Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eggplant Parmigiana

If it were up to me, I would eat cheese for every meal.  Seriously, my husband says that it explains why I'm so cheesy (insert rim shot sound here).  When the latest issue of Food Network Magazine showed up in my mail box with the big headline announcing it's "the cheese issue", I immediately curled up on the couch and read it cover to cover.  Unfortunately due to the mixing of meat and dairy, about 60% of the recipes are not able to be made in my home (others can be amended, but for many it would totally change the dish).  When I came across the recipe for eggplant parm, I knew I wanted to try it out.  Then my husband saw it over my shoulder and immediately asked if we could make it.

The one thing about this dish is, it takes a long time to make.  The printed recipe says it takes 2h 45min, but it took me just a little longer (about 3 hours).  I did make one switch in the order of things.  As printed, it said to make the sauce, then prep the eggplant (which then sits for an hour).  I did the eggplant first, then made the sauce, which made a lot more sense.  I even had a little down time after the sauce was done to eat a salad (I had started cooking a little later than I meant to, so we needed the salad to tide us over until the main course was ready!).  I think I can shave a little time off the prep time the next time I make this, everything is always a little clunky the first time you make it!

This recipe was fun to make, especially because it was easy for 2 people to do together.  After the eggplant was ready to be fried, my husband took care of that while I grated the cheese and got everything to put the whole thing together.

A few things I'd do differently next time - the eggplant we got was most bulbous on the bottom so the slices ended up varying in size, next time I'd get one that was a little more symmetrical so the slices come out more uniform.  Also, the package of mozzarella slices I bought was only 8oz which I didn't realize at the time, so it wasn't quite as cheesy (and I bought regular mozzarella, not fresh, so I'd buy fresh next time and slice it myself).  On the third layer of eggplant I didn't end up using the mozzarella so that I could use the final slices on top.

It definitely lived up to any expectations we had.  And it says it serves 6, which is just about right (it would have been 6 full servings had my husband not eaten 2 slices the first night, so technically it served 5).

Eggplant Parmigiana (recipe by Alex Guarnaschelli)

for the sauce:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, grated
kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 28oz can plus one 15oz can whole San Marzano plum tomatoes
for the eggplant:
1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4lbs) sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
kosher salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tbsp milk
2 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable oil for frying
12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 1 oz)
2 cups grated provolone cheese (about 8oz)
handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

 - Prepare the eggplant: Put the eggplant rounds in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt on both sides and let sit, about 1 hour.
- Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and season with salt and the red pepper flakes; cook until the onions are soft and translucent (7 to 8 minutes).  Add the sugar and tomatoes and break up some of the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes are fairly borken down (10 to 15 minutes).  Taste for seasoning.  Let cool.
- Rinse the eggplant with cold water and dry thoroughly with a kitchen towel.
- Put the flour in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and season with salt and pepper.  In a third bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, oregegano, and thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour and shake off any excess.  Dip in the egg mixture and finally in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides.  Lay the eggplant slices on baking sheets in a single layer.
- Heat about 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly (between 380 and 400 degrees).  Using tongs, add a single layer of eggplant to the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season lightly with salt.  Repeat until all of the eggplant is fried.
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350.  Spoon about one-quarter of the tomato sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.  Top with a layer of the fried eggplant, overlapping the slices slightly.  Top with one-quarter of the mozzarella, then sprinkle with about one-third each of the parmesan, provolone, and basil.  Repeat the layering 2 more times (sauce, eggplant, cheese, basil), then finish with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.  Press the layers firmly into the dish.  Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly (30 to 40 min).  For an extra-brown top, put the dish under the broiler for a minute or two just before serving.        

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Flourless Raspberry Souffle

A few weeks ago my husband and I went down to Atlantic City to see a cooking demonstration by Geoffrey Zakarian.  It's no secret we're huge fans of Chopped, so if we have a chance to see a judge in person, we're there.  And another thing we don't usually pass up is a good excuse to go to Atlantic City!  The demonstration was a lot of fun.  Chef Zakarian showed us how to make a hamburger (apparently if you mash it too much and add things to the meat, it's a meatball, not a burger....who knew?!) with a side of coleslaw, plus a dessert of raspberry souffle.

Souffle is one of those things that I never attempted because I had heard how hard it was to make it, and all the superstitions about how easy it is to make the souffle fall (making loud noises, opening the oven, etc).  But the way he demonstrated it, he kept saying how easy it is, even showing that you can open the oven, let the souffle sit there before putting it in the oven, etc.  So, I decided to attempt making this dessert for Valentine's Day, and the results were a success!

The demonstration itself was a lot of fun.  For some reason Bobby Flay's mother was there and sitting a few rows ahead of me.  The audience could ask questions, so I asked him about the weird ingredients in the Chopped baskets (they had to eat lamb testicles...ick!).  One woman asked the best way to cut onions without crying (the answer?  "have your boyfriend do it") and there was also an older Italian woman there with her American daughter who asked questions, but then answered them herself like she was testing Chef Zakarian.  It was a lot of fun.

The souffle made a lovely dessert for a special dinner, and honestly was so easy and so yummy, I'm definitely going to make it again.  It's also a good dessert to make when you have folks over for dinner because it's sure to impress!

