Summer on a Plate

Basil Pesto, Eggplant, Pasta, Vegetable Recipes

On one beautiful summer weekend, Jeff and I along with four of our friends (with one couple’s two young children) rented a vacation house on a sand dune by Lake Michigan. Oh what a fun weekend we had!

We probably spent the whole weekend being outside. We swam in the lake, strolled around a cute beach town, grilled and cooked delicious food with international flavors, and chilled by the fire at night making smores while sipping wine and beer. Did I mention the delicious food we made and had? 🙂 It was no wonder at all. When you put six people who love to eat, cook, and appreciate good food, you could easily end up with some fantastic dishes.  I got too busy enjoying the food that I forgot to take pictures! So, I’ll just tell you what we had: Indonesian fried rice with shrimp, tuna steak with corn salad, turkey burger with red peppers and onions, a FANTASTIC guacamole, chili pepper marinade/dip, and an eggplant/tomato dish served with pita bread.

Now, for this blog entry, let me share with you the eggplant/tomato dish recipe—since I just made it too last night. So that weekend, we decided to take turns in making dinner. A couple of our friends brought fresh tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers from their garden. When it was their turn to cook, they prepared a one-pot meal of eggplants cooked with tomatoes, garlic, peppers, and a little bit of salt and pepper. Super easy and yummy. The dish reminded me of me of this Indonesian eggplant dish, only milder. Our friends served the dish with pita bread and gave the rest of the fresh vegetables they didn’t cook to me to take home.

Yesterday, I gazed at the abundance of fresh produce our friends gave us. I also noticed that my basil plants were in full force. A dinner idea came to mind: that eggplant/tomato dish and my basil pesto pasta  with pan-seared sea bass and sea scallops. What a great flavor and color combination they made! The green basil pesto coated the pasta with that fantastic basil fragrance, the savory taste from the cheese, and nuttiness of pine nuts. The eggplant/tomato dish gave out sweet, tangy, and fresh flavors that wonderfully complemented the pesto pasta taste. So delightful!

Here’s how I made the eggplant dish (just like how my friend made it at the beach house):

  • I used four smaller and skinnier eggplants
  • Halved the eggplants and cut into four long pieces
  • Chopped them up into shorter cuts
  • I diced up five medium size tomatoes
  • Minced four garlic
  • Chopped three sweet peppers
  • Chopped seven hot finger peppers (optional)
  • Heated up a medium pot with a tablespoon of olive oil
  • Let the garlic sizzled for a minute, add all of the above, and a little salt and pepper  into the pot
  • Closed with a lid and cooked until the eggplants turned soft and translucent

Click here to see: Basil Pesto Pasta with Seared Scallops recipe (I used spaghetti instead of penne for this one)

I’ll post more delicious recipes that came out of our beach house adventure soon 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!

(Original recipe by and a special thanks to Leena Hamdi, and to Spas)

Spicy Eggplant

Eggplant, Vegetable Recipes

(Harini’s Version of Balado Terong, origin: West Sumatra)

My mom’s family came from the west part of the Sumatra Island. We, the children, are very much addicted to the cuisine from this part of Indonesia. The food from this region tends to be VERY spicy and rich! One of my favorites is the spicy eggplant or balado terong. Balado is a red sauce made of chopped peppers, shallots, garlic, and salt. Terong is eggplant in Bahasa Indonesia.

We normally would have spicy eggplant as a side dish to go with grilled chicken or fried tempeh or fried fish. If I want to make it as a main dish, I’d add shrimp to the spicy eggplant.

Serve over white jasmine rice. Most Indonesian cuisines are served with white rice, as the main source of carbohydrate (and also), to neutralize the bold flavors.

Here’s how I prepare the dish:

Chop and mix the following items to make the sauce in a food processor:

  • 7-10 Long red peppers, like cayenne.

  • If the long red peppers are not available, don’t give up. Substitute with 2 red bell peppers
  • 5-7 Thai peppers
  • 4-5 Shallots
  • 3-4 Cloves of garlic
  • A Pinch of salt
  • Cut up one big eggplant OR two skinny eggplants into cubes, place on a plate, and cook to soften for 3 minutes in a microwave oven. (Or put them on a grill with a little bit of oil to avoid sticking for about 2 minutes on each side. You could also broil the cut eggplants for about 3-4 minutes until they turn brownish.) Eggplant absorbs a lot of oil and water. The softening technique helps to expedite cooking time and to avoid using too much oil.
  •  Heat up one tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil in a deep frying pan (medium heat)
  • Add the sauce to the pan carefully and let it sizzle for a minute as it lets its moisture out
  • Add the cut up eggplant (and shrimp too if you want) into the sizzling pan and mix evenly with the sauce
  • Cover the pan with a lid for 15-20 minutes and reduce the heat just a little bit

The dish is ready when the eggplant is soft and the balado sauce has lost most of its moisture.

Serve 2-4

Disclaimer: I like this dish to be VERY spicy. Please adjust the number of hot peppers according to your spicy-tolerance level.