Robert Irvine’s Eggplant Parmesan


I’m rather picky when it comes to Italian food. I blame my trip to Florence for spoiling Americanized Italian food for me forever. Luckily, there are a few recipes that measure up to my expectations and one of them is this delightful Eggplant Parmesan from the Food Network with a few modifications.

Ingredients:
eggplant, peeled (we particularly enjoyed an heirloom variety) and cut into disks
2 cups buttermilk
4 cups vegetable oil (we used our deep fryer)
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder (we used a bit more)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (we used about 2 tablespoons, since we didn’t have fresh oregano)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or minced fresh if you have it)
1 teaspoon ground white pepper (we used a little more of this too, about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cups egg wash (which for us, was four eggs and one cup milk)
1 pound penne or fusilli pasta, cooked (we used bowtie because that’s what we had)
2 cups red sauce
Grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (we used Mozzarella)
cooking spray of your choice (we used Pam Olive Oil spray)

Directions:
To bread the eggplant, first add the eggplant disks into the buttermilk and allow to soak, 1 to 2 hours (we let it soak for about an hour and a half).
Next, over medium heat, bring the oil to 350 degrees F in a wide shallow saucepan or deep fryer; then hold the oil warm until frying. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan powder, garlic, parsley, oregano and pepper in a bowl. Remove the eggplant from the buttermilk, and then coat with flour and tap off the excess. Dip the eggplant in the egg wash and finish with the breadcrumb-Parmesan mixture, coating well. Repeat the process with each eggplant, and then fry in the preheated oil. Allow the eggplant to brown, and then flip the cooked eggplant to ensure even cooking. Once golden brown on both sides, remove the eggplant and place on paper towels to allow the excess oil to drip off.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Drain the cooked pasta and once all the water is removed, toss with 3/4 cup of the red sauce. After tossing the pasta with the sauce, portion the pasta on plates. Place the cooked eggplant on a cooking spray covered baking sheet and finish with the remaining sauce. Add some cheese and bake, 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. After baking, place the eggplant over the sauced pasta and serve.

My opinion:
This is the best and simplest Eggplant Parmesan recipe we’ve found. I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this to friends and family.

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Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta


If you told me 10 years ago, I’d be eating squash, I would never believe you. But I am! And I’m loving it! I had no idea these fall vegetables could taste so lovely! I’m always looking for new recipes and when a friend recommended this Self Magazine butternut squash recipe, I jumped at the chance to try it. It was super easy (once I figured out how to cut the squash) and very filling.

Ingredients:
8 oz whole-wheat penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves (Do not substitute dried, it doesn’t taste the same!)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lb), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (it’s ok to omit this, but it does enhance the flavors)

Directions:
Cook penne as directed on package (we used spaghetti because we were out of penne, it worked just as well!). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry sage, turning once, until crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add squash, 3/4 cup water, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash softens, 5 to 7 minutes (this took about 10 minutes for us). Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot and add squash mixture; stir over low heat, adding some reserved cooking water if necessary, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Serve, garnished with cheese and sage.

My Opinion:
I didn’t expect this simple dish to be as flavorful and wonderful as it was. The only two changes I’ll make are to add more onion and garlic. A great late fall early winter dish. Not to mention a wonderful introduction to the world of butternut squash. What new vegetable should we try next? Parsnips?

Ratatouille from Ratatouille


Also known as Confit Byaldi. I loved Ratatouille. Partially because I love Paris, French cuisine and of course Disney. The tagline from the movie, “anyone can cook!” always makes me smile. I was thrilled when J found that the New York Times published this recipe. I’ve had to modify it because spending three to four hours on dinner just doesn’t work for us.  Bon appétit!

Piperade Ingredients:
1/2 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed (we used a whole red and a whole green, they were small)
1/2 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 orange pepper, seeds and ribs removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic (we used more at least 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 tomatoes (about 12 ounces total weight), peeled, seeded, and finely diced, juices reserved (we used a can of petite diced tomatoes)
1 sprig thyme (we used dried about 1 teaspoon)
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley (we also used dried, about 2 teaspoons)
1/2 a bay leaf (we used a whole bay leaf)
Kosher salt

Piperade Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut side down. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely. Combine oil, garlic, and onion (which we precombined in a food processor) in medium skillet over low heat until very soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, their juices, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes, do not brown; add peppers and simmer to soften them. Season to taste with salt, and discard herbs (obviously we left the parsley and thyme in the dish, but removed the bay leaf). Reserve tablespoon of mixture and spread remainder in bottom of an 8-inch skillet.

Ingredients for Vegetables:
1 zucchini, sliced thin
Japanese eggplant sliced thin (if you can’t find Japanese, use regular, we do)
1 yellow squash, sliced thin
4 Roma tomatoes, slicked thin
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (we used more)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Vegetable Directions:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees (we heated the oven to 400 degrees). Down center of pan, arrange a strip of 8 alternating slices of vegetables over piperade, overlapping so that 1/4 inch of each slice is exposed (this is not an exact science). Around the center strip, overlap vegetables in a close spiral that lets slices mound slightly toward center. Repeat until pan is filled; all vegetables may not be needed. Mix garlic, oil, and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover pan with foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, about 2 hours (if using a 400 degree oven, check after 30 to 45 minutes). Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more. (if using a 400 degree oven, cook 5 to 10 minutes uncovered.) If there is excess liquid in pan, place over medium heat on stove until reduced. At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat in 350-degree oven until warm. (If using a 400 degree oven, there will be liquid. We don’t mind the liquid in the bottom. Better to use bread to soak it up! But if you do, follow the same directions for the medium head on the stove top.)

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oi
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Assorted fresh herbs (thyme flowers, chervil, thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Vinaigrette Directions:
Combine reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

My opinion:
I love this dish in the middle of summer, I love it in winter. It’s just a great refreshing, vegetable filled dish. We serve it with crusty french bread. We serve the leftovers over pasta or blend it into a thick sauce and serve over pasta. Sometimes the second day dishes are a tinge better than the first.

Chicken and Zucchini Bow Tie Pasta


The zucchini at the Farmer’s Market is HUGE. So much that we needed a dish where this was the main component. Luckily, we found this Rachel Ray dish from her 365 No Repeats. With a few modifications, it was super easy to make, filling and a nice end of summer dish.

Ingredients:
1 pound bow-tie pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons for the chicken.
6 garlic cloves, minced (we used more)
2 medium zucchini, diced (we used one HUGE zucchini instead)
Coarse black pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (we omitted this)
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or shredded, about 20 leaves (we used dried and added a few more Italian seasonings, like fresh oregano)
2 chicken breasts, diced

Directions:
Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. While waiting for the water to boil, cook the chicken breasts in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Turn heat to medium low. Add the rest of the olive oil and the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the zucchini. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and additional seasonings. Drain the pasta and add to the zucchini, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the cooking water. Turn heat to low. Toss for 2 minutes, until the liquids are absorbed.

My opinion:
Next time we’ll add more garlic and some red pepper flakes. Maybe a few more vegetables. Good additions would include broccoli, onion, peas, and more.