Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

A Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant parmesan

I never liked Eggplant Parmesan much as a kid. I just didn’t really like eggplant, with its black skin and mushy insides. But things have changed a lot since then. I eat eggplant regularly and have had many a delicious eggplant parmesan in many different styles. And though I’d looked up recipes for eggplant parmesan before, I’d never attempted it since it seemed like a time-consuming dish to make.

But last week a new recipe popped into my Google Reader for “Healthy Eggplant Parmigiana” and I just had to take a look. I suppose it’s healthier than the traditional breading and frying the eggplant versions, but it’s still not exactly healthy, with a good amount of cheese and olive oil. But, of course that’s what makes this dish delicious.

Essentially, it’s just chopped up eggplant and tomatoes mixed in with some parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and topped off with mozzarella cheese. And after it’s been in the oven about 40 minutes, all the flavors just come together beautifully underneath and crispy, browned crust.

I had to make a few modifications to the recipe — I didn’t have enough tomatoes to puree or any canned tomatoes, so I just mixed some tomato paste with water until the flavor seemed right. I also didn’t use panko breadcrumbs — I just used some toasted breadcrumbs I’d made recently with some leftover Irish soda bread.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Anyway, this recipe is definitely worth a try — it’s hearty, easy to prepare and has lots of vegetables. I served it with a very simple green salad with a dijon balsamic vinaigrette.

Check out the recipe at the Diner’s Journal blog.

Homemade Raspberry Pop Tarts!

Pop Tarts and Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

Homemade Pop Tarts and Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

Yesterday, Evan saw a post on Lifehacker about making your own pop tarts. Now, it’s not that we’re even pop tart or breakfast pastry fans — neither of us grew up eating them, and we don’t really eat anything of the sort now, but those flat little fruit-filled pastries do have some nostalgic appeal. I remember eating them on camping trips with my summer camp as a kid.

I took a look at the recipe and it didn’t seem too difficult — just some pastry dough and jam thickened up with a little corn starch for the filling. And as I’ve been a bit of an early riser lately, I decided to play around with making these this morning.

The dough was a little difficult to work with — it has a lot of butter in it, and though it wasn’t that warm in my kitchen, then dough would warm up quickly and start sticking to the rolling pin. I ended up sandwiching the dough between parchment paper on the bottom and plastic wrap on the top to roll it out to the right size and thickness.

I also made a slight modification to the recipe and used a cup of all purpose flour and a cup of white whole wheat flour to try to make it a little healthier. For the filling I used low-sugar raspberry preserves, and since I didn’t have corn starch, I used some corn flour, which did the trick just fine.

Ultimatley, my homemade pop tarts were delicious — the pastry was rich and soft though still kept a good structure to support the filling. The filling was sweet and its flavors mixed well with the crust, and the pop tart tasted less like the flat brand-name treat and more like a delicious cookie.

Also, since the pop tarts need to be trimmed to an exact size you end up with some extra dough, and the recipe suggests to just turn those into cinnamon sugar cookies, which turned out just perfectly.

I don’t want to think about quite how much butter went into these pop tarts, but they are an impressive treat to make and thankfully taste like they’re in a totally different food category from the boxed variety.

You can check out the recipe at Smitten Kitchen or King Arthur Flour.

Even More Incredible Veggie Burgers and Buns

I love a good veggie burger and have posted about them frequently — whether it’s been cooking them or eating them — but until a couple of days ago, I hadn’t yet mastered the art of making buns. Well, everything changed with the help of a recipe I stumbled across in the New York Times. I had a good feeling about it since it was from one of my favorite LA restaurants, Comme Ca, and when I made these, I was not disappointed.

I could tell from when I started working with the dough that the buns would be light and airy, and as the dough rose, I got more and more excited.

burger buns

I also started preparing my veggie burgers. I modified the black bean burger recipe I’ve been using for a while to incorporate ingredients I had around, including squash and mushrooms, and I cooked the squash, mushrooms, onions and garlic before combining them with the black beans and making the patties to enhance the flavors.

Everything turned out really well, and I served the burgers with avocado, sauteed onions, lettuce, ketchup and mustard. I think I’ll be making these again soon (like possibly this weekend).

