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Take-Out Fake-Out: Veggie Fried Rice
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It never fails that when we’re looking to get Chinese take-out, I’m craving fried rice with my meal because let’s face it, white rice is for the birds.  The sticky stuff does nothing for me.  So when I came across this recipe last month for vegetable fried rice, I was all over it like…um, white on rice?  :) I loved the fact that by making it at home, I could control the ingredients and use up leftover rice from other nights of the week – or just make the rice in advance when I have a few spare minutes in the kitchen, which you should do anyway because the cooked rice needs to be cold for this dish.  I immediately opted for brown rice, boosted both the fresh garlic and ginger, and used frozen peas and carrots (easy!!) rather than peeling and chopping multiple carrots. We seriously loved how this recipe turned out – so much so that we made it twice in a week.  We paired it with some teriyaki chicken (let me know if you’re interested in the recipe) to round out the meal and it ended up being a substantial, quick, and relatively healthy dinner.  And since I misread a recipe I made earlier this week, leaving me with over 3 cups of cooked brown rice, I know what we’re having tonight!

Spinach, Feta and Sundried Tomato Egg Sandwiches
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Every morning, I fight against my breakfast vice: a bagel with cream cheese.  Without a doubt, I could eat a bagel with cream cheese every single day of my life and never get tired of it.  My metabolism, however, does not agree with this way of life.  So on most mornings my breakfast consists of a toasted multigrain English muffin with either peanut butter, raisins, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or sweetened cottage cheese and for the most part, I’m truly satisfied with these options.  But when I need a change of pace, I make myself a healthy egg sandwich like this one with spinach, feta, and sundried tomatoes on my favorite multigrain English muffin.  It’s a quick breakfast to throw together on busy mornings and I love the fact that it’s so filling that I don’t even think about anything else to eat until lunchtime.  All in all, I never miss the bagel with cream cheese when I’ve got an egg sandwich like this one to look forward to in the morning!

Spinach, Feta and Sundried Tomato Egg Sandwiches

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, stemmed
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and chopped
  • 2 eggs beaten with a dash a water
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz crumbled feta
  • 2 English muffins (I love Thomas' Light Multigrain), toasted and buttered (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a 10" or 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and cook until wilted; stir in the sundried tomatoes and heat through, about 2 minutes.
  2. Stir the eggs into the spinach and sundried tomatoes and add the garlic powder, oregano, and a little black pepper. Using a spatula, stir the eggs until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the feta. Divide the eggs between the English muffins and serve hot.

Source

source: Smells Like Home original

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Vegetarian Lentil and Black Bean Soup
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Is your pantry as neurotically stocked as mine is?  I’ll bet some (most?) of you always have some type of canned tomato, canned or dried bean (which may or may not be stored with the popcorn), 3 or 4 different types of vinegar (I compulsively keep 7), and too much dried pasta to feel like you’ll ever use.  However, when it really comes down to it, you know that pulling together a meal directly from the pantry isn’t ridiculously out of the question.

For us, these past few weeks have been about our household economy.  We’ve been scrimping and saving during the past 4 years and especially in the past few months to put the finishing touches on our new house…so we can install things like this in our kitchen:

And so to keep our grocery bills way down, most of our meals have been planned around what’s in the freezer and pantry.  This lentil and black bean soup is the perfect example of one of said meals.  While you could certainly use chicken broth or stock, I opted for veggie broth.  At $2 per quart, I figured I’d splurge at little :) , considering I already had all of the other ingredients in the house already.  I am always looking for new lentil soup recipes and this one, with the addition of black beans, hit the nail on the head.  We truly adored this soup and with its thick and almost chili-like consistency, it’s a filling and healthy meal that will continue to stick around on our menu long after we move in (and you know, rebuild our savings account).

Panera Stove Top Mac and Cheese
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Have you had Panera’s Signature Mac and Cheese yet?  It’s insanely amazing!  Velvety, creamy, cheesy, and worthy of only a spoon since it’s the closest utensil to a shovel. ;)    And here is the recipe for you!  I know I lamented back in the fall about this being the very best mac and cheese recipe out there but until today, I’ve still yet to post a quick stove top mac and cheese recipe.  I’ve tried a couple different stove top recipes in the past year but none of them really had the “wow” factor I was looking for.  But this one…oh this version is different.

