September 23, 2015 End of Summer Eggplant Soup

DSC_4242aEven though the temperatures are still in the eighties, fall is rapidly approaching and  it’s time to say goodbye to our summer vegetables. What better way to use them now and enjoy them later than in an end of summer eggplant soup. Another good reason to have soup on hand was the stomach virus that Joe and I suffered through last week. Nothing tastes better when you are on the road to recovery is a nutritious soothing soup.

I am still picking eggplants, peppers and tomatoes, but not in the same quantities as a few weeks ago. The days are getting shorter and even though the days are warm, the nights are definitely cooler. After an afternoon pick yesterday I came back with quite a nice variety of eggplants, several peppers and a few tomatoes.   This is the type of recipe you could make differently every time, depending on what is still there for the picking. I wanted to make this as easy as possible so I decided to roast the vegetable first before combining them in a soup. Carrying over on the easy concept, I lined the baking trays with parchment to make clean up a snap. I cut the eggplants in half and lightly brushed the cut edge with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  On the second large baking sheet I added several tomatoes, peppers, an onion and some unpeeled garlic cloves, brushed everything with olive oil, and sprinkled on kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

I decided on a 375°F oven, the temperature we use when oven roasting vegetables. I checked the tray with the tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onion first, they were done in about 12-15 minutes, getting a nice toasty brown. The eggplants took a little longer, they are done when the skins start to collapse. Once cooled, it’s easy to separate the flesh from the skin. Squeeze the garlic from the skins and roughly chop the onion. I pureed the vegetables in the food processor in batches. Because some of my eggplants were seedy I put the puree through a food mill with a medium disc. Pour the finished puree into a stockpot. I added ground cumin, coriander, salt, freshly ground black pepper and a touch of cayenne. Add chicken or vegetable stock to thin out the consistency. Make some to enjoy now and freeze some for the cold winter months.


Late summer harvest of eggplants.
Late summer harvest of eggplants.


Place vegetables on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Place vegetables on a parchment lined baking sheet.


The skin easily peels off the peppers and tomatoes. Roughly chop the onion.
The skin easily peels off the peppers and tomatoes. Roughly chop the onion.
Eggplants are ready when they start to collapse. The flesh separates from the skins.
Eggplants are ready when they start to collapse. The flesh separates from the skins.


End of Summer Eggplant Soup
Serves: 6


  • 3 ½lb eggplant, any type, halved lengthwise
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers, or any combination, halved and cored
  • 3-4 tomatoes, halved and cored
  • 1 small onion peeled and halved
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly
  • ½t ground cumin
  • ½t ground coriander
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Basil leaves as garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line two large baking pans with parchment paper.  Brush cut side of eggplant with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange cut side down in one layer on baking sheet. On the second sheet,  arrange tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, and onions, cut side down, in a single layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake vegetables until eggplant and bell peppers have a slight char on their skins. Check at 15 minutes, as garlic may need to come out earlier so that it doesn’t burn. Let cool until ready to handle. Remove skins as much as possible.
  3. Working in batches, pulse vegetables in a food processor, you can either roughly chop or take them down to a puree. If necessary, put the mix through a food mill.  Transfer vegetables to a large stockpot and add broth and spices. Cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. Serve garnished with basil leaves



September 14, 2015 Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime

DSC_4200aThis is another bean salad from Jerusalem born, London based chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi, this time with a decidedly Asian twist. An assortment of fresh green and yellow beans are tossed in a dressing that includes two ingredients that would have seemed exotic and difficult to access ten years ago,  lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Our love for Thai cooking was the reason we started growing them many years ago but with increased demand they have gone mainstream and now are readily available to the home cook.

