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Chocolate Truffle Tart
7

Last Thanksgiving I made this over-the-top, make-your-knees-weak salted caramel chocolate tart.  And did you see it here?  I had no such luck with getting photos as I brought it to a family member’s house for dessert and the poor thing never saw the light of day again.  This chocolate truffle tart, however, was made and eaten here when Annie stayed an extra day after our girls weekend last month.  It’s elegant enough to bring for any holiday dinner, rustic enough for a casual dinner at home, and is probably one of the most basic tarts you could ever make.  You’ll make a chocolate tart dough, bake it off, and pour in a silky and decadent ganache which is simply a mixture of melted chocolate, heavy cream, and butter…and a little booze if you so desire. ;)  That’s it!  When chilled, the warm ganache turns into a truly decadent truffle filling and even though Annie couldn’t take any on the plane home with her, we savored this rich tart for nearly a whole week after she left.  If you still stuck on what you’re going to bring to Aunt Ethel’s house on Thursday, this chocolate truffle tart may just be your answer!

Chicken and Biscuits Pot Pie
50

It’s Election Day and my nerves are completely shot.  I’ve been wishing this day would come for…what seems like ever… with the hopes that the ridiculously smug TV political ads would end soon.  We have a hot Senate seat up for grabs here in CT and it’s been a contentious race between the businesswoman wife of the CEO of WWE (think Hulk Hogan-esque wrestling – but not the recent sex tapes Hulk Hogan – ewww stop) and our current Congressman.  It’s been an odd few months to say the least.

So this chicken and biscuits pot pie is a nerve-soother and it will make you forget about the political jargon, Quinnipiac polls, and personal attacks.  It’s really just a superb recipe for a hearty and homey chicken pot pie topped with flaky buttermilk biscuits instead of pie dough.  And to be honest, from here on out I’m nixing pie dough as my pot pie topper.  Why fuss with pie dough when you can make a bunch of biscuits and avoid all of that chilling and rolling?  Plus?  Come on – they’re biscuits.  They’re kind of like the most obvious food you’d want to dip into your pot pie anyway, aren’t they?  The pot pie comes together quite easily (especially when you use a rotisserie or leftover roast chicken) and in about an hour, dinner is on the table.  We adored this meal and with the weather feeling like full-on winter here already in CT, I can see this being a regular nerve-soother in our house.

Chicken and Biscuits Pot Pie

Yield: 8 servings

You can make this pot pie in either a 13x9-inch baking dish or individual oven-safe bowls (which I find cute but a nuisance) - just bake the bowls for 20-25 minutes. The filling and biscuits can both be made in advance. Keep them separate, reheat the filling before adding it to the baking dish(es) then proceed with the baking process as instructed in the recipe.

Ingredients

    For the buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter chilled, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • For the chicken pot pie filling:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 small ribs celery, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 to 2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)
  • 3 to 4 cups (about 1 1/4 lbs) shredded chicken
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. To make the biscuits: In a large bowl, stir the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar together. With a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter resembles course meal with some larger butter lumps remaining. Stir in 3/4 cup of the buttermilk with a fork until the mixture forms a soft, slightly sticky ball. If the dough is too dry, add a little extra buttermilk - 1 tablespoon at a time up to 2 tablespoons.
  2. Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface and pull it together into a ball with your floured hands. Pat the dough out to 3/4" thickness and cut out 12 rounds with a 3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Transfer the biscuits to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill until you're ready to use them. The biscuits can be made and kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days in advance.
  3. To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 400° F. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer cooked vegetables to a bowl with the chicken; set aside.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the same pot. When melted, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, chicken broth, and thyme. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer and let it simmer for 1 minute to thicken. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the sherry (if using). Turn off the heat and transfer the vegetables and chicken to the pot, stirring until the filling is well-combined. Mix in the peas and parsley. If the filling is too thick (you'll know), stir in the extra chicken broth, about 1/4 cup at a time up to 3/4 cup until the filling loosens up a little.
  5. Pour the filling into a 13x9-inch baking dish and bake for 18 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven (keeping the oven on and door closed) and top the filling with the biscuits. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Source

source: adapted from The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook's Illustrated

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/11/chicken-and-biscuits-pot-pie/

Coffeecake Muffins
13

Sometimes I wonder if there is no more perfect breakfast treat than the muffin.  Sure, cinnamon rolls are sinfully amazing and lord knows, I’ll never ever give up my bagels but they both seem to take forever to make, even if most of the prep is done the night before.  But muffins?  Who can refuse making a freshly baked breakfast treat in under 30 minutes?

