Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic and Lemon

I had an extra eggplant leftover from making eggplant parm.  "What am I going to do with this thing?", I thought.  "I don't know of any other recipes requiring eggplant.  Maybe I can roast it?  Or maybe I should just give it to my mom.  She'll know what to do with it."

Both of my parents have been pretty sick the past couple of weeks with some sort of endless virus.  I had planned to go to their house this past Saturday night and prepare dinner for them.  Then my mom called Saturday morning to report that my dad was feeling better, and although she still felt pretty weak they both had a pretty nasty case of cabin fever and needed to get out.  They offered to come to my house for dinner instead.  This was great news for three reasons:  First and foremost, they were feeling better!  Second, I'd be able to cook in my own kitchen.  I don't know about you, but I really love cooking in my own kitchen.  It's a bit cramped, but it's what I'm used to, and, as a creature of habit, what I'm comfortable with.  Cooking in someone else's kitchen is like shopping at a completely different grocery store.  You don't know where anything is or if they have the same tools.  Third, I was semi-relieved to not have to make the trip since I was over there once earlier in the week to make dinner after work, and I knew I'd be over again after work one night the following week.

For the menu I opted for an incredibly simple recipe of chicken marsala which was accompanied by that rogue eggplant roasted with garlic and lemon.  It was fabulous! And my dad just happened to bring a fantastic Italian white wine that paired perfectly.

1 large eggplant (approximately 1 lb.)
3 tbs. olive oil
1 large garlic clove (or two smaller ones), pressed
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Eggplant can be bitter and watery when baked.  To minimize this, cover each slice of eggplant in kosher salt and place in a colander with a bowl underneath it (to catch the drippings) in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the eggplant to "sweat". 
  3. Rinse the salt off of the eggplant slices, and pat each slice dry with a paper towel.  Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl combine the olive oil and pressed garlic.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I used a scant 1/4 tsp of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
  5. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Place the eggplant slices on the parchment paper skin side down.
  6. Brush each eggplant slice with the olive oil mixture.
  7. Bake the eggplant slices for 15-20 minutes, just enough to get crisp on the outside but not burn.
  8. Serve as a side dish to your favorite meals.
Yields 4 servings

P.S.  Sorry there are no pictures of this one.  I can't seem to find my spare memory card, and all of my larger memory cards are currently in Idaho with the snowboarding fiance and his GoPro camera thus rendering my DSLR useless :-/

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

Every now and then a completely random, unprovoked meal idea will pop in to my head.  Such was the case for last Friday night's culinary extravaganza, although in retrospect I think my subconscious may have been at work.  Ryan's on vacation this week (without me!), and we wanted to have a nice dinner together before his departure.  I suggested going to an Italian restaurant in Manayunk.  He suggested a French place in Fishtown.  Ultimately we both decided we'd rather stay in than fight the Friday night I-76 city traffic.  Cue the brainstorming of dinner ideas!  Eggplant parmesan immediately came to my mind for no good reason at all other than I already had Italian food on the brain.

Friday, February 17, 2012

5 Cooking Tips to Make Your Work Week Easier

Usually I'm pretty good at staying on top of things, but with work heating up and our wedding drawing near lately I find myself saying "There are not enough hours in the day" a lot.  This thought typically crosses my mind on a weeknight at about 10:30PM after a full day of work, hitting the gym, running errands and getting the house in order (i.e. folding laundry, cleaning, preparing for the next day, etc.).  Pausing for just a moment I wonder if life was always this crazy or if I'm just overly aware of it at that moment.  I stop myself before starting to think too far ahead to what life with kids will be like (when we get there!).  I'm told that increases the craziness exponentially, albeit in a good way. 

One thing I refuse to compromise on as a result of our busy schedules is food.  I will not give in to the microwaveable meal, dining out or take out lifestyle on a regular weeknight.  For those of you out there that agree I thought I would share some some cooking tips that make my day/week a lot easier and might help you do the same.  In no particular order, here they are:

1.  Soup can be a savior - Make a big pot of soup on Sunday and package in to single serving plastic containers for a few days of lunches or a reheated dinner.

2.  Leftovers are like gold - I don't know about you, but food doesn't last long in my house.  If you're cooking for two adjust the recipe for four instead.  This way you can either have it for lunch or serve as dinner on "leftover night" later in the week.

3.  Always keep a baguette (or more!) on hand - Every other week I make 4 baguettes.  Once they've cooled, I cut each one in half and package them in large freezer bags.  They heat up really well (crunchy outside, soft middle) in the toaster oven and make for an easy carb side with dinner.  We usually dip ours in olive oil mixed with various spices.

4.  Plan ahead - Make a list of your meals at the beginning of the week and shop accordingly.  Nothing stresses me out more than not having a plan for dinner and frantically rushing to the store after work to gather ingredients.  The latter approach can also be quite costly.

5.  Use your freezer!  A certain degree of hoarding is okay when it comes to food.  As an example, I usually buy the family sized package of chicken and put two chicken breast halves in separate freezer bags for use throughout the week.  Similarly last year we froze blueberries and fresh corn off the cob so I have that as an easy go-to fresh fruit or vegetable option.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Decadent Mocha Chocolate Mousse

Ryan's birthday was last weekend. The big 2-8!  I was a bit stumped when it came to an appropriate dessert for the birthday dinner. The obvious answer was to bake a cake, but since it's just the two of us, we're trying to eat less sweet stuff, and his grandmother had baked a wonderful cake the weekend before I wanted to do something different.  Importantly, something that wouldn't linger for a week and inevitably result in at least an extra pound because, seriously, who can throw leftover cake out?  A chocolate mousse of sorts seemed to be the right answer.  I spent a few minutes googling for recipes and ultimately went to my own recipe box in search of a recipe my mom had given me instead. The reason?  Uncooked or questionably cooked eggs freak me out and most mousse recipes out there call for eggs that fall in to those categories. Having witnessed Ryan's bout with food poisoning last year, I tend to be extra careful with eggs, chicken, other meats, etc. so those recipes weren't doing it for me.  The recipe I have uses unflavored gelatin to firm up a smooth mixture of cocoa, sugar and heavy cream. The best thing about this recipe is that it's totally modifiable.  I added coffee to this one, but you could add a liqueur, other flavoring or nothing at all and it will still be delicious.

1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 tbsp. cold water
1 c. heavy cream, very cold
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. white sugar
1/4 c. Hershey's cocoa powder
2 tbsp. boiling water
2 tbsp. dark brewed coffee
2 tbsp. shredded coconut for topping (optional)

1.  In a small bowl combine the tbsp. of cold water with the unflavored gelatin.  Mix and let sit while you complete step 2.
2. In a mixer using the whisk attachment beat the heavy cream, vanilla extract, white sugar and cocoa powder until stiff peaks form.
3.  Add the boiling water to the mixture in step 1 and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.  The mixture should be slightly yellow, but clear.
4.  Add the gelatin mixture from step 3 to the mixing bowl and combine thoroughly.
5.  Add the 2 tbsp. of coffee and combine thoroughly.
6.  Divide in to 4 serving dishes or cups.  I like to use stemless martini glasses.
7.  Top with coconut and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yields: 4 servings