Eggplant Parmesan Jersey Style

We had an earthquake here the night before last and to be honest I didn’t know what to do with myself and was rather uneasy being in my own home.  There was an eggplant sitting on the counter and I went to work.  Here’s what I made.  That first bite was so comforting and I was back at ease and not afraid.  

Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 4

I medium eggplant- cut crosswise into  about  12 1/2” slices

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs* (1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic, 1/2 tsp salt)

2 eggs beaten

1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

6 ounces of shredded best quality mozzarella cheese

1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup or more olive oil for frying and drizzling on bottom of baking dish

Preheat oven to 350F.

Slice the eggplant and arrange on tray.  Sprinkle with salt and let them “sweat” about 10 minutes on each side.  Repeat the salting on the second side. This helps remove any bitterness.

Create a dredging station.  Beaten egg in one dish,seasoned breadcrumbs or panko in another and a place to lay out those ready for the skillet.  Coat the slices one at a time in the egg then dip them in the breadcrumbs.   Set aside

Heat a large skillet and add about 1/4 cup when its hot add as many slices you can fit.  Saute until deep golden brown and do the same on the second side.  Add oil when needed to fry additional slices.   Remove and stack until all are fried up and ready to build.  If you find loose breadcrumbs in the frying pan, carefully remove them with a paper towel between batches and heat new oil.

In a small baking dish spread a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom followed by approximately 1/2 cup of marinara sauce.  Create the first layer of cooked eggplant slices.  Top each one about 2 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella, a pinch of salt and some sprinkled grated parmesan.  Add a second layer of eggplant and do the same only starting with a good size schmear of marinara sauce.  Add the last layer of eggplant, starting with a small amount of sauce followed by the cheeses.  Fill in the remaining marinara or as much as you like in between the eggplant stacks.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additonal 10 minutes.  For some pretty color, you can finish it under the broiler with a watchful eye.

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Doctored Cake Mix

  Cakes and cupcakes made from scratch are a beautiful thing.  I encourage this.   There is pale comparison.   However, in the real world there is this other thing called spur of the moment baking where I  just want to make something in a hurry and not have to clean up flour from my counters.

Box mixes are easy to have on hand and follow but for any decent palate, the taste just doesn’t always measure up to the picture on the box.  This recipe  for “doctored cake mix” below  lets you take any box mix and amp up the flavor and texture.

I had been looking for someone to trust and found this recipe at the back of a knock out cupcake decorating book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson called  “Hello, Cupcake.”  I love the simplicity of being able to take pretty much any cake box, make these switches and end up with a moist and fluffy cupcake.   The most important swap –Tack and Richardson recommend is using A CUP OF BUTTERMILK instead of any amount water called for on the box.  Great concept.  And using 4 LARGE EGGS no matter what it says on the box and whatever amount of oil the box recipe tells you to use.  I also added a teaspoon of fresh grated lemon zest.  Take a permanent marker and make these changes to the actual box mix recipe for easy follow along.

I had been craving coconut cupcakes with sprinkles and fortunately had a yellow cake mix box on hand and super fortunate that I had made buttermilk pancakes over the weekend and still had some buttermilk on hand.

**If you don’t have buttermilk, you can easily make it yourself.  Add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup then add milk to the one cup line.  Let it stand five to ten minutes and you’ve got buttermilk.

As for the frosting, I used my handy Joy of Cooking for a classic and easy cream cheese with coconut and sprinkles.

CAKE-MIX CUPCAKES

Adapted from Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

makes 24 cupcakes

1 box of yellow cake mix  (not ones with pudding in them)

1 cup of buttermilk

vegetable according the amount on the box (1/3 cup)

4 large eggs (no matter how many the box says)

1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest

large plastic zip lock bag

Method: preheat over to 350.  Place rack in center of oven.

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer add the dry cake mix, 1 of buttermilk, 1/3 cup oil and beat just to moisten – about half a minute.
  2. Add 4 eggs and beat at high speed for about 2-3 minutes.  It should look thick.
  3. Spoon half of the mixture into the large plastic bag and then snip a 1/4” corner to allow some control over pouring the batter into the cupcake liners.  Resist the urge to overfill. Two-thirds full is right.
  4. Add the rest of the batter to the plastic bag for the next 12 cupcakes.
  5. Bake in the center rack for about 15 minutes or until an inserted tooth pick comes out without batter sticking to it.
  6. Lift the cupcakes from the pans carefully and allow to cool fully on a wire rack.  Once cool, you can frost them.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

adapted from The Joy of Cooking and Slashfood blog

8 ounces of Philadelphia Brand cream cheese (sorry, its the best)

5 tablespoons butter, room temperature or softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

1  1/2  cups of powdered sugar, sifted after measuring

Take the chill off the cream cheese for about 10 minutes or hit it with a rolling pin to soften.  Butter needs to be soft.

In a food processor or mixer, combine, the cream cheese, softened butter, vanilla until blended.  Add the sifted powdered sugar gradually until you’ve achieved the consistency and sweetness you like.

Use an off set spatula to spread the frosting over the cupcakes, then top with coconut and sprinkles.

