Tag Archives: eggplant

Cocina Abierta new vegetarian menu in Condado

12 Sep

I’ve told you about Cocina Abierta… a super cool restaurant owned by a former neighbor of mine, Martin Louzao. Martin is an awesome chef, one with a former vegetarian girlfriend. I would like to think that based on her insistence or my insistence on her asking if several of their dishes were truly vegetarian, that he decided to create a Vegetarian Menu in his new location in Condado.

Cocina Abierta is not a vegetarían restaurant… we still have a great opportunity for Vegetarian Fine Dining in Puerto Rico. But Martin has certainly captured my attention developing new dishes and adapting several true and tried favorites to create a vegetarian tasting menu fit for celebrations, to take vegetarian friends when they travel to Puerto Rico and when you want to enjoy truly good cooking overall.

If you ignore the smells of grilled steaks coming from the kitchen… you will find Cocina Abierta has a great ambiance and atmosphere. Their menu is divided into ACTS, like a play, but we only ordered from the Vegetarian side concert. I took my friend Andrew, who was visiting Puerto Rico for work. Aside from the Yoga Center cooking, he had not had the chance to experience fine dining in Puerto Rico.

We ordered:

Baby Arugula Salad with Almond-Stuffed Dates and Caramelized Onions

Cocina Abierta - Vegetarian Menu Salad

Eggplant Mignon over a bed of Curried Couscous

Eggplant Vegetarian Dish

Ricotta Gnocchi with Blue Cheese and Arugula

Cocina Abierta Vegetarian Menu

Gelatos – Salted Caramel and Strawberry Flavors

Cocina Abierta Vegetrian Menu

OMG!!!!   What an awesome experience we had!!! We shared everything because we wanted to taste as many things we could… I would have ordered another salad just for me… not because the serving was small, but because it was so delicious.

The Eggplant Mignon is something I would rarely order in a restaurant, yet I was very surprised to taste the flavors of India in a very refined manner, suitable for the Western taste buds. I am not too fond of Indian cooking and I enjoyed this very much…

The gnocchi are so rich and delicious… it was a good thing we shared. Because if not, I would have eaten the whole thing by myself and would have been counting the amount of calories for days.

The gelatos were spectacular, in particular the salted caramel one… with pieces of caramel inside. It was heaven on a plate. I may just go back and sit at their Dessert Bar just to have the salted caramel ice cream. Move over Mango Sorbet from Hagen Dasz, there’s a new frozen dessert in town!!!

I want to thank Martin and the whole Cocina Abierta team for a wonderful evening… our waitress Mari Carmen was a joy and made our dining experience all the better. When you have someone serving you who’s super excited about the food… it gets you excited too. We were very happy and Andrew even mentioned he might return again when his next business trip takes him back to San Juan.

I am glad I have an alternative to offer friends and people who ask on tour FB page – “Where can I eat in PR if I am vegetarian???” There’s no need to suffer or put your lifestyle aside if you’re traveling to Puerto Rico.

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

11 Nov

I will be honest… I learned this recipe from somewhere on the Internet. The thing is… I can’t remember where or who to give the credit to.

I made this recipe for the first time about 3 years ago when I was staying with my sister for the birth of my nephew, who turned 3 recently. I was craving eggplant… and I wanted an easy way to make it without frying it, which you all know is my favorite eggplant preparation. I did it at home in Puerto Rico and also at my sister’s after scoring a huge bag of eggplants at The Boys Farmer’s Market.

I vaguely remembered what I did the initial time I made it. So who knows, maybe I did came up with THIS version after all.

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Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

1 medium eggplant, find one as light as possible, peeled and diced
1 pint of grape tomatoes, divided, all cut in half
1 tbs of dried basil, I use freeze dried
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 ounces of goat cheese
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, optional
Brown Rice Fettuccini, I use Tinkyada brand
  1. In an oven-proof dish place all the diced eggplant pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss all to combine well.
  2. Add over the eggplant half of the grape tomatoes that you’ve cut in half already. Leave aside the rest of the tomatoes.
  3. Sprinkle the dried basil over the tomatoes. Add the goat cheese inc crumbles over the tomatoes. Drizzle a final stream of olive oil over everything and a last sprinkle of salt and pepper to make sure everything is well seasoned.

