No, it’s not a Valentine’s dinner per se, but a little bit of my plain ol’ Sunday cooking routine.  I hope to keep this a weekly feature!

Sunday starts out usually with me getting up late, eating breakfast, drinking my coffee, cursing Coffeemate and the number it does on my stomach, and then I gather the energy to put on “outside clothes” and go food shopping.  Today this all happened by about 2pm.  What was I going to make this Sunday?  I always ask my husband what he wants and we usually do about ten rounds of “I don’t know . . . what do you want?”  This Sunday was no different.

We finally decided on eggplant parmigiana and spaghetti.  This is actually a treat in our house for several reasons:

1.  Anything with excessive sauce and cheese is reserved for special occasions.

2.  The task of making fresh sauce (don’t even try to suggest i buy a jar of tomato sauce or you’re dead to me) and breading and frying cutlets of any kind is time consuming.

3.  This is a meal I’ve actually come to love, now that I’ve perfected the sauce and the parm thanks to the culinary gods working at Food Network (my fantasy employer).  So anything I enjoy as much as my husband is a win-win.  This does not always happen since I try to cater to my husband’s preferences in the kitchen.  It just makes my life easier.

Ok, let’s get to it . . .

I’ve always made my own sauce and I know how to make the parm, but these two recipes have really made both tasks easy-peasy:

1. Mike’s Deli Famous Eggplant Parmigiana.  Yes, Mike’s Deli in the Bronx.  Yes, the one featured in Bobby Flay Throwdown.  Yes, it’s that good.  This recipe actually made me LOVE eggplant.  What does he do differently?  He peels the eggplant so no bitter skin to munch on.  He slices the eggplant lengthwise so it covers more surface in the baking dish.  He slices the eggplant thin so it cooks up quick and melts in your mouth.  He dips the cooked eggplant cutlets in the sauce instead of pouring the sauce in the baking dish, making everything less soggy.  He uses fresh mozzarella instead of the typical Polly-O that our mothers used.  Convinced yet?  The only modifications I make from his recipe are that I use whole wheat flour, egg whites and whole wheat bread crumbs to bread the eggplant, since a little bit of “healthy” in this dish can’t hurt.  Other than that, I did everything else by the recipe.  Yes, even the grated Romano cheese.  Very unlike me, but I will concede it adds to the flavor of the dish.  It was like a whisper of Romano.

2.  Marinara Sauce.  Like I mentioned above, I always made my own sauce.  My mother’s recipe.  Always good.  What makes this different?  The inclusion of the chopped onion, carrot and celery.  This cuts down on the acidity, flavors the sauce, and sneaks in some extra vegetables.  Did I modify this recipe?  I used canned whole San Marzano tomatoes and added some meat to satisfy my carnivorous husband.  My mom always did that and any animal fat you can add to the sauce makes it 1000 times better (sorry vegans, this one ain’t for you).  As a rule, pork always adds the most flavor, followed by red meat, then seafood, then poultry.  For today, I used pork braciole (store-bought – my husband’s favorite treat) and sweet chicken sausages.  I also cooked the sauce about three times as long as the recipe, which in increases the depth of the flavor and gives the meat the chance to cook through thoroughly.  I’ve got to hand it to Giada, pureeing the sauce after it’s cooked is key.

You can read the steps by steps on your own, so instead, here’s a visual play by play.  All in all it was divine.

Except for one thing.

I forgot to make the spaghetti!.  What the hell was I thinking?  Oh well, it was still perfect on its own.


Pork braciole and chicken sausages


Look at that sear!

Mise en place?

Making the flavor!

Look at my big cans!

Eggplants are pretty . . .

. . . until they're peeled.

My indispensible mandoline!

Breading station

Looking good!

My immersion blender - another godsend!

If I had more time, I would have bough *fresh* fresh mozzarella from the Italian deli.

Making the layers

Ready for the oven!

And it's done! Fresh from my awesome toaster/convection oven.

Cross section of layers. It was so good!