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Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

29 Sep

Eggplant parmesan is a dish that is a little involved, but by no means difficult. You have to batter and fry the eggplant (I’ve tried skipping this step, and let me tell you from experience that it is there for a reason; you NEED it!) before you layer the dish (like lasagna) which is why it takes longer to make. If you have an extra hour for dinner, though, it is totally worth it. I made marinara from scratch (see my previous post about the Great Tomato Invasion of ’09) but you could just as easily use canned tomatoes, or a jar of pre-made sauce.

You’re basically getting two recipes for the price of one in this post, because I’m going to give you my recipe for marinara sauce. Marinara is a critical component-too little and the whole dish is too dry, but you don’t want too much either or you end up with more of an eggplant sauce than an eggplant parmesan.

In short, do not be afraid of multi-step dishes! They are easy, I swear it. Make this for your Mom the next time she comes over for dinner. She will be so impressed that not only can you cook, but that you eat your veggies. Mothers love that shit.

Eggplant Bit.

1 medium to large eggplant (see picture below)

1 C (ish) breadcrumbs

1 C flour

2-3 eggs

2-4 C of cheese, mozzarella, jack, provolone, one or all three. Whatever you have or prefer.

1-2 C Parmesan

This is an eggplant.

Cut your eggplant into 1/2″ (ish) slices.

Now you’ve got to drain the eggplant (annoying, but necessary) in a colander for 1-2 hours. Layer the eggplant in a strainer, putting a single layer of eggplant, salting the layer, topping it with more eggplant and salting again.

Put something heavy on it and leave it for at least an hour.

While you wait for the eggplant to catch up, make the sauce.

Sauce bit.

I forgot to take picture of the sauce bit, so I hope you will forgive me!

Marinara Sauce:

1.5 – 2 lbs fresh tomatoes

OR

1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes

OR

1 jar of pre-made pasta sauce

½ medium or 1 small onion, diced

3-5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp salt

Splash of dry red wine (you can leave this out if you want)

Ground pepper to taste

¼ tsp sugar

1-1.5 TB fresh basil, sliced, or 2 tsp dry

Olive oil

If you are using fresh tomatoes:

Put a pot of water on the stove to boil. It has to be big enough to contain all of the tomatoes under the water. Take each tomato and cut a shallow X onto the bottom of each. When the water starts boiling, slowly put the tomatoes into the water and allow them to boil for 30 seconds. Allow the tomatoes to cool by plunging them into an ice bath. When they are cool, peel them and squeeze the seeds and juices out. Chop up the rest of the pulp and put aside for now.

Pour 2 TB of olive oil into a pan and heat. Add the onion and the garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the wine and allow it to boil for a minute before adding the tomatoes, salt, pepper, Worcestershire and sugar. If you are using dry basil, add it now. If you have a stick blender or a potato masher, blend the sauce up a bit to give it a thicker consistency. If you don’t have either of these things don’t worry about it.

Your sauce will be kind of thin, especially if you used fresh tomatoes.

Simmer it for at least 20 minutes. The sauce will thicken and should look more like this.

If you are using fresh basil, add it after the sauce has simmered.

Ta da! Marinara sauce.

Put the sauce aside, you are going to use it later when you assemble the parmesan.

Right now (if the time is up on the eggplant draining) you are going to batter and fry your eggplant.

Take out your eggplant slices and line them on paper towels, patting them dry as you go.

Get two wide, shallow bowls and put the eggs in one and the breadcrumbs and flour in the other. Mix up the flour and breadcrumbs and scramble the egg but don’t add anything.

Get a deep frying pan (cast iron is the best but just use what you have) and fill it with 1/2″ of canola (or veggie) oil. Heat the oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Another way to check is if you drop a bit of the breadcrumb mix into the oil it should start to fry immediately and then rise to the surface.

Once the oil is ready, you are going to take an eggplant slice. Dip both sides in the egg, then coat it with the breadcrumb mix and slowly put it in the oil. Fry on both sides for about 45 sec, until it is golden brown. Layer between paper towels to drain (layer of eggplant, layer of paper towels, repeat). You can fry about 2 slices at a time, but not too much more than that. If you over-crowd the pan the temperature of the oil will actually lower and you don’t want that.

Repeat for the rest of the slices.

Preheat the oven to 350˚, and you are going to layer some more! Get a glass baking dish, the one I used was rectangular, I think 10×15.

Put a layer of sauce, layer of eggplant, layer of cheese, layer of parmesan. Repeat until all the ingredients are gone, making sure that you end with a cheese layer.

Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is melty and slightly browned on the edges.

Let cool for 15 minutes, then cut and serve.

NOM NOM NOM!

