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Archive for September, 2008

I have had lousy eggplant parmesan, and I have had great eggplant parmesan. If the breading isn’t done right, and cooked right, it can be a greasy, soggy, messy mess of a dish. I have always shied away from making it after my first attempt, many years ago, was less than stellar. Let’s face it – it was a greasy, soggy, messy mess of a dish.

When looking through my stack of recipes torn from magazines, copied from the internet, or jotted down on the backs of envelops, I found a recipe for eggplant parm published in the October 2008 issue of Food & Wine. I had saved it because it did not call for breading the eggplant slices, or salting and draining them, a step that is often included in eggplant dishes, supposedly to remove any bitter flavor. I dutifully follow such directions, always wondering if it is truly necessary. That salting and draining step is often one that prevents me from fixing a recipe. Sometimes, that extra half-hour is not in the cards.

Anyway, I  bought some smallish eggplants at a farmers’ market on the weekend without a clear decision of what to do with them. Ratatouille, maybe? Then I ran across the parmesan recipe. I decided I needed 2 more small eggplant in order for it to be worth while. I needed nothing else. I had leftover spaghetti sauce, plenty of mozzarella and parmesan. My basil is still being harvested, so I spent about 30 minutes putting all the ingredients together in the afternoon, refrigerating it until it was time to bake it before dinner. All I needed to do at the last minute was toss a salad, and make some buttered toast from my No-Knead Bread.

 

EGGPLANT PARMESAN WITH BREAD CRUMB TOPPING-

Food & Wine, Oct. 2008


3 T. olive oil, plus more for frying the eggplant

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Two 28-ounce cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, drained*

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper**

8 small eggplant (1/2 pound each), cut lengthwise 1/2 inch thick***

3 T. coarsely chopped fresh basil

1 pound fresh mozzarella (or use grocery store shredded)

1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

3 T. dry bread crumbs

——–

* I used one can of  diced tomatoes, and approximately 2 cup of leftover spaghetti sauce; no rules here, just use what works for you

**Use regular salt and pre=ground pepper. Don’t let the lack of Kosher salt or freshly ground pepper stop you. Use what you have.

***I used 4 medium sized eggplants.

——–

1. Heat the 3 T. of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Crush the tomatoes, if whole, by hand over the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat until thick, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Here’s where I added my leftover sauce, already quite thick, and heated it up. The directions in the magazine call for pureeing the whole thing in a food processor. I did not do that. My homemade sauce had a little meat in it and some sliced mushrooms. I didn’t want to change the texture of my meat sauce so I left it as it was.) Season with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil. Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper. Working in several batches, cook the eggplant over medium-high heat, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Add more oil as necessary. (I used nowhere near that much oil. I just put about 1 tablespoon in the skillet before each batch.) Drain the eggplant slices on paper towels.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in a 9 X 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange one-third of the fried eggplant slices in the baking dish and sprinkle all over with 1 tablespoon of the chopped fresh basil. Top with one-third of the mozzarella and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the grated parmesan. Repeat this layering twice. Sprinkle bread crumbs all over the op of the eggplant parmesan. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top of the dish is golden and the tomato sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. (I used a 7 X 11-inch Pyrex dish and had two slices of eggplant leftover. I covered my casserole with foil and refrigerated it, bringing it to room temperature before baking it, uncovered. Delicious!)

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Fake Bailey’s

If you like Bailey’s Irish Cream as much as I do, you’ll be pleased to have this recipe in your hip pocket. Maybe your recipe box is safer. Forking out the $$ for a bottle of Bailey’s or one of the pseudo-Bailes’s hurts a bit, especially at holiday time when you might choose to offer it to guests.

While this homemade concoction isn’t free, it certainly is more economical than what you would buy. The only ownside is that it won’t keep as long as the commercial bottle would. Did I say that was a downside? I guess that depends on you!

Last year, I made a bread pudding that was flavored with Irish cream. It was great. I should try it with this substitute.

Anyway, give it a try, and you have two weeks to enjoy it all.

“BAILEY’S” IRISH CREAM LIQUEUR

14 oz. can sweetened evaporated milk

1 c. Irish whiskey (or regular whiskey, or Southern Comfort, or Bourbon)

1 T. chocolate syrup (I used Hershey’s)

1 T. vanilla

1 t. instant coffee

1 c. whipping cream (can use coffee cream, not coffee creamer)

1/2 t. coconut extract or 1 t. almond extract

 

1. Combine all in a blender and blend 1 minute.

2. Transfer to a large container and refrigerate covered for 2 hours.

3. Can be kept refrigerated for 2 weeks.

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For some reason, I tend to make more meals with pork in the fall and winter. I think it’s because many of the recipes I use call for items more prevalent at that time. For example, I love to fix pork stuffed with fruit, either thick chops or a butterflied tenderloin. The nice selection of apples in the fall gives me the impetus to try that again. 

Pork roasting in the oven gives the whole house an aroma that can’t be beat. A few sweet potatoes, an apple pie – that’s all I need.