The completed veggie burger with cheese, lettuce, sauteed onions and avocado

The completed veggie burger

Asparagus and Cauliflower Gougère with a Beet and Grapefruit Salad

Gougere with Asparagus and cauliflower

The gougère right out of the oven

Friday night I decided to try something new. I didn’t really know what at first, but as I was flipping through my Vegetarian cookbook, I came across a recipe for a mushroom and cauliflower gougère. I didn’t have any mushrooms, but I did have some asparagus, so I decided to try my own version of the recipe.

The recipe came together quite quickly. I made the dough, which includes a generous amount of butter and cheese, and spread it around the sides of a cake pan. Then I quickly cooked up some onions, cauliflower and asparagus with some pureed tomatoes, thyme and rosemary, and put the mixture in the center of the dough. It went in the over for about 40 minutes, and it puffed up like crazy. The dough doubled in size, but by the time it reached the table just a few minutes later it had lost some of its airiness.

Gougere with Asparagus and Cauliflower

The gougère on the table, slightly deflated

The gougère was quite decadent. The dough was creamy yet fluffy, and the vegetable filling balanced out the richness of the dough. I also thought it looked quite beautiful — and the asparagus made for a nice colorful addition. I thought it turned out even prettier than the photo in my cookbook since it was more colorful. I was also surprised that this was relatively easy to make. Including the beet, grapefruit and goat cheese salad I made, everything took about an hour and a half.

Beet, grapefruit and goat cheese salad

Beet and Grapefruit Salad - taken on my iPhone

Since I started getting my LOVE Delivery veggie boxes, I’ve been getting a lot of beets, and I find that I absolutely love cooking with them. I was a little intimidated when I first was faced with cooking beets since I’d never cooked one before, but just simply roasting them and then peeling them is about all you need to do.

This salad was particularly tasty and it looked very pretty, though the warm beets did start running a bit in the dressing when I moved the plates.

Recipe: Beet, Grapefruit and Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 beets
  • 1 small grapefruit
  • 1 small shallot
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • goat cheese

Directions:

You’ll need about half a beet and half a small grapefruit per person.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and wrap in foil. Put the beets in the oven for 40 minutes. They are done when you can easily pierce them through the foil with a knife. (You can roast beets in advance and keep them in the fridge.)

Unwrap the foil and allow the beets to cool until you’re able to peel off the skin with a paring knife. Cut the beets in half and then create quarter-inch thick slices.

Peel your grapefruit and cut it in half. Slice those halves into quarter-inch thick slices, removing any seeds.

For the vinaigrette, finely chop the shallot and place it in a small bowl. Pour in red wine vinegar until the shallots are just about covered, and let them sit for at least 10 minutes. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Alternate the beet and grapefruit slices in a line on your salad plates. Spoon a small amount of the vinaigrette over the salad and top with some crumbled goat cheese.

New Baking Adventure: Rye Pretzels

On Monday, my friend Laura sent me a recipe for Rye Pretzels she saw on NYTimes.com, and I knew immediately that I wanted to try it out — I even had all the ingredients on hand! It took me a whole two days to get around to it, and I’m glad I decided to try this one sooner rather than later.

Making pretzels reminded me a bit of making bagels, since there was rolling and shaping involved, as well as boiling before baking. It all went surprisingly smoothly, too. I was worried at first since the dough seemed like it might be a bit dry, but after it rose, it was soft — and it got huge! When it was time to start rolling out the pretzel shapes, the dough was really easy to handle, and the pretzels came together really quickly and nicely.

Pretzels before cooking

Pretzels just shaped and ready to be boiled and baked

Once they were shaped, I boiled them in water with baking soda in it, and let them dry a bit on a towel before sprinkling them with sea salt and putting them in the oven. The rye flour gave them a beautiful dark brown color, and I drizzled on a little butter once they came out of the over to make them glossy and give them some extra flavor.

Rye Pretzels - Hot Out of the Oven

Rye Pretzels - Hot Out of the Oven

And boy, did these pretzels have flavor! Between the rye, honey, sea salt and butter, they were unlike any other pretzels I had, yet still had that wonderful slightly chewy texture and nice thin crust. I ate one almost right out of the oven and brought the rest to Evan’s office for everyone working late.

