Tag Archive: Home cooking


So many different things can inspire the perfect moment. I sometimes latch onto a scene in a movie or a phrase in a song that just resonates into this romantic idea or concept that I keep coming back to. You know that perfect phrase in the song that says so much more than just the words themselves mean? Right now, I’m listening to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack from Season Three, which includes that amazing season finale song, “Keep Breathing”…so many moments I could pull from that whole soundtrack to talk about.

The moment that has inspired this post is a scene from the movie “Because I Said So”. You may have missed this movie from a few years ago – Mandy Moore as a young single professional chef, Diane Keaton her meddlesome mother, and some guy who plays her adorable hipster boyfriend? I’ve watched this one a few times. A lot of themes that resonate with me in different ways, but the particular scene I’m trying to get to comes when the two relationships she’s been juggling both go awry – she dumps the one she realizes isn’t for her, loses the other because he finds out she’s been dating someone else. At the same time, she stops speaking to her mother because she finds out her mother has been meddling in the background the whole time. At this point, she’s mostly alone, having turned away from her primary support system after losing both of her charming boys. Then – a scene with her sitting down for dinner at her kitchen counter – she lays out the plate, pours a glass of wine, puts her napkin in her lap, tops her salad with freshly ground pepper and then digs in alone. There is something so lovely and poignant in that scene. To me, it is the loneliness, partially self-imposed, balanced with the bittersweetness of a determined independence in which she still recognizes her own worth by taking care of herself with a carefully prepared meal. As opposed to the more common image of the sad lonely person camped out on the living room sofa in sweats, eating meals out of bags and boxes.

But what does any of this have to do with my looking for the perfect salad dressing? Well, that image occasionally inspires me to assemble such a meal for myself. Tonight, I prepared a pan-fried trout, a salad, and poured myself a glass of prosecco. For the salad, I scrounged my fridge for interesting ingredients and I found a nice simple combo of romaine, grilled peaches, and pecans. But then, I had to dress it. All I could think of was to toss in a bit of rice vinegar and sprinkle some salt. It wasn’t half bad, but I realized – I do not have an instinctive sense of how to dress a salad. Does anyone have some basic go-to dressings they use when preparing a simple salad at home that they could recommend for me? What are the basic building blocks on which I can then layer my own flavor ideas? A good salad can be such an amazing meal. I love the part of trying to dream up what different types of produce, cheeses or nuts to combine into an exciting new flavor combo. That part I can get. But the dressing part has me a bit at a loss…

What I love the most about the idea of taking the time to create a full meal for myself and sitting down to focus on enjoying just the meal is what that image says to me about taking the time for yourself. To treat yourself as well as you’d treat an honored guest. I think it’s important for us all to think about – whether you tend to spend most of your time working for an employer, taking care of children, or providing for a spouse or significant other. We take all this care to do our best for other people and things in our lives. I think it’s just as important to put 100% into our efforts to take care of ourselves, too. It’s different from treating yourself to a spa day or new purchase. Because it’s not just spending money on yourself, or paying someone else to pamper you – it’s putting real time and effort into giving yourself a lovely treat. A treat that would be even lovelier for me if I could just learn to make the perfect vinaigrette.

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Good Friday: Happy as a Clam

Every year I stick to a the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, and every Friday during Lent I complain about it.  As much as I love eggs and seafood and other meatless items on a regular basis, when meatless Fridays hit, I crave bacon and burgers.  Every week I am tempted!  But I am proud to say that every week I stay strong and do not give into the temptation.  I know some folks actually fast on Fridays, but I did not grow up with that tradition and don’t really feel the need to fast.  I don’t follow many of the other Lenten traditions but I do stick to meatless Fridays.  I know as a Catholic, I am not supposed to pick and choose which rules to follow, but I’m not perfect and my intentions are good.  In fact I’m so fanatical about meatless Fridays during Lent that Hubbo even feels compelled to observe meatless Fridays, even though he has less of a connection to his faith than I do.

