Pithy Pizza

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I still had an aubergine ripe and ready for use yesterday, and my pizza senses tingled (a rare occurrence), so I decided to have my friend over for my healthier twist on the college pizza dinner.

I didn’t have time to make a crust from scratch but I also didn’t want to buy some flatly flavoured, frozen, ready-made base. Instead, I went with the Mediterranean theme of the aubergine, and went out to buy some whole grain pitas which would substitute the base. To that, I added a small container of fresh olives, fresh basil leaves, and Parmesan. I had everything else at home.

I started preparing for the pizzas about 45 minutes before my friend was due to arrive. The first thing I had to do – what I learned from watching my babushka – was drain the aubergine of its bitter water. So I cut the whole thing in disks, placed in a colander and sprinkled with salt. I left this in the sink while I turned on the top burner of the oven and prepared the rest, quartering up a few handfuls of grape tomatoes and adding to plenty of chopped basil, mint, and garlic in a sieve. While the tomato toppings also drained in the sieve, I sliced a few green and black olives and did a check on the aubergine slices, turning them around in the colander.

After 25 or 30 minutes, I got some paper towel and began to pat the aubergine disks dry individually, making sure to get as much water out. Then I lay them out on a baking tin and put on a high rack in the oven. I turned them around once and took them out when they were beginning to get golden about 7 or 8 minutes later. By this time my friend had called to say he was close, so I hurried to assemble the pizzas.

I put 4 pitas down on a bigger baking tray, brushed them with olive oil, and layered the aubergine, cut in half-moon size, at the base, filled with tomato and herbs, and scattered with olives, and shredded the cheese over the top. With a final sprinkle of black pepper, I put the pizzas in the middle of the oven. My friend arrived just in time to see me put the pizzas in the oven, and about 15 minutes later…:

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This took me as much time to make as a delivery or pizza run would have taken, and was much healthier!

Plus I had one left which I happily devoured, cold out of the fridge, this morning after a night of heavy drinking – just like first year of undergrad, really…

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Cure the leftover blues

I still had my salmon fillet and some wild rice left over from yesterday’s dinner and no one around to feed it to and as much as I hate leftovers, I hate wasting food more. So I decided to make a leftover remix.

Going on my recent theme of stuffed vegetables, I decided I would stuff a long red pepper I had with a mix of the salmon, rice, and some other items (leftover courgette bobs, onion, garlic and spices all pan fried before adding to the rice mix). After baking the pepper in halves for about ten minutes, I scooped in the stuffing mixture and put back in the oven for another ten or so.

While that baked, I did some research and found out that almost every culture has a variation of stuffed peppers. Aside from the European or middle eastern varieties which I’m used to, Indian, Mexican, Scandinavian, Romanian, Balkan, Baltic, and Eastern European cuisines have their own versions of the dish. The difference is in the type of stuffing they use. In India, for instance, Bharvan Mirch, as they’re called, are stuffed with potatoes and onions and seasoned with chili, turmeric, coriander and other spices. This would result in a very different dish than, say, the rice- and herb- stuffed Greek dolma, or the ground beef, egg, rice, and cheese inside of American stuffed bell peppers.

One thing that seemed similar to all the varieties was that they generally stuffed bell peppers, and did not use fish on the inside. Well, mine ended up to be a little twist on that, but variation calls when leftovers beckon.

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The result: no hint this hid yesterday’s dinner. Mmm, mmm good.

How do you spice up your leftovers?

Hangover Cure

This may be a funny way to begin this blog, but I have to say that sometimes you just want to cross your arms and blink twice and have the food appear in front of your. This was one of those days. Weekend afternoon. I had gone out the night before so I was feeling the fatigue (aka, hangover) all day but I braved the cold and my degenerated body to run over to Sainsbury’s an hour before it closed and came out in a bit of a hunger-daze.

At home, I set the groceries on the counter and stared hungrily at the orange bags. “Why didn’t you get take out?,” A little voice in my gut moaned. My eyes went to the bread and can of tuna on my shelf. “So convenient… And accessible…,” it moaned again. Shut up, voice.

I wrestled with my purchases to decide what I could put together. “Save the sweet potato for tomorrow, you will pass out by the time it finishes cooking,” the voice squeaked. Truth. Okay, then, i grabbed the first item from the top of the bag. It was dill, so I began.

Another half hour later, I was taking a foiled fish (wild caught Alaskan red salmon, chopped dill, fresh chives, black pepper, and, for a twist, I added grated grapefruit and lemon zest) out of the oven to put atop a mountain of vegetables (courgettes, long red peppers, red onion, chestnut mushrooms, garlic, all chopped and pan-fried with virgin olive oil and spinach, fresh chives, black pepper, and a bit of rosemary, and few small pieces of Stilton cheese on top) and wild grain rice.

As I happily dug in to my very late and welcome dinner, I thought how glad I was that I didn’t go for the sandwich fix. My little culinary push awoke me from the post-booze haze, refreshed my body, and gave me something fun to do. Not bad for a hangover meal.

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(note: my first time using my iPad for the picture and it didn’t turn out the best, still learning. Better next time.)