Roasted Eggplant, Chickpea, Goat Cheese and Wilted Spinach Salad

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Miss Fats has been doing a damn good job of getting out to show you all the tasty eats across Chicago.  However this has resulted in her feeling a bit like this:

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Miss Fats needed some veggie love to combat some of this ice cream bloat, but  does not believe in dainty salads.  So she turned (again) to the hearty winter salad.  This time she wanted some spicy Mediterranean flavors and tangy goat cheese action.  The result: a warm eggplant, chickpea and spinach salad.

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This combo of ingredients sounded excellent to MIss Fats, however she is also damn lazy when it comes to dishes and many components.  So she condensed this recipe to use only one bowl and two baking dishes (or really only one if you have a baking pan bigger than hers).  You’re going to see her make some strange moves, but bear with her.  It’s damn good and less work.

Roasted Eggplant

Roasted Eggplant, Chickpea, Goat Cheese and Wilted Spinach Salad:
inspired by Roasted Eggplant and Smoked Almond Salad
4-6 servings (depending on if you have it as a side or big salad meal)

2 large eggplants, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tbs olive oil + 1 tbs divided
1 tbs white vinegar
1 tsp paprika + 1/2 tsp divided
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 lemon
couple of pinches of hot red pepper flake (optional)
1 large bunch or bag of prewashed spinach
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
goat cheese
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lay the diced eggplant out onto your baking sheets and salt.  Allow to sit while you make the marinade.  Combine 2 tbs of oil, 1 tsp of paprika, garlic, vinegar, coriander and cumin in a large bowl.  Using a paper towel or dish towel, blot off any of the extra water beaded up on the eggplant.  Toss eggplant in the marinade and spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they’re not sticking.

2. In the same big bowl, throw in the chickpeas, remaining oil and paprika and a bit of salt and pepper (yeah, just let it hang out in that marinade residue).  Toss to coat.  Distribute into a single layer on a baking pan.  Once the eggplant has been roasting for 20 minutes or so, throw the chickpeas into the oven.

3.  Once you’ve hit that 40 minute mark and your eggplant is looking tender and slightly crispy, take the baking sheet out of the oven and just heap the raw spinach on top.  I know. It sounds weird and technically this spinach should be wilted on the stove or whatever.  But just do it: it’s fast, easy and allows the spinach to steam slightly in the spicy aromas of your roasting fest.  Stick your weird pan of eggplant and spinach back in the oven for about 10 minutes or until your spinach has essentially halved in sized (or more if you like your spinach more well done):

IMG_0121IMG_0126See so easy! No extra pans!

4. Remove chickpeas from the oven and squeeze the lemon over top.  Listen to that sizzle.

5.  Serve up by layering a big pile of your spinach, couple of scoops of eggplant and chickpeas.  Crumble that tasty goat cheese over top.  Drizzle with additional olive oil if you’d like.

chickpealemonThis salad has a lot of flavor and Miss Fats recommends just throwing down a heaping portion for a healthy lunch or stuffing all the components into a pita pocket with a little greek yogurt for a more substantial, sandwich version.

Salad2Enjoy your veggie break, readers.  Because Miss Fats will be back with more indulgent food attack.

galentines part 1: affordable fetes from miss fats

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image courtesy of Michelle Taylor

Happy Galentines everyone! Miss Fats is a HUGE supporter of this made-up holiday.  She doesn’t need any excuses to brunch or celebrate with girlfriends, but whatever, she’ll take it.  Since Miss Fats remains technically single this year (though obvi her better half of Miss Fats is her real valentine), Galentines is getting a double feature: february 13 AND 14.  So for all you out there looking to share galentines (or valentines) with friends, Miss Fats is sharing some ideas for budget entertaining.