Today is Good Friday, the last meatless Friday of the season.  I worked from home today, so I had some time to cook dinner tonight.  I was going to throw together some kind of pasta and veggie thingie, until Hubbo called and requested something he has never requested before.  Linguine and clam sauce.  I was in shock.  Hubbo does not eat seafood, and only eats baked clams twice a year.  I, on the other hand, love seafood.  In the last couple of years, I’ve become obsessed with linguine and clams and order it a lot at restaurants, but have never made it at home.  So who am I to say no to a request from my wonderful Hubbo?  Time to get my clam on!

The amazing Anne Burrell

I have to say I was quite disappointed that my cookbooks did not have a good traditional recipe for linguine and clam sauce.  Not Lidia.  Not Mario.  Not Silver Spoon.  So back to the internet and my ol’ reliable Food Network.  I found a traditional looking recipe that also looked super easy by one of my new fave chefs, Anne Burrell.  She’s certainly not new to the culinary world, but I only heard of her when she came out with her own show on Food Network, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.  She has crazy hair and says crazy things and makes crazy yummy noises as she cooks.  She scared me at first, but now I’ve grown to love her!  She’s an awesome female that can cook!

I took a drive over to the local fish monger to pick up 5 dozen littleneck clams.  I had to write that sentence just so I could use the word “monger.”

Anyhoo, I followed Anne’s recipe to the letter, except that I took all the clams out of the shell.  Anne’s recipe says to keep half the clams in the shell for presentation. I will admit I do very rarely cook seafood at home so I was nervous about cooking the clams wrong or not cleaning them properly.  A gritty sandy clam can ruin your whole meal.

Closed . . .

Open!

Anne also adds one cup grated Parmesan to the recipe (optional) and of course for me, the cheese was a no no.  The topic of cheese and seafood has actually become quite controversial, as most old-school traditional chefs do not believe the two should ever be married.  The younger generation of chefs tends to throw this rule out of the window.  Hubbo throws grated cheese on all pasta, seafood or not.

So how was it?  Fantastic!  Anne’s recipe was fool proof and this fool did a pretty good job.  There was no salt or pepper in the entire recipe and it was perfectly seasoned.  I could not believe how good it came out.  It was restaurant quality, if I can brag for a minute.  Ok, I’m done.

Delicious!

And to top off a great meal, Hubbo brought home macarons from Payard’s new location on Houston Street.  Poor guy, he was expecting coconut concoctions and was possibly disappointed.  I’m sorry I forgot to take photos of all the macarons in the box, but Hubbo ate one and I was halfway through one before I remembered.  His was Oreo and mine was chocolate.  Considering macarons are like the Oreos of France, I find it funny that they actually make an Oreo macaron.  Those crazy ironic French!

One is Coffee and one is PB&J but I can't tell which one is which!

At least I remembered to take a photo of the box!

Don’t Rush the Brioche!

Having baked regular bread and pizzas many times already, my husband and I decided to be more adventurous and make something different this time. Flipping through my baking bibles, Dough and Crust cookbooks, from my week-long bake-a-thon last June, one particular picture caught our eyes. It was a golden brown, saliva-inducing brioche. While the recipe is challenging, we were not put off. In fact, we looked forward to the challenge. After all, good things come to those who wait and patience is a virtue, right?

Brioche requires resting time of 14-16 hours, and a further proving time of 2.5 hours. It would take a whole day to make this bread! So, was the time and effort worth it? It’s a resounding YES!!! It came out so soft and airy, it just melts in your mouth (well, that could just be from all the butter that’s in the bread, but we like to think that it’s from our efforts!). Having literally tasted the success of this challenge, what’s on our agenda next? Maybe croissants or pain au chocolate…….

Delicious golden brown brioche. Doesnt it look amazing?!

I had never heard of spaghetti squash until a couple of years ago.  I think I heard about it from nyuchick.  Something about a vegetable that you cook and it looks and tastes like spaghetti.  I hate to be negative, but how can this be true?  Could it be true?  Am I in denial?  I do love zucchini and this is a squash, so it must be in the same food family.  It had to be good, right?  Well, there was only one way to find out.