What I felt about other versions not tasting like they were cooked enough is not an issue with this version, even though the salt, dijon mustard, and hot sauce (oh yes!) aren’t added until right before the pasta is stirred into the sauce.  All of the unique flavors blend so beautifully and result in an unforgettable white cheese sauce that nestles itself into the shells and wraps itself around the spoon.  Kyle and I both love the slight hint of dijon that peaks out of the cheese sauce mostly because it reminds us of the mac and cheese recipes our moms made for us as kids but you can always decrease the dijon a little – don’t cut it completely though because the sauce really does need it.  This recipe has made it to our menu twice in the past two weeks and I used skim milk both times with great success (and a lot less guilt) but use whatever milk or cream you have on hand.  So the big question for you is…is this on your menu yet??

*Recipe Change Note* – After having made this recipe a few times since posting it, I have decreased the amount of flour and increased the time needed to cook the flour.  Cooking the flour in the butter a little longer will reduce the “floury” taste and will help to thin out the sauce a little.

Panera’s Stove Top Mac & Cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 oz pipette pasta or other small pasta shapes
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half
  • 4 oz white American cheese, chopped or torn into pieces
  • 8 oz extra sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
  • 2 tsp - 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (adjust according to your tastes)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp hot sauce (like Frank's)

Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
  2. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and has started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 1/2 minutes whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.
  3. Remove sauce pan from the heat and by the handful, stir in the cheeses allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the mustard, salt, and hot sauce. Return the sauce pan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the sauce pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through. Serve hot in bowls with spoons.

Source

source: Panera Bread

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http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/02/paneras-stove-top-mac-and-cheese/

Disclaimer Note: This is not a sponsored post.  I simply adore this recipe – no compensation has been received for writing this post.

Spinach Lasagna
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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.

Restaurant Style Spinach and Artichoke Dip
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Restaurant Style Spinach and Artichoke Dip

If there’s one recipe that I’ve been meaning to share with you guys over the past 3 years, it’s this one.   And for the most part, it’s because as many bloggers know, the problem with blogging certain recipes is that sometimes the dish needs to be served hot, before there’s any time to snap a few photos.  Take into account the time needed to adjust camera settings, fiddle with the light source, ensure all props are in place (none of these things are ever right even after test shots are taken when the food is still cooking), and essentially the dish starts getting cold by the time the photos are finished…every one of us is all too familiar with eating luke warm dinners.  But this doesn’t fly when you’ve got a room full of hungry people eying the steaming and bubbly spinach and artichoke dip that’s just emerged from the oven – we all know that.

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So in honor of the Northeast dominated Super Bowl next weekend, I decided to make the sacrifice (ha!) to remake this dip and blog about it for you because you NEED this dip at your party.  Now, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve actually watched the Superbowl (for the record, I just don’t get football), but I’m definitely all about understanding the snacks that go with it.  This old-standby dip is kicked up a few notches with a secret ingredient: alfredo sauce.  I almost couldn’t believe it the first time my friend Andrea brought this to a party and revealed her secret but it’s true!  The alfredo sauce adds to the creaminess of the dip without having to use mayonnaise and with few other ingredients and minimal effort, I can assure you that this dip will be gone in less time than a Super Bowl commercial break.

Need more Super Bowl snack ideas?  Check out the sidebar for a bunch of winning snack ideas!

Spicy Bean Burritos
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For the past couple of months, we’ve been eating more vegetarian meals each week than I ever expected to see on my menus.  And coincidentally, in the spirit of saving money on groceries when the new house budget is our first priority, these vegetarian meals oftentimes come in comparatively less expensive than non-veggie meals.  I think this has helped get Kyle on board with eating less meat but honestly, he’s been really impressed with the meals I’ve been making, these spicy bean burritos being one of them.

