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Grilled (not fried) eggplant parmesan

23 Jan

Hello out there. I’ve been desperately remiss here about posting, and it’s not because I haven’t asked my mom for advice.

So I am attempting to start anew, and I have just the thing, because I just ate it and it was really good: grilled, not fried, eggplant parmesan.

photo (12)

What you will need:

2 eggplants

2 large balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, salted

fresh grated parmesan

1 large can (I think 16 oz?) crushed tomatoes

1 regular 8 oz can tomato puree

1 pound ground beef

4 cloves garlic

1 bunch parsley

1 onion

olive oil

1 sauce pan

1 saute pan

1 oven pan, 9-13 or something like it.

O.k. so, slice the eggplant long ways in half, and then thinly.

photo (13)

Set aside.

Brown 1 pound of ground beef in a saute pan, then drain grease and set aside.

Dice parsley, olive and onion, and add to sauce pan with olive oil.

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Toss the ground beef in the pan, then add the canned tomatoes, and about 1/2 can of water per can of tomato. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Let it boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile. If you have a grill, do this on the grill, if you have a grill pan, do it on the grill pan. Brush a thin layer of olive oil over the eggplant, (seriously, thin, you shouldn’t drench it) and grill them so they are soft in the middle.

photo (16)

This process took me about 20 minutes. After I was done, I added about four fistfulls of cheese to the quick red sauce and turned that off.

photo (14)

Slice the fresh mozzarella. And then layer! Eggplant, cheese, sauce, until you run out of room in your pan. Sprinkle a layer of parmesan on the top.

Bake it longer than you would normally bake fried eggplant, like 40 minutes at 350, covered for 3/4 of the time.

Take out and eat! We had plain sautéed spinach as a side.

It was good. And not so bad for you!

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Hannibal’s favorite

22 Jun
I got fresh fava beans this week. Hannibal Lecter likes to eat his with liver and a nice Chianti, but frankly I can’t stand the consistency of organ meat, so we settled instead on red snapper, which I’ll explain below.
Turns out, fava beans are a lot of work for little yield. You have to remove the beans from the pod, then on remove the beans from a little white sheath. We had a big handful and ended up with just a tiny amount.
  
The beans are tough, so my mom suggested to first blanche them, which essentially means to drop them into hot water with salt just before it boils, then leave them in about 2-5 minutes, until the beans turn bright green, then drain them and shock them in a bowl of cold water. This method works well on just about any green veg, and you can leave them in a little longer if you want a more cooked vegetable with a retained crunch.
I didn’t end up with a lot of beans so I also blanched some fresh English peas I had lying around. Meanwhile, I heated up 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 cloves fresh garlic, diced, and sautéed the favas for a few minutes until they were on the crunchy side, then I threw in the peas right at the end to warm them.
It also happens to be fresh fig season, which I’ll write about in more detail later. But I had a package going bad in my fridge, so I chopped them up and threw them on top of a filet of red snapper that had been smeared with a table spoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. I broiled it for about 10-15 minutes, then squeezed on some fresh lemon.
Not bad, and also not criminal. Andrew did bring Chianti home for dinner, though. Clariiiiicceeeeee ….

Adventures in CSA: Kohlrabi

3 Jun

My friend Jenna and I are splitting a share this summer of what’s known in New York as “CSA.” It stands for community-supported agriculture, and I’d never heard of it before moving here so forgive me if I’m explaining something that everyone already knows. You pay up front and then get 25 weeks of surprise vegetables and 22 weeks of fruit delivered to a spot near you from farms upstate.

In Brooklyn there is no shortage of organic, farm-fresh vegetables. Or really of anything artisanal or niche (New York Magazine said with its usual snark that it’s a borough pretending it’s a 19th century English village, and that pretty much nailed it.) But the benefit of the CSA is the surprise factor. At a farmer’s market, you’re still going to step away from the strange-looking root and choose a more familiar edible. With CSA you have no choice.

Which brings me to kohlrabi

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Jenna picked up the batch this week and was so excited about this root vegetable I’d never heard of that she traded for two so we could each have a bunch. I called my mom, but shockingly, she was little help. The only thing she said was: “I like it, therefore you should, too.” Oh, and she told me to peel it.

To end the suspense, it tastes sort of like a mild broccoli with the consistency in-between a turnip and a crisp apple.

Thanks to the delivery this week I also had a giant head of napa cabbage. So here’s what I did with this mystery veg: I made a light summer slaw.

I cut off the green so it resembled an apple, peeled.

