Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rotund Artisanal Bread

So it's been a few days since my last post.  I apologize for that, I was feeling under the weather.  Blame the change of seasons.  Today was one of the first days I felt up to cooking in the last week.  All I wanted was something hot and comforting with a nice slab of delicious bread slathered in butter.  I ended up making some good old Ham and Cabbage.

Anyway, I am a stickler for breads.  It has to be chewy yet crispy, dense but not a brick, moist but not underdone.  Okay, so I'm a little bit of a bread snob.  I absolutely LOATHE commercial food chain "Italian bread" or "french bread".  That slop is the furthest thing to real Italian or french breads.

Fortunately for me, I have some connections and get great bread when I don't feel like making it.  I'm actually pretty passionate about good bread and will even build a meal around it.  The smell, the color, the sound....yes, the sound of good bread makes me do an "oh dear God" eye roll into the back of my skull.  See below......


Anyway, I have tried lots of recipes and lots of "tricks" and methods, and I think that I have got down a pretty great recipe for an artisan bread that is great for sandwiches, panino, croutons and crostini.  Just a few simple ingredients, and a little effort, and you've got amazing bread.  And seriously people, this bread is SO easy!  Don't be afraid of it!!  So what are you waiting for?  Get your asses in the kitchen and make this bread!!

Rotund Artisanal Bread

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Rest Time:  1 hour
Bake Time:  15-18 minutes
Total Time:  1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water (110-115 deg. F.)
1 packet dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
5 cups of flour (give or take)
Cornmeal (for dusting pan)



Method:

**It should be noted that I only make this recipe in my Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook.  I have never tried it in a bread machine or by hand.**  

Measure 2 cups of warm water.  (You want the water to be between 110 and 115 degrees F.  Water that is too cool or too hot will have an effect on the yeast.)  Sprinkle the packet of yeast evenly over the warm water, and allow to "bloom" or activate for around 5 minutes.  (You will notice the yeast will be bubbly and have a very strong smell).

Using a standard baking sheet, sprinkle a light dusting of corn meal evenly all over the pan.  Set aside.

Add sugar, salt and olive oil to the yeast mixture and begin to mix slowly to incorporate.

One cup at a time, start to add your flour to the mixture, careful not to mix on too high a speed or your flour will go everywhere.

What you are looking for is a dough that is not sticky, and pulls away from the sides in one mass.

Dust a board lightly with flour.  Dust your hands with flour and release dough from hook and bowl and place on floured surface.  Knead gently for about 3 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, and slice evenly to make 2 dough balls.

Place on cornmeal dusted baking sheet.  Using a knife, slice a criss-cross pattern into your bread and set in a warm place, covered lightly with plastic wrap, for 1 hour.  Do not allow to rise longer than 70 minutes.  This is the only rise this bread needs.  It should double in size.  If the bread does not double in size, you may want to start over.  Your yeast has not been properly activated and your bread will come out like a brick.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Uncover bread and place baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven.  Take 5 ice cubes and throw them into the bottom of the preheated oven.  Quickly shut the door and DO NOT OPEN FOR 15 minutes!!!! (I know this sounds crazy, but this moisture will make your crust chewy and crusty.....trust me.  It's an old secret from an old South Philly pizza parlor I grew up on.)

After 15 minutes, open the oven door and check out the color of the bread.  It should be a nice deep golden color.  You may need to cook for another few minutes depending on your oven.

Allow bread to cool and store uncovered that day until ready to use.  This will allow the bread to get even more crusty.

Enjoy!!!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Apple Crisp with Mascarpone Cream

So I woke up this morning wrapped in a blanket.  My nose was like ice and my toes were cozy warm.  I actually went out and warmed my car up for 2 minutes and threw a Phillies hoodie on to take my kid to school.  Do you know what this means??  FALL IS FINALLY HERE!!!!

