Interesting dinner from what I had in the fridge

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Cooking dinner

 

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This is not a picture of me. This lady might have been my mama.  I am thrilled that though I was born in the fifties, I have a fridge with about twice that capacity, plus a giant freezer which I love and keep quite full.

It’s one of those nights when there isn’t much food in the house, but I want to make a nice dinner for me and my husband. Checking the fridge, I found a few veggies from my friend’s garden: a beet with pretty wilted tops, an eggplant, and some figs. In the freezer I found a large boneless chicken breast buried, so unearthed that. There were some gypsy peppers and shallots from my CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) box too. Things I didn’t choose to use were a couple of peaches, some rather tired looking green tomatoes, some limes, and carrots. Another time.

Here’s the menu I’m planning: Chicken stir fry with beet greens and basil, Eggplant Parmigiano, Butter lettuce salad with beets and gorgonzola, Ice cream with spiced fresh figs.

I always marinate chicken breast before stir frying since white meat is often too dry for me. I did lots of stir-frying while we lived in Singapore, and learned this amazingly easy trick with chicken breast. I sliced it up, then stirred together in a small bowl:
2T cornstarch mixed with 2T soy sauce +2T water
a good squeeze from a tube of chopped ginger (optional)
an egg white (sounds strange, but it works)

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Left this in the fridge to marinate (for however long you have) while I prepped everything else.

I peeled the beet, keeping the greens, cut it in a few pieces and boiled it, nothing fancy. I know beets are so good for you, but really only like them in a salad. That’s what I have in mind for tonight!

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Chopped up the beet greens, it won’t matter that they’re wilted in a stir fry and some basil from a pot on my deck that was threatening to bolt.

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Then 2 gypsy peppers plus 2 shallots. I love shallots but find them pesky to peel. Anyone have a good trick?

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Now my stir fry is prepped for last-minute cooking.
I had a little vanilla ice cream, so decided to cook the figs in a syrup to have over the ice cream.

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This was delicious and so easy. I rinsed the figs, then put them in a pot with about 1 cup of water, 1/2 c sugar, and a broken up cinnamon stick. When the figs were tender after about 20 minutes on a simmer, I took them out so they wouldn’t fall apart, and reduced the sauce a bit more. Then I added some balsamic vinegar 1-2 T, to give it a little balance. And I always add a pinch or more of salt to sweet dishes. So much better.

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And now for the eggplant, which I’ll be honest, turned out to be a little more trouble than I’d envisioned. But the results were awesome!
Wash and slice fairly thickly.

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Dip each slice in a mixture of 1 egg plus 1/2 c milk and some salt, then into another pan of bread crumbs. I use the packaged ones from the store, but you can make them if you’re ambitious from leftover bread that you toast and whirl in the blender. I was a bit short on the bread crumbs and wasn’t ambitious, so added about an equal amount of flour. Then fry on medium heat both sides till brown. I used a non-stick skillet to minimize the oil but ended up needing to add more oil to get the crispy texture I was looking for. Then I overlapped all the browned eggplant slices in a casserole I like.

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I couldn’t remember whether Eggplant Parmigiano had the cheese first, then the sauce or the other way round. I like parmesan, so ended up doing both! Next I poured on the sauce, which consisted of a half of a leftover jar of marinara that my daughter had left in the freezer from a party she had over here, plus some salsa, since it wasn’t really enough marinara for all that eggplant. And I added the end of a jar of oregano to make it taste more Italian!

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Then I baked it at 350 for about 40 minutes with foil over it, added some more Parmesan and then another 5 under the broiler to get the top nice and browned.

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Ready to start my stir fry now that my husband is home! Veggies (beet greens, basil, peppers, shallots) in first, with a good spoonful of chopped garlic from a jar and splash of oil.

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After about 5-7 minutes on pretty high heat, I’m ready to add the chicken, along with a smidge more oil, stirring and frying all that together till the chicken lost its pinkness. (Next time, I’ll take the veggies out before cooking the chicken, then combine them at the end. The egg coating on the chicken got all over the veggies too, making them look a bit gloppy. They tasted delicious though.) Last step was to taste for seasoning and add about 2 T oyster sauce for a deeper flavor.

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The salad was put together while the stir fry cooked. I had some beautiful organic butter lettuce in the box with its roots still attached. This is more expensive, but definitely my favorite. I added the beets I’d cooked earlier and some Gorgonzola cheese from my freezer stash. I like a simple dressing of good olive oil, balsamic and a good grind of salt and pepper.

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Ready to serve

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And dessert

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It all tasted really good, but we both agreed the Eggplant Parm was the best. Great dinner, no shopping, and I have leftovers!

What are your ideas for cooking with whatever you can find in the fridge?

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The Author

Imperfect follower of Jesus, wife to the greatest guy in the world, Mom to five wonderful grown children, and happy Nana to their ten littles. Having grown up in the Deep South, I retain a love for all things Southern. I became an amateur cultural anthropologist during a significant time living in SE Asia and still get to travel the world on mission and for fun with my sweetheart. I love asking questions, cooking for my family, helping women breastfeed, walking in the woods, eating biscuits, and having deep conversations about things that matter. On my wishlist are reading more, playing the piano, painting watercolor scenes, figuring out my awesome camera, and writing to soothe my soul.

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