These coffeecake muffins combine the best of two breakfast worlds – cake (always perfect for breakfast) and muffins with a streusel topping – and as a bonus, you’ll make them in the food processor!  The sour cream in the batter is the key to keeping the muffins moist, the dark brown sugar deepens the effect the crunchy streusel has on top, and part of the streusel is actually mixed right into the muffin batter.  Does it get any better than that??  They are seriously addictive and because this recipe only makes a dozen muffins, you may want to consider doubling it if you’re expecting company or bringing them to work.  These babies will go fast!

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup
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Is it me or is it almost impossible to imagine eating a grilled cheese sandwich without a bowl of tomato soup?  It’s like eating a peanut butter and jelly (strawberry) sandwich on white bread without a glass of chocolate milk on the side.  The failure to complete the meal without the other half just doesn’t make sense to me.  And frankly, it makes me a little sad as well.  How many times have you said, “Man, a bowl of tomato soup would go great with this grilled cheese.”?

This creamless creamy tomato soup solves the soup-less grilled cheese issue in about 20 minutes.  Sure, it takes a little longer to cook than popping open a can but you’ll be thrilled with the results.  What makes the soup thick and creamy without the addition of cream, or any milk product for that matter, is a few slices of bread.  You’ll drop them in the cooking soup then pureé the whole mixture until it is silky smooth, the way a great tomato soup should be.  Paired with a grown-up grilled cheese on a chilly fall day…is there nothing more comforting?

Pulled Pork with Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce
11

Sometimes I wonder if I married my dad.  The love that my dad and Kyle have for pork is eerily similar.  There are other similarities as well that make me stop in my tracks when they appear, almost as if I’m having a flashback to my childhood, but none quite like this one.  I suppose some would say that marrying someone like my dad has some kind of Freudian subconscious meaning but I like to think that I have good taste.  (Stop laughing, Mom.)  Granted, pizza night would be a lot simpler without any arguments but where would my life be without pulled pork?

Oh pulled pork, how we love thee!  We actually very rarely make it since pork shoulders are so huge for just the two of us (and really, why make it with any other cut of the pig?) so I waited patiently for weeks for my parents to come visit again before I made this recipe.  And it was certainly worth the wait.  Brined then baked on a tightly wrapped sheet pan in the oven while slathered with a mustard-liquid smoke-spice mixture, the boneless pork shoulder slowly cooks away for hours, leaving the house smelling like a smokehouse.  And that’s not a bad thing, of course.  Before serving, we mixed the shredded spicy pork with a simple homemade sweet and tangy barbeque sauce (love in a jar) and topped a few fresh buns with the pork and some slaw. On its own, the pork is spicy but the bbq sauce mellows the spice and adds the perfect sweet-tangy flavor blend to the meal.  If it’s this easy to make the men in your life happy as it is in mine, you need this recipe!