Anyone that knows me knows I HATE the heat.  I hate summer.  The only time I actually like summer is if I'm in a pool or the ocean, or near water fishing or crabbing.  I absolutely hate to be hot.  I don't turn my heat up past 68 in the winter, and sleep with a window open at all times.  Maybe its because I was born in the middle of a huge snowstorm in 1979.  I don't know, but I am the ice queen.  LOL

So naturally, I love fall dishes that warm the body and soul.  I like when my house is freezing cold, I have warm fuzzy socks on, old sweats, a hoodie and have a bowl of something warm and delicious like this apple crisp.  It's taken me quite a while to get the perfect apple crisp down and I think you guys will agree.  I serve mine with mascarpone cream and it is HEAVENLY!!!  So, let me send you to heaven too........via apple crisp.  

Apple Crisp with Mascarpone Cream

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

Apples:
5 lbs granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/4 cup of orange juice

Topping:
2 sticks COLD butter
2 cups flour
1 cup oats (quick)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar

Mascarpone Cream:
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9x13x2 baking dish.  Set aside.

Peel, core and slice apples.  I like to slice mine no smaller than 1/2 inch thick slices.

Place sliced apples in a bowl and toss with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Dump apples into greased dish and pour 1/4 cup of orange juice on top of apples.

In a separate bowl, combine 2 sticks cold butter, 2 cups flour, 1 cup oats and both sugars.  Using your hands, squeeze and mix to combine all ingredients until it becomes a nice crumbly mixture.

Dump crumbly mixture directly on top of the apples, and without pressing down, spread evenly all over the apples.

Bake uncovered for 55-60 minutes, until bubbly and crisp on the top.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl add mascarpone, powdered sugar, cream and vanilla.  Using a whisk attachment or a hand whisk, whip up the cream until a creamy consistency.

Top warm apple crisp with mascarpone cream and enjoy!!!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spaghetti with Crispy Prosciutto and Peas

Ahhhh, pasta.  The most delicious substance on the planet, perfected by Italians.  Sunday gravy over rigatoni is my weak spot, but honestly, I just love a simply dressed pasta with big flavor.

I use things like asparagus, broccoli rabe, zucchini and even Brussels sprouts to give unique flavors to my pasta dishes.  Just a few simple ingredients can actually make the most delicious pasta dishes.  You don't have to drown your pasta in liquid for it to taste good.  Especially if you are using fresh pasta, since you can really increase the richness of it, because you are in the control seat.

This pasta dish has everything; the saltiness from the crispy prosciutto, sweetness from the peas....it's a real winner.  It's quick, cheap to make and will please the whole family.


Spaghetti with Crispy Prosciutto and Peas

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time:  35 minutes
Serves: 5-6

Ingredients:
4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)
9 oz prosciutto, sliced into thin long strips
1-2 cups starchy pasta water
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano
1 lb of spaghetti
2 TBSP salt (for pasta water)
thinly sliced scallions to garnish
salt and pepper, q.b.



Method:

Fill a large pot with water and put over high heat with a lid on for pasta.

In a deep 12 inch skillet, heat 4TBSP olive oil and add 3 cloves of smashed garlic over medium high heat.  Do not allow garlic to burn.  You want to toast it up until light golden brown and discard.

Add thinly sliced prosciutto and cook until very crispy.  Remove prosciutto to a plate and set aside.

Add 2 TBSP salt to boiling water and drop the spaghetti in and cook until a minute or two before al dente.

 Add frozen peas and red pepper flakes to skillet and sautee for 1-2 minutes.  Add starchy pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until you have a good amount to toss your spaghetti with.

When pasta is ready, drain and add directly to the pea mixture.  Turn heat on high and toss pasta with pea mixture until fully combined.  Add prosciutto.  Turn heat off and add 1/4 cup of parmigiano reggiano.  Toss gently to combine.  Taste for salt and pepper.

To serve, top with some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and thinly sliced scallions.  Enjoy!!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Old Timey Chicken and Dumplings

Listen, I know I'm Italian and I'm only supposed to cook Italian food, or so people will tell me.  I just cant do that though.  Not when there are so many down home American classics that break up the monotony of macaroni and meatballs.  It's not that I don't love eating the good old Italian American classics, but I do get tired of making the same thing over and over again.  So I try to mix it up to make things interesting for me in the kitchen, and to get my family eating a variety of delicious things.

