Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Monday, July 26, 2010

On the Waterfront

Sometimes, Mr. Lemon and I are lucky enough to get our thrifty-selves out of the city for an adventure. We're very fortunate to have wonderful friends like Mr. and Mrs. Tomato (they chose their name) who invited us out to their beautiful boat on the Northfork of Long Island this weekend. It was, in a word, lovely.

Boats may appear larger in rearview memory

I'm not a full-fledged sailor yet, so my job was to figure out dinner. For all those NY cooks who think that their apartment's kitchen is small, try getting dinner ready in a real galley kitchen. It's a fete that calls for using as few pots as possible and ingredients that you can use up in one night (because the boat's refrigerator can only hold so much.) Zero waste, easy clean up...just my kind of cooking.

And being on the waterfront, we had to make something fishy for dinner. Mrs. Tomato and I splurged, picking up a locally caught slab of monkfish, which the gentlemen-sailors grilled on shore with a little lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. It was delicious and hearty in a way that white fish rarely is. Almost like lobster, is how Mr. Tomato described it.

We also marinated vegetables from the Northfork's famous farm stands: eggplant, zucchini, onion, cherry tomatoes plus olive oil, garlic and salt. On (soaked) wooden skewers, these veggie kabobs cooked up quickly for a healthy side dish--and one dish cooking, as well, since we marinated, skewered and served all in the same bowl. And of course, no summer meal is complete without some sweet white corn and a generous glass of white wine.

Sadly, no photos were taken. These tired shipmates were just happy to enjoy the food, wine and good company in the dark, cozy galley.

As we were getting our fishy friend ready, I learned from Mrs. Tomato that I was not the only one who had a tin of sardines lurking in my pantry waiting for action. I shared my recent sardine savvy, including this recipe, which is sort of a re-constructed caponata that I took apart and put back together as a way to bring those sardines out of their tin.

Eggplant Stacks with Sardine, Ricotta and Capers
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tin sardines packed in marinara sauce
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon capers, drained
1 small eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch disks
1/4 cup ricotta
basil chiffonade to garnish

In a small saute pan heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil and add onion and 1 clove minced garlic to cook over medium heat. When the onions begin to look translucent, add the entire contents of the sardine tin and start to break up the sardines with your spoon. Simmer.

In the meantime, in a larger nonstick saute pan heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil and when hot add the eggplant disks in one layer along with 1 clove minced garlic. Cook on both sides, turning once until the eggplant's interior starts to brown and is soft. It will look a little liquidy -- this is good.

Finish the sauce with the capers, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Plate the eggplant slices, topping each with the sardine sauce, a dollop of ricotta cheese and some finely cut basil.

This could be a nice starter, or a lighter supper to give a little seaside flavor to a land-lubber's weeknight.

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