Pulled Pork with Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 7 hours

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • ° ¼ ½ ¾
  • For the pork:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tsp table salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp plus 2 tsp liquid smoke, divided
  • 1 boneless pork shoulder (about 5 pounds), cut in half horizontally through the center
  • ¼ cup yellow or brown mustard
  • 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • For the bbq sauce:
  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 ½ tsp hot sauce
  • ½ tsp liquid smoke
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. To make the pork: Dissolve 1 cup salt, ½ cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons liquid smoke in 4 quarts cold water in large container. Submerge pork in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small prep bowl, stir together the mustard and remaining 2 tsp liquid smoke; set aside. In a second small prep bowl, mix the black pepper, paprika, remaining 2 tbsp sugar, remaining 2 tsp salt, and cayenne together; set aside. During the last 15 minutes that the pork is brining, adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 325° F.
  3. Remove pork from brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub the mustard mixture over entire surface of each piece of pork. Sprinkle entire surface of each piece with all of the spice mixture, gently pressing the spice mixture into the mustard with your fingers. Place pork on wire rack set inside foil-lined rimmed 12×18-inch baking sheet. Place a piece of parchment paper over pork, then cover with a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil (heavy duty foil will cover the sheet in one large, neat sheet), sealing the edges to prevent moisture from escaping. Roast the pork for 3 hours.
  4. Remove pork from oven; remove and discard foil and parchment. Carefully pour off liquid in bottom of baking sheet into a heat-proof bowl or fat can, discard. Return the pork to oven and cook, uncovered, until well browned, tender, and internal temperature registers 200° F on instant-read thermometer, about 1 to 1½ hours. Transfer the pork to serving dish, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  5. To make the sauce: While the pork rests, whisk the first six ingredients for the sauce in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To serve: Pull the pork into shredded bite-size pieces with two forks. Toss with 1 cup of the sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve the pork hot, passing remaining sauce separately. Transfer any remaining sauce to a resealable container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

Source

sources: pulled pork adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January 2010 | bbq sauce adapted from America’s Test Kitchen via Pink Parsley

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/06/pulled-pork-with-sweet-and-tangy-barbecue-sauce/

Pasta Bolognese
1

Grill update:  The grill has arrived.  The grill is still standing, boxed and in pieces, in the driveway.

Sanity update:  Crazy.

Seriously, I can’t wait for this grill to be put together!  Today is the day though, when Kyle has a full morning off to fuss with putting it together.  He’s already requested christening it with his beloved and adored hot dogs for lunch before I bust out the chicken for dinner.   Perhaps I’ll have to throw together a fun hot dog topping to cap off the event!

And because we’re still grill-less, I’m still cooking indoors.  This pasta bolognese easily could have been made in the dead of winter but in spite of my grill envy, the weather hasn’t been all that great here the past couple of weeks (it is still April in New England, after all) so I can certainly justify a cozy meal like this one.  A word of advice: Don’t save this recipe for a quick weeknight meal.  No, the sauce doesn’t need to cook down for hours, as does a traditional bolognese, but you’ll need about an hour to pull it together…and multiple bowls, pans, pots, and a food processor is highly recommended to cut down on the prep work.  The big question is though, was it worth it?  Oh yes, yes.  It was definitely worth it!  Rich, meaty, deeply flavored sauce spooned over a bed of comforting pasta.  A piece of soft and crusty ciabatta bread at the ready to scoop up any remaining dribbles of sauce at the bottom of the bowl.  The dried porcinis are worth looking for (I found them in my grocery store near the jarred garlic) as they add earthiness and an extra level of meatiness to the sauce.  This was an amazing dinner and it’s one, that regardless of the time it took to make, I promised Kyle I’d make again.

Greek Salad
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To me, there’s nothing like a fresh salad for lunch or dinner following a heavy meal the night before and this Greek salad is the perfect example of this.  And considering my love for feta cheese and recently discovered addiction to kalamata olives, you can imagine how much I adore this salad.  You’ll made a knock-out and crazy simple homemade dressing that includes red wine vinegar, fresh oregano (grow your own this summer!), and fresh garlic to marinate the red onions and cucumbers in order to reduce the bite and boost flavor, respectively.  And in just a few minutes time, you’ll be able to throw this salad together and have a light and healthy meal on the table.  I know I’m not alone when I say this: the quicker and tastier the meal, the better.  Win win!

Greek Salad

Ingredients

    For the vinaigrette:
  • 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp minced fresh oregano leaves
  • ½ tsp table salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 medium clove garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • For the salad:
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced thin (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce, washed, dried thoroughly, and torn into 1 ½-inch-pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 2 large vine-ripened tomatoes (10 ounces total), each tomato cored, seeded, and cut into 12 wedges
  • 6 oz (about 1 cup) jarred roasted red bell pepper, cut into ½- by 2-inch strips
  • 20 large pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
  • 5 oz (about 1 cup) feta cheese, crumbled

Instructions

  1. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients in large bowl until combined. Add onion and cucumber and toss; let stand to blend flavors, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add romaine, tomatoes, and peppers to bowl with onions and cucumbers; toss to coat with dressing. Transfer salad to wide, shallow serving bowl or platter; sprinkle olives and feta over salad. Alternatively, you can dress each salad individually, thereby allowing each person to determine how much dressing they want on their salad. Serve immediately.

