GOING SKINNY AND LOVING IT!

No, my weight has not dropped that much.  What is going skinny is my Eggplant Parmigiana, since I radically changed my recipe after stumbling on this post by Mike at The Iron You. Mike’s blog line is “Eat Well – Exercise More – Become a Healthier You”.  I can definitely sign below that. He knows how to match nutrition with a challenging exercise routine, and his posts are always super-fun to read.  Anyway, he started that particular article with a mild rant about the way most people approach this classic dish.  Reading it, I was forced to admit to being guilty of some of the crimes. Granted, I’ve never went to the extent of frying my eggplant slices, but I definitely used a heavy hand with the cheese and sauce. My version of eggplant parm made me leave the table feeling heavy and sluggish, a feeling I don’t care for at all. Mike proves that there’s no reason for it. Just a few tweaks and you will have a fantastic dish, still able to carry the label of comfort food, but considerably lighter than 99% of the recipes in restaurants, cookbooks, and the blogosphere.  I hope you will give this version a try, it will knock your socks off.  And, apparently in English that is a very good thing.

SkinnyEggplantParmigiana

SKINNY EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA
(very slightly modified from The Iron You)

3 medium eggplants
2 garlic cloves, peeled (I omitted due to our vampire genes)
1 29 oz / 820 gr can diced tomato
1 cup / 1.8 oz / 50 gr Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons almond milk (my adaptation)
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, divided
black ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) and place a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease with some olive oil. Set aside.

Cut each eggplant lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices, liberally sprinkle with salt on one side, and add the slices back together, tightly assembling the eggplant and wrapping with plastic wrap.  Leave them over the counter for about 20 minutes. You will notice a darkish liquid forming inside the package. Open the package over the sink, and briefly rinse the slices, drying them with paper towels.

Arrange the eggplant slices on a single layer on the baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the slices begin to turn deep brown on top.  Remove the slices to a platter and allow them to cool slightly before proceeding.

In the meantime make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add shallots and garlic and saute’ for 5 minutes, until onion begins to golden. Add diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, basil, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and set aside.

Lightly grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil the bottom and sides of an 8 by 12-inch baking pan. (a brownie pan works perfectly). Beat two eggs with the almond milk and reserve. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with some tomato sauce and arrange eggplant slices on top to form a uniform layer. Cover the eggplant with some tomato sauce, some Parmigiano cheese and top with 2 tablespoons of beaten eggs . Repeat to make 3 layers, making sure to end with a uniform layer of tomato sauce and top with the remaining cheese.
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Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until hot and beginning to brown. Let rest at for 10 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

And now it’s time for me to brag a little… Many years ago, I sent a cooking tip to Fine Cooking magazine, and my tip won the best of the issue!  I got several cool gifts, including a salad spinner I still own, and love.  It was a nice surprise to win.  The cooking tip I submitted was what I just shared here with you, the way I draw the bitter juices out of eggplant. Most instructions involve salting the slices and weighing them down, or submerging them in salted water.  I find my method very convenient, and quite efficient.  It is explained in detail in the recipe, in case you missed it. The secret is to tighten the package of plastic well around the eggplant.

SkinnyEggplanComposite

I cut the eggplant lengthwise, and when assembling the dish,  each layer goes in one orientation, so that they criss-cross. That makes slicing the casserole a lot easier later.  Also, since the beaten eggs are a little hard to spread over the layers, I added a touch of almond milk to thin it, a la egg wash.  You can omit it, or use milk or even water if you prefer, but don’t add too much, just enough to make it easier to spread.

It was so much fun to make this dish, that I feel like sharing a couple of shots of the process…

firstlayerHere is the first layer ready, just a little cheese and a little beaten egg on top of the eggplant…

LayersReadyAnd the dish, ready to go into the oven… make sure to bake it over a larger baking sheet to avoid messing up your oven.

It is very important to let the dish rest for at least 10  minutes, but longer will be better. Next day, leftovers were perfect warmed up for a few minutes in the microwave.  In fact it tasted even better than the first day, so if you have a dinner party to host, this could be a nice option to make in advance.  It is also gluten-free, in case you have friends with gluten issues.

Leftovers

We loved this preparation so much,  there is no way I’m going back to my former recipe!  I also think that if you cut the eggplant parmigiana in small squares they could work well as appetizers for a dinner party.  Substantial for an appetizer course, but so very delicious!  You would definitely have to cut it the following day, because  when it comes out of the oven it will be too tricky to do it.

Mike, thanks again for the wonderful take on one of our favorite eggplant preparations!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Supernova Meets Wok

TWO YEARS AGO500 Posts and The Best Thing I ever made

THREE YEARS AGO: Back in Los Angeles

FOUR YEARS AGO: White House Macaroni and Cheese

FIVE YEARS AGO: Korean-Style Pork with Asian Slaw

 

LEAVING ON TWO JET PLANES!

jetplane
Once again we embark on a big adventure…  Today we fly to Chicago – against my will, I must add – to attend a scientific meeting.  The idea of being in that city at the same time as the entity called Polar Vortex terrifies me, to put it  mildly. But the meeting was scheduled months ago, when they thought Chicago would still be a safe place for humans at this time of the year.

Straight from Chicago – assuming I survive it – we fly to Brazil, where we’ll spend most of Thanksgiving week. We will have a chance to see our colleagues and give a talk at the University of São Paulo, but what is even better, we’ll get to visit my family, especially my Mom!