Like I said before, it may surprise you that my Mother's Father, my beloved grandfather, grew up in the south on a farm.  I learned so much from him in the kitchen, because he was always making those country dishes - rib sticking down home, old timey dishes that literally made me feel like I wasn't sitting in a rowhome, but in a farm kitchen somewhere in my barefeet with a summer breeze coming through an open window.

Chicken and dumplings are one of my guilty pleasures.  I just LOVE drop dumplings.  They are so moist and delicious.  Dipping each piece into that chicken broth......HEAVENLY.

Now, as always, I have tweaked a few things to add some extra flavor, but for the most part, this is my family's recipe as I remember it growing up.  I know you guys will love it, especially with those chilly winter days coming.


Old Timey Chicken and Dumplings

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: about 1 1/2 hours
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces - How to Butcher a Chicken
1 large onion, cut into big chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into chunks
4 carrots cut into chunks
1/2 cup frozen peas
6 cups good chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 TBSP butter

Gravy Base
4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP flour
1/2 cup heavy cream

Drop Dumplings
3 TBSP vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp parsley
3/4 cup whole milk

Method:

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and parsley into a bowl and using a fork or pastry blender, cut shortening into mixture, until it resembles coarse pebbles.  Cover with plastic wrap and set into the refrigerator.

In a large soup pot, add the chicken pieces, celery, onion, carrots, chicken stock, salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme, bay leaf and butter.

Place over medium high heat until it comes to a boil.  Pop a lid on it, reduce the heat to medium low and check for seasoning.  Continue to cook for about 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken pieces to a plate, uncovered.

Strain the liquid into a separate bowl.  Reserve vegetables.  Discard bay leaf.

Using a fork, begin to pull all of the chicken off of the bones, and breaking larger pieces apart.  Discard bones and return to the plate.  Add vegetables to plate as well.  Set aside.

In the empty soup pot over medium heat, melt 4 TBSP of butter.  Whisking vigorously, add the 4 TBSP flour.  Whisk constantly over the heat until you get a very light beige color (think of tea with milk).  Add 1/2 cup of strained stock and whisk it in until it becomes thick and smooth.  Continue adding the stock a little at a time, whisking well with each addition.  Bring heat down to medium and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream.

Once everything is combined, add the chicken pieces and vegetables to the pot along with 1/2 cup of frozen peas.  Check for seasoning.

Remove flour mixture from the refrigerator and add in 3/4 cup of whole milk.  Without over-mixing, combine to make a nice dough.

Using two spoons, form balls and drop dumplings directly into the liquid.  Cover immediately, reduce heat to low and allow to cook for about 10-15 minutes.  Do not disturb the dumplings.  Allow them to rise and expand.

Once the dumplings are cooked, you are ready to serve.  Enjoy!!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rotund Peppers

I'm not gonna lie or exaggerate, but I'm kind of a big deal in the Stuffed Pepper department.  Like, they're the best I've ever had, and that's saying something.

People LOVE Stuffed Peppers.  Why? It's not just because they are delicious.  They are comfort.  They are literally up there in the rafters of amazing comfort foods like macaroni and cheese and meatloaf.

The thing I think I love most about them is that you can make them ahead, like I'm talking night before ahead, cover them and boom throw them in the oven the next day and you have a home cooked meal on a busy night.  You can make them in a pan with a lid and just sautee if you don't feel like turning on the oven.  You can put them in the crockpot after just a short prep.  And the end result is always the same.....DELICIOUS.

Remember this scene?  Yeah, stuffed peppers do that to me.  Thanks Mom.



Okay, but honestly, back to the main topic.  My mom's stuffed peppers are ridiculously delicious.  I love them, but of course, being the stubborn person I am, I made some changes and made them better.  Don't tell my mother I said that, she's got a wicked arm with a wooden spoon and she's not afraid to whack me with one at 35 years old.  Anyway, tweaking just a few things and boosting the flavor profiles make these stuffed peppers the best you'll ever make.  Trust me, I'm rotund.

