Thursday, September 26, 2013

Eggplant Zucchini and Cheese Casserole

After Greg and I visited Budd's Produce, I assembled the ingredients to make an Eggplant Zucchini and Cheese casserole. I am a big fan of casseroles. They are easy to make it and usually leave me with days of leftovers to bring to work with me for lunches. Leftovers are always my friends. 

The longest part of all this was cutting up all those giant vegetables. I sliced up one giant eggplant (also called aubergine), 2 large zucchinis (also known as summer squash), a shallot in place of onion, and 1/2 of a large tomato (feel free to use the whole thing, I was just tired of dicing). I was supposed to saute the vegetables in a frying pan before assembling the casserole. Since there were so many vegetables, I had to so this part in batches. I used the garlic sea salt grinder from Trader Joe's as a seasoning. This is probably my favorite seasoning mix right now. I put on just about everything.
While the veggies were sauteing, I prepared a box of corn stuffing mix on a neighboring burner. The oven was preheated to 350 degrees F, and I sprayed my largest glass baking dish with cooking spray. 

With the stuffing made and the vegetables sauteed for a few minutes, I was ready to layer the casserole. First went a layer of vegetables followed by a layer of stuffing. Then I sprinkled on some shredded Colby cheese, layered on more veggies and stuffing, then ended with a final layer of cheese. The casserole baked for half an hour at 350F.
I thought that I had made this casserole before, but if I did, it turned out entirely differently. This was delicious! And very filling, making it a great entree for even non-vegetarians like Greg and me. (Though I doubt the cheese I used was vegetarian, vegetarian cheese could easily be used in place of conventional animal rennet cheese.) The spices from the cornbread stuffing mix coupled with the garlic grinder made this quite flavorful, and the fresh vegetables were superb. And, being a casserole, it was easy to partition up into lunches. I loved it! This is definitely one I'd make again, especially with a fresh vegetables market being located right down the road. I love Fall!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fresh Produce & My First Visit to Babo

See that eggplant up there? That was about as big as my head. And the tomato was like two of my fists! After picking apples at the Wasem Fruit Farm last Wednesday, Greg and I returned home to drop off the apples and on the way decided to stop at Budd's Produce, located just down the road from our apartment. Despite having lived along this stretch of road for a year and a half, I've never been there. Before, it wasn't along my usual driving path, but now it is, so I think of it more often, and now that I have been, I think I am more likely to return. 

There was a lot of produce for such a little stand. And the prices were great! That giant eggplant was, I think, $1 and the tomato was 50 cents. We also got 2 zucchinis and two ears of corn and only paid $4 for all of it. There were also fresh green beans, which I like, but Greg does not. I was hoping for some pattypan squash, but alas! only yellow squash and zucchini. I decided the last time I made yellow squash that I do not like the texture of the rind when it is cooked. Too tough and chewy! So I just went with the zucchini this time.

After I got home and was looking through recipe books, I discovered that I have a recipe that calls for one large eggplant, two zucchinis, and a tomato! How perfect was that? You'll have to stay tuned to read about how that turned out, though.

Later that evening, Greg and I were wandering Ann Arbor when we remembered a store we'd been past a few times but never stopped into, Babo: a Market by Sava, located at 403 E Washington (Division is the cross street). I was never sure by just looking at the outside if it was a market or a restaurant. Turns out, it is a bit of both.

Babo is a terrific place to buy fresh meat, cheese, and an array of deli delights. And you can try everything in the deli before you buy it! You can aso buy lunch or dinner as the deli counter includes things like mac and cheese (absolutely wonderful; so creamy), pulled pork in a sauce that changes every day depending on what fruit is on hand (it was raspberry when we went), bean salad, seaweed salad, seafood salad, and so much more. I got two wedges of steak quesadilla, the best quesadilla I have ever had. It was so full of steak, I couldn't believe it!

There are a few aisles of grocery items, as well, and beer and wine. The most interesting part about Babo's grocery side, I thought, was that you buy milk in glass jugs. Pay a deposit on the bottle, then bring it back when the milk is empty and get another one. Wonderful! 

There is also a little coffee counter where you can get in such interesting offerings as cafe du miel (coffee with honey), which is what I ordered and I loved it. Greg got something called a Lumberjack, which was sweetened with maple syrup and tasted like breakfast. There is a counter in the deli/coffee area where you can sit and enjoy your food and beverages (also tables outside) and a fun wall of giant magnetic poetry! I didn't play with it that night, which only means I will have to go back.

So if you are near Ann Arbor, or even passing through, check out Babo. I'm willing to go on record as saying Babo is better than Zingerman's. That's right, I just said something was better than His Holiness Zingerman's. They aren't exactly the same kind of place, but pretty darn close, and Babo doesn't have the ridiculous wait that Zingerman's deli does. The prices are also more reasonable and the portions much bigger. Don't believe me? Try it and decide for yourself. 