I saw spaghetti squash in the supermarket and decided it was time to buy one and cook it up.  So I bought it.  And then I forgot about it.  It’s been in my fridge for possibly 3 weeks.  It rolled all the way to the back so I did not remember it was in there!!!  I needed to make room for other stuff in the fridge so I decided today was the day to make the spaghetti squash.

Hola, Mexican spaghetti squash #4776. I'm sure this is a spaghetti squash because the little sticker says so. Otherwise, I would have had no idea what the heck it was.

I did a little research online and some recipes recommended microwaving it whole and then slicing it open and roasting it in the oven.  I guess the outside it so hard you need to soften it a little before you can get a knife in it.  I microwaved it for about 6 minutes, trying not to have visions of vegetables exploding in slow motion.  It did not explode.  I cracked it in half, put it on a baking tray and roasted it for a half hour in my convection oven.

I let it cool, scooped out and discarded the seeds, and then scraped the inside with a fork to achieve the “spaghetti” effect.  Wow – it does look like spaghetti!  Awesome!

God makes the most interesting vegetables, doesn't he?

I saw some recipes that recommended sautéing the spaghetti squash with some garlic and olive oil but I got lazy after so much scraping (exaggerating for effect), so I just seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a smidge of olive oil.

So how was it?

It was ok.  I’m sorry, that’s the best description I could come up with.  Maybe If I had actually done the sautee, it would have been tastier but I did not see what the big appeal was.  It had a decent flavor, it was stringy like spaghetti, but it was NOT SPAGHETTI.  Not even close.  If I had cooked spaghetti and put the same seasoning on it, it would have been wonderful.  But this was not.  It also seemed to be mushy and clumpy.  Not sure if that was the proper consistency.

Would I try spaghetti squash again?  Maybe in a restaurant but I doubt I would make it again at home.

Has anyone else made spaghetti squash and loved it?

Back to Baking

Although MacchaMe is known for being the baker in our group, I’ve also been known to bake from time to time in my adult life, especially since I now have the internet and a husband and friends to bake for.

I grew up with a dislike of home baked goods.  Growing up my mother NEVER baked for two reasons:   1. The oven was always on the fritz so accurate baking aside from heating up a lasagna was not possible, and 2. She always said that it was pointless to bake something at home when Entemanns could do it better.  When I was in school, I regularly refused homemade baked goods offered to me because of the view of my mother, and for the most part she was right.  Unless someone is a good baker, boxed cake mixes and canned frosting just are not appealing to me.  I do have one fond memory of being very little, watching American Bandstand on a rainy Saturday morning and making Star Wars sugar cookies with R2D2 cookie cutters with my sister in the kitchen.  All other baking experiences at home were few, far between and disastrous.   My mother indulged me from time to time (i.e., less than once a year) while I experimented with boxed cake mixes and every time I did it was awful.  I remember one time using too much non-stick cooking spray on a cake pan and watching the frosting sadly slide off the cake I baked because the cake came out too greasy.  Everyone else laughed but I cried.  Of course.

Fast forward about 20 years to when Hubbo (then fiancé) and I shacked up and I made him a chocolate chocolate birthday cake FROM SCRATCH using a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook.  Wow – why did I do that?!?!  Based on my previous baking experiences, you would think I would not even attempt such a thing.  But I did and I remember it being delicious!  The only downside was that I ran out of powdered sugar for the frosting so I used regular sugar instead.  Boy, that frosting was grainy . . . but good.  I still have the photo too!  This encouraged me to start baking more regularly and I enjoy it.

Mmmmmmm, that cake was good. So many layers and so much work! I think if you look closely, you can actually see the sugar grains in the frosting.

