the dish together.  The meal felt hearty and rich, but not heavy.  It never hurts to put bacon and cheese on my plate…I’m a sucker every time.

Well, friends.  It’s time to wind it on down.  I hope that this post finds you refreshed (and now hungry) after your Labor Day weekend.  Maybe you were one of the lucky ducks able to get away and recharge your batteries.  If so- hoooorrraaaayyy for you!  But even if you weren’t, I hope that you are feeling full of positive energy and inspiration.  I hope you are  enjoying all the little nuances of everyday life, including the bursts of joy that can come from a walk through the farmers market or spending a few hours in the kitchen with your honey, or all by yourself!  Challenge yourself to cook something new this week.  I dare you!  Here’s wishing you a most delicious and satisfying week.

Happy cooking and eating to you,

ashli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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