❤ Stef

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Recipe: Roasted Potatoes and Tomatoes with Pesto

18 Sep

Hello again! Did you miss me? I’ll bet you did. I’ve had a very hectic few weeks, starting my graduate program at Boston College and moving out of my old place and into the new. Although I am IN my new place I still don’t have any of my stuff, just the items I had the foresight to pack. (Like my Shun Santoku knife and hand-made wood cutting board.) (These are ESSENTIALS, people!)

This is a recipe I’ve had “on file” for awhile. It uses slightly overripe tomatoes, pesto and potatoes, and was my response to The Great Tomato Invasion of ’09.

This summer my kitchen was overrun with tomatoes. I typically try to eat summer tomatoes raw because they are so amazing, but this year I was getting tomatoes from my father’s garden as well as my CSA box and they were EVERYWHERE.

I should probably have prefaced this by saying that I do not put fresh tomatoes in the fridge because keeping them at such a low temperature can completely ruin their flavor.

So picture, if you may, a kitchen exploding with tomatoes. They rested in bowls on my kitchen table, cascaded onto the table itself, and occasionally hung out on my cutting board. I had red ones, yellow ones, purple ones. I couldn’t eat them fast enough, and a few unfortunate tomatoes began to. . .soften. In their new cushy state, they were unsuited for use in a salad. My dad likes to stick soft tomatoes in the freezer, for use later in pasta sauce, but my freezer space is limited.

I prefer to get creative.

Roasted Potato and Tomato with Pesto:

Use 1/2 C of pesto (my recipe is at https://dinnerlove.com/2009/07/17/recipe-basil-pesto-with-walnuts/)

1.5lbs (ish) of little creamer or red skin potatoes

2 medium to large tomatoes

olive oil

salt

pepper

balsamic

Cut the potatoes into quarters, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. During that time, make the pesto (for my recipe, with pictures and instructions, see https://dinnerlove.com/2009/07/17/recipe-basil-pesto-with-walnuts/) and cut the tomatoes into small sized wedges.

After the potatoes have baked for 30 minutes, add the tomato.

Then add the pesto and about 1 TB of balsamic and mix together.

Put back in the oven for another 30 minutes. Keep the heat at 400.

Serve!

I served this alongside a roast pork loin, and it they were AMAZING together. It also tastes fantastic fried with some eggs for breakfast!

❤ Stef

Recipe: Basil Pesto with Walnuts

17 Jul

Summer is in full swing, and as such basil is everywhere. Yes, you can grow herbs at any time of year, really, but right now is when they start propagating out of control. I bought a bunch of basil as big as my head for $2 at one of my local Farmer’s Markets, and aside from the fact that I couldn’t stop smelling it (smells amaaaazing) I was immediately seized with panic.

What the hell was I going to make with all of that basil? I only have so many tomatoes! When I thought, duh. I’ll make some pesto! I had never made homemade pesto, because I thought I wasn’t a huge fan. I’m normally a tomato sauce gal. I intended my very first batch for a potato-pesto pizza (just as amazing as it sounds) and when the pesto was done I was in shock. Who knew homemade pesto could be so amazing? It didn’t taste anything like the drab pestos I’d previously been accustomed to. This was fresh, garlicy-sweet, with a slight bite. Absolutely brilliant. I immediately slathered some on toast, and while I ate thought “I’m totally making this for my next blog”.

I know that nearly everyone knows how to make pesto, and that this recipe won’t really be a revelation to anyone. I just wanted to share my enthusiasm, and to let you know that if you have never made pesto from scratch, now is the perfect time to start.

Pesto, makes about 1 C. Recipe from Simply Recipes.com.

1 C basil leaves, packed

1/4 C parmesean cheese

1/4 C olive oil

2.5 TB walnuts (You can use pine nuts if you want).

1.5 garlic cloves, sliced.

salt and pepper to taste

You will need a food processor or a blender. I have an itsy-bitsy Toastmaster Chopster. It’s a mini food processor, not very powerful, but perfect for pesto because it doesn’t liquefy the ingredients.

Put the walnuts in the food processor and pulse a few times until they are crumbly.

Grab your basil and pack a cup full of basil leaves. No stems, and make sure you pack tightly!

Chop the garlic very coarsely, add it to the walnuts in the food processor and pulse them together.

Add the basil and pulse lightly until the leaves have broken up, scraping down the sides of the processor is necessary.

Add the olive oil a little at a time, pulsing between each addition. When you are done, the mixture should be cohesive but still granular.

Add the cheese and pulse to combine.

Now taste and add add salt and pepper as you like.

You can add the pesto to anything, use it for pastas or pizza, or just slather it on a slice of french bread like me.