The following recipe uses dried fruit in the stuffing instead of fresh.  Any combination of fruit works well.

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH DRIED FRUIT STUFFING*

Serves 4

Stuffing:

1/2 c. finely chopped onion

1/4 c. finely chopped celery

1/2 c. finely chopped red bell pepper

1-2 t. oil

salt and pepper

1/4 c. dried cranberries

1/4 c. golden raisins (or regular raisins, or dried currants)

1/2 c. dried cherries

1/4 c. bread crumbs

1 large pork tenderloin, butterflied and pounded to a rectangle, about 12 X 6 inches.

1 T. butter

1 – 2 t. oil

1/2 c. red wine

1/2 c. chicken broth

1 T. onion soup mix (optional)

1/4 t. Julia Child’s pork spice mix**

salt and pepper

1/4 – 1/2 c. applesauce, unsweetened, preferably

* Really, any dried fruit will work here. I have used dried apples, raisins, apricots, any combination works well, even prunes.

** If you don’t have time to mix this, just add a pinch of cloves, nutmeg, paprika, thyme and allspice or cinnamon with a little extra pepper.

———

1. Saute the vegetables in the oil in a small skillet until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cook and stir for 1 minute. Put the vegetables in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Mix the dried fruit and bread crumbs with the vegetables and spread over the prepared pork tenderloin leaving a 1/2 inch margin of meat uncovered with the stuffing. Roll up the pork lengthwise, firmly, but not tightly (the stuffing will be squeezed out if you roll it up too tightly). 

3. Tie with butcher’s string every 1 1/2 inch. Preheat oven to 375.

4. Heat the oil in an oven-proof skillet large enough to accomodate the rolled up roast. Brown the tenderloin on all sides and put the skillet with pork in the oven to continue cooking.

5. Roast for 30-35 minutes. Remove pork from the skillet and cover with foil to keep warm. Remember !! The skillet is hot and so is the handle. 375 degrees will give you serious burn – I know this from experience. Keep a pot holder on the skillet handle. Put the skillet on a burner with medium high heat and deglaze the pan with 1/2 c. red wine. Reduce to a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Add the 1/2 c. chicken stock and the onion soup mix, if using. Cook to reduce halfway, again about 10 minutes. Add the pork spice mix, salt and pepper and the applesauce. Cook to heat through over low heat.

6. Slice the pork and serve with the sauce.

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I tend to fall into the habit of buying boneless chicken breasts, sometimes at a premium, for the convenience of having a quick, easy poultry dish ready in a jiffy. Buying other cuts of chicken, mainly on the bone, is much more economical. 

I like the flavor and moistness of chicken thighs much better than breast meat, but seem to find so many more recipes at present that call for the boneless breasts. I really need to “bone” up on removing the breast meat from the bone myself. I have seen it done, but every time I try, I wind up mutilating it. So, until I hone my butcher’s skills, I resort to buying the boneless breasts.

Anyway, here’s a recipe using bone-in chicken breasts. It takes very little time to assemble, and then it’s into the oven for 40-45 minutes while you get the rest of the meal ready. That’s not too bad, especially on the weekend.

By the way, if you’ve ever tried to peel those little pearl onions without ripping the top layers off the onion, you’ll be glad to know you’re not the only one. If I can find it at the grocery, I try to keep a bag of frozen pearl onions on hand. Then, after a quick thaw, they’re recipe ready. I have not seen frozen purple pearl onions, however. If you need those, you probably have to blanch and peel them yourself. Here’s an easy way to do that. Boil the onions for two minutes, then stop the cooking by transferring them to a bowl of ice water. Let cool for a while, then cut off the root end, and pinch the skin off the bulb. You may lose the top layer of the onion. Then you can trim off any long stringy end on the other side. 

 

BALSAMIC GLAZED CHICKEN WITH PEARL ONIONS

4 bone-in chicken breast halves

1/2 lb peeled pearl onions, (frozen pearl onions, thawed, work well)

1/2 green pepper, in 1″ chunks

1/2 red pepper, in 1″ chunks

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 T. fresh rosemary, chopped (do NOT substitute dried- just omit the rosemary)

1/3 c. balsamic vinegar

1 T. brown sugar

2 t. olive oil

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

——-

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. In a shallow ovenproof or roasting pan, arrange the chicken, onions, and pepper pieces. Sprinkle with the garlic and rosemary.

3. Whisk the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and sugar together. Pour over the chicken.

4. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

(I have made this with pork loin and it turned out great. I added some small red potatoes, cut in quarters,  to the pan and had the entire dinner in one fell swoop. I did turn the potatoes over once or twice during the cooking. The only additional thing I did was to brown the pork in a skillet before putting it in the roasting pan. To give the sauce even more flavor, I might try sauteeing the onions and peppers after browning the pork, then deglazing the pan with a little broth before adding the other ingredients and pouring over the pork in the baking pan and baking as before.)

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