Source

source: adapted from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/03/greek-salad/

Garlicky Shrimp with Buttered Crumbs
4

With last week’s warmer temperatures here, I was absolutely craving a really great grilled meal.  Unfortunately, we’re in between grills right now (though we just bought a beautiful new Weber over the weekend – thanks for the recommendations on the Facebook page everyone!) and even though the evening weather was perfect for grilling, I had indoor meals planned all week.  Which is not to say that I was disappointed by the circumstances because this garlicky shrimp with buttered crumbs was one of the meals I had planned and it turned out to be a fantastic and relatively quick meal to pull together.

Sautéed shrimp, an ample amount of garlic, and a light sherry sauce topped with toasted buttered bread crumbs and set over some linguine is the perfect meal for a busy weeknight or even to serve to guests.  The recipe calls for some French bread to be used to make the bread crumbs, which I had in the house, but you can certainly use panko bread crumbs instead.  The only thing I did differently from the original recipe was that I thinned out the sauce a little with some chicken broth and extra lemon juice so that it would coat a small serving of pasta.  Whether you serve it over pasta or with rice on the side, I’m sure you’ll love this shrimp dish as much as we did!

Spinach Lasagna
22

Spinach Lasagna

There’s something intrinsic about lasagna that makes it such a wonderful winter meal.  It’s more than likely that oodles of cheesiness has something to do with how a great lasagna can warm the soul on cold winter nights, very much like how soup has the same effect, but I think that the right recipe can do so much more.  The right recipe creates memories.  It evokes memories of crowded Sunday dinners at the grandparents’, of a hearty meal after a day of sledding or ice skating, of a full buffet table at a christening or anniversary party.  This spinach lasagna recipe is that type of recipe.

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Made with a creamy béchamel sauce, three types of cheese, fresh spinach, and no-boil noodles that you’ll soften with hot water before using, this lasagna is a big hit around here.  It’s a fun recipe to make with a helper since there are a few steps, but the effort is well-worth the end result.  Layer after layer goes in the baking dish and after 20 minutes of baking and a few minutes under the broiler to brown-up the cheesy top layer, you’ve got truly the best spinach lasagna ever.  We’ve made this recipe a handful of times in the past year and always get the same reaction from whomever we serve it to: more please!  This is definitely a recipe we keep in our book of favorites and don’t hesitate to serve time and time again.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars
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Anyone will tell you that the process of creating your own baking recipes is a difficult one.  There’s this “science” to baking that we bakers know about and live by…how just the right amount of yeast, baking powder, or egg whites will make sandwich bread, fluffy biscuits, or a soufflé rise perfectly…how flour packed into the measuring cup is actually a different amount than flour fluffed into the cup…even how soft the butter is affects how the water and fat molecules in butter react in a recipe.  The science of baking is often the reason so many of us home bakers leave the recipe creation and testing up to the pros – let them figure out the nuances and tell us how to overcome them.  I’m totally fine with that!

So when I came across the idea for these chocolate chip toffee bars, a) I knew I would need extra time at the gym this week, and b) I knew the America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe was the only recipe that I would want for these bars.  It is by far my go-t0, most beloved chocolate chip cookie recipe and if I were to combine toffee (uh yes please!) with any chocolate chip recipe, there was no question which one it would be.  And when I tell you that the toffee bits melt into the cookie dough and that the two blend into a rich caramel-milk chocolate cookie bar, I’m not lying.  I swear, this cookie bar was heaven.  Soft centers with a little crunch on top and the occasional nibble of a toffee bit that survived the oven temperature.  Seriously, go make these now and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that the ATK/CI recipe is anything but perfection (both for cookies and bars like this one).  And, I can’t stress this enough – when you’re looking for a fabulous recipe, be sure you know who really created it – it makes all the difference in the world to have a truly credible recipe to work with.