We all know that beans are cheap but these burritos weren’t completely about eating on the cheap.  They were about amping up the flavor of canned beans (pantry staples) with garlic, cumin, chile powder, and pickled jalapeños (more pantry staples) in a healthy way.  I liken the bean mixture in these burritos to a cross between two of my favorite Tex-Mex side dishes, refried beans and Elly’s world famous black beans (but without the bacon)…which means that I totally loved these burritos.  Actually, we both did and there was so much leftover filling that we each had lunches for the next few days covered.  I certainly didn’t hear any complaints about this vegetarian meal, and in fact, Kyle commented how these burritos were almost exactly like the ones he orders from the Mexican food truck for lunch on Fridays.  Sounds like a winner to me!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
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In the midst of holiday preparation craziness, there was this soup.  Broccoli cheddar soup.  A knock-off of the famed and beloved Panera version, this version is a lighter homemade version where you control the ingredients – I love soups like this one!  I’ve made this recipe a handful of times over the past few years and I seem to make it a little differently each time, mostly just varying the milk ratio (i.e. sometimes adding a little cream in place of some of the skim milk), but it turns out fabulous each and every time.  The consistency isn’t as thick as Panera’s version but like I said, it’s on the lighter side, so if you want to thicken it up, just increase the cream-milk ratio.  The most recent time this soup appeared in our kitchen, I was in the middle of packaging up my Christmas treats over the course of a few days and because the recipe left us a fair amount of leftovers, it was so nice to be able to quickly heat up a bit for lunch.  And aside from a regular weeknight meal, in the past I’ve also made a double batch of the soup, kept it warm in the crock pot, and served it in coffee mugs as a warm appetizer during fall and winter parties.  This broccoli cheddar soup is always a big hit here and is definitely one of our favorites!

Butternut Squash Pureé
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When it comes to side dishes for weeknight dinners, I feel like I deserve a C-.  It’s sort of reminiscent of my freshman microeconomics grade whereas I do put quite a bit of effort into the work in spite of the fact that I just don’t get it.  And yes, my micro- grade was a C-, not a great way to start off a college career.  In any event, I do plan side dishes for all of my meals, buy the ingredients when necessary, but I have such a hard time pulling the trigger to get them prepared.  Usually there are pans flying around my kitchen, a cookbook stacked on top of the coffee pot since space is so limited, and maybe a few choice words shouted at the burner that will never stay hot enough (thank you glass-top stove) when I’m cooking dinner.  It’s not a pretty scene so last week when I had some leftover butternut squash from the curried butternut soup that I made, I decided to use it up right away rather than stashing it in the fridge for another time that may never arrive.

I’d like to say that I put more effort into this pureé other than boiling the squash in a sauce pan until tender but I’d be lying.  Actually, photographing the squash took longer than it did for me to prepare it once it was cooked.  I drained the squash, added a few staple ingredients, mashed it, and it was ready – ridiculously simple, really.  I love a hefty amount of freshly cracked pepper in butternut squash when it’s prepared this way, something I never lost since childhood (what kid loads up their food with pepper?), but if it doesn’t suit your tastes, cut back on it.  The way I prepared the squash here is my favorite version however, you can definitely play around with some warm spices of fall – cinnamon, cumin, curry powder – and easily make this side dish your own.  And if you want to cheat and buy the squash pre-cut from the grocery store, go for it – I did and it cut down on the painful prep of peeling a slippery squash.  It’s tough to turn my back on side dish that take 15 inactive minutes to make and I don’t think any busy person on a weeknight would either.

Shrimp Po’ Boys
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There have been a few times in the past couple of months where I considered canceling all of my food magazine subscriptions.  The guilt I feel about these food magazines is sometimes enough to make me not want to renew each year.  They sit in a neat stack on the shelf of my coffee table, oftentimes untouched for months, even if never opened for the first time.  I wouldn’t say that I have an unhealthy relationship with these magazines but it could be a more mutually satisfying relationship…and by that I mean that I’m really the one who should be getting more than nothing out of magazines that sit untouched and unread.

