Eggplant, Mozzarella and Saffron Rice Bake

Happy Fall!  What a great time of year.  The days are getting cooler and shorter, but not cold, and it’s still light when I leave work. This is DC’s weather sweet spot, the best time to live in this area. Thankfully tourist season is over, or they would probably never leave!

I am not sure why this dish jumped out at me from the latest Bon Appetit, but I am so glad it did.  It’s a warm, filling one pot meal, but the flavors are really exceptional. Slightly lansagna-esque, but with a twist.  This would be an excellent vegetarian main course, served with a simple side salad.  Even if you don’t like eggplant, I would recommend giving it a try! The directions are long, but it’s pretty easy to pull together.

Eggplant, Mozzarella and Saffron Rice Bake

from Bon Appetit

  • 2 tbsp plus 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large eggplants (about 3 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds ( I used a mandolin and it was super easy!)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups store-bought tomato sauce (such as marinara), divided
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups), divided
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan (4 ounces), divided
  • Chopped basil, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 425.

Using a mandolin, or a very sharp knife, slice eggplant into 1/8 in rounds.  This is slightly thinner than the original recipe. Divide eggplant between two baking sheets, overlapping slightly to fit. Drizzle 1 cup oil over; season with salt and pepper. Bake, turning eggplant and rotating sheets halfway through, until tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

While the eggplant roasts, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in saffron, then wine. Cook until wine reduces slightly, about 1 minute. Add broth; season with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice is very al dente and still crunchy, about 6 minutes; remove pan from heat.

Assemble the casserole in a 9×13 baking dish.  Here is the assembly order, from bottom to top:

  • 1 cup marinara
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/3 of the parmesan
  • ½ the eggplant rounds, overlapping so no sauce or cheese is visible
  • The entire rice mixture, spread evenly
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/3 of the parmesan
  • 1 cup marinara
  • ½ the eggplant rounds, overlapping so no sauce or cheese is visible
  • 1 cup marinara
  • The remaining 1/3 of the cheeses

Cover dish with foil and place on a baking sheet.  It might bubble over, so this will keep your oven clean!  Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Uncover dish and bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes longer. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to set before serving. Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve.


Super Simple Crockpot Pulled Pork

Don’t you hate it when you have four pounds of pork tenderloin in the fridge and you need to use it that day, but it’s raining and you don’t want to go to the grocery store?  Happens to all of us, right? Maybe it’s just me.

This is barely a recipe, more a method for making a very simple, slightly healthier version of pulled pork.  The crockpot does all the work, and using pork tenderloin keeps things much leaner than using a pork butt.  I know it’s not super authentic, but it was delicious and simple and I didn’t have to leave the house!

I served this as sandwiches with coleslaw, and also ate it plan…good both ways, and made for lots of leftovers.

Simple Crockpot Pulled Pork

  • 4 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 28oz bottle bbq sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)
  • 1 12oz bottle beer (whatever beer you have in the house)
  • 1 tsp each of smoked paprika and garlic powder

Place the onion in the bottom of the crockpot.  Add tenderloins.  Cover with bbq sauce and add spices.  Pour the beer over the whole thing.  Cover, and set the crockpot for 6 hours.  When time is up, you should be able to shred the pork easily with a pair of tongs. 


Tamale Pie

Not to sound too much like Garfield here, but I don’t like Mondays. I seem to always work late-ish, the Metro is always backed up (you dont SAY!), the gym is crowded and I am just generally bummed to have four more days until the weekend.  No matter how much I like to cook, on Monday nights it is a struggle to not just order pizza or eat cereal.   Unless I have something in the crockpot.

Oh how I love my crockpot…when I remember it exists. This recipe is based off something I saw over and over again on Pinterest.  I hope you are familiar with Pinterest, the biggest time-suck since peoples profiles on Facebook were public. Follow me! So, on Pinterest, I have seen many different versions of Tamale Pie.  Real tamales are delicious, but not exactly weeknight food, so I was intrigued.  I modified basic idea (cornbread crust, topped with a filling) into a BistroBess original by incorporated the crockpot, which makes this a 20 minute meal.  Perfect for a Monday night, and leftovers for the rest of the week!

Keeping Thanksgiving in mind, this would be a fantastic leftover turkey recipe!  Just saute all the filling/topping ingredients together with the leftover turkey instead of using the crockpot, and then make as directed.  Fabulous!

Tamale Pie

  • 4-5 chicken breasts
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (I used yellow)
  • 2 16 oz jars salsa
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 package Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 4oz can diced green chiles
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)

Put the chicken, onion, jalapeno, bell pepper, salsa and corn in the crockpot and cook at high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.  I did 10 hours, so it would be ready about the time I get home from work…do whatever works for your schedule.  When it is cooked, take off the lid, and shred the chicken with two forks.  Check for seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed.  Leave in crockpot on warm.