Rotund Peppers

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time:60 minutes
Serving Size: 6 people 

Ingredients:

Peppers:
3 large green bell peppers, halved vertically
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground beef, 85/15
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 cup tomato sauce (recipe below)
1 cup uncooked long grain rice, not instant
3 cups of beef stock
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
6 slices fresh mozzarella

Sauce:
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced finely
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1 28 oz can plain tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 beef bouillon cube
1/2 cup water
4 fresh basil leaves, torn

Method:

Fill a large pot with water, and place on high heat to come to a boil.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 TBSP olive oil and sautee 1/2 yellow onion and garlic until translucent.  Add 1 can of tomato sauce, salt pepper, beef bouillon cube, water and fresh basil leaves.  Cover with a lid and simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and adjusting salt and pepper after 15 minutes.

Place peppers on cutting board and slice in half from top to bottom, vertically, so that you have 2 identical halves.  Gently pull out the seeds and rinse under cold water.

In a deep 12 inch skillet, over medium high flame, heat 3 TBSP olive oil and sautee 1 large onion, 3 cloves of garlic and red pepper flakes until onion and garlic are translucent.  Add ground beef and chop up finely with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and brown.

By this time your large pot of water should be boiling.  Place six pepper halves into boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Add 1 cup of tomato sauce and fresh basil to ground beef mixture and combine well.  Add 1 cup long grain rice and 3 cups of beef stock.  Cover with a lid and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring only once.

When rice is tender, turn off heat, stir in 2 TBSP of butter and 1/2 cup of parmigiano reggiano.

In a 9x13 baking dish, place 2-3 ladelfuls of sauce into the bottom.  Lay halved peppers into the sauce and fill each pepper with the ground beef and rice mixture.  I pile my peppers high, that's the beauty of halving the peppers, you can REALLY stuff them to the max.  Top each pepper with a small amount of sauce and fresh mozzarella.

Bake at 375 uncovered for about 15 minutes.  Enjoy!!!


Monday, October 6, 2014

"French Onion Soup" Potatoes

I freaking LOVE french onion soup.  It's one of my favorite pub grub orders.

When I think of the most delicious french onion soups I have ever had, it's not mine that I think of believe it or not.  The frist to-die-for french onion soup I ever had was my friend Melissa's mom, Terri's.  I don't know what she did to that damn soup, but I can still taste it, and I must have been 12 or 13 when I had it.  I will never forget it as long as I live.  I also think she should make it for me again (HINT HINT).  The second best french onion soup which was just a hair less good than Terri's was at the Locust Rendezvous Cafe on Locust in between Broad and 15th.  I honestly don't know if it's even still there.  If it is, I hope they never changed that recipe.  Cause it was DELICIOUS.

There is something ridiculously fantastic about french onion soup.  The soaked french bread in the bottom, the delicious onions and melty cheeses.  It's like an overload of awesome.

It also inspired me for this recipe.  My family loves potatoes whether they are smashed, baked, mashed, boiled, fried or grilled.  I get tired of making plain old mashed potatoes, and I always try to pump them up with different flavors.  It was a chilly day last November, and I was having the whole crew over for dinner and these just materialized.  You won't be sorry you made these.  They are so creamy, rich and full of flavor!! You might even lick the damn bowl.



"French Onion Soup" Mashed Potatoes

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

3 pounds red skinned potatoes
1 tsp kosher salt (for potatoes)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3 large yellow onions
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp salt (for onions)
1/4 tsp black pepper (for onions)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 stick of salted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream, give or take
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
salt and pepper, q.b.

Method:

Peel and slice onions into very thin slices.  Heat olive oil in a medium sautee pan over low heat and add onions, salt, pepper and thyme.  Allow to cook down and caramelize for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (You do not want the onions crispy.  If you find they are cooking too fast, reduce heat)

Wash your potatoes. Cut into cubes leaving the skin on.  This will add even more texture to your potatoes.  Peel and lightly smash 3 cloves of garlic.

Add cubed potatoes, smashed garlic and 1 tsp of salt to a pot, covering potatoes with 1/2 inch of water and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and continue to boil for another 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are completely tender.

Grate 1 cup of Gruyere cheese and set aside.

