Friday, December 25, 2009

Easy Eggplant Parmigiana

I had such a craving for this eggplant parmigiana after seeing it on the Food Network. My mom and sister helped me assemble this dish, with our assembly line for the eggplant and putting together the layers in the casserole. After it came out of the oven, the fresh mozzarella was beautifully melted and the fried eggplant remained perfectly crunchy. We all loved it!

Mike's Deli Famous Eggplant Parmigiana, Dave Grecco

2 large eggplants
All-purpose flour
4 eggs
Bread crumbs
1 quart marinara sauce
8 ounces sliced dry mozzarella
4 ounces grated Romano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and heat oil in a large pan, Dutch oven or deep-fryer.

Peel the eggplant and slice into ¼-inch thick slices. Coat each side of the eggplant with the flour.

In a separate bowl beat 4 eggs and dip the eggplant into the egg to coat both sides. Then take your bread crumbs and do the same to coat each side.

Once the oil is hot, put the eggplant in the hot oil and fry until golden brown. You can also use a deep-fryer and leave in for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Once all of the eggplant has been fried, get a rectangular baking pan and start the layering by adding the marinara sauce to the bottom of the pan, then the eggplant, more sauce, fresh mozzarella, Romano cheese, and continue to layer until you have reached the top of the pan. Top off with sauce, mozzarella, and grated Romano.

Place the baking pan into the oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.

Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter

Oh my! This pasta dish was oh so perfectly decadent! I loved the simplicity of this recipe, yet there is no sacrificing any flavor. The tagliarelle pasta was so delicate, and the cream and white truffle butter sauce was a perfect complement to the tender texture of the pasta. I will definitely make this recipe over and over again!

Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Kosher salt
½ cup heavy cream
3 ounces white truffle butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (8.82-ounce) package Cipriani tagliarelle dried pasta or other egg fettuccine
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 ounces Parmesan, shaved thin with a vegetable peeler

Add 1 tablespoon salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large (12-inch) sauté pan, heat the cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer. Add the truffle butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, lower the heat to very low, and swirl the butter until it melts. Keep warm over very low heat.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, exactly. (If you're not using Cipriani pasta, follow the directions on the package.) When the pasta is cooked, reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan and toss it with the truffle-cream mixture. As the pasta absorbs the sauce, add as much of the reserved cooking water, as necessary, to keep the pasta very creamy.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and garnish each serving with a generous sprinkling of chives and shaved Parmesan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Green Herbs

I made these scrambled eggs for Christmas Day breakfast with my family. These eggs were beautifully fluffy with specks of green from the fresh herbs and scallions. Delicious with a side of bacon!

Source: Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Green Herbs, Ina Garten

10 extra-large eggs
16 tablespoons whole milk or half-and-half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced scallions, white and green parts
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté or omelet pan. Add the eggs and cook them over low heat, folding them over almost constantly with a rubber spatula, until the desired doneness. Off the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, the parsley, scallions, and dill. Stir until the butter is melted. Check for seasonings. Serve hot.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eggnog Crème Brulee

McHubby and I love crème brulee, but I wanted to do something a bit more festive for the holiday. This eggnog crème brulee was wonderful—a decadently delicious dessert! Whenever we serve crème brulee at our dinner parties, each guest gets to torch their own, making it fun and entertaining, as well!

Eggnog Crème Brulee, Brian M. Jones

2 cups eggnog
4 egg yolks
¼ cup white sugar
3 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
1 dash ground nutmeg (optional)
1 dash ground cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place 4 ramekins or custard cups into a shallow baking dish, and fill the dish with water to half-way up the sides of the ramekins.

Pour the eggnog into a pan over medium heat. Cook and stir occasionally until the mixture simmers, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and sugar into a mixing bowl; beat until light colored and frothy. Stir in the mascarpone until well blended and smooth. Whisk ¼ cup of the heated eggnog mixture into the eggs. Gradually whisk the remaining eggnog into the eggs. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any egg strands. If desired, stir in the nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pour into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly.

Bake in preheated oven until custard has set, 30 to 45 minutes. Centers should wiggle slightly when shaken, but not be soupy.

Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes; refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

I love mushrooms, and for the second Barefoot Bloggers selection this month, we are making Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms. I made these as appetizers for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner. Since my sister is vegetarian, I made some with sausage (pictured below) and some without (pictured at the bottom of this post). Either way, they were savory and delicious, and received rave reviews! A special thanks to Michelle of Welcome to the Club for choosing this recipe, and Merry Christmas and happy eating to all!

