When I stopped by my favorite local fruit and veggie market this weekend, looking for some inexpensive inspiration, I found a Two Dollar Box with lots of potential!
It was the 4th of July weekend, and we had plans to grill great big delicious burgers … so I knew instantly what I was going to do with those two nice, ripe beefsteak tomatoes. From there, I had more plans on the grill involving that eggplant
Okay, I must confess: there’s more than one eggplant lying there on that cookie sheet, hacked in two, then slathered in some nice olive oil, a little kosher salt, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. And, yes, that other eggplant does look strangely suspicious. But, no, I don’t know anything about the recent disappearance of a certain purple veggie superhero.
Once I got my eggplant prepped, I dropped it on the grill beside our yummy burgers.
Okay, okay … I confess. Super Eggplant was killed in an unfortunate meat cleaver accident. It fell from the counter top as he was showing our two dogs his cape, and tragically sliced him completely in two. His last words were: “keep my legend alive” … and “bury me with garlic, so I can be with my one true love forever!”
In honor of that request, we made babaghanoush!
It didn’t take long for the eggplants to get a nice set of grill marks, and a wonderful golden brown in spots.
I flipped them over at this point. I was trying to not let them get scorched. Brown is awesome. Really kinda dark brown is still pretty good, especially if it’s a real dark caramel brown. But if it’s charcoaled … it’s ruined … so keep a close eye on those flame-ups.
Just for conversation sake, you can always roast your eggplant in the oven … but that outdoor grilled flavor will pay off if you can get it.
I let them grill on the other side for a couple of minutes, then pulled them off and finished them in a 350 degree oven, letting them roast till they looked like this:
To make my babaghanoush, I skinned the roasted eggplants and put the pulp in my food processor. To them, I added a head of roasted garlic and about a half cup of tahini (sesame seed paste), the juice of one lime, a heavy pinch of kosher salt, and a couple of grounds of fresh black pepper … then pureed the mixture in the food processor until it was light and creamy.
Traditional toppings for a plate of babaghanoush are either a healthy drizzle of olive oil or a few thin lines of pomegranate molasses, depending on if you like the more savory/neutral taste of the olive oil better than the sweet/tang of the pomegranate. Grenadine is almost the same thing as the pomegranate molasses, just a lit thinner, so you can use that instead if you have it on hand. The flavor just won’t be as intense. I’ve also seen babaghanoush served with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds or with ground sumac: not the poison kind, the Middle Eastern spice kind. However, you can top your babaghanoush with anything you like. I topped mine with a Middle Eastern salsa: a little cucumber, those two very ripe roma tomatoes from the $2.00 Box, and a bit of onion, all chopped and mixed with a bit of rice wine vinegar, dried dill, and ground sumac.
OOops! We ate it all before we realized we never took a picture!
Babaghanoush is generally served with some form of bread. Pita is the original, but experiment! I like mine on the same sorts of crispy bread rounds that you’d use to serve bruschetta, toasted and then rubbed with some raw garlic as well … before loading it down with enough garlic-rich eggplant and tahini spread to choke a vampire at fifty paces
Out of everything in my $2.00 Box, that left me a great big double handful of fairly decent sized cucumbers and two pitiful-looking carrots. There was only one thing to do with them.
I realized the other day that we’d eaten our last jar of Sugar-free Bread & Butter Pickles, so that’s what I decided to make! We love all of our sugar-free pickles and relishes, but Bread & Butter Pickles are a particular favorite … especially on hamburgers.
This is my basic recipe for this particular pickle:
- 6 large cucumbers, sliced
- 4 onions, sliced
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 pint white vinegar
- 3/4 cup Splenda measure-for-measure
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
I had almost three times that many cucumbers, give or take a few bad spots I had to cut around, so I tripled the recipe from there.My $2.00 Box cucumbers weren’t officially pickling cukes. They were what’s called slicing cucumbers. That means that–more than likely–they’re coated with food-grade wax. The wax is great if you’re a cucumber retailer. It makes your cucumbers look very green and shiny, all healthy and hydrated … whether they really are or not. The wax is not great, however, if you’re a pickle maker … so I took a brand-new scrubbing sponge, and used it to wash all of my cucumbers under very hot water, trying to get at least some of the wax off before I sliced them really thin. I added the salt, and then let them sit for about an hour.
Salting your potential pickles and then letting them rest are important steps in pickle-making. Salt and time combine to leach some of the water out of the cukes, which you then rinse and drain away. As the water leaves the cells of the cucumber slices, it leaves spaces behind that will then fill with pickle brine … so leaving that water in your pickles would make them watery and not nearly as strongly-flavored as you probably want.
I sliced my onions as the cukes rested, trying to also get them as thin as I could. Yes, I know I could use my food processor to do this, but I can slice that sort of thing almost as fast with a knife and a cutting board … as my food processor can, and my hands are easier and quicker to wash
I also sliced those two lone carrots, then mixed them in with my onions as well. They’ll give my pickles a nice splash of color.
I started my brine and spices boiling, and started packing jars.
By now, my cucumbers had given up a fair amount of water. There was nearly a cup total in the bottom of my stainless steel pan. To it, I added about six cups of cold water: not a huge amount, but enough to let me float the slices and slosh them about in order to rinse them and shake off any remaining loose salt. From there, I transferred the cucumber slices by hand, grabbing a double handful at a time and letting them drain over the bowl before transferring them in with the onions and carrots.
Why slosh just a little bit of water in the bowl and sort of rinse the cucumber slices … rather than put them in a colander and run them under the faucet, or some other more effective rinsing method? Easy: you want to take some of the salt over into the ‘ready to pack’ bowl with the partly-drained cukes. You just don’t want all of it.
I packed the pickles in pre-sterilized jars, cleaned the lip, added a two-part lid, and dropped them into a BWB for 15 minutes.
So let’s recap:
- one $2.00 box of mixed veggies
- one leftover vegetable super hero from a previous chapter: $0.80
- one 1/2 cup box of tahini out of my stash: $1.00
- a head of roasted garlic: $0.39
- approx. four pounds of Walla-Walla sweet onions $2.76
- approx. 2.5 cups of Splenda: $1.83
- 3 pints white vinegar: $1.50
- spices out of my huge stash: <$0.10
So that brings my grand total to $10.08 … and out of that ten and change, we got:
- all the yummy tomato slices we wanted for our burgers … twice!
- a wonderful plate of babaghanoush, that we enjoyed with some crusty bread.
- and, last but not least, thirteen pints of Sugar-free Bread & Butter Pickles!
Even if we just assigned a cost to the pickles, and just considered the burger trimmings and babaghanoush freebies … that’s $0.78/pint!
Can you tell I’m enjoying this?