Flourless Raspberry Souffle (as printed in Geoffrey Zakarian's Town/Country)

for the puree:
4 6oz containers fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
for the souffles:
butter, for greasing the souffle dishes (**to make this parve, use vegetable shortening)
1 cup sugar
18 large egg whites
confectioners' sugar, for garnish

- Set aside 36 raspberries for garnish.  Place the remaining raspberries, 6 tbsp of the sugar, and the lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the fruit is very soft (15 to 20 min).  Remove the raspberries from the heat and allow them to cool to room temperature.  Puree the berries in a blender (or use an immersion blender, stirring, then transfer them to a bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Prepare six 8oz ramekins (**though if you have a different size, it's ok to use what you have) by generously buttering them on the inside and then coating the butter lining with 2 tbsp of the sugar.  Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment on low speed.  Whip the whites until they form soft peaks, then gradually begin adding the remaining sugar.  Continue whipping until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks.
- Remove the egg whites from the mixer and gradually fold in 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of raspberry puree in thirds, taking care to not over fold (if you like an airy, lighter-flavored souffle, add the lesser amount of the puree; if you prefer a more intense fruit flavor, add the greater amount).  Reserve any remaining puree.  Using a pastry bag with the large plain tip, pipe the souffle mixture into the ramekins, swirling it so each souffle has a peak like a soft ice cream cone.  (Alternatively, just spoon the mixture into the ramekins, filling them not quite to the top).  Stud the peaks of the souffles with the reserved raspberries.
- Place the souffles in the oven immediately and bake until puffed and golden, about 15 min.  The center of the souffle should still be soft.  Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately, garnished with any leftover raspberry puree.

Monday, February 11, 2013


For my office holiday gift swap I got a whole bunch of goodies, including a popover pan.  To be quite honest, I don't think I had actually had a popover before, but I always wanted to try making them.  And in one of my favorite movies My Blue Heaven there's a funny scene where Steve Martin (as a mobster sent to the burbs as part of the witness protection agency) is out with friends and grabs something from the bread basket.  He asks "What the frig is this?" and his answer comes from William Hickey (in a voice only he can do) saying "it's a pahpovah".  My description of this scene doesn't nearly do justice to the hilarity of this film.  If you haven't seen it, you should - it's classic Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, and Joan Cusack.

What I like about popovers is that you don't have to decide in advance to make them, like with cinnamon rolls or other baked breakfast treats.  They take less than an hour to make (30min of which is cooking time).  And there isn't a ton of clean-up after (a bowl, the pan, utensils, not much else).  It's a nice treat to enjoy on a weekend morning with your coffee.

The first time I made them, I just kept them plain, but the next time I added a cinnamon-sugar mix to the top to give it a little something extra.  One thing to note - the original recipe says that it makes 12 popovers, so I halved it since my pan makes 6.  It turns out, I must have a jumbo pan or something because when I halved the recipe I only ended up with 3!  The next time I made the whole recipe and came away with 6 yummy popovers.

Popovers (recipe by Mark Bittman)

1 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour


- Heat the oven to 425.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or a popover tin and put it in the oven while you make the batter.
- Beat together the eggs, milk, butter, sugar, and salt.  Beat in the flour a little bit at a time; the mixture should be smooth.  Fill the tins at least halfway (if you have a large tin, this might make less than 12 popovers).
- Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and continue baking for 15 minutes more, or until the popovers are puffed and browned (do not check the popovers until they have baked for a total of 30 min).  Remove from the pan immediately and serve hot.

***My addition - to top them with cinnamon-sugar, let the popovers cool slightly, brush the tops with melted butter and then sprinkle them with pre-made cinnamon-sugar, or in a shallow dish, combine 2 tbsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar until well mixed and roll the tops of the popovers in the mix.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Zucchini Pancakes

I am excited to participate in this month's Blogger's Choice swap.  This is when you're assigned a blog of another participant and you get to choose from their entire blog what you want to make.  One requirement of participating in this swap is to have 50 recipes posted.  At the time of sign-up, I had 51 (the number has gone up since due to my recent posts).  I may not participate in this swap every month, but I'm sure every other month or so I'll want to do it.  I mean, I make things from the other ladies on the What's Cooking board's blog all the time, so why not make my own blog post about those recipes?!  The blog I was assigned was Simple Gourmet Cooking.  Dawn has lots of delicious recipes, but which one to choose?  I jokingly thought to myself 'well, she was just assigned my poached flounder, I could just re-post that!', but obviously that wasn't a realistic thought.  She recently posted a yummy looking apple cider doughnuts, and I've been meaning to use my new doughnut pan, but we've had a lot of sweets lately.  Then I found it.....zucchini pancakes!

Even in her post she says that she knows it sounds a bit weird - her husband gave her major side-eye for mentioning she was going to make this.  But honestly, my husband and I enjoy zucchini so much that we were all for trying this recipe out!

Making them was super easy, though I made a few minor adjustments (making it the way she post they came out a bit greasy to me, so I added a step to remove some of this grease).  And honestly, these are a good substitute for veggie kugel.

And check out Eva's posting of my hamentashen   This is why I love these swaps, someone who was born in Taiwan tries out a traditionally Jewish treat!

Zucchini Pancakes (slightly adapted from Simple Gourmet Cooking)

Ingredients 2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 lb)
2 tbsp grated onion
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
butter and vegetable oil (to make parve, use oil only)

- Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater.
- Stir in the onion and eggs
- Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.  If the batter is too thin and/or liquidy, add more flour as needed.
- Heat a large (10-12 inch) skillet over medium heat and melt 1/2 tbsp of butter and 1/2 tbsp of oil together in the pan.  When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan.

- Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned.  Remove and put on paper towels to soak up extra grease.
- Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry until all the batter is used.
- If needed, put on a sheet pan and heat in oven at 300 degrees to keep warm.