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms, Ina Garten

16 extra-large white mushrooms
5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 ½ tablespoons Marsala wine or medium sherry
¾ pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings
6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
⅔ cup panko crumbs
5 ounces mascarpone cheese, preferably from Italy
⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 ½ tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and Marsala. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it's completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, Cool slightly.

Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing for 50 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

I love couscous, especially the Israeli variety. This dish was a great side dish as part of our Christmas dinner. Not only was it beautiful with the various colors from the cranberries, fresh herbs, and almonds, but it was also delicious.

Mediterranean Salad, Giada De Laurentiis

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus ¼ cup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-pound) box Israeli couscous (or any small pasta)
3 cups chicken stock
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

In a medium saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the couscous and cook until toasted and lightly browned, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Carefully add the stock, and the juice of 1 lemon, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the couscous is tender, but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the couscous.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with the remaining olive oil, remaining lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper and let cool.

Once the couscous is room temperature, add the fresh herbs, dried cranberries, and almonds. Toss to combine and serve.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Peppermint Bark

This is our friend Amy’s favorite peppermint bark. She asks for it every year for the holidays. I keep telling her that it couldn’t be easier to make! This peppermint bark brings out the sweet taste of the holidays!

24 ounces milk chocolate bark
24 ounces white chocolate bark
12 candy canes, broken into small pieces

Over a double boiler, melt the milk chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat and pour into a sheet pan. Spread the chocolate to the edges of the pan. Bang the pan on a counter several times to even out the chocolate and release any air bubbles. Place the pan in the refrigerator and allow to cool and harden, about 20-30 minutes.

While the milk chocolate is cooling, melt the white chocolate over a double boiler until smooth. Remove from heat and pour over top of the milk chocolate in the sheet pan. Spread the white chocolate to the edges of the pan. Bang the pan on a counter several times to even out the white chocolate and release any air bubbles. Sprinkle the candy cane pieces into the white chocolate. Place the sheet pan back into the refrigerator to cool and harden, about 60 minutes.

Once hardened, use a knife to break apart the bark into pieces.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Spinach and Gruyère Soufflé

This savory soufflé looks much more complicated than it really is. The soufflé bakes beautifully puffed and brown. Serve this dish when you want to impress.

Source: Everyday Food magazine, December 2009

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking dish
⅓ cup plain dried breadcrumbs
5 cups (5 ounces) packed spinach, trimmed and washed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
½ cup grated Gruyère cheese
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 large eggs, separated, plus 2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a round 1-quart tall-sided baking dish and dust with breadcrumbs; set aside. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons water over medium-high. Add spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a strainer to cool; press to release liquid.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium until bubbling. Add flour and whisk until a paste forms. Continue to cook until pale blond in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisking, gradually add milk. Cook, whisking, until lumps are gone and mixture is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese until melted; season with salt and pepper. Transfer soufflé base to a large bowl.

In a food processor, pulse spinach and egg yolks until coarsely puréed. Add ¼ cup soufflé base; pulse until blended. Stir spinach mixture into remaining soufflé base. (To store, press plastic wrap against surface and keep at room temperature, up to 4 hours.)

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 4 egg whites and pinch of salt on medium-high until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat), about 3 minutes. In 2 additions, gently fold egg whites into soufflé base. Pour batter into prepared dish and bake until soufflé is tall, browned, and firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. (Avoid opening oven during first 25 minutes of baking.) Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chocolate Banana Pound Cake

Whenever I have very ripe bananas, I start thinking about banana bread. This time, though, I found this recipe for a chocolate pound cake that uses ripe bananas. It also uses cinnamon chips, which is well worth the effort to find. The cinnamon chips really add to the flavor and melt into the cake as it bakes—it doesn’t stay in chunks the way chocolate does. This cake was nearly effortless to make and oh so moist, delicious, and beautiful!

Source: Chocolate Banana Pound Cake, Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
Flour for dusting the pan
2 ripe bananas
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain German chocolate cake mix
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup cinnamon chips

Chocolate Cinnamon Glaze
½ cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter
¼ cup milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
⅔ cup cinnamon chips
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pan aside.