Lemongrass is a tall tropical grass native to South and Southeastern Asia.  Our lemongrass plant grows happily outdoors from June to late September forming a tall bushy plant, about 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide.  Since it is only hardy in zones 9-10, which translates to south Florida, Joe digs the plant out, cuts it back severely and it winters indoors. There it’s only predator is our Golden Retriever Cody, who likes to nibble on the leaves when he thinks no one is looking.  Lemongrasss has long sharp pale green leaves at the top and a brownish pink bulbous portion at the stem end. It has a mild citrus flavor with a floral aroma. If you don’t grow your own, the best lemongrass (and the cheapest too) is found in Asian markets. To use, cut off the woody tops with a chef’s knife and peel off the first tough layer of the bulb end. Now it is ready to slice into rounds or as in this recipe, grated with a microplane.

Our Kaffir lime trees are also summer visitors to the garden. The leaf of the kaffir lime tree has a sweet citrusy fragrance and is a key ingredient in Thai cooking. Kaffir lime leaves are not to be confused with the leaves from a standard lime tree. The leaf of the kaffir lime looks like a double spade.  It is thick and glossy on top with a matte underside and a tough spine in the middle. When using in recipes they can either be used whole, seasoning a soup or stew or chopped very finely, as in this salad. If you are chopping it up, remove the spine first. Fresh and dried leaves are available, only use fresh leaves in this salad.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Cook each type of bean you are using separately, the thin filet beans will only take about 2 minutes, larger beans take longer. I use a large chopstick to make sure all the beans are submerged in the water and I removed the beans as the batches were done with a Chinese strainer or spider as it is also known. This allows you to remove more beans with one scoop.  Transfer the cooked beans to a bowl filled with ice water. Cool, drain and pat dry so the beans will absorb more of the dressing.

Next, the shallot is cooked until tender and the aromatics, ginger, lemongrass, garlic and coriander, are added. Transfer the shallot mixture to a large bowl that will be large enough to toss the beans. I wasn’t quite sure why you would need to sauté the already roasted peanuts, but they pick up the residual flavor from the shallot mixture and take on a toasty fragrance. Kaffir lime leaves, lime zest and juice, sugar, salt and oil are whisked into the shallot mixture. The kaffir lime leaves must be fresh and must be sliced as thinly as possible in this salad. If you don’t have access to them, don’t let that stop you from making this recipe, just add a little more regular lime peel and juice. The final step is to add the beans, toasted peanuts and cilantro to the large bowl, toss the beans in the dressing and season everything again with salt and pepper. The final dish is garnished with chopped peanuts and more cilantro.


Lemongrass plant does very well in the garden in summer but will be brought in before the first frost.
Lemongrass plant does very well in the garden in summer but will be brought in before the first frost.
Cross section of a lemongrass stalk.
Cross section of a lemongrass stalk.
Kaffir lime tree with double spaded leaves.
Kaffir lime tree with double spaded leaves.


Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime

from Bon Appetit

Serves six


  • 2lb. assorted snap beans, green, wax, filet, Romano etc.
  • ½t kosher salt plus additional
  • 5T olive oil, divided
  • 1/3c finely chopped shallot
  • 1 1″ piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, finely grated on a Microplane
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • ½t ground coriander
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3c roasted salted peanuts
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, very finely chopped
  • 1t finely grated lime zest
  • 3T fresh lime juice
  • ¼t sugar
  • 1/3c packed cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving


  1. Working in batches by type, cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, 4-5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a strainer to a large bowl of ice water. Cool, drain and pat dry.
  2. Heat 1T oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook shallot, stirring occasionally under tender, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, lemongrass, garlic and coriander and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer  to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1T oil in same skillet over medium high. Cook peanuts, tossing often until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels; let cool, then coarsely chop. Set aside 1T peanut for final presentation.
  4. Whisk kaffir lime leaves, lime zest, lime juice, sugar, ½t salt and remaining 3T oil into shallot mixture. Add beans, remaining peanuts, and 1/3c cilantro and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with more cilantro and reserved peanuts.



September 1, 2015 Mixed Bean Salad

DSC_4130aString or snap beans are in season from mid summer to early autumn and we have had a steady stream of them since the middle of July. Joe grows both pole and bush varieties.  Pole bean plants fare best when they are given support to grow, like a trellis or a teepee while bush beans grow on their own without added support. The bush beans were the first to produce, followed by the later maturing pole beans and now the bush beans are producing again. The crop this year has been quite successful and at times, overwhelming. I froze quart bags of blanched beans for fall and winter days when I will miss being able to pick them fresh. I even pickled a few jars of the very slim and straight filet beans.