This past weekend she hosted two little get togethers: a larger dinner celebration for a friend, and a valentines cookie decorating dinner party.  Since she’s in grad school, budgets are tight. However Miss Fats is obsessed with a deal.  And both of these parties were a steal.  (She hopes her excessive enthusiasm for thriftiness doesn’t cheapen the experiences for those readers out there who might have attended one of these shindigs!)  Now, none of this is Martha-style, but both parties are fun, casual ways of providing guests the opportunity to play with their food while you don’t have to do all the work.  Now put your hostess hats on and get the partay started (sorry, that just happened).

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Gyoza Making Party: 12 guests, 2 hours prep (3 including dessert)

Yeah, Miss Fats just wanted to give you a taste of just how epic gyoza party is.  We’re talking way too much food, satisfied guests and activities: all for about $30.  Yep. That’s right: $30. For 12 people. INCLUDING dessert.  For a party of this size it will require a bit of leg work, but this is easily scaled down depending on the number of guests.  Miss Fats is going to give you the run-down for the gyoza and sides, and for the dessert, you can head on over to Monday’s post.  So here’s how you do it:

Shopping List:

  • Round gyoza wrappers. This can be a little tricky to find, but for the most part, grocery stores (Whole Foods or fancier places) will carry them.  The ideal spot to find these, however, is an asian grocery store.  They’re dirt cheap (about $1.50) and can easily be frozen/hoarded. For 12 people, Miss Fats used 3 packages of about 40 wrappers. (FEAST)
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 package of firm tofu
  • 1.5 lbs of ground pork
  • 1 large ginger root
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • About 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbs sesame oil
  • Ingredients for Obachan Spinach (Miss Fats quadrupled this recipe)
  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • Any assortment of dipping sauces you’d like. (Miss Fats likes to keep it simple: she just mixes half white vinegar and soy for her gyoza dipping sauce).

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Prep:

Basically, get ready to spend at least an hour chopping. Miss Fats recommends turning on your favorite tunes and entering into a mental chop zone.  For lazy people out there, you can purchase things like shredded cabbage to make your live easier, though this will up the budget a bit.

Essentially all that needs to be done pre-guest arrival is chopping up and mixing together all the ingredients to make the filling.  This can even be done the day before (which Miss Fats almost prefers because it gives the yummy pork and tofu time to hang out in the flavorings).  For this past weekend’s party, Miss Fats opted to do both vegetarian and pork gyoza.  This means chopping everything up and simply dividing the ingredients between two giant mixing bowls.  Thinly chop the green onion and shred the cabbage (Miss Fats probably used about 4/5 of the large head of cabbage).  Grate in about 2 inches of fresh ginger into each bowl. Roughly chop the tofu (do not worry about this- it will look like crap) and throw all of it into one of mixing bowls).  In the other, dump in the pork.  Divide the soy, and sesame oil between the two bowls (this does not need to be exact by any means) and mix!

Filling

Store your filling in the fridge until guest arrival.  Meanwhile, make that Obachan Spinach, and about 30 minutes prior to guest arrival, begin the rice.

Spinach

Party Activities:

At your dining room table, set up your big bowls of filling, wrappers with small spoons to go around, a couple of trays or baking pans to put the gyoza on, and a few bowls of water.

Now it’s time to teach folks how to fill.  Miss Fats thinks that this blog did a much better job documenting the process, so she asks you to head over there for instructions.  While peeps are hard at work, you should set up a couple of nonstick frying pans and a steamer if you have one, on the stove. For a crowd this size, Miss Fats highly recommends as many cooking pans as possible.  It seriously speeds up the process.

To pan fry the gyoza, heat some canola or vegi oil to medium high in a nonstick pan.  Once the oil is hot, place the flat side down and allow to brown (about 1-2 minutes).  Pour about 2 tbs of water into the pan and immediately cover with a lid.  Reduce heat to medium and allow the gyoza to steam through (about 7 minutes for the pork, less for the tofu).  (Just break one of those bad boys open to make sure they’re all cooked.) Repeat this process until your giant trays of gyoza are all done! (This is exactly why Miss Fats recommends also using the steamer.  That shit has three levels and doesn’t need to be attended to. Plus then guests get even more food options.)