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4.  Place in a 375F oven for about 40 minutes. Turn off the oven.

5.  Boil water to make the pasta according to the package directions. I use Brown Rice pasta, but you can use your favorite brand/kind

6.  Drain the pasta, return to the pot and add the eggplant bake. Mix well to combine. Add Parmesan cheese, if using. Add the fresh tomatoes you set aside earlier. This adds an element of freshness that contrasts really nice with the creaminess of the baked eggplant.

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Serve with your favorite salad and baked plantains on the side…  This is so easy to make ahead and just re-heat when you’re boiling the pasta.  Easy dinner without a lot of tending to it.

The Shape of Foods Help our Organs?? – EGGPLANT, AVOCADOS and PEARS

16 May

This is part of a series on how our food can help certain organs that resemble their same shape. I already shared with you how the following foods benefit these organs:

Carrots – Eyes

Tomatoes – Heart

Grapes – Heart

Walnuts – Brain

Celery, Rhubarn, Bok Choy – Bones

Beans – Kidneys

Sweet Potatoes – Pancreas

Now, look at the Eggplant, Avocado and Pear… they’re all shaped like a WOMB. So according to this theory they’re good for feminine health, for the womb and cervix. To be honest, I searched and searched the internet to find data that supported this theory… I couldn’t find anything specific to womb or cervix.

However, I did find some interesting facts important to women’s health and issues over all:

  • According to some internet research, avocados are great for our sex drive because they contain high levels of folic acid to help metabolize proteins giving you an energy boost. They are also known to benefit a women’s libido due to the high potassium content. That potassium content also helps with fatigue, depression and poor digestion.
  • Avocados are a complete food, providing fat, protein and carbohydrate – every vegetarian’s dream! They contain healthy fats we could all do with in our diets. But the fat is GOOD fat; in the form of monosaturated. They contain good levels of vitamin B6 to help you fight stress and give you the energy to keep going.
  • Avocados are excellent for the skin. Research shows that substances in the pulp of avocados appear to trigger DNA to produce more embryonal collagen – the soluble kind we start our lives with, producing smooth and supple skins.

  • Pears are a good source of Vitamin C and copper, both are antioxidant nutrients that protect the body against free-radicals and aging. They’re also a good source of fiber to help regularity and lowers cholesterol levels. Fiber also binds to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon, preventing them from damaging colon cells. A study in postmenopausal women showed a 34% reduction in breast cancer risk for those consuming the most fruit fiber compared to those consuming the least.

  • Eggplants contain powerful antioxidants too. They help letting nutrients in and wastes out, especially in brain cells. They also help to relax blood vessels, improve blood flow and reduce cholesterol levels, particularly if taken in juice form. Even the National Diabetes Education Program, Mayo Clinic and American Diabetes Association recommend an eggplant based diet as a choice for management of type 2 diabetes.
  • Eggplant has been found to be especially useful in the treatment of colon cancer due to the high amount of fiber found within eggplant. But, the fiber found in eggplant has other uses–like helping people lose weight. Eggplant keeps dieters feeling full for a longer period of time and prevents from being as tempted to snack between meals.. Eggplants are filled with water and it’s important in the maintenance of healthy skin and hair.

Here are some recipes to help you increase your eggplant, avocado and pear intake:

Guacamole

Avocado and Tomato Sandwich

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Greens and Pear Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Eggplant Milanese

Babaga-hummus

Eggplant and Mushroom Sandwich

Pasta with Eggplant Puree

We came to show Eskimos how to make ice…

11 May

It’s incredible… how daring we are sometimes.

My friend Tania visited Paraguay for the first time about 6-7 years ago. During that first trip she learned from our Yoga friends over there how to make Eggplant Milanese using cornstarch and oatmeal as the breading. We all loved the fried eggplants when she first made them at the Yoga Center.

Flash forward to March 2012… here you have Yazmín and I making Eggplant Milanese in Paraguay. Not helping them make them… noooo, making them ourselves to treat everyone after our short retreat near Asunción.