Asian Veggie Stir Fry in A Hurry

I had to make amends to my daughter for the macaroni and cheese I made last night.   Since the ginormous pressure of senior year and college clamoring has been successfully cleared and she knows where she is headed, my daughter has been taking good care of herself.  Going to the gym, taking naps,  lavendar baths and eating well are my clues that she is decompressing.  So I go and blow it last night by combining all the cheeses I found in refrigerator and making mac and cheese.

So here is my amends to her.  This morning I pulled out all the Asian like veggies I had on hand,  prepped and assembled them, even the chopped ginger, garlic and hardly measured oyster sauce, splash of water and sesame oil and packed them into a container.  I won’t be home today after school, but I’ve left out the grapeseed oil and a small wok.  I’ve trained her to do the rest.  Heat the wok, add the oil then the ginger and garlic followed by the vegetables and the sauce at the end.

These are the veggies I usually have lurking in my vegetable bin.  Hopefully I use them before they get sad .   Wrap in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag to extend their stay.

Baby Bok Choy, spring onions, Napa cabbage, broccoli, Chinese pea pods,

The  mac and cheese has left the premises.  On to my coworkers who will be so happy.

Egg Salad Tartine

A perfect egg salad for two

4 hard boiled eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons Best Food’s brand or Hellman’s mayonnaise

1 tablespoon creme fraiche (if you have it)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 of a red pepper finely diced

1 tablespoon finely sliced green onion tops or finely diced red onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Sliced ciabatta bread, toasted lightly and buttered

Place eggs in small pot that has a fitted lid.  Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Once the eggs begin to boil, cover, remove from and let stand for 9 minutes.  Pour off the hot water and run the eggs under cold water or place in an ice bath.  When cool enough to handle, peel the shells and place the eggs in bowl.  Mash and slice with a fork and knife.  Add the diced red pepper, onions,  mayonnaise, mustard  creme fraiche, salt and pepper and mix delicately.   Serving it open faced makes this delicious egg salad a tartine.  

Chicken Pot Pie

My favorite snow day lunch was a Chicken Pot Pie.  I’d like to tell you my mother made them from scratch. She did not.  She purchased the frozen Morton’s brand from Shop Rite. I thought it was artful to remove the pie from its mini tin and  plate it upside down.  If you baked it just right–until the crust was a deep amber all over — the pie would release from the tin intact. My fork and that first poke created an avalanche of creamy carrot, pea and chicken veloute sauce.  This is my take on recreating the flavors of that chicken pot pie. Since this  I didn’t make my own pie crust for this version but was quite pleased with the Trader Joe’s frozen pie crust.

Chicken Pot Pie

2 T butter

1/2 cup diced onions (1 medium onion)

1 shallot, minced

1/2 cup  flour

4 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup cream

1 cup peas

2 cup carrots diced small – about 3 carrots

1 cup diced, cooked skinless chicken

1 egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water to create an egg wash or brush with cream

Preheat oven to 400.  Remove pie dough from the refrigerator and let sit on counter while preparing the savory filling.

In a skillet, saute onions in butter until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add shallots, cook for another 3 minutes.   Add the flour and use a wooden spoon to create a paste or roux.   Slowly add chicken stock and cream (or milk) and heat through until thickening  Add peas, carrots and chicken and continue to heat through and thicken. Unroll pie dough and check for any tears or holes and repair by pressing together.   Pour mixture into a quiche or pie pan.  Top with the pie crust and crimp the edges. Cut slits in pie dough to allow for steam to escape. Place the pie on a cookie sheet.  Use a pastry brush or piece of paper towel and brush egg wash over pie crust. Place some egg wash under the edges to keep it in place while it bakes.

Bake in top rack of oven at 400 for 20-25 minutes until crust is nicely browned.

Hello Latkes

This is my mothers’ recipe which I am so grateful to have watched and helped her make on so many happy occasions.  It is not humanly possible to eat just one.

Shirley’s Classic Potato Latkes

Makes about 20

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (3 to 4 large)  (1 large russet potato = about 11 ounces)  Peeled and cover them whole in cold water until ready.

1 medium onion, peeled

2 -3 eggs

3-4 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs

1 Tablespoon Kosher salt

1/2  teaspoon ground pepper

Grapeseed or canola oil for frying.

In a food processor, pulse half the potatoes with the metal blade for about 20 seconds. Just enough so they are chopped but not pulverized. Remove these potatoes to a large bowl.  Switch to the shredding disk of the food processor and shred the onion and remaining potatoes.  A hand grater will work also.  Add this mix to the pulsed potatoes and by the handful, squeeze out the liquid over the sink. Return the mixture to the bowl.  The onions will help keep the potatoes from turning brown or if necessary, a tablespoon of lemon juice sprinkled on top will help as well.

Beat in 2 eggs then add the bread crumbs, salt and pepper.  If it seems a bit dry, add another egg.  If it seems a bit too wet, add another tablespoon of bread crumbs.

Heat 1/4 inch oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Drop batter by spoonfuls into the hot fat, leaving enough space around to flip them over. Let one side turn golden brown about 4 minutes on each side or until a lovely deep golden brown.  They are ready when the second side is golden brown as well, another three or four minutes.

Serve with applesauce and sour cream or creme fraiche.  Die and go to heaven.