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So last week when I finally flipped through one of Bon Appétit’s early summer issues (yes, for the first time), I was stopped dead in my tracks by a photo of a sandwich.  I turned around to my menu for the upcoming week, added it to the list, and then obsessed about this sandwich for the next 3 days.  Now, I’m not one to eat-then-immediately-blog what I make but I couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you, even if I only made it last night.  These shrimp po’ boys were amazing beyond my expectations.  Paired with a homemade rémoulade sauce (made with homemade pickles, I might add) and coated in a spicy Cajun dry rub, the shrimp truly shine in this sandwich.  The sandwich as a whole is full of heat, though not an overwhelming amount for a light-weight like me, and is perfectly well-balanced by the rémoulade and cool tomato, lettuce, and a couple of pickle spears on the side.  The original recipe called for batter-dipped fried shrimp and while that sounded awesome, we overindulged a little this Labor Day weekend so I lightened up the shrimp by sautéeing them instead – my changes are below.  We were both sad to see the last bites finished up but we’re already planning who we can make them for in the next few weeks – they must go on the menu again soon!  And even though it took me until August to get to June’s issue, I couldn’t be happier with this recipe…maybe I’ll reconsider my impulse to not renew this year since my faith has been furtively renewed.

Eggplant Caponata
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Eggplant Caponata

The eggplant harvest continues here.  We picked a couple more before the hurricane/tropical storm hit last weekend and the plants with smaller eggplant survived the storm, thankfully.  Today, I’m highlighting this eggplant caponata and I truly believe it’s a dish that every cook should have in his/her repertoire.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, caponata is a traditional Sicilian stew (entrée, side, or appetizer/antipasti) usually made with eggplant, celery, capers, and a tomato-based sauce but [according to Wikipedia] other add-ins such as red peppers, pine nuts, raisins, olives, carrots, octopus, and lobster are also widely accepted.

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In this recipe, the eggplant is sautéed down to a soft and almost spreadable texture which makes the caponata a gorgeous addition to some crusty bread (which we had for dinner twice this past week).  I also considered serving this over pasta and also on it’s own with a small salad on the side, and I think it would make an excellent complement to a meaty fish like halibut or swordfish.  For lunch this week, I put the caponata on a toasted hard roll with some provolone (also twice this week – the recipe makes a lot of caponata!) and it made for a terrific sandwich.  All in all, Kyle and I both fell in love with this recipe and I’m contemplating if I should make it again for an upcoming party next weekend.  The caponata is warm and earthy with a deep flavor of fresh tomato sauce and it’s these simple flavors that make it so easy to fall in love with.  It’s a recipe that I’ll be able to make all year round (wouldn’t this be great by a fire in the middle of winter?), since eggplants are always available in the grocery stores these days, but will most definitely look forward to each August when my garden is overloaded with eggplants.

Eggplant Caponata

Ingredients

    For the simple tomato sauce:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (reserve all of the juice) and chopped
  • Large pinch (about 1/2 tsp) Kosher salt
  • For the caponata:
  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups simple tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. To make the sauce: In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and when it starts to sizzle, immediately stir in the tomatoes, all of the reserved juice, and the salt.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  3. To make the caponata: Place eggplant in two large colanders and sprinkle about 2 tbsp salt over all of the eggplant. Toss to evenly distribute the salt. Allow the eggplant to drain for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Once the eggplant has drained, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add enough eggplant to cover the bottom of the pot in one layer and sauté until golden on all sides. Continue cooking the eggplant in batches until all of it has browned, adding more olive oil with each batch or as needed. Once all of the eggplant has cooked, remove it from the pot and keep warm on the side.
  5. In the same pot, warm 1 tbsp olive oil and sauté celery for 5 minutes. Add in the onions and cook the onions and celery until they are translucent and soft, about 7-10 minutes, adding a little more oil if needed. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the tomato sauce; cook for 7 minutes. Stir in the eggplant and celery and add the capers, anchovy paste, vinegar, and sugar. Cook for 10-15 more minutes until the mixture is a thick stew-like consistency. Check for flavor, adding more salt, vinegar, or sugar as needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Source

source: adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)
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I would venture a bet that you’re reading this post as I sit here post-Irene.  No electricity, no water in spite of the deluge of rain we’ve received during the first hurricane the Northeast has experienced in 20 years.  My potted herbs and stringy cherry tomato plants have taken over my kitchen floor.  The patio table stands awkwardly in my living room.  I can only hope that as you read this, that no major damage to our home [that technically isn't even our home anymore] has been sustained, that we are safe, that my family on the south shore of Long Island have weathered this storm in a similar fashion.  That you and your families are safe.  Mother Nature works in such mystifying ways, doesn’t she?  An earthquake and a hurricane in one week.  A winter that us New Englanders will never forget.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa [Salsa Verde]