Pretzels

Special Pretzel Delivery! They were still warm when I got there.

I’ve always been a fan of soft pretzels, but these were far and beyond any soft pretzel I’d ever had at the mall or at a football game. I love making things like this that are really a special treat and something you can’t get on a regular basis. Next time I’ll roll the dough out a little thinner so the holes in the pretzel are bigger — I underestimated just how much they would continue to rise.

Want to try this for yourself? Check out the recipe at NYTimes.com.

How to Make Chocolate Drop Cookies

chocolate cookies

A few weeks ago, we invited friends over for dinner on very short notice. I had enough food in my fridge and pantry — I just needed to figure out what to make. I put together a salad with grapefruit, avocado and a shallot-citrus vinaigrette, and I pulled some little puff pastries out of the freezer, baked them, and filled them with a mixture of cauliflower, goat cheese and other vegetables.

I was worried that dessert would be a problem. I only had one egg in my fridge. So I started looking for something relatively simple that would work with the ingredients I had on hand. I found a recipe for Butter Drop Cookies in my trusty How to Cook everything and saw that there was a modification to make them into Chocolate Drop Cookies. That sounded perfect.

They were quick to make — about 30 minutes from gathering the ingredients to pulling them out of the oven, and they turned out to be fluffy, cakey, soft cookies that weren’t too sweet or rich. I was missing a few ingredients, including milk, which I substituted with water, and vanilla, which I just did without. I also didn’t have enough plain sugar so I used some light brown sugar — and the cookies still turned out just fine. And though the recipe didn’t call for it, I dusted them with powdered sugar to make them look a bit more festive.

The cookies kept well for quite a few days, and I even made them again a couple of weeks later — and I had all the right ingredients — when Evan’s brother was in town and wanted something sweet after dinner. They were even better when I was able to include vanilla and milk.

The Recipe:

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened slightly
  • 3/4 cups sugar (I used a combination of white and light brown)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (the first
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. With a mixer, combine the butter and sugar, then add in the vanilla and egg. Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder, and add the dry ingredients and the milk a bit at a time. Once all the ingredients are incorporated, add the melted chocolate.
  3. Spoon the soft dough into mounds on a baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until the cookies seem to be firming up a little, but still soft.
  4. Let the cookies cool a few minutes before removing from the pan, and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Making Butternut Squash Gnocchi

A few weeks ago I decided to try making gnocchi. I’d been thinking about doing it for a while, ever since I read about a traditional potato gnocchi recipe, but I was worried it would be a huge failure. Gnocchi are easy to mess up — too much flour makes them heavy, not enough flour makes them fall apart. Some recipes call for egg, more traditional recipes don’t… and then there’s the need to smash everything up but not puree it, so that meant doing some mashing by hand, not using the food processor.

I guess I was feeling courageous one evening when I had a half a butternut squash left and needed some inspiration to use it. I started to look for a gnocchi recipe and found one online that seemed simple enough.

I added more flour than the recipe called for since the dough wasn’t coming together enough, and when I rolled out the first bit and started cutting the little pillow shapes and trying to curve and mark them with a fork, they looked like a bit of a disaster — misshapen, lumpy and a bit sticky.

Buttnernut Squash Gnocchi

The first batch didn't look great

Thankfully, things got better from there, and the rest of the batches looked a bit more appetizing, though maybe I should have just skipped the fork step — it creates a more traditional look, but isn’t required.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

The gnocchi started looking a bit better -- at least a bit more like gnocchi

I cooked them in small batches in boiling water for just a couple of minutes each, and topped them with some butter and asiago cheese. I served them with some tasty green beans with almonds, thyme and dijon mustard — a really delicious recipe (even with much less butter than called for), and a few tomatoes.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

The finished dish -- gnocchi with green beans and tomatoes

The gnocchi were a little bit denser than I’d hoped, but for a first try I think they turned out quite well, and they had an interesting slightly sweet and nutty flavor from the squash and cinnamon.