Yum.

❤ Stef

Recipe: Garlic Aioli

3 Jul

One of my favorite cookbooks is called Fanny at Chez Panisse, by Alice Waters. It is actually the only Alice Waters cookbook that I own, and it was my introduction to her as a chef/food activist. The book was originally given to my little sister Jesslyn for Christmas a few years ago, but I ended up using it more than she did. The first roast chicken recipe I ever made was from this cookbook. I made it with roast potatoes and this aioli.

Last week I was at my mother’s house and I went through her bookshelves and grabbed back my childhood cookbooks. Fanny at Chez Panisse was one of them, and I thought I would share this recipe with you because it has so many good memories for me. Aside from that, it is totally delicious. I use it to dip roast potatoes and chicken into, but it would also make an awesome sandwich spread. In fact, tonight I made roast chicken and potatoes with this aioli on the side, and I plan on making sandwiches with the leftovers tommorrow. Mmmm.

Ingredients:

1 egg, yolk and white separated.

1 C olive oil

1 clove of garlic, or more if you prefer. I used around 3.

Salt and pepper

1/2 tsp lemon

First, smush up the garlic with the flat of a knife and chop it very finely. Add it to a bowl with just the egg yolk.

Get your cup of olive oil, and make sure you have it in a container with a spout.

Slowly whisk the olive oil into the yolk, about 1 TB at a time, making sure to fully incorporate the oil into the yolk each time.

Once you have added about half of the oil, add a splash of water, whisk to combine, and continue adding the oil. At this point you can add a little bit more oil each time because the mix will be generally cohesive.

Once you have added all of the oil, add the lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever you feel like! It is best eaten the same day, but it will keep in the fridge for a few days, too.

❤ Stef

Recipe: Clafouti Cutie!

26 Jun

A clafouti is a French custard/cake-y dessert baked with fresh fruit. According Wikipedia (which is my handbook for life) the traditional fruit is cherries, though I decided to use plums because my mom has a tree and I am inundated with them. Santa rosa plums are taking over my LIFE!

This recipe is a bit like the ricotta cake I posted last week. It is certainly just as easy, but it has a different texture. It isn’t as cheesecake-y, more cake-y, plus it has all of that awesome fresh fruit. If you thought I was crazy calling ricotta cake breakfast material, you must accept that this clafouti definitely qualifies. It has fruit! FRUIT!

Oh, and as a side note, I’m visiting Boston for a few day this coming Monday and I would love food/sight/must see suggestions, if anyone’s got em!

Recipe adapted from Almost Vegetarian by Diana Shaw.

Ingredients:

1/2 C milk

1/2 C ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1/2 C sugar

1/2 C flour

1 tsp vanilla

2 C fresh fruit, your choice. Cherries, blueberries and plums are all great options!

Set oven to 425 degrees.

Mix together the milk, ricotta, eggs, sugar, flour, and vanilla using a blender, food processor or handy-dandy immersion blender. (Have a mentioned how much I love my new immersion blender? Because I LOVE IT!)

Chop up your chosen fruits.

Spread the fruit onto the bottom of a pie plate or vaguely pie plate-shaped baking tin.

Pour the custard-y batter on the top of the fruit.

Bake until puffy and delicious looking, 30 to 35 minutes.

You can eat the clafouti warm, but it is much, much easier to cut when it is completely cold.

Eat for dessert, breakfast, or snacktime. Especially snacktime.

❤ Stef

Recipe: Blue Cheese Stuffed Steak and Caprese Salad

13 Jun

My boyfriend hates steak. He eats meat. He eats ground beef, pork chops, sausage and pretty much any other type of meat known to man, but will not touch steak. I’m not sure why. He probably doesn’t even know why.  In any case, I think he’s nuts and anytime I want a steak I have to concoct new and exciting ways to eat it. That’s why I decided to take a sirloin steak my mother gave me and fillet it and stuff it with onions and blue cheese. The salad was thrown in as an afterthought for two reasons. One, you can’t have a meal with just meat. It’s just not right. Two, I have a bunch of basil and tomatoes that need eating.

I have to warn you that the recipes that follow don’t have any specific measurements. You really don’t need them for this, it’s more of a “stuff steak with as much blue cheese as you like” type of deal.

Stuffed Steak with Blue Cheese and Red Onion

1 sirloin steak, about 1/2 lb. You can use more if you like. You could also use a meat other than sirloin if you wish. Flank would work well.

Blue cheese. I used a few slices, less than 3 oz

Red onion, sliced thin. About 1/2 of a small onion, or to taste.

Steak seasoning

Salt and pepper

Tools:

Pan that can be used both on the  stove top and in the oven.