Skillet Penne with Chicken Sausage and Spinach
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This is the time of year when I’m constantly searching for quick meals to make at night when more important things trump a long-winded weeknight dinner…like cookie baking, tree decorating, vanilla eggnog drinking, and old-school Christmas carol singing.  And this year, add organizing my house for a big move to that list.  Yep, that’s right…our house is almost finished and we expect to be moved in during the week between Christmas and New Year’s!  It’s been quite an insane time of my life and much to my excitement (and relief?), I’ve recently discovered a gold mine of quick meals with my new Cook’s Illustrated online subscription.  (Don’t have one?  Want to win one??)

Skillet Penne with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

This recipe is one of those.  It’s a one pot meal that I had on the table in under 30 minutes from prep to finish and after running to UPS.bank.lunch.Barnes&Noble.kitchenplace.bathplace.graniteplace.gasstation.grocerystore between noon and 5 yesterday, the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner.  But you know what?  This meal practically got itself on the table and I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out.  I tweaked the recipe a little, adding some white wine in place of the chicken broth and finishing off the sauce with some cream (it needed a little boost) and I’ve reflected my changes below.  It’s a killer meal and I can tell you that it will be on my table again in the next couple of crazy weeks, for sure.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
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We are in eggplant overload!  In the past 2 weeks, our little garden has yielded 7 gorgeous eggplant and by this weekend, we should have another 3 or 4 ready to harvest.  It’s insane and I hope you’re ready for some fantastic eggplant recipes in the next couple of weeks!  I think the Epsom salt we used this year has been working its magic.

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In all honesty, I’ve been wanting to share this recipe with you since last summer after having made it numerous times in the past year, but I could never get my photography world to align with the eggplant parm gods (basically, all of my earlier photos of this recipe have sucked).  In short, this is the perfect eggplant parmesan recipe where crispy edges of the baked eggplant peak through light layers of a simple homemade tomato sauce and irresistible melted mozzarella cheese.  The breaded eggplant is baked in similar fashion to these baked oven fries and while we all know that making eggplant parm tends to be a little labor-intensive on the front end, how could you go wrong with the oven doing all the hard work instead of your standing over a pan of hot oil in an already too-hot kitchen in the middle of summer?

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The last time we made this recipe, we ended up baking way too many eggplant rounds so we froze the extra cooled rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet then tossed them in a freezer bag for the next time a craving arises.  Alternatively, I feel like the baked rounds by themselves could lend themselves to a myriad of other eggplant dishes like sandwiches or panini with fresh veggies and garlic aioli, eggplant stacks with roasted red peppers and goat cheese, eggplant slices topped with a poached egg for breakfast or a light lunch…you get the idea.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

This is not a quick eggplant parmesan recipe but it is worth the wait and work in every way possible. You can absolutely use your own sauce, either homemade or jarred, but if you're up for it, try this 15-minute recipe - it's truly excellent.

Ingredients

    For the Eggplant:
  • 2 medium eggplant (about 2 lbs) cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 oz)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • For the Tomato Sauce:
  • 2 cans (14 ½ oz each) diced tomatoes (or pureed or crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • For Baking:
  • 8 oz whole or part-skim mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 oz)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions

  1. To make the eggplant: In a large bowl, toss half of the eggplant slices and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt; transfer salted eggplant to colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and salt. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on a triple layer of paper towels; cover with a triple layer of paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.
  2. While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-thirds of the oven, place rimmed baking sheets on both racks, and heat oven to 425° F.
  3. In a pie plate or shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Set breaded slices on wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
  5. Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 tablespoons oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of breaded eggplant on each sheet in single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.
  6. To make the sauce: While eggplant bakes, process the diced tomatoes in a food processor or blender until almost smooth (if using pureed or crushed tomatoes, skip this step).
  7. Heat olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season to taste.
  8. To assemble and bake: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with ½ cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella.
  9. Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately.