I shredded the cabbage, then I used a cheese grater (because I have a small kitchen and lack other more precious kitchen utensils, and frankly they’re expensive and not worth it) to grate three carrots, the three heads of kohlrabi, and one gala apple, peeled. I tossed them all together in a bowl with some freshly, thinly sliced scallion, and then I made a slaw dressing variation I think I already talked about here so forgive me for repetition but it was relevant in this case.

        

If you need a crash course on the dressing it is:

Approximately:

3 tablespoons thick, plain yogurt, or mayo

3 tablespoons whole-seed mustard

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper.

Whip with fork until creamy and sort of runny. I tossed it over the mix and I had the most delightful, light, crisp slaw ever. I served it with sautéed shrimp.

Oh, as an aside, we also at the leafy green tips, first steamed then sautéed with olive oil. They were hearty, sort of like an edible construction paper, maybe they’re not ideal as a leafy green, but they tasted good to me.

So here’s to strange summer vegetables and summer in general, huh?

Unusual vegetables Part II: Fiddlehead Ferns

27 Apr

I’m in a food rut. Lucky for me, it’s early spring and there are a host of vegetables I don’t often cook. Fiddlehead ferns, for one. They’re the windy green stalks of a fern that haven’t yet grown. They’re high in iron, fibre and deliciousness as long as you’re not afraid of them. Mom says to steam them first, for a few minutes to soften them.  I don’t have a double boiler so instead I just stick a strainer on top of a pot of boiling water, works just fine.  I steamed them about five minutes. They got a little brown in color.

Then, I added 2 cloves of minced garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil to a pan, and turned the heat on high, and sautéed them, adding about 1/4 a cup of chicken broth to soften further and add flavor. You can eat them alone, but I served them with patty-pan squash, which  has a sweeter taste, to offset the bitter, earthiness of the ferns.  I cooked the squash in the same mixture, just tossed them in first and then let the ferns cook. The squash took about 15 minutes, the ferns 10. They were still crunchy, which is how I like them.

I served the vegetables with Israeli couscous and broiled sea bass. The whole meal took 35 minutes to cook.

Chicken lasagna: A colossal pain, but worth it in the end

12 Feb

So it seems like whenever friends have a baby, I make them my mom’s chicken lasagna. I’m sorry for everyone who lives not within drop-off distance. I think the reason is two-fold. One, lasagna is easy to cook and freezes nicely and feeds you for many days so it seems like a smart thing to give to sleep-deprived new families, and two, it’s a giant pain in the ass to make so I need a good excuse.

But just because it’s a pain does not mean you shouldn’t try it when you have time. It’s delicious! It’s lighter than traditional lasagna and the bell pepper sauce is a nice difference. I’ve found if you do some things ahead of time, like make the bell pepper sauce the night before or cook the chicken, it will seem like less work.

For one pan of lasagna, you will need:

Bell pepper sauce:

2 large cans of whole, peeled tomatoes

1 regular can of crushed tomatoes

1 large onion

1 bunch flat parsley, chopped

2 large red peppers, or 4 small

2 large yellow peppers, or 4 small

4 cloves garlic

Chicken sauce:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 stick butter

4 cups chicken broth (maybe more, buy two large containers if you’re not making your own)

3 cloves garlic

2 cups or so of flour

Plus mozzarella cheese, about 1 pound, shredded

1 pound of lasagna noodles

First, put the oven on to 350 degrees and cook the chicken breast on a cookie sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s boring but that’s not the point. They need about 35 minutes to cook fully. Take them out and let them cool.

Bell pepper sauce:

Julienne the peppers, chop the parsley and mince the garlic.

In a large sauce pan on medium heat, sautee the peppers and onion and garlic with olive oil and throw in some chopped parsley. The peppers will reduce down significantly, and there may be some water in the pot. If so, drain the peppers then go to the next step.

Smush the whole peeled in your hands and add them to the sauce.

Put the small can of tomato puree in there as well and let it simmer for at least a half hour.

While it’s cooking, put salted water on to cook the lasagna. When it’s cooked, douse it in cold water to stop the cooking process and coat it with olive oil to stop it from sticking together. Set aside.

The cream sauce:

It’s not really a cream sauce. Rather, it’s a rue that you thin with chicken broth and added cooked chicken breast.  So to make the rue you need butter, garlic and flour. (A traditional rue is just butter and flour but we want garlic to flavor the sauce.)

Melt the butter on low with the garlic. Then you want to add flour until the mixture is dry, like a dough almost.

Looks something like this:

Once you make the rue you can keep and use it to thicken other things, just FYI. So now check your bell pepper sauce, if it’s thickened and cohesive, turn it off but you can keep cooking it until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna.

Dice the chicken. The smaller the chicken the better it works.