To serve these up, Miss Fats just sent them out on some large trays and allowed people to grab what they wanted, along with the big bowls of rice and spinach.  Now there’s a rule to this party that Miss Fats fully believes in upholding.  There can be NO LEFTOVERS.  You and your guests did all that work, and frankly, those gyoza aren’t that great the next day, so get your fat pants on and FINISH them.

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Cookie Decorating Party: 5 guests, 2 hours prep (plus 1 hour a day prior)

This delightful little holiday-themed get together was a fun way for Miss Fats to share her love of baking with her friends, while indulging in some much-needed child-like crafting and nostalgia.  This party was basically part two of last week’s card crafting sesh, and this time it was Miss Fats’ turn to host.  For dinner, she kept it light with a hearty winter salad of brown rice, baby spinach and roasted sweet potatoes.  This allowed for maximum cookie consumptions during decoration.  The budget for this party came to about $30, which when you compare to the gyoza party, is not as much of a deal.  However this could easily be subsidized by asking folks to bring along sprinkles and candies. (Sprinkles ate up this budget.)  Miss Fats also recommends spreading the prep over two days, because the sugar cookie dough or even the baked-off cookies can easily be stored over night.

Shopping List:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • About 2 tbs honey
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 2 lemons
  • Feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (for all recipes)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour (plus extra for rolling)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Any assortment of sprinkles
  • Ziplock bags

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Day Before: make cookie dough and bake cookies

The day before the party, Miss Fats recommends just banging out these easy cookies.  Her favorite recipe is an old-school dough from an ancient copy of Joy of Cooking.  She will share it with you below:

Sugar Cookie Cuouts

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour

1. Beat butter and shortening on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar, baking powder and a dash of salt.  Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix in flour.  Divide dough in half and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out your dough on a floured surface to about 1/3 inch thick.  Cut out your hearts and bake for about 8 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies), or until edges are ever-so-slightly golden.

Store these in an airtight container for the next day.

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Day of Prep:

With all that pesky baking out of the way, all that needs to be done is the salad and frosting.  About an hour before the party, cook the brown rice.  Then work on the following components:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

3 diced sweet potatoes
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 inch grated ginger
2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs honey
1 tbs curry powder
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk honey, ginger, butter, oil and curry powder together.  Add potatoes and onion and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for about 30 minutes or until they are tender and browned.

Dressing:

Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp honey
About 2 tbs olive oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Whisk together all the ingredients.  Add warm cooked brown rice and toss to coat.

To serve up this salad, lay down a bed of the baby spinach, followed by about a 1/3 cup of the brown rice, a couple of heaping spoon fulls of the potatoes, and finally top with a little feta.  Pretty, heathy and delicious.

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Ok ok, so far this party sounds pretty contained and bougie, right?  Well Miss Fats doesn’t do under-indulgent, prim and proper.  Not to mention, this valentines day themed party was seriously lacking chocolate.  So, because this meal was looking too healthy, Miss Fats decided at the last-minute, to throw together some salted double chocolate chip cookies for snacking (got to keep the energy up).

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Unfortunately, these were not factored into the budget because Miss Fats literally had all the ingredients on hand (obvi.)  She used Martha’s double chocolate chip cookie recipe , added salt, and simplified them by refusing to use more than one bowl.  Simply skip a couple of steps by melting the chocolate and butter together in the microwave, and moving directly to step 2 of the recipe.  Once the batter is done, sprinkle a little kosher salt over top.  Miss Fats also recommends allowing the dough to sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes to firm up: she found her second batch to be a lot fluffier once it had sat for a bit.

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Chocolate and Salt: literally one of the greatest combos in the world.

Now after enjoying your salads and cookie apps, Miss Fats recommends stepping away from your guests to make the buttercream frosting.  This will take you literally 5 minutes.