Despite my mother’s two reasons NOT to bake, I have two reasons why I DO bake:  1. Through baking (and cooking in general) I enjoy making others happy.  I like when people enjoy what I feed them.  Maybe it’s some inner desire to be loved and accepted but I still love it nonetheless.  Baked goods = comfort food.  In another life, I probably would have been a professional chef, but I do admit my results are not always consistent, and 2. I’m fascinated by the science of baking.  Science was never my subject but for some reason, the idea that mixing flour and sugar and eggs together can make something wonderful blows my mind.  Lately, I’ve really been into substituting ingredients in my cooking and baking to make healthier options for Hubbo.  This seems to work better in cooking; substituting in baking is tough.  I went on a Splenda kick for a while in my baking, only to decide that it’s better to stick to natural ingredients.  I then got into vegan baking from an article in the New York Times a couple of years back with a recipe for the most unbelievably good vegan chocolate cupcakes.  Although I love me a good vegan creation, I still go back to traditional (but still natural) ingredients for baking.

The popularity of cooking websites and television networks has definitely opened my eyes and made me a more adventurous and confident cook (Hello Food Network – I’m still stalking you for a job!).  Despite my mother’s dislike of home baking, she did cook dinner every night growing up and always said, “If you can read, you can cook.”  I do believe that is true.

So what is the point of this?  I have not baked since Christmas and I missed it so much that I decided to make some cupcakes for my fellow Spices in honor of Boogaloo’s Skype baby shower.  Skype shower?  Huh?  Yes, we had a Skype shower.  When most of us live in the US and one of us lives in the UK, you improvise and this suggestion from Hencha was an excellent one.  Flights to London are getting pricey due to that Royal Wedding coming up, and since some of us have kids and other things we need to take of at home, flying to London this time was just not possible.  But we picked a time and a place to meet and conspired with Boogaloo’s hubbo to ship over some gifts for her to open, and ooh and aah remotely while we all watched on a computer screen.  I’d like to think it was just as good as being there in person, but I know it wasn’t.  It actually took all my might not to bawl like a baby yesterday through the entire shower since I just wanted to hug my dear friend and her beautiful baby belly.

I keep going off on tangents . . . back to the baking!  Boogaloo’s hubbo told us he was going to get her a red velvet cupcake, and since we were trying to simulate being there in person, I decided to make red velvet cupcakes to bring to the shower for the gang.  I’ve made red velvet whoopee pies before but not cupcakes so I foodgawked to find the right recipe.  In my searches, I came upon two recipes that substituted the usual cream cheese frosting with a vanilla frosting made with mascarpone cheese traditionally used in tiramisu.  I don’t care for cheese but I do eat mascarpone in desserts.  I was intrigued to try it so I picked one of the recipes and ran to the market Friday night to pick some up.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Mascarpone Frosting

I did not substitute any of the ingredients, but I did use powdered buttermilk instead of liquid buttermilk.  I don’t see the point of keeping liquid buttermilk in the house when I barely use it.

Although I think the cake part was a touch dry, the mascarpone frosting was SO GOOD.  I’m so glad l made the switch!  I think everyone loved it.  I daresay I may never go back to cream cheese frosting again.

Yummy!

And a quick note for Maccha, since I told her I’d let her know about it – I used this awesome pastry decorating thingie and it worked great!  Piping bags are messy and snipping the corner of a Ziploc bag to pipe frosting just does not work well.  This thing was quick, easy and completely unscrewed for easy cleaning!  Best $12 I ever spent.

Sunday Dinner 3/6/2011

Another “come together at the last minute” meal by me.  I wish I had the discipline to plan ahead more, but I tend to cook what my hubbo and I are in the mood for, rather than what’s in the fridge that we could/should use.

I feel like I’ve abandoned my usual sources, but I consulted foodgawker again to come with today’s dinner.

Tonight, I made:

  • Peas, ala frozen from a bag that i steamed and seasoned (hey, they can’t all be creative!)

I made only one modification to these recipes, aside from tripling the rice recipe.  I floured the turkey cutlets before I cooked them in the hopes that when I mixed the left over floury bits in the pan with the wine, it would make a nice thick sauce.  The sauce was delicious, but it did not thicken like I’d hoped.