Butcher’s twine.

Grab your steak.

Using a super sharp knife, butterfly the steak by slicing it in half width wise and opening it up.

Slice your red onion into very thin slices.

Saute the onion with a bit of olive oil for about a minute or two. This will make them sweeter.

Slice the blue cheese.

Layer the blue cheese on the steak.

Put the sauteed onions on top.

Season with salt and pepper.

Now roll the steak up, and secure every inch or so with butcher’s twine. Season on all sides with steak seasoning. I always use Old Bay.

A note about butcher’s twine-I didn’t have any, so I used sewing thread instead. It worked just fine, but you should probably buy yourself some butcher’s twine anyway. I keep meaning to pick some up, but I always forget. Plus, you really have no idea if your sewing thread with hold in the high heat you will be cooking the steak in.

Using the pan that you sauteed the onions in (make sure it is oven-safe!) sear the steak roll on all sides so that it has a nice crust.

Once it has been seared, put the whole pan in a 400˚ oven for 15 minutes. I like my steak rare to medium rare, so 15 minutes was perfect. Leave it in 5-10 minutes longer if you prefer yours medium to well done.

Remove from the oven, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. This will allow the juices to redistribute. Plus, keep in mind that the steak will continue to cook during this period, raising in temperature up to 10˚.

While you wait for the steak, make the salad.

Caprese Salad

1 medium-large tomato

Fresh mozzarella

Handful of fresh basil

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Dried oregano

Garlic powder

Salt and pepper

Cut the tomato and the mozzarella into large cubes.

Grab a handful of basil and cut into strips.

Put all three ingredients into a bowl together.

Add the salt and pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, and a splash of olive oil and a smaller splash of balsamic. Eyeball it. Use less than you think you need at first. You can always add, but removing ingredients is difficult. Just like mascara, or eyeliner. (I apologize to my male audience members, who may or may not have any idea of what I’m talking about!) Mix together.

Once the salad is done (and 10 minutes have elapsed) cut the steak into slices.

Serve with the salad.

Ok, now, when you eat the steak, but a piece of steak in your mouth, followed immediately by a piece of tomato.

Mmmmmmmmmm.

❤ Stef

Recipe: Olive Oil Pound Cake with Lemon and Rosemary

22 May

A few weeks ago I started carrying a notebook on me, so I could write down ideas when they came to me. I don’t remember where I was when I thought of making a pound cake with olive oil, but the idea popped into my head fully-formed–“olive oil pound cake”! Brilliant, I thought.

I think the idea really came from a little place in Berkeley called Sketch Ice Cream. Sketch was the first ice cream place I ever saw to use unconventional toppings, such as olive oil and sea salt. I’ve only ever been there once, because I live in San Francisco without a car and Sketch is located in a part of Berkeley that is inaccessible by BART. If you are ever in the area, or if you live in the area, I highly recommend you stop by. So although Sketch didn’t directly inspire me to make the olive oil pound cake, it opened me to the idea that savory things can be sweet. Like salt on caramel.

When I decided to make olive oil pound cake, I googled it and saw that it is not an original idea. Sad! Instead of using an available recipe, I decided to go ahead and make a regular pound cake and substitute olive oil for the butter. I found this nifty article about baking with olive oil, and it told me that 3 TB of olive oil can be substituted for 1/4 C of butter. So, I used 3/4 C of olive oil in place of the 1 C of butter the recipe originally called for. I also added the zest of 1 lemon, and the rosemary.

Olive Oil Pound Cake, adapted from the joy of baking.com

1 3/4 C flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

3/4 C olive oil

1 C sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

zest of 1 lemon

2 TB fresh rosemary, 1 TB if using dried.

Set the over to 350˚. Grease a 9x5x3″ loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper (I used waxed paper, and it worked wonderfully) and grease it.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. I didn’t sift. I never sift. It’s the lazy in me. Maybe something fully amazing would happen to this cake if you sifted, but I didn’t, and it was still delicious.

Beat together the sugar and the olive oil.

I thought this looked cool.

I thought this looked cool.

Add the eggs to the mix one at a time, fully incorporating each egg before adding the next. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and rosemary.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just incorporoated. Pour into pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Let cool for approximately 10 minutes, then overturn and cut. It should come out of the pan without a fuss. Serve warm either alone, or with honey or jam. If you’re feeling adventurous, slather that pound cake with butter. It’s ok; it’s made with olive oil!

Or, if you made some, serve with maple cream.

It is also really good cut into thick slices and toasted in the morning for breakfast. Or you could use it as the base for french toast! I haven’t tried that one, yet.

❤ Stef