TND – Exactly as Complicated as Necessary

September 7, 2011

I’ll cop to the fact that I frequently make my life more complicated than is strictly necessary. Case in point, I’m making a quilt from old t-shirts. The easy way to do this is to cut out 14”x14” squares from each t-shirt, iron it onto fusible interfacing, sew them together and attach a backing fabric and hey presto, you’re done. Is this what I’m doing? Not even close.

I don’t particularly like fusible interfacing – particularly not for a t-shirt quilt where it will just make the jersey stiff which seems to me to defeat the purpose of making a quilt out of something soft and comfy. Instead, I’m stabilizing the t-shirt fabric by tacking it to plain cotton. I’m also not just cutting out 14”x14” squares from the t-shirts, I’m cutting out 7”x7” or 10”x10” or 10”x7” blocks – whichever highlights the pattern/slogan on the t-shirt best – and then making them up to 14” square with smaller pieces cut from the backs of other t-shirts to create mini patterned quilt blocks. Then I’m going to frame them out with patterned cotton and sew it all together into a larger quilt, add a layer of batting, a backing and then lock all the layers together with ties or buttons (still to be decided). Granted a lot of this extra work is simply because I enjoy making quilts, and I like having something to do with my hands while I watch TV and the more complicated it is the more time I have before I need to find another project. Also, the last two quilts I’ve made have been 90-100 pieces/16” square, so making 4-5 piece/14” square blocks is very relaxing. Plus, being able to knock out one to two a night makes me feel all kinds of accomplished.

Another case in point, I have a menu I’m fiddling with for a future dinner that involves an America’s Test Kitchen recipe for beef enchiladas. The recipe make 12 enchiladas, which I’m guessing will serve about six people. Rather than just doubling the recipe to serve Dinner, I found a recipe for a vegetarian enchilada with a tomatillo-pepita sauce so that I can make two pans of enchiladas with different fillings and different sauces, plus whatever vegetable I can dream up to serve with it (the vegetable is my sticking point at the moment, I haven’t come up with one that I think melds well into the menu yet). Is this twice as complicated as it needs to be? Yup. Is this going to stop me? Probably not.

That being said, while there are many weeks when I will cheerfully spend 2 ½ hours in the kitchen on Monday night doing prep for Dinner, there are also weeks when Monday is Labor Day and I’ve carefully taken care of all my usual weekend things on Sunday, and all I really want to do with my day off is lie around and watch the end of Season 2 of the Vampire Diaries. This was a week a lot more like the latter than the former.

This is a dinner that required next to no advance preparation. On Sunday afternoon I spent maybe 30 minutes trimming the pork chops and whisking together the glaze for the eggplant. Monday I ignored it all. Tuesday I lugged home ten ears of corn and about four pounds of tomatoes, and actually had the table set and everything sliced and/or roasting away by the time people started showing up for Dinner. Sometimes I do actually succeed in making my life easier instead of more complicated.

Pork Chops
Eggplant with Ginger Honey Glaze
Corn on the Cob

Pork Chops

Recipe previously given: In which I fail at birthdays, but am graciously forgiven

Eggplant with Ginger Honey Glaze
(serves 6-8)

This glaze may become my new secret weapon. I suspect that no matter what you put it on, it will make that thing instantly more exciting and appealing. It’s sweet and spicy with a citrus kick. I envision it enlivening broccoli, green beans, asparagus (not that asparagus really needs help), brussels sprouts . . . I think pretty much any vegetable that will stand up to roasting or grilling to create a caramelized exterior would be good if then subsequently doused in this sauce. It would probably also be good on roasted squash or sweet potatoes, or drizzled across the top of a pork tenderloin, or chicken breast, or piece of steak. Really, I think the only thing it wouldn’t be good on is maybe pasta (and even then, if you used soba noodles and added some sautéed bok choi . . . . )

Ginger Honey Glaze
1 ½ Tbsp ginger, grated
6 Tbsp honey
1 ½ tsp chili flakes
1 ½ Tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 ½ Tbsp vegetable oil
Zest of ½ a lemon

Combine all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture over a low heat – you’re looking for it just to be bubbling at the edges, but not boiling.

6 medium eggplants (I used 3 grapefruit sized Sicilian eggplants, and 5 small Asian eggplants)
Garam Masala*
Garlic Powder
(mild) Vinegar (I used a Mandarin Orange Vinegar, but any fruit vinegar would work – or orange juice cut with a little white wine vinegar)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375-400.

Cut the eggplant into equal pieces – I cut the Asian eggplants into ½-¾” thick rounds and the Sicilian eggplants into eighths lengthwise and then crosswise into ½-¾” thick slices (they shrink as they roast)

Season generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, garam masala. Drizzle with a few splashes of vinegar (about 1 Tbsp total) and enough olive oil to lubricate everything but not so much that it’s greasy (about 3-4 Tbsp total). Toss to coat evenly.

Turn the eggplant out on to two baking sheets making sure that the pieces lie in a single layer, one cut side down on the sheet.

Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning once, or until eggplant is tender and both sides are caramelized.

Scoop the eggplant onto a serving dish and toss generously with the warm glaze (if you do this on the serving dish rather than the baking sheets it makes cleaning up the baking sheets much easier).

* If you don’t have any you can either make your own from one of the approximately 2 million recipes out there, or you can just use some cinnamon and cumin with a pinch of nutmeg and cloves.


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