How dare we come and cook something for them that they actually taught us how to make??? We are daring indeed…

Something I have learned over the years I’ve known how to make these Eggplant Milaneses:

  • No need to actually use a mandolin. They actually come out better when cut not as thin. After a nasty mandolin accident making these milaneses at home recently, I now cut them with a knife and they come out even better than with a mandolin even if they’re a tad uneven.
  • No need to marinate for a long time. Soy sauce is fine, but you can only marinate for about 30 minutes and you’ll be fine. A tad of sesame oil adds a nice twist too. And when they marinate less, your end up with a juicier fried eggplant.
  • Season the milk and the oatmeal very well before breading the eggplants. When the milk and the oatmeal are well-seasoned, it compensates for the short marinating time. Add generous amounts of powdered garlic, salt, paprika, pepper… your choices are endless.

I’ve been having cravings for these eggplants since I left Asunción. Time to run to the store and make some more…

Thanks Tania and the great cooks in Paraguay for their wonderful culinary inspiration always!!!!

Eggplant Tomato Rice Pastelón / Arroz Relleno

5 Mar Arroz Relleno

I have been meaning to make a recipe for a Rice Pastelón for quite some time… and then the other day, my mom and Mili surprised me with the news they’re making a rice pastelón and they want me to document it for the blog. Sweet!!!

When I was growing up, the mom of a very, very good friend of mine loved to cook rice pastelones, or Arroz Relleno as she would call it. At the time it was rice on the bottom, stewed chicken in the middle and rice on the top, covered of course with cheese. I have debated how I would adapt Lolita’s recipe to make it vegetarian and as reminiscent of that original arroz relleno as possible… that’s where I stayed in the idea/concept stage.

But Mili and Mami did one better… Picture this – imagine layers of rice with layers of eggplant and tomato and cheese in between. Genius, right?? Genius and DELICIOUS… you will make a large mold of this because you WANT to have leftovers. I guarantee it…

EGGPLANT TOMATO RICE PASTELON

3 cups of cooked brown rice
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, chopped large
½ cup of strained tomatoes or tomato sauce or marinara sauce
2 cups of shredded cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Garlic and Herb Seasoning
1 vegetable bouillon cube

First, you need to cook all the components…

  1. Cook your rice the usual way you know how to cook brown rice. I make it in a rice cooker seasoning it with a little bit of salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a vegetable bouillon cube. I try to smash the cube and mix it in water before turning it on so the water is flavored evenly. After the rice is made, set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, season the tomato slices with salt and garlic/herb seasoning mixture. Place slices side by side in a baking dish or tray. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the tomatoes. Roast in a 400F oven for about 25-20 minutes. The idea is to concentrate the flavors of the tomato. Take out of the oven and set aside.
  3. Also, season the eggplant slices with the same salt and garlic/herbs mixture. Place slices side by side in a baking dish or tray. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the eggplant slices. Roast in the same oven where the tomatoes are at 400F for about 25-20 minutes too. Take out of the oven and set aside.
  4. And while the tomatoes and eggplants are cooking and rice is finishing, sauté the onions in a large skillet. Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. The idea is to soften them by cooking them over medium heat for about 10 minutes, without browning them too much. Set aside.
  5. Take the strained tomatoes and season them with salt, pepper and garlic and herbs. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to add extra flavor. Set aside. If using marinara sauce, you don’t need to season it then.

Now that everything is basically cooked, we assemble the pastelón as if it were a lasagna…

  1. Using a 9 x 13 baking dish, place 1/3 of the rice at the bottom of the pan. Flatten as much as possible.
  2. Add a drizzle of the strained tomato sauce over the rice.
  3. Add a layer of eggplants and tomatoes using half of the quantity you have available, trying to cover the layer of rice.
  4. Add some onions on top of eggplant/tomato layer.
  5. Add a layer of shredded cheese over the onions.
  6. Repeat with a second layer of rice. Drizzle some tomato sauce. Another layer of eggplant/tomato. Another layer of onions. Another layer of cheese.
  7. Finish with a last layer of rice. Add any remaining ingredients you might still have. Don’t let anything go to waste. And top with plenty of shredded cheese.
  8. Bake in the oven covered for 20-25 minutes in a 350F oven for all the flavors to combine. Uncover for the last 10 minutes of cooking to brown the cheese on top.

Just like with lasagna, there are several steps to this pastelón, but none of them are particularly difficult. After it’s assembled all you need to do is bake to melt the cheeses inside and on top. A nice salad on the side and dinner is ready!!!

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