Eggplant and Barley Salad

Summer has been very hot in New Jersey this year. I don’t think it’s usually quite this hot, although I don’t know for certain as it’s only our second summer here. When the heat rivals summer in the Midwest, meals for us usually consist of whatever Alex has grilled that day, leftovers from when Alex grilled, pancakes (because I use an electric griddle), or BLTs, which are really cooling if you (perhaps heretically) microwave your bacon and don’t heat up your oven or a frying pan.

This Eggplant and Barley Salad from Smitten Kitchen is really very nice in the summer, once you get past the steps of roasting vegetables. I first made this salad a few years ago, and I really liked it. Alex doesn’t like eggplant, but he enjoys this salad. Roasting the eggplant makes it a little less eggplanty and more delicious. The barley is tender yet chewy, flavored with cumin and coriander. The grain is surprisingly good cold. I usually don’t like salads because dressing is too vinegary or assertive, but this salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, all of which I like. Tomatoes and roasted zucchini (and olives, if those are your thing) give the dish extra flavor. I love the balanced flavors in this dish.

This is a delicious, flavorful summer salad. It works great as a make-ahead vegetarian/vegan meal and is perfect as leftovers on a lot summer day. We had 4 dinner-sized servings plus some for a toddler, but it would yield more as a side dish.

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One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes

One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes is one of my favorite new dishes. I’ve made it several times already since I first tried it. It involves minimal prep – maybe about 10 minutes while you cut everything up and heat the pot. It’s easy enough to do with a toddler playing at your feet, or sitting on the counter watching you. It’s ready after 30 minutes of hands-off cooking. It smells amazing by the time it’s done, more amazing than you think anything with this few ingredients can be.

This will serve two and a toddler as a vegetarian meal, or more as a side dish.

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50: Chuck Roast with Chocolate and Rosemary

As I mentioned before, we went a little crazy at the Meat Sales Room and bought 10 pounds of meat. I made the leg of lamb, and today is the day that I make the chuck roast. Today is a gray, rainy day, perfect for something like a pot roast. I’m not normally too big a fan of pot roast (sorry, Mom), with the carrots and potatoes and onion. I make it now and then, and while it’s okay, I think I may a pretty boring pot roast. I generally turn the leftovers into soup because I want something a little more savory and exciting.

I gave Alex a choice between three recipes – “one with chocolate and rosemary, one that’s kind of Spanish with red wine, and one that’s French with white wine.” He chose the chocolate and rosemary, even after I told him that it takes some red wine as well.

Although this is a new recipe, I’m adapting this roast from the Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate and Rosemary, because I don’t know if I’ll ever make short ribs.  My roast is 3.5 pounds, so I decided that was more servings than the short ribs would be and that I therefore needed more of the sauce. So I increased the sauce ingredients by half:

Bacon for pancetta
Frozen onions (no shallots, and my remaining onions were no good)
~1/3 cup carrot and celery each
~5 cloves garlic
3 cups red wine
1 cup veggie broth (I made yesterday), 1 cup juice from tomatoes (I hate to let it go to waste), and 3 cups water plus 3 chicken bouillon cubes
~2.5 cups tomatoes (from a large can, drained)
3 tbsp parsley
some amount of ground thyme
1 giant bay leaf

The frozen onions made deglazing the pan with the wine a bit difficult, and increased the cooking time of the veggies. I don’t think this should be a problem since it simmers so long. I decided to trim some of the fat from the roast, so it’s in pieces of various sizes.

Right now it’s in the oven at 325F, because I believe that’s the best place to simmer/braise something, particularly with a gas stove. I don’t want to leave the gas stove on for that long if I can avoid it.

I have the perfect cookware to go from the stove to the oven. I inherited my great-grandma’s Club cookware because my family knew that I would use it well. I love it. It’s heavy aluminum (I’m pretty sure), and I love using it when I’m making something that will need deglazing. The only thing that keeps me from using it more often is that some of the pieces are missing handles, so you have to be sure to use pot-holders when stirring. I’m fearful of the day I burn my hand when I forget. I definitely need to use them more often.

Roast with Chocolate and Rosemary, pre-oven, in Great-Grandma’s club cookware

4pm – ETA for dinner: about 2 hours, I think…

I took the lid off of it after about an hour and left it in the oven for about another hour and a half. I removed the beef as the recipe instructed and brought the sauce to a boil on the stove.  I don’t think it thickened up as much as it should have, since I had 50% more liquid. I didn’t mind, and I added one square semi-sweet baking chocolate (which I estimated to be about 2 tablespoons worth), 3 tablespoons chocolate chips, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, and about a teaspoon of dried rosemary since I don’t have any fresh. I added the beef back to the liquid and simmered about 10 minutes, until the pasta and peas were done and we were ready to eat.

Braised Beef with Chocolate and Rosemary

Let me just say THIS WAS DELICIOUS. Incredibly good. I think I made something similar years ago, but it wasn’t this recipe and didn’t turn out that terribly impressive. Not so with this sauce. Obviously the sauce was still a little runny, and would have likely been better with something that could sop all that deliciousness up a little better. I had wanted to roast some potatoes but just didn’t feel like cutting them up today. The pasta was good with it, but I can imagine that some fresh noodles (or a maybe some rice) cooked in it would be fantastic.

The leftovers: I shredded the rest of the beef and put it back in the sauce, and added the rest of the bag of frozen peas I had used with the pasta. The sauce isn’t really a roast sauce, in my opinion – it’s the kind of sauce that belongs in a stew. I’m pretty sure that it will be delicious as leftovers later this week, perhaps with some biscuits or bread to go with it.