Once your potatoes are done, drain.  Leave the garlic in the potatoes, because we are mashing that up right into the potatoes.  Add 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup of heavy cream and cheese.  Mash with hand masher or beater until combined and creamy.  You can always add or decrease cream depending on what consistency you are looking for.

Drain onions of any excess oil.  Pick out the thyme stems.  Pour caramelized onions directly into the potatoes and fold in gently.

Taste for salt and pepper.  Enjoy!!


Friday, October 3, 2014

Potato Galette

MasterChef was harder than anyone could ever imagine.  The pressure, being away from your family, the psychological warfare......it's unreal.  So when you get even the smallest victory, it's a HUGE victory in reality.  

Winning a Mystery Box is a giant advantage, because you don't have to cook in the next elimination challenge and you get to set someone you want to go home up for elimination.  Some people would relax and experiment with the Mystery Box because there was no elimination involved.  I never did.  I cooked my best with every test, it made me stronger.  

I believe my Potato Galette actually won me this particular mystery box challenge, where we had to basically create a high end steak dinner with only a few choices of ingredients.  I knew it was ballsy, and if I didn't pull it off, it could make me look bad to the judges, but I went with it anyway.  

It's a beautiful concept with only a few ingredients and BIG flavor.  The extra preparation won't go unnoticed when you prepare this for everyone you know.  Enjoy my winning Potato Galette recipe!!

Potato Galette

Ingredients:

3 large russet potatoes, sliced in 1/8 inch slices
1 cup of pecorino cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash potatoes.  Using a mandolin or a grater, slice potatoes into 1/8 inch slices.  Put slices in a bowl of salt water to soak for 10 minutes.  

Remove slices from salt water and dry thoroughly between 2 paper towels.  

Take a non-stick oven safe 10 inch skillet, and using a pastry brush, brush with olive oil liberally. Smash a clove of garlic and rub all over the inside of the oiled pan and then discard.  

Organize your potato slices so that the nicest looking pieces go in first (We will be flipping this onto a plate to serve, so you really want a nice flower pattern like shown above).  

Starting in the center of the pan, lay potatoes in a circular motion, working outward until you can no longer see the bottom of the pan.  Press down firmly with your hands.  Brush this layer lightly with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper lightly.  

Add another layer of potato slices, starting from the sides of the pan and working inward.  Press down firmly.  Brush this layer lightly with olive oil and then sprinkle a nice layer of pecorino cheese.  (These layers don't have to be visually perfect, because you won't be seeing them, but they do need to be even, so that the galette cooks properly)
 
Continue building layers alternating each layer with the salt/pepper and the pecorino, remembering to press down each layer very firmly, almost packing it.  Keep building layers until you run out of potatoes.  Sprinkle both salt and pepper and pecorino on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.  

Over medium high heat, cook galette for 5 minutes and then place uncovered into an oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until a knife pieces through the center easily.  

VERY IMPORTANT!!!  The galette will be VERY HOT and there will be oil in the bottom of the pan.  I place a dinner plate on top of the galette and press down while tipping the pan upward to drain the oil.  DO NOT FLIP YOUR GALETTE UNTIL YOU HAVE DRAINED THE OIL!!!

Once you have drained the oil, allow to sit for 2-3 minutes and then you are ready to flip and serve.  Enjoy!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Black Forest Cupcakes

My Uncle Vernon loves Black Forest Cake.  Every time I see it or hear about it, I always think of him.  He lives in North Carolina now, and I don't get to see him much anymore.  It makes me really sad because he was such a big part of mine and my son's life.

When my beloved grandfather passed away in late 2000, Uncle Vernon stepped in and took care of my grandmother.  Anything around the house that needed fixing, driving her somewhere if her car was in the shop, making sure she was eating and taking her medicine, and mostly just going over and having a cup of coffee with her to make sure she wasn't lonely.  That meant so much to me and I love him for it.

I am always looking for fun and delicious cupcake recipes.  I love cupcakes.  They are like your own personal cake in mini form.  They look good, they taste good and they make you feel good too.  Show me a person that doesn't love a cupcake and I'll show you a person that is truly miserable.