And through all this, we hunker down and we cook.  We cook to prepare, we cook to pass the time.  Isn’t it in our nature to turn to food and family in times of trouble?  Or is that just the Italian in me?  Either way, I made a big batch of this salsa verde before the hurricane hit this weekend after having made it (and fell in love with it) for the first time for a Tex-Mex-inspired dinner with friends last weekend.  If you’re unfamiliar with salsa verde as I was, put simply, it’s roasted tomatillos and roasted garlic whirred up in the food processor with a bit of heat from the hot pepper of your choice (either a jalapeño or a serrano) added in.  For this recipe, you’ll dry roast the tomatillos and garlic in a hot pan, similar to the method for this rustic roasted salsa.  I can’t say enough about how much we adore this salsa.  Unlike tomato-based salsa which leans towards the acidic side, the roasted tomatillos yield a sweet undertone that blends with a perfect amount of heat from a jalapeño and the addictive flavor of fresh cilantro.  Along with a bag of blue corn tortilla chips on the hurricane preparedness list, this salsa will go a long way to helping you forget about the 80 mile per hour winds howling outside.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4-5 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed, roughly chopped
  • about 1/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 small white onion, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lay the garlic and tomatillos (cut-side down) in the skillet. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the tomatillos are well-browned. Turn everything over and brown the other side (the tomatillos should be very soft). Remove the tomatillos and garlic and add to a food processor or blender. Allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the jalapeño, 1/4 cup of water, onions, cilantro, and lime juice to the food processor, and blend to a coarse purée. Add Kosher salt to taste. Pour into a dish and add more water if necessary, to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.

Source

source: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, as seen on Pink Parsley

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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

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Fresh Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust
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Sometimes choosing new recipes to make in the Summer is a completely overbearing experience.  Hundreds of thousands of recipes using the freshest of ingredients – what’s a blogger to do?  In the case of this Fresh Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust, it was a no-brainer.  I’ve been hanging onto the recipe for 2 years and made it as the local tomatoes were on their way out last Summer with the full intention of sharing it with you…and it totally flopped.  Gummy crust, watery filling, and generally a turn-off of a meal.

But I vowed to avenge myself this Summer.  I knew it wasn’t the recipe.  I knew it had partly to do with the fresh mozzarella that I foolishly used – obvious note to you: don’t use fresh mozzarella in this tart.  So I made a special stop this weekend at a local farm stand and picked up a few gorgeous ripe Native tomatoes, plucked some basil from my pots on the deck, and pulled this tart together in virtually no time.  Now that I was actually able to eat this tart, I fell head over heels for the ever simple tomato-basil-mozzarella combination all over again.  The basil garlic crust was crispy and amazing, the perfect complement to the fresh [now] roasted, sweet, and earthy tomatoes, and gooey mozzarella.  A sprinkle of basil over the top of the baked tart is the last piece of this puzzle that no longer confounds me.  We served this tart alongside some grilled shrimp but a small salad or some grilled chicken would be great options as well.  I don’t know about you, but I’m itching to make this again as the Summer rolls on and the tomatoes really come into their own later this month.

Road Trip: New Orleans!
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~~~Wow. Wow. WOW! Project Food Blog Round 6!!  Can I just give another shout-out to all my foodie friends?  Your continued encouragement and excitement during each round has been awesome.  I hope this post lives up to your expectations and regardless of the outcome of this round, I have to say that this one has been my favorite challenge thus far.~~~

Road trips are what we do.  We haven’t taken a week-long vacation in almost 3 years but we do love to pack up the car and drive and luckily, the Northeast has a bounty of fabulous places to drive for just a weekend.  Lake George, NY and Portland/Freeport, ME are two of our favorite weekend trips and we especially love Lake George and Adirondack State Park so much that we’ve been there 3 times in the past year alone.  The Lake George region is a quick 3 hour trip and boasts some of the most spectacular lakes and mountain peaks in the Northeast.