Now you’re going to thin out the rue, which you do by adding chicken broth and whisking whisking whisking. This process is labor intensive, and requires concentration.You have to do it on low heat. Whisk and then let it bubble and then whisk some more. Keep whisking until it has the consistency of Alfredo sauce.

For example, this is too thick still:

This is about what it’s supposed to look like:

So then, add the diced chicken to this sauce.

Now you’re ready to assemble. Line the pan with lasagna noodles, then the chicken sauce, then mozarella cheese and the bell pepper sauce. Repeat as much as you can. Be sure to finish it with a layer of cheese! Stick it in the freezer, bake it for 45 minutes at 350, or give it to friends.

Easy party appetizers for that post-holiday empty space on your calendar

9 Jan

Welcome back after the holidays and happy 2012! 

Below are three really easy party appetizers that make you look good and make your guests happy:

Sauteed mushroom crostini, cannellini bean and parsley pesto crostini, and prosciutto and fig pizza.

I somehow lost the images I took while doing work for this little holiday party we had, so forgive me.

We’re talking about probably 30 crostinis total and one pizza, cut into small thin personal pieces. If you need more, double the recipe.

You’ll need:

Really good olive oil, first pressed. I’m partial to this type, which my mom sells at Dunning’s Market, if you are in the Chicago area you can buy it there, or they sell it here in Brooklyn.

2 baguettes

1 large flat bread, like this:

07-flat-bread.jpg

about a pound of crimini mushrooms

3 bunches parsley

2 cups cannellini bean (you can cheat and get canned, but don’t tell my mom you did.)

1 pound aged pecorino romano, grated

garlic, 1 bulb

shallots, probably 4

1/2 pound of prosciutto, doesn’t have to be super expensive but needs to be thinly-sliced

Fresh mozzarella cheese, probably 2 large balls

Fresh rosemary, 3 sprigs

Figs, preferably fresh but they’re not in season so get dried and I’ll teach you how my mom told me to reconstitute them. Boil water and submerge the dried figs for about an hour until they puff up slightly from where they were.

Food processor

Saute pan

good knife.

Crostinis:

You’re going to make two at the same time. Turn on your oven to 350. Slice the baguettes into small ovals and spread them out on large cookie sheets. Wash olive oil over the bread, salt and pepper it. Put it in the oven and keep watch, it takes about 15 minutes and you don’t want them too crispy. Yours won’t have grill marks, but you get the idea.

Cook the beans the night before so they’re already done, or if they are canned, don’t sweat it.

Cut the mushrooms

Mince about 4 cloves garlic

dice both bunches of  parsley. Set aside two generous handfuls.

Toss some olive oil in a saute pan (the kind I showed you a few weeks ago or something similar) and throw in the garlic, and a small handful of parsley, let it brown a few minutes and then toss in the mushrooms and let them sweat. Turn the heat down, medium to low.

While they are cooking, put the remaining parsley into a food processor with 1 clove fresh garlic, salt and pepper and a generous amount of olive oil. The pesto should be oily but not soupy. Blend until it’s a paste. Add about four large handfuls of pecorino romano.

Combine the pesto and the beans in a seperate bowl. Et voila.

Meanwhile, your mushrooms are cooking, cooking, cooking down. They start to smell really good. Add some salt and pepper. When they are 1/2 their size, or even smaller, turn it off and add a handful of cheese, and then another 1/2 handful. Let them rest. The mushrooms will turn a deeply rich color of brown. 

Remove the bread and spread the mixtures on the bread. Use your remaining handful off parsley to garnish.

Pizza: Credit for this belongs to my sister, Claudia. Genius idea. 

Rub olive oil on the flat bread and bake in 350 oven for 10 minutes, alone, remove.

Slice shallots and carmelize (which means saute slowly, with olive oil until they are translucent and soft and smell sweet) This process will take about 15 minutes or so at a medium heat.

Slice figs, probably 10

Slice mozzarella cheese

Dice rosemary

Assemble:

Olive oil, shallots, 1/2 rosemary prosciutto figs, then mozarella on the top and 1/2 rosemary.

Bake until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Let it sit and serve in slices.

I can’t believe I don’t have a photo, it was so beautiful!

Next time, I promise.

My mom says the secret of Porcini mushroom risotto is to stir it like crazy

30 Nov

Risotto is one of those things I never make because I think it’s going to be too hard. Except, it’s not. It’s easy, and it just TASTES like it was really difficult to make. My mom says the secret is that you just have to stir it, a lot.

So I made this the other night after I tracked her to down to ask how much broth you need to add. (Her answer, as usual, was “as much as it takes” so I’m estimating that here.)