Some might say that this was a strange meal since I mixed Italian with Middle Eastern, but in the end it was all good and sticking to one type of cuisine does not matter to me.  Hubbo enjoyed it too and I will be making both of these recipes again.

What did you make for dinner this evening?

Roasted mushrooms and onions hanging out with some white wine

Pretty turkey scalloppine

Rice is still smoking!

A little messy looking, but ready to eat!

 

 

 

I Wok! (trying not to lose my honorary status)

As I mentioned yesterday, I am sometimes known as the “honorary Asian” due to the many pleasant Asian girls I choose to share my world with.  There was even some talk at one time of giving me a laminated card to carry in my wallet with this title, but sadly I never got one.

The more I pondered this notion last evening, it got me in the mood for . . . Asian food, of course.  Chinese food to be specific.  I’m really trying to make an effort to cook better food for my lovely hubbo and although Chinese food does not always make it to the top of the healthy list, it’s got tons of veggies and can actually make a great healthy option if you make it at home and do some minor tweaking.

As I tried to figure out what to make for dinner tonight, I defrosted some chicken breast and then looked to the ol’ internet for inspiration.  I usually frequent Food Network (my future employer – FN ARE YOU READING THIS?!?!) and Tastespotting, but today I was inspired by MacchaMe to check out foodgawker.  I’d never really heard of it, but I am a sucker for food porn, so once I saw the pretty photos, I was intrigued.

Long story short, I found two “Chinese” recipes and I have to say they came out pretty good.  I obviously cannot vouch for the authenticity of the dishes, but they look, smelled and tasted like Chinese food to me!  Hubbo liked it too!

Chicken Stir-Fry

I love anything that has a little sauce to it, and this recipe created the perfect amount of sauce to make it tasty.  I did not modify this recipe at all (for once!)

Veggie Fried Brown Rice

I looked specifically for a brown rice version of traditional fried rice, since we only eat brown rice in our house now.  Did I modify this one?  Yes – I used egg whites instead of whole eggs, and three times the amount the recipe called for too.  We’re egg junkies!!!  I also omitted the mushrooms, since I did not have any in the house, and the broccoli, since I was already putting broccoli in the stir-fry.  I did cook the rice in my rice cooker, but I cooked it in chicken broth instead of water for a touch more flavor.  Recipes say you should use leftover rice for fried rice, but I never think ahead to make rice the day before.

Look at the pretty colors! And I did not overcook the broccoli!

My attempt at a detail shot.

I think I made too much rice. Can I freeze this?

I love that you can see the individual grains of rice. My rice usually turns to mush if I do not use the rice cooker.

Bento Lunch

This week, I made a vow to cook more and bring lunch. My groceries for the week included a roast chicken, salmon fillets, and some sardines. Yes, sardines. Have you ever had broiled or grilled sardines? Delicious! Well, that was from my trip to Whole Foods last Saturday. It is now Friday evening, and I still have a whole container of shredded chicken, and four lonely sardines in the fridge. I always overshoot in my goals.

But. I did end up cooking! Tuesday AND Wednesday. Imagine that. And, even brought lunch for two days. Monday night, I looked up some salmon recipes and found a salmon/veg/rice bake out of one of my America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks and a salmon teriyaki recipe in my Bento cookbook. This inspired me to bring my lunch in my Bento! So, I did all this prep on Monday night, did the final cooking and packing of my Bento on Tuesday morning…and here is the story of my Tuesday Bento….

The Bento Carrier.

Oh those adorable Japanese and their unique use of the English language. Ok, the Chinese do it, too. Isn't it cute?

I actually started with my Bento-meal at breakfast time. I hate eating breakfast at home. It feels too early. But for some reason, the 15 or 20 minutes later, after I get into my office, feels like a fine time to eat breakfast. I think the other thing is that actually taking time to eat breakfast in my kitchen at home makes me nervous. Like I’m falling behind on the start of my day and I really need to get to the office as soon as possible. Why do I have such anxiety when I am away from my desk? It must be some kind of illness.