Source

source: adapted from The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, as seen on Ezra Pound Cake

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/08/baked-eggplant-parmesan/

Blueberry Scones
18

Blueberry Scones

I have a strategy when it comes to choosing recipes from my to-make list.  In the summer months, said strategy is mainly focused around what fruits or vegetables are in season.  As you may well know, the New England growing season isn’t a long one, and for some fruits, we wait sometimes upwards of 2 months for arrival at the farm stands.  Luckily, blueberries arrive fairly early on in the NE growing season and they peak in July.  It’s really no wonder why they show up in so many 4th of July desserts — aside from the obvious use of their blue color, of course.  Our plan this year is to pick a hot July morning next month to do some pickin’ and it’s quite possible that I end up with an army of blueberries as I did with strawberries a few years back.  Next year, our plan is to plant blueberry bushes and I can’t tell you how excited I already am about this!

Before we hit the fields, I’ll satisfy my blueberry cravings with these scones.  Dare I say they are the best scones I’ve ever eaten?  I realize that’s kind of a big thing to say but I won’t lie to you, you know that.  These are the melt-in-your-mouth kind of scones you dream of eating.  The kind of scones most recipes only promise to give you.  These are the real deal.  Flaky, tender, buttery, and not a bit guilt-free.  These are my kind of scones.  And to sweeten the deal a little further, since blueberries really are available year-round, there should be nothing holding you back from baking up a batch on a cold wintery morning as opposed to a hot July morning when you have a house chock full of visitors…like say, this weekend?  I’d venture to say that if you threw in a few strawberries to this recipe, you would also have quite the patriotic breakfast on your hands.  I certainly wouldn’t argue with a breakfast like this one!

Back Pocket Meals: Penne alla Vodka
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This is one meal I firmly believe every home cook should have in their repertoire…a meal that you’ve got in your back pocket, ready to pull out and make at any time.  I would bet that if you’ve even got a halfway decently stocked pantry, you’ll have everything you need to make this recipe.  Since penne alla vodka is usually the only dish I order at our favorite local Italian restaurant, I decided it was time to find a great recipe to add to my repertoire so that on the nights when I’m craving it, it’s only a few steps away from my table.

And since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be a great meal to post, especially since it’s pink but more importantly, this is for those of you who haven’t decided on what to make yet or who are on the fence about going out to dinner.  In my opinion, dinner in a restaurant on Valentine’s Day a waste of your hard-earned moula and I can guarantee that this meal will be better than what you’ll get in a restaurant tonight.  This was by far, the best vodka sauce I’ve made at home, and every bit as excellent as at our favorite restaurant. Hit up the grocery store on the way home from work this afternoon if you don’t have what you need in the house already.  Throw on a pot of boiling water, cut up a small onion and some garlic, measure out (or don’t measure if you’re feeling frisky) your vodka and some heavy cream, follow the quick recipe, maybe add a salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got this fantastic meal on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Now that’s a weeknight meal I can appreciate…and it’s one that’s special enough for a holiday like this one or to serve to guests.

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I threw some shrimp into the sauce before I added the heavy cream to let them cook through but you can add diced rotisserie or grilled chicken or even quickly sautéed scallops if you want to make the meal extra special.  The meal itself is pretty versatile and if you don’t have or don’t want to use heavy cream, use half-n-half or milk.  I forgot to buy basil this week so I used some fresh parsley instead.  Use whatever kind of pasta you have on hand – I like rigatoni with this sauce but rotini, penne, ziti, etc. all work just as well.  I feel like the red pepper flakes should be optional – if you like spice, add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp and if you don’t want the spice, I don’t think the dish will suffer without the heat. The recipe calls for a 280z can of whole tomatoes, half of which you puree, the other half of which you dice.  However, it would just be easier to buy a 14oz can of pureed or crushed tomatoes and a 14oz can of diced tomatoes – why break out the food processor for such a simple meal?  The recipe posted below is as originally written but feel free to make whatever changes you feel necessary to make it your own…and to make it one that you can truly pull out of your back pocket when you’re in a pinch for a great meal. Enjoy!