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Buttercream Frosting:

1 cup butter (2 sticks), soften to room temp (VERY IMPORTANT)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
food dye (optional)

optional: make your frosting chocolate buttercream.  All you need is 1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled

1. Beat the butter on high for about 2 minutes until fluffy,  and light in color.  Scrape down sides.  Sift in the sugar in batches (so as not to make a huge mess), beating to combine each time.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Beat to combine. Optional chocolate: remove about 2/3 of the frosting into other bowls.  Beat in melted chocolate into the remaining frosting.

2. In separate bowls, divide your frosting and mix in whatever colors you’d like.  Miss Fats kept it simple with white, pink and chocolate.  To make little pastry bags, distribute frosting into ziplock bags and simply cut the tip off of one corner.

And now it’s decorating time.  Miss Fats kept it simple my throwing down some paper bags to protect the table and allowed people to just have at it.

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So much craft delight, with treats to take home.

IMG_0049Clearly Miss Fats’ friends are not the most adept pastry chefs, but it’s about the experience, people. Plus they all taste damn good.

Miss Fats hopes this inspires you to celebrate with your girlfriends today.  In the very least eat a waffle or watch a chick flick.

behold the powers of obachan

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Miss Fats is getting REAL with you all.  For those of you who don’t know, Miss Fats has a magical Obachan who is the master of all things Japanese and delicious. Check her out taking on the BIG bento box at Fuji Sushi: (people, that includes salmon and chicken teriyaki, sushi, sashimi, a heaping pile of tempura, miso soup, salad AND rice.  girlfriend ate it all.)

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Anyway, Obachan’s go to side dish—and Miss Fats’ personal vegi obsession since birth—is her crazy delicious spinach.  You may be thinking: cooked spinach? How good can that really be?  If you are, leave this site immediately and never show your face again.  Because if you knew anything, you’d know to NEVER question the magical powers of Obachan’s cooking.

Now for all you sane folks out there , you are in for a treat.  Miss Fats is sharing the simplest, most delicious spinach recipe ever.  Get ready for life to change.

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Now I know “foreign” cooking can often feel daunting: what with all the crazy ingredients you have to track down. (Fuck you, Indian food.  Why are you so damn hard to make?!)  But Obachan’s spinach only requires one “foreign” ingredient: dashi.  Dashi is a staple soup base made of fish and is the secret to all things Japanese and tasty (well, that and Obachan wisdom). Most grocery stores carry it in the Asian foods section and its the key to pretty much EVERY Japanese dish out there.  AND if you take the time to buy it (it lasts forever!), Miss Fats promises to share other delicious recipes that make use of it!

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Obachan Spinach Recipe: 

technically makes 4 side servings,
but once people taste this, its gone almost instantly.  double it. or triple it. just do it.

1 bunch of spinach (you can use pre-washed bagged spinach, but I prefer the stocky stem pieces AND tasty leaves)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dashi
2 tbs toasted sesame seeds

1. Bring large pot of water to a boil.  Roughly chop your well-washed spinach, if you’re not using bagged leaves.  You want all your stems to be in about 1 inch pieces, don’t worry too much about the leaves.  Throw the spinach in boiling water for about 1 minute, or until all the leaves have turned dark green and the water has begun to come back to a rolling boil. Drain spinach.

2. While the cooked spinach cools, mix soy, dashi and sugar in a microwave safe bowl.  Heat in microwave for about 10 seconds or until sugar and dashi dissolve.  Taste the dressing and add more of any ingredients to your liking.  (The flavor should be well balanced between sweet and salty, but feel free to alter based on your taste.)

3. Optional Step, but Highly Recommended: Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a small frying pan on medium heat just until the oil starts to release. Be careful not to burn! Using a mortar and  pestle crush the sesame seeds to release all their delicious oils and flavors.

4. Once spinach is cool enough, squeeze out as much of the water as you can and watch the giant pile of spinach you struggled to contain turn into a tiny ball.  Mix the squeezed spinach in with the dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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So there you have it: the secret to happiness.  Arigato, Obachan!