Here is the bento in all its glory - vacuum sealed to keep food hot or cold for hours! And the reusable bamboo utensils from Whole Foods. I'm a sucker for knick knacks at WF. Another illness of mine.

And the bento unpacked. Note the three convenient containers for different foodstuffs.

So, for breakfast – kefir with honey, cinnamon, and toasted flaxseed. How did I come up with this scrumptious-sounding concoction you ask? Why, from my recent stay at the Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico! This lovely healthy living spa got me addicted to this dairy product they served every day that they called “acidophilus milk.” What is that? Just plain lowfat milk that has acidophilus living and multiplying it. The closest thing I know of is Kefir, which the bottle describes as a “cousin of yogurt” and the “champagne of dairy.” Kefir has other yogurty bacteria in it, besides just acidophilus, so maybe it’s not exactly the same as what I got at the spa. But, chock full of even more probiotics and healthy bacteria! Does that not sound appetizing? Well, if you’re still not convinced about how delicious it is, just take a look:

Bento meal part 1: Breakfast Kefir Blend

What more proof do you need of the deliciousness of this meal?

So the thing about packing the yogurty-stuff, though is: this stuff was packed cold. The rest of my meal was packed hot. I also unpacked everything at breakfast, and then repacked everything, to save the other containers of food for lunchtime. I am clearly not well-versed in the way of the Japanese Bento. Lunch turned out lukewarm. Would it have stayed hot if I’d just left the whole thing sealed until lunchtime and not mixed in cold foods? I have faith that it would have. Until completely proven wrong, I will maintain my faith in the Japanese Bento. But, even lukewarm, it was tasty, seasoned with the extra sense of satisfaction that I’d cooked something healthy for myself. So, lunch:

Yum! This is better, right? On the left, lightly sauteed kale and collards over brown rice. To the right, teriyaki salmon.

I made the second salmon fillet for Tuesday dinner using the America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I ate the entire fillet, but there was leftover veggies and rice that I brought for lunch the next day. Not in the bento, because, of course, I hadn’t had a chance to wash it yet. I can either cook, or do dishes. Not both. That gives me one solid reason for why I need a partner in life. Or at least in my home.

Of the rest of my last Saturday’s grocery shopping, I have put a dent in the roast chicken. I made a few chicken quesadillas on Sunday. The rest of it has been mixed in with Marley’s dog food at night. Did I tell you how he will not eat his dry food unless I mix something yummy into it? He’s so spoiled. Usually, I just put some canned dog food and mix it together. But this week, I kind of knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat a whole roast chicken on my own, so I thought I’d give him a special treat. Anyway – time to broil some sardines for dinner tonight. I hope they are still good. I do have to clean them myself because the WF fishmonger told me that if he cleaned them for me, they would not stay fresh for more  than a day or two. I don’t know if he realized I thought he was promising me that, if I didn’t have him clean them, they would fresh for six days.

Monday Dinner 2/21/2010

Even though I worked from home today, it sorta felt like a Sunday.  And since I was not home yesterday to cook Sunday dinner (girls GAGA weekend), I decided to do a simple Monday dinner instead.

No formal recipe today . . . just something I made up on the fly to use some vegetables in the fridge that were on the verge of being tossed.   For some reason, my husband, took quite a liking to this dish today even though I swear I’ve so many variations of this same thing before.  It received his highest rsting – “Tasty”.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 package extra lean ground turkey (a about 1 1/3 pounds)
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cans fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound whole wheat short pasta
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ground turkey sauteed in olive oil with salt and pepper

Sauteeing onions and garlic

Sauteeing onions and garlic

Add in chopped zucchini and eggplant - more salt and pepper

Fifteen minutes later . . . ready to deglaze the pan with white wine

Add two cans of fire roasted crushed tomatoes and some more salt and pepper

Throw the cooked ground turkey back in and cook for about another 15 - 20 minutes so everything comes together

In the meantime boil the pasta in salted water

Don't forget to save some starchy pasta water! It will help the sauce cover the pasta when everything is tossed together.

All done!

Sunday Dinner 2/13/2011

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.

Enjoy!

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!