In the cooler months we serve them hot, simply seasoned with garlic and thyme, but in the summer I like to serve them along side grilled vegetables in a cold salad. My latest inspiration, Mixed Bean Salad  came from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook, Jerusalem. Jerusalem won the IACP cookbook of the year in 2013 and was the 2013 James Beard award winner for the best international cookbook. The recipes are very approachable, not too “cheffy” and introduces the reader to the vibrant multicultural cuisine of that city.

The “mixed” in the mixed bean salad refers to the combination of green and yellow beans paired with red pepper strips. Mr Ottolenghi likes yellow beans for their tenderness and the look they bring to the dish.  This is the best time of year to find them at the farmers markets and we have no shortage here. If you are making this and yellow bean are not available, substitute all green beans.

In his introduction to the recipe, Mr Ottolenghi states that string beans are symbolic of the Jewish New Year but he didn’t indicate how, so I did a little research of my own. Beans are mentioned in the Talmud as “ruviah” and are symbolic because their Hebrew name sounds like the Hebrew “to increase” and indicates a desire for increased blessings in the new year. Reminds me of the symbolism of foods associated with Chinese New Year.

Begin the recipe by blanching the beans until tender crisp. Look for beans that are relatively the same size in diameter so they will cook in the same amount of time. If you are not sure if the beans are ready, test one for doneness before draining the pot. Roast red pepper strips that have been tossed in olive oil until they are tender. They make a beautiful contrast to the green and yellow beans.  Next step are the aromatics, lightly toasted garlic, then capers that bring a salty element and their own unique texture. Rinse the capers well and dry them, careful when you add them to the oil, they will spit, so you might want to use a spatter screen. Cumin and coriander seeds are bloomed in the olive oil to best bring out their aromas and flavor.   Pour the warm dressing over the beans and pepper strips and toss. Green onions, herbs, lemon peel, salt and pepper are the next addition to the dish.

The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup chervil, not an easy or common ingredient for the home chef.  I have never seen it sold in the supermarket or even at our local farmers market for that matter.  We have an abundance of it that comes up from seed in the early spring and bolts as soon as the weather gets hot.  He suggests a substitute combination that everyone has access to, dill and parsley.

I will not mislead you, this is not a salad you can whip together in 15 minutes, but it is certainly worth making. Step one for me is a trip to the garden for beans, peppers and herbs.  It is very important for your ingredients to be “mis en place” ready to go so the warm dressing will thoroughly season the beans and peppers. I have had my cookbook only two weeks and I have made this salad twice and plan on making it again for a Labor Day picnic. I think that constitutes a winning recipe.



Dill in the garden.
Dill in the garden.


Mixed Bean Salad

From the Jerusalem Cookbook


  • 1¼ lbs. mixed green and yellow beans
  • 2 medium sweet red peppers, cut lengthwise into ¼ inch strips
  • 4T olive oil-1T for the peppers, 3T for the salad
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6T capers, drained, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1t cumin seed
  • 2t coriander seed
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 c each, roughly chopped tarragon, dill and shredded parsley.
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper



  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the beans to the pot and cook for 4-5 minutes, take a bean out at this point to check doneness. It should be cooked through but still be “toothsome”. When done, immediately drain in a colander and refresh the beans with very cold water. Drain well, pat them dry with a towel and place in a large bowl.
  3. Toss the pepper strips with a teaspoon of olive oil, then spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake for five minutes or until tender. Add pepper strips to the bowl of cooked beans.
  4. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds; add the capers (be on guard for spatters) and fry for 15 seconds. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and continue frying for another 15 seconds. The garlic slices should be golden by now. Remove pan from the heat and pour this over the bowl of beans and pepper strips. Toss and add the green onions, herbs, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. You may serve immediately or refrigerate up to one day. Just remember to bring the salad back to room temperature before serving.