What you will need:

A large sautee pan, kind of like this:

Ingredients:

Serves 4:

1 cup arborio rice

5 cloves fresh garlic

1 onion

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms or 2 cups fresh, can also use crimini or button mushrooms

Chicken broth, probably 3 cups

White wine, 1/4 a cup

About 24 jumbo fresh or thawed shrimp, cleaned, tails off  (depending on how hungry you and people are)

Salt

Pepper

Olive oil

Fresh grated parmesan cheese, about three handfuls

Fresh parsley, chopped

If you have dried mushrooms, put them into about a cup of boiling water and let sit while you do this other stuff. If you have fresh mushrooms, cut them up and stand by.

Dice the onion, mince the garlic.  Put about 3/4 the garlic aside for the shrimp.

Throw some olive oil in the pan, enough to thinly cover the bottom. Medium heat, toss the onion and garlic in.

When the onion is translucent, toss the rice in, folding the olive oil and onion, garlic in.  Cook another five minutes, then remove the mushrooms from the water, set them aside and toss mushroom-y water in, or  use a cup of chicken or vegetable broth and stir, stir, stir. Reduce heat.

Fresh mushroom peoples: In another pan, saute the mushrooms with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until they reduce down, then set them aside.

Continue to stir the rice until the broth is near gone, then add 1/4 cup of white wine and stir some more. Salt and pepper it.

As the rice boils down, it gets a sort of creamy consistency. Continue to add broth after the liquid reduces down until the rice looks translucent. That’s about 35 minutes. You can add a little more wine too if it needs more of a kick.

If it looks like this, then it’s not done yet:

At the 25 minute mark, or so, fold the mushrooms in to the risotto.

Taste it! Is it crunchy? If so, it needs more time and more broth or wine. If it’s not crunchy, it’s done. Add about three handfuls of grated cheese.

Let it sit.

Meanwhile, heat up a second pan and toss in the rest of the garlic, parsley and more olive oil. Saute the shrimps until they’re pink and feel fleshy instead of mushy. That takes very little time, about 10 minutes.

And here it is:

Thanksgiving sideshow: Cranberry deliciousness

24 Nov

Here’s a recipe for super easy, super fast, super delicious cranberries. Eat them for Thanksgiving or for a snack.

What you will need:

1 package of fresh cranberries
2 seedless juicing oranges
2 granny smith apples
1 cup of suger
Put the raw cranberries in the food processor,
Cut the apples from the core and slice up the oranges, including the rinds.
Toss everything into the food processor
Add cup of sugar (more to taste if need be)
And blend blend blend until it’s a relish.
It’s so good, you won’t believe. And really easy.
Toss in the fridge and you’re ready to go!

Spaghetti Supper pasta sauce

10 Nov

Fifty years ago today, my grandmother, Antoinette Reardon, started a fundraiser at our grade school called the Spaghetti Supper. She made a pot of our family recipe red sauce and fed a roomful of people who had donated money. (That actually describes my childhood, but without the donation part.)  The fundraiser made us feel like famous people in our tiny town of Crown Point, Ind., and people still talk of my grandma in these revered tones and marvel at how great the food was. So in honor of her, my mom, Maureen, cooked a big batch of sauce for her store Dunning’s Market before heading over to the supper with her brothers and sisters. By the way, mom is one of 11.

Here’s my mom’s take on the sauce, from her own mouth:

In honor of the 50th anniversary of St.Marys Spaghetti Supper (which my mom started) I made “quick” spaghetti. It makes about 8 quarts, cut it in half if you want less.
Here is what you will need:

2 pounds ground chuck
1 pound chunk of pork (pork shoulder)
2 cups fine  grated picorino romano cheese
2 small onions diced
8 cloves garlic chopped
1 cup fine chopped flat parsley
3 cans imported tomato puree (2.2 pounds)
1 can imported whole tomato (2.2 pounds)
1 cup fresh basil leaves (stack on one another and roll then slice”chiffionad”)
1 tsp sea salt (fine)
olive oil (extra virgin)
heat pan with 3-4tbsp oil and sautee onions until transluscent
push to the side and add pork ..brown on all sides.
add chuck and garlic and brown thru
add parsley and basil
add tomatos(crush whole tomatos with hands )
add 1 1/2 cup water
add salt
bring to boil the turn down to low simmer and cook for 4 hours stirring frequently.
stir in one cup grated cheese reserve the rest for the table
cook pasta of your choice (we like a small penne or thin spaghetti) drain and
top with sauce and serve
be sure the onions are translucent. if not they will taste burnt and you can taste them in the sauce
and then you will have to start all over. That is what happened to me today but since I was making it for my sibilings I was certian they would be able to taste it and totally call me out.  I could not take that chance of family humiliation so…..I made the recipie twice!