I had some frozen black cherries in my freezer.  I wanted to use them in a different way.  BOOM, I happen to look over at the picture of my Uncle Vernon hanging on the wall and the Black Forest Cupcake became a reality.  I know you will absolutely LOVE these!!

Black Forest Cupcake

Ingredients:
CAKE:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups boiling whole milk
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 bag frozen cherries, thawed
1 tsp sugar
Dark chocolate, for shavings




FROSTING:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, give or take

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a cupcake tin with nonstick vegetable oil spray and place desired cupcake liners in each slot.

Bring 2 cups of whole milk and 3/4 cup of cocoa to a light boil, whisking constantly to avoid clumps from the cocoa.

In a mixing bowl add vegetable oil and sugar.  Mix until well combined.  Add eggs 1 at a time and then vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine sifted flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Mix gently with a fork.

Add 1/4 of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients on low speed and beat until combined.  Add 1/4 cup of the hot cocoa milk and mix until combined.  Continue to alternate, ending with flour mixture until fully combined.

Fill each cupcake tin 3/4 of the way up.  Place in oven and bake for 15-18 minutes.  When toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, remove from oven and set out to cool.

Place thawed cherries into a bowl and sprinkle with a tsp of sugar and mix gently.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine butter, vanilla and pinch of salt on high speed until fluffy.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar and cream little by little alternating until the frosting is a nice thick consistency.

Frost each cupcake and top with a cherry.  Spoon some cherry juice over each cupcake and top with dark chocolate shavings.  Enjoy!!!!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Eggplant Parmigiana with Chunky Tomato Basil Sauce

I gotta be honest.  I'm not really a fan of eggplant.  I know, what kind of Italian am I?  I mean, I'll eat it, but it's not at the top of my list.  

My kid on the other hand, well that's a different story.  He will eat it til he is about to burst.  He insists my fried eggplant is the best in the universe (and he's not the only one).  

Like I said, I could take it or leave it.  However, one way I WILL eat it is if it's smothered with cheese and tomato sauce.  Actually, who am I kidding, I'd eat crap if it was smothered in fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce.  Okay, that' an exaggeration, but I believe I have made my point.  

I notice a lot of my friends always beg me to make this dish.  I never understood why, when it's really a breeze to make.  Maybe it's just my recipe?  I don't weigh it down with a Sunday gravy type sauce, I like to use a light and robust tomato basil sauce that compliments the fried eggplant, not drowns it.  Perhaps that's what makes mine so delicious to everyone.  Lucky for you, I'm sharing the recipe and now YOU can make it too!!

Eggplant Parmigiana w/ Chunky Tomato Basil Sauce

Ingredients:

Fried Eggplant:
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1 inch thick slices
3 beaten eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
olive oil, for frying
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
fresh parsley, garnish

Sauce:
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1/2 tsp dried pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
8 fresh basil leaves, torn
salt and pepper, q.b.

Method:

In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pot, heat 2 TBSP olive oil and toast red pepper flakes.  Add garlic and sautee until translucent and fragrant.  

Pour tomatoes into a bowl and crush up with your hands.  Add to pot and simmer on medium.  Add 1 cup of beef stock, fresh basil and reduce heat to maintain a low simmer.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer uncovered while you prepare your eggplant.  

To prepare eggplant, cut off the very top and bottom of the eggplant and peel with a vegetable peeler.  Slice the eggplant into 1 inch thick discs.  Place eggplant slices into flour, then egg, then breadcrumb mixture.  Repeat until all eggplant is coated.  Place in the refrigerator uncovered for 10 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  

Heat olive oil (about 1/4 of the way up of a 12 inch skillet) to about 325 degrees.  Remove eggplant from refrigerator and place in hot oil.  Fry on both sides until golden brown.  

Coat the bottom of a large pyrex dish with a layer of tomato basil sauce.  Lay fried eggplant on an angle, slightly overlapping in the dish.  Top lightly with tomato basil sauce and add sliced fresh mozzarella on each piece of eggplant.  Add a little drizzle of sauce on top of the mozzarella and some fresh parsley for garnish.  

Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.  Enjoy!!!