Heat the oven to 400.  Mix the Jiffy mix with the egg, milk, chiles and 1/3 cup of cheese.   Pour into a Pam-ed casserole dish (I used an 11×7, 2.2 quart Pyrex) and bake for about 15 minutes, until set.

Liberally pierce the surface of the cornbread with a fork, and then top with the chicken mixture.  Sprinkle the top with chopped cilantro and the remainder of the cheese.  Bake until the cheese is melted and heated all the way through, about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm!

Pork and Green Chile Stew

Hello to everyone who found BistroBess in the past few days!  Being “Freshly Pressed” certainly upped my readership and the pressure is on!  Please keep checking in, I really appreciate it the support.  But enough with that, on to the food!

I seem drawn to big bowls of comfort food these days, and this stew is no different.  After a very successful trip to Wegman’s last weekend (crowded but fabulous…why isn’t there a Wegmans in Arlington?), I found myself with 4 pork tenderloins, 2 per package.  I roasted off two of them earlier this week, and was trying to think of a creative use for the remaining tenderloins. 

Inspired by something on the Food Network about green chiles, I decided to try my hand at a green chile and pork stew.  I love the New Mexico/Tex Mex flavor of green chiles, and I knew something like this would be perfect for an afternoon of football watching with some friends.  I browsed a few recipes online, but didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I improvised. 

Lucky for me (and my friends), it turned out really well!  The stew was thick and hearty, good for my husband who doesn’t love thin soups.  It was spicy, but not overly so, with a great chile flavor, and the pork was wonderfully tender.  It may take a bit of time to simmer, but comes together quickly.  We served it with a dollop of sour cream and some tortillas, but I think it would be great over rice, or even as an enchilada filling. 

Pork and Green Chile Stew

a BistroBess original

  • 2 small pork tenderloins (from one standard grocery store package), cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 poblano peppers, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can green enchilada sauce
  • 2 4 oz cans diced, roasted green chiles
  • 1 15oz can hominy, drained
  • 2-4 cups chicken broth (this will depend on how thick you want the soup)
  • Olive oil
  • Flour for dredging
  • Salt and pepper

Coat the bottom of a dutch oven with olive oil over medium heat.  Place about 1 cup of flour into a bowl.  Salt and pepper the pieces of pork, then dredge in the flour a few at a time.  Remove the pork from the flour, shaking off the excess, and place into the dutch oven.  Brown on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch, until all pork has browned.   Remove from the dutch oven and set aside.

Add a little bit of olive oil to the dutch oven, if needed.  Add onion and poblano and cook for several minutes, until soft and translucent.  Add garlic, cook for 2 more minutes.  Pour in can of enchilada sauce and, using a wooden spoon, get all the brown bits by scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add the cans of chiles, hominy and the browned pork.  Stir to combine, and add some chicken stock, about 2 cups, to just cover the mixture.  

Cover, turn heat to low, and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for an hour or more.  I cooked mine for closer to two hours, and stirred every 20 minutes or so.  Add more chicken broth along the way to get the consistency you would like.* Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper.   Serve warm with tortillas, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, etc. 

*If you would like to use this for a taco or enchilada filling, I would suggest starting with 1 cup of broth and going from there.

Turkey Chili

My obsession with fall foods continues.  Is there a more fall-ish food than chili?  I doubt it.  Its warm and cozy, great for tailgating or game watching or just an easy dinner.  Added bonus? Freezes and reheats like a dream.

 I love stuff in my chili…meat, veggies, beans, tomatoes…which I know is not for everyone.  So, this is my hodge podge, kitchen sink turkey chili recipe. Omit that which you do not love, or add something you do.  Be warned, this recipe makes enough chili for an ARMY.  I would say 12 servings, at least. Feed a crowd, or enjoy the leftovers!

Turkey Chili

a BistroBess original

  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (I used yellow)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped (use one if you like less spice)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 12 oz bottle beer
  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans mild Rotel (tomato and chili mixture)
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 15 oz cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons masa (corn flour) dissolved in cold water (optional)
  • Sour  cream, shredded cheddar, chips or cornbread for serving

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onions and peppers, cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic, cook another minute or so.  Add chopped chipotle, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, cook for 2-3 minutes. 

Push the veggie spice mixture the edges of the pot to make a well.  Add the turkey.  Making the well allows the turkey to make contact with the bottom of the pot and brown.   Cook for about 5 minutes, until the turkey is about half way done, and then mix in with the veggies.   