Next time: what I made with the produce I bought.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Vinsetta Garage: Custom Detroit Eats

Recently, my boyfriend Greg and I had visitors from out of town, so Greg decided it would be a great time to introduce people to Vinsetta Garage in Berkley, MI. He had been once before (after the remodel), but this was my first trip. Greg calls it the kind of place he'd bring guests to give them a good taste of Detroit (Metro Detroit), though not a place he would eat at all the time (the seating wait is kind of ridiculous). So we did!

Seriously, the wait time is a little bit nuts. When we arrived late because the traffic was absurd, the joint (it calls itself a joint on the website) was still packed. We were told it would be an hour before we were seated. Since it had been such an ordeal getting there, and we had nowhere else in mind, we decided to stay. Also, the plentiful seating out front is not for dining, so we got drinks at the bar, then commandeered a table outside and looked through a menu so we'd be ready when we got a table.

The decor is absolutely fabulous. Lots of metal, lots of interesting lighting that I would love in my own home, and the restroom floors are tiled with pennies. It's a very cool affect that must be seen if you ever go there for a meal. There must be some kind of restroom competition in the restaurant industry because I seem to always be including something about weird bathrooms in my restaurant reviews, like the "welcome" sign inside the stall at Bone Head's BBQ in Willis

Onto the food. Once we were seated, we ordered some Disco Fries, one of their signature appetizers comprised of house-cut fries, cheese curds, mustard gravy, chili flakes, and scallions. It reminded Greg and me of poutine, and I think the whole table enjoyed it. 

In keeping with the Detroit theme, I got two coneys with mac and cheese as my side. The waitress actually suggested the mac and cheese as my side rather than, say, fries, so they must be known for the mac and cheese or something. It was pretty tasty, I'll admit. Very rich and creamy. One of our guests ordered the tuna casserole, which had tempted me, and reported it was similar to the mac and cheese in nature. I didn't try any, but that also looked good.  

Other specialties on the menu include pizza and various noodle dishes, both of which can be built-to-suit, and, of course, burgers. There is even a duck burger! Is duck the new meat of choice? Because I also recently had duck sliders at Ann Arbor's HomeGrown Festival, and there was that duck bacon Greg and I bought a couple months ago.

For dessert, Greg and I had to order the Faygo Rock & Rye ice cream with pop rocks topping. It was amazing. It tasted like Rock & Rye! The texture was different than I am used to, but not bad. I had never had liquid nitrogen churned ice cream before, so maybe that accounts for it. Also, the pop rocks were a little flat, probably because they were drowning in frozen Faygo. (Mmm...) The banoffee (banana + toffee) pudding also looked tasty to me. 

All in all, I think liked Vinsetta Garage. Depending on what you got, the prices weren't too bad, and I seem to recall the beers being all or mostly from Michigan. I think they change them up, too. The dessert offerings were unique and fun. It's quite the drive for me for dinner, but if we have more out of town guests, maybe I'll back.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Spinach and Arugula Salad with Gorgonzola

**The update of this blog has been delayed a week due to technical errors and entire posts being deleted.**

Of all the things lying around in my fridge, I didn't think the ingredients for a spinach and arugula salad with crumbled Gorgonzola and dried pomegranates on top were hiding in there. Lo! It was so.

Greg had leftover fresh spinach and arugula from when we did grilled cheese sandwiches at Game Night a couple weeks ago. The Gorgonzola and dried pomegranates were from before we moved in together, making them, in my mind, a priority to use in something, anything. I also chopped up some carrots which were left from a crockpot recipe of I don't remember when (carrots stay for a very long time in the fridge, as it turns out), and clipped some fresh basil leaves and parsley from out garden. Voila! Salad.

As for dressing, I wasn't sure what to go with. I am not big on dressing that isn't ranch, but I have learned that balsamic vinegar and olive oil are pretty tasty together, so I went with that. I kept running across a red wine vinegar, olive oil, and honey concoction as I was looking up spinach salad recipes on Pinterest. I didn't have red wine vinegar, so I decided against that pretty quickly, though I may have to give it a try in the future. I'm just not sure about the addition of honey.

At first, I had everything in my largest mixing bowl. Even hand-tossing it ended up with the heavier things on the bottom, though, so I took out a large plastic Tupperware container, dumped everything into that, secured the lid, and shook. It worked out very nicely!

I left the salad in the Tupperware and took it with me to a Labor Day pool party where it was enjoyed by many. If I had bought the ingredients, I would have chosen feta over Gorgonzola, but it turns out it was good that I didn't because someone at the party was avoiding feta. I still have some crumbled Gorgonzola leftover, but I used up all of the spinach. There is also half a tub of arugula I need to find something to do with, as well. Homemade pizza?