Monthly Archives: July 2012

Eggplant Pasta and CSA box round-up

I am totally in love with my CSA box. Every week, like magic, a whole new cornucopia appears just around the corner, with my name on it. It’s wonderful what beautiful and delicious things the earth can make, when people know how to do it.

Earth’s Bounty: Exhibit A

In the beginning, this were a little dicey. Dark, leafy greens are just not in my wheelhouse of cooking. I had a couple of successes. (This, in particular, was tasty), but mostly things just tasted resoundingly fine. Nothing special, nothing any better than I could do with the produce section of the grocery store.

Oh, there were lots of cucumbers, and I made this salad. And then I dreamt about it. Highly recommend.

As the summer has progressed, the box has gotten better and better. The kale and chard are gone, and they’ve been replaced by zucchini, beets, tomatoes and potatoes. Now these, I can work with. I made a potato and zucchini torte that was the bomb. It’s from Smitten Kitchen, so that wasn’t really in doubt. I made delicious roasted beets with balsamic vinegar. My husband even threw together some zucchini pancakes. YUM.

And today, I made some sautéed eggplant pasta. It’s a great way to both use an eggplant you might not be totally confident on what to do with, and put to use a tomato on its last legs. I used two cups of penne I had left over from something else, but you can scale it as needed.

Hello, delicious!

Go forth, and love your CSA box.

Simple Eggplant Pasta

Serves 2

2 cups cooked pasta

1 TBS olive oil

1 small eggplant, diced

2 plum tomatoes (can be in disparate stages of ripeness), diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp fresh herbs of your choice. (I used oregano. Basil and parsley would also be great!)

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Grated parmesan or mozzarella, for topping

Kosher salt to taste

Start by putting the diced eggplant in a colander in the sink and sprinkling a few good pinches of kosher salt over it. (I misread some instructions and coated it with a lot of salt, then rinsed the salt off and patted it dry. This made the whole thing too salty. Don’t do this.) Let sit for about an hour, while the eggplant drains. Alternatively, you can skip this, but the eggplant may be slightly bitter.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add eggplant and saute for about 10 minutes, until it starting to get a little golden color. If your tomatoes are at varying stages of ripeness, add the ripest tomato, along with the oregano, garlic, and red pepper flakes. If your tomatoes are at similar stages of ripeness, just pick one. Saute around for about 4 minutes, until the eggplant starts to fall apart. Add the pasta and the other tomato, and saute for just about 2-3 minutes, until the sauce adheres to the pasta. Add salt to taste.

Serve topped with grated mozzarella or parmesan. Rejoice in seasonal produce.

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Homemade Dish Soap

In which, believe it or not, the homemade dish soap happens.

So, last we met, the dish soap was deemed an economical alternative, and a vow was made to make it. If I can quote myself, “I shall make my own dish soap.” Well, it turns out that the definitiveness of that statement was a bit premature. First, I balked at the $11 shipping cost of the washing soda, because, $11. Then, the lovely Rosalyn offered to pick some up for me, but, being a scatter-brained person, I failed to get back to her before the store she recommended closed for renovations. Alas. Then, it seemed like it had been too long since I blogged. Then it seemed like it had really been too long since I blogged. I decided I was a failure. Then, something miraculous happened.

I decided I wasn’t a failure after all. I was just taking things at my own pace.

Then, I started studying for the bar exam. Then that was all I did for two months.

Then I took the bar exam! Hallelujah!

And now, here we are, and here is the long awaited dish soap.

Ta da!

It turns out that washing soda flees the store shelves whenever I go looking for it. Though I’ve heard it’s a fairly common item for stores to stock, I haven’t found it in my regular grocery stores. And, I was unwilling to pay the aforementioned shipping costs to get in online. So there was really only one thing to do: make my own.

As it turns out, washing soda is really easy to make. It is, who would have guessed, just cooked baking soda. The recipe I’m using called for 1 TBS washing soda. So, I did this:

1 TBS baking soda, please.

And then I did this:

Do your chemical reaction thing, heat.

I let it cook for a little over an hour. The internet disagrees about how long this process needs to take. I saw times ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours. I figured since I had such a wee amount, an hour and a quarter would be just fine.

The other nice thing about this method (the first nice thing being that I got washing soda out of the deal!), was that I can just use the bowl it’s in to make the dish soap. Watch me go!

Going too fast to focus!

Bubbles!

The recipe calls for a tablespoon of shaved bar soap. I had a little store-bought liquid soap in the bottom of my squeezy bottle, so I subbed that. Next time, shaved bar soap, here I come.

This took hardly any time at all to make. I would use a little less water next time, so that the whole batch would fit in the bottle.

And that’s how I overcame mostly self-made obstacles to make my own dish soap. Next up: actually purchasing those reusable produce bags!

Make Your Own Washing Soda

Heat oven to 400 °. Bake for an hour or so.

Homemade Dish Soap recipe over here!


Today’s One Thing

Do one thing every day that scares you. Eleanor Roosevelt

That Eleanor Roosevelt was quite a lady. I hardly ever take this advice. Most days, I do the things that I do most days, and very few of them scare me. True, some of them used to be scary.

Shaving my legs. Using the oven. Cooking without a recipe (ok, that one still sometimes is). Crossing the street. Navigating the city.

But now, I do all these things without a second thought.

I did something this week that scared me. I took the bar exam. The bar is one of those necessary evil things. If you want to be a lawyer, you can’t go around, you can’t go over, you have to go through. So, I went through it. Having conquered that particular large and scary obstacle (you know, fingers crossed), I started to ask myself: I wonder what else I can do.

That, my friends, is a powerful question. It turns out I have a lot of possible answers. I bet I can start blogging again, and keep up with it this time. I bet I can write a letter to a friend who moved away and tell her I’m thinking of her. I bet I can find an awesome bar at which to watch the Opening Ceremonies, maybe with some help from my darling husband. I bet I can take better care of myself and schedule the doctor’s appointment I’ve been meaning to schedule. And finally, for today:

I bet I can ride my bike almost 6 miles to meet a friend for coffee.

Six miles on your bike is not actually that far. For serious cyclists, I’m sure it’s barely a warm up. I am no serious cyclist. I have a bike that I sometimes use to get around town (when I can motivate myself to carry it down the stairs), but I rarely fo further than about a mile or ride longer than about 15 minutes. This ride would be almost an hour, and oh, did I mention it’s been crazy hot around here.

This scared me. My husband thought I was nuts. But, emboldened by my recent discovery that I can, in fact, take a two-day-long standardized test, I was determined to do it. So I left early this morning, before the heat was too bad, and rode my bike almost 6 miles to meet a friend for coffee. It was hard.

She brought her baby girl, who proceeded to climb all over us and eat blueberries with her tiny fist and be generally adorable. Tiny fists of blueberries make it all worth it.

I then did not bike home, but took my bike home on the metro. Hey, I’m overcoming things that are scary, but I don’t have to overcome everything all in one day.

I hope to keep up the blogging. I have missed it. Post coming soon on what else I’ve been up to!