Add the beer, crushed tomatoes, Rotel and about a cup of chicken broth. Allow to come to a boil, then turn the heat down, cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more chicken broth if needed.  The consistency is really a personal preference, depending on if you like a thick chili, or a slightly soupier version.

So, if you would like to add a bit of corn flavor goodness, and tighten up the liquid in the chili, stir in the masa/water mixture.  This acts much like a cornstarch slurry in Asian cooking, helping to thicken.  If you want to add the corn, do so now.  Allow to simmer for about 10 more minutes.

Check the chili for seasonings, add salt and pepper if needed. 

Serve the chili hot, with all the fixings! 


Shrimp Risotto

risottoandbasilNo matter what you think your cooking skill level is, you can make risotto.  I promise!  It’s not hard, it just takes some specific ingredients (arborio rice) and some time (about 45 minutes without leaving the kitchen).  Also, contrary to popular belief, there is no cream in risotto.  I mean, it’s not health food…but its not AS bad for you as you might have though.  Hooray!

I made a shrimp and asparagus risotto, based on lots of recipes I found lots of places.  I marinated the shrimp via The Pioneer Woman and sort of free formed the risotto base and the asparagus.  Turned out pretty nice, if I do say so myself.  Next time, I will might leave the asparagus out, it does have a tendency to overpower the dish…I didn’t mind, simpler just might be better next time!

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto (serves about 4-5 people)

For the shrimp:

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

3 TB Worstechire sauce

1/2 stick butter

Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a small saute pan, and mix in Worstechire and garlic until melted and combine.  Pour mixture over shrimp and allow to set for about 30 minutes, then dust with salt and pepper.  Grill shrimp until opaque, and then chop some up, leaving several whole for plating.  Set aside for addition to the risotto!

For the asparagus:

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 TB olive oil

Salt and pepper

Coat asparagus in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast on a baking sheet at 450 for 5-8 minutes.  Remove from heat, and set aside for addition to the risotto!

For the risotto and the assembly:

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

3 to 4 cups chicken broth

1 cup white wine

2 large shallots, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 TB olive oil

1 TB of butter

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, to sprinkle at the end

Melt the oil and butter in a large pot (I used my dutch oven).  Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft.  Add in the rice, and stir to coat. Pour in the cup of white wine and stir until absorbed.  Then add the broth, one cup at a time, stirring after each addition until liquid is absorbed (when the rice is creamy looking but not wet looking, add the next cup!).  Continue until the rice is no long hard to the bite, should take between 3 and 4 cups and 30 minutes or so. Don’t leave unattended!  Once rice is done, stir in the chopped shrimp and asparagus pieces, as well as some salt and pepper,  to your taste.  Stir in a bit of parmesan, if desired. 

Serve with a couple of whole shrimps on top…delicious!


Spicy Chickpeas

Look at the well balanced meal on the plate you bought me, Mom!

Look at the well balanced meal on the plate you bought me, Mom!

I was wandering around World Market, as one does, looking for something, anything, to impulse buy.  I was thinking about what to make for dinner and had chickpeas on the brain (which makes no sense, I realize) and then it hit me.  On the cover of a small, paperback cookbook was the chickpea dish of my dreams.   I had found what I came in for…a cookbook called 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. 

I cannot vouch for the entirely of this book, since I have still only made the one recipe.  But, I have made it like 4 times and am totally in love.  It’s warm, filling, spicy, healthy and easy.  Seriously, seriously easy.  Would be a great side, or even a vegetarian main dish. 

*Major disclaimer – The dish is called Chickpeas with Dill.  I had no dill.  I had basil, so I used it and it was good.  That was really my only modification…unfortunately, it changes the title of the recipe!

Look at the deliciousness in the Le Creuset you bought me, Mom!

Look at the deliciousness in the Le Creuset you bought me, Mom!

Chickpea Curry with Fresh Dill (or Basil!)

  • 2 TB oil (olive or canola)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, fine diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1 tsp cayenne (ok, I used closer to a 1/2 tsp…it’s HOT)
  • 1 medium tomato, diced (about 1 c.)
  • 2 bunches finely chopped dill, or a large handful chopped basil
  • 1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 tsp salt

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat.  Add onion, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, turmeric coriander and cayenne and cook another 3-4 minutes until well combined and fragrant.  Add tomato and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in chickpeas, water, salt and herbs, lower heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  *Note – if you like a slightly mushier chickpea, add another 14/ to 1/2 c of water and cook a bit longer.*

Serve as a side with grilled fish or chicken, as a full meal over couscous with some Greek yogurt, or just eat it out of the pot with a fork and be happy.

Upclose loveliness...of both the chickpeas and my plates!  Again, thanks, Mom!

Upclose loveliness...of both the chickpeas and my plates! Again, thanks, Mom!