Peel the bananas and place them in a large mixing bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend them until mashed. Add the cake mix, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla to the bananas. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Fold in the cinnamon chips, making sure they are well distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and is just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, 38 to 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a rack to cool completely, 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, prepare the Chocolate Cinnamon Glaze. Place the sugar, butter, and milk in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a boil, 3 to 4 minutes. Still stirring, let the mixture boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cocoa powder, cinnamon chips, and vanilla until the cinnamon chips are melted and the glaze is smooth. Stir, and let the glaze cool for a few minutes, until it thickens slightly.

Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Let the cake rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Place the cake on a serving platter, slice, and serve.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Warm Vanilla Cider

I love a warm apple cider on a cold day, especially during the holiday season. This is an easy and tasty recipe for cider that is infused with the flavors of vanilla and nutmeg. Delicious!

Source: Martha Stewart Living magazine, October 2009

6 cups fresh apple cider
2 tablespoons packed dark-brown sugar
2 whole nutmeg seeds
1 vanilla bean (split and scraped)
¾ cup bourbon (optional)
Whipped cream

Combine apple cider, brown sugar, nutmeg seeds, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Gently simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and add bourbon if desired. Remove and discard solids. Divide among 6 mugs or heatproof glasses, and top each with a dollop of whipped cream.

Lemon Wreaths

Each year, I host a cookie exchange party, and for this year’s event, I chose to make Lemon Wreaths. These cookies look like little bagels when baked and have a mild flavor, like shortbread. The glaze that coats them imparts more of the lemon flavor. After they are glazed, you can decorate them with your favorite holiday sugars and nonpareils to make them festive for the season.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, December 2009
Makes 6 dozen

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons coarse salt
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For the glaze:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
7 to 8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons white nonpareils, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Make the cookies: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Pulse sugar and zest in a food processor until combined, about 2 minutes.

Beat sugar-zest mixture and butter in a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until combined.

Scoop 1 tablespoon dough (or use a 1 ⅛-inch ice cream scoop), and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 4-inch rope. Bring ends together, overlapping slightly, and press together to form a ring. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer rings to parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 ½ inches apart, as you work. Bake until pale golden on the bottoms and around the edges, about 18 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool.

Make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Dip the top side of each cookie into glaze, letting excess drip off. Return cookies to wire racks, glaze side up, and sprinkle with nonpareils. Let dry completely.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Croissant Bread Pudding

I love love love bread pudding, so I was delighted to see this Barefoot Bloggers selection, chosen by Peggy of Pantry Revisited. This is a tasty recipe that’s so easy to prepare. It starts with making the custard mixture. (Be sure to save those egg whites—they can be frozen and used later!) Then stack the croissant halves and raisins—I substituted dried cranberries—and pour the custard mixture over top and allow to soak. The bread pudding bakes in a bain-marie (or water bath), and it comes out of the oven, puffed golden brown and smelling heavenly. The result is a delicious and decadent dessert!

Croissant Bread Pudding, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

3 extra-large whole eggs
8 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 croissants, preferably stale, sliced horizontally
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla. Set the custard mixture aside. Slice the croissants in half horizontally. In a 10 by 15 by 2 ½-inch oval baking dish, distribute the bottoms of the sliced croissants, then add the raisins, then the tops of the croissants (brown side up), being sure the raisins are between the layers of croissants or they will burn while baking. Pour the custard over the croissants and allow to soak for 10 minutes, pressing down gently.

Place the pan in a larger one filled with 1-inch of hot water. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn't touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes or until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Favorite Chicken Pot Pie

Today, we had our first snow of the season. I was craving chicken pot pie, the piping hot comfort food of childhood that everybody loves! I won’t lie—this recipe takes some time to prepare. It was more involved than I usually make, but it’s a snowy Saturday and some meals are just worth the effort and time it takes. However, you can certainly split the work for this recipe and do some of the steps ahead of time (like roasting the chicken breasts or making the pastry).

This is an easy recipe to add your own touches, as well. You can add celery or potatoes, and you can substitute leftover Thanksgiving turkey for the chicken. I added a large clove of minced garlic. Also, instead of making individual servings, I made a large pot pie in an oval casserole.

This dish is absolutely superb! The filling was perfectly flavored and the sauce was nicely thickened and bubbly hot. And the crust was light, flaky, and beautifully browned. Oh, so yummy! This dinner really hit the spot!

Chicken Pot Pie, Barefoot Contessa

3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup heavy cream
2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
1 ½ cups frozen small whole onions
½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves

For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup vegetable shortening
¼ pound cold unsalted butter, diced
½ to ⅔ cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to ½-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.