Unfortunately, a trip up to Lake George wasn’t in the cards for the Road Trip challenge but I put together a meal that would “travel well and still look great” and is one we could totally bring with us on our next trip to the North Country. Project Food Blog asked us to “to whip up a entree, side, drink, and dessert to enjoy after hitting the road.” We took our picnic to the local Kettletown State Park, which is just a few minutes from our house.  And let me tell you, this park is gorgeous this time of year so it was hard to resist for our picnicking spot.

Working up this menu was so much fun!  I built the whole menu around the spectacular sandwich served at Big Summer Potluck this past August, the Meatless Muffaletta, a vegetarian version of the famous New Orleans-style sandwich.  From there, I considered building a warm, fall-food picnic menu, but decided to move in a direction closer to what we would eat should we take a road trip to New Orleans.  Neither of us have been there before but it’s on our list of 10,000 places we want to visit so why not bring a little of NOLA up to CT?  Here is our Road Trip Menu:

Entrée
Meatless Muffalettas
Olive tapenade with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, mozzarella, and muenster cheeses on homemade Kaiser rolls

Side Dish
Cajun-Seasoned Potato Chips
Homemade microwaved potato chips seasoned with sea salt and Cajun seasoning

Dessert
Apple Cider Beignets with Butter-Rum Caramel Sauce
Traditional NOLA beignets filled with fresh apples served with a luscious homemade butter-run caramel sauce for dipping

Beverage
Ginger Ale
Homemade ginger ale soda made with fresh ginger

In all honesty, I was nervous that Kyle wouldn’t like the muffaletta.  Neither of us like olives but I fell head over heels in love with this sandwich in August and since our tastes are so similar, I figured I’d try it out on him.  And it turns out that he loved it just as much as I do.  The flavors in the sandwich are very prominent exclusive of each other but they work beautifully together.  Make sure the roll you choose to use for this sandwich is a sturdy one that can hold up to the filling.  The Kaiser rolls I made this morning were absolutely perfect.  I’d never made sandwich rolls before but decided to give it a go for this challenge – why not go all out, right?!

Are you thinking, “microwaved potato chips?  Is she crazy??” Well, thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life, I stumbled across this method just this morning and to save a few minutes and a ton of calories, I decided to give these chips a go.  They were amazing!! Who would have thought that paper thin potato slices would actually crisp-up in the microwave? I mean, really…nothing gets crispy in the microwave! But it actually works!  These chips were so great sprinkled with a little sea salt and Cajun seasoning and remained crispy all day.  I made little cones with parchment paper to transport the chips and surprisingly, they didn’t spill all over the cooler during the trip!

Once I decided on the NOLA-themed menu, beignets were the natural choice for dessert but it wasn’t until I came across this apple cider recipe with butter-rum caramel sauce that I really started getting excited about the menu.  Fried dough + caramel = heaven!! Add some fresh apples to mix and you’ve got a stunning dessert to have at home or on the road.  To transport the beignets, place them in some parchment paper and staple the parchment together to create a pouch for the beignets.  Hold off on putting the powdered sugar on until you arrive at your destination.  I poured the caramel sauce into an 8oz mason jar for the trip and brought a little bowl along for dipping. Easy!!

Admittedly, drinks are not my specialty.  For the most part, I drink water all day long, every day.  I love my water but I was pretty sure water wouldn’t do for this challenge.  It was Kyle who came up with the suggestion for ginger ale and I was sold immediately.  Though it’s never the first type of soda I reach for, it’s always one that’s always refreshing when I do drink it.  After checking out a few recipes, the one I ultimately chose was spot-on.  Both the muffaletta and chips were on the salty side and this ginger ale provided the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the other parts of our lunch.  For the purpose of this road trip, I poured the simple syrup and ginger-water into a quart-size mason jar and kept the club soda separate until we were ready to pour the ginger ale.

We had a blast this afternoon on our Road Trip picnic in spite of the rain that started before we were ready to leave.  After feeling like I’ve missed my last 5 weekends because of the time I’ve spent cooking and blogging, I’m so so happy to have been able to get outside and enjoy some time with Kyle.  All of the dishes I made for this picnic couldn’t be easier for you to make and I hope you’ll give these recipes a shot the next time someone shouts ROAD TRIP!!

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