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503

 Parque Ibirapuera, very close to my niece’s home, where we will be staying this time…

 

As usual, the Bewitching Kitchen will go on, I have posts scheduled to go live during our trip.  However, my ability to answer comments and visit other food blogs will be limited until our return on November 28th.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations, and save some turkey for me!

(comments are shutdown for this post)

PAN-CHARRED VEGGIES FROM COOKING LIGHT

Cooking Light magazine, in their April 2014 issue published a nice article about pan-charring veggies for a boost in flavor. More than simply offering a recipe, they shared a general method to deal with veggies like asparagus and green beans. Veggies that can take the heat, so to speak. All you need to do is choose three basic components: the fat to coat the veggies after the initial charring, the acidic ingredient to brighten things up and the herbs added right before serving.  No matter which veggies you are dealing with, they will be ready in no time.  I know I sound like a broken record, but when I get home from work and it’s my turn to cook, the last thing I want is a side-dish that takes 45 minutes to prepare.  Give me something fast and flavorful, and I am game!

So here is my take number one on this method: charred asparagus flavored with lemon juice and fresh dill at the end… Before you accuse me of the capital culinary sin of non-seasonal cooking, let me say that this dish was made last May, not too long after I got the magazine. As usual, it takes me a while to go from table to blog. But, since last week I used this method to cook delicious green beans, I am taking the opportunity to talk about both dishes. Clearly, it’s all about the char…

AsparagusDill

PAN-CHARRED ASPARAGUS
(adapted from Cooking Light, April 2014)

Cooking spray
8 ounces asparagus, cut in pieces
1 + 1/2 teaspoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
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Heat a medium, heavy skillet (not nonstick) over high heat for 2 minutes.

Coat pan with cooking spray. Immediately add asparagus pieces to pan, shaking them into a single layer; cook, without stirring, 2 minutes or until asparagus is very lightly charred. Cook asparagus 5 more minutes or until crisp-tender and evenly charred, tossing occasionally.

Remove pan from heat. Let asparagus rest 1 minute. Add walnut oil; toss to coat asparagus pieces. Add lemon juice; toss. Turn on heat if necessary to evaporate most of liquid. Sprinkle asparagus with dill and salt; toss. Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

And here is my take number two: the exact same method, using olive oil to coat green beans, a touch of apple cider vinegar as the acidic component, and fresh tarragon added at the end. Tarragon straight from the garden of our friend Cindy, who recently visited us with her husband. Remember, I am the lucky woman with the super generous friends…

GreenBeansTarragon2
Now, as I mentioned, this is all about the char… Look at these dark spots, aren’t they making you crave some green beans?

GreenBeansTarragon

Back in 2010 I  wrote a blog post about “Blasted Broccoli“, stove-top version. We loved that recipe so much that I went through a long phase of cooking it weekly. I can see that this method could be adapted for broccoli too. Or sugar snap peas.  Avocado oil, coconut oil, use your imagination (and your pantry) and play with this method.  You won’t be disappointed…

ONE YEAR AGO: Pomegranate Chicken Thighs and Carrot Mash

TWO YEARS AGO: The Many Faces of Kale

THREE YEARS AGO:  Short and Sweet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ciabatta, a Classic Italian Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Magical Lamb Stew

 

FETA-STUFFED TURKEY MEATLOAF

Let me set the record straight right now. This recipe is not going to win a beauty contest.  It is definitely not the best looking dish in the world, but sometimes beauty is in the eye of the fork-holder. Once again – in fact two posts in a row – I am joining spinach and feta to bring a humble ingredient (first cauliflower, now ground turkey) into the spotlight.  This meatloaf turned out moist, and quite flavorful with the salty bite of feta cheese in the middle.  I think this recipe could work very nicely made in muffin tins, with feta cheese in the center. Individual servings are always a lot of fun.  Note to self: try that next time.

TurkeySpinachMeatloaf

FETA-STUFFED TURKEY MEATLOAF
(adapted from All Day I Dream about Food)

1 large shallot, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 lbs ground turkey
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and heat your oven to 325 F.
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Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in shallots, salt and pepper and saute until shallots are translucent but do not allow them to brown.  Add in spinach and stir until heated through. Allow it to cool before proceeding with the recipe.
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In a large mixing bowl, combine sautéed shallots, ground turkey, coconut flour, chicken stock, egg and Worcestershire sauce. Mix until very well combined.  Place half of the turkey mixture on prepared baking sheet and shape into a flat rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Cover with feta cheese, pressing on feta to adhere to meatloaf. Place remaining turkey mixture over top of feta and shape the whole thing into a rough loaf.
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Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until
internal temperature reaches 160 F on an instant read thermometer.

Cut into slices and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

thatsauce(image from Google database)

Did you know that there are some words in English that I am a bit afraid of?  Worcestershire is one of them.  I refer to it as “that sauce”, so that my dignity is preserved. In Brazil we call it “molho inglês” (English sauce), a clever move if you ask me.  Speaking of tricky words, I also avoid saying “beach” and “sheet” because apparently I tend to lead both words into the wrong direction.  But, I digress. That sauce is very important in this recipe, it adds the umami component so fashionable right now. Or maybe it was so fashionable a couple of years ago, and I’m slow to catch up.  Still, add it. If you can pronounce it correctly, even better!  ;-)

This topic of tricky words for foreigners made me think of the name of a city in the state where I was born, São Paulo.  Please try to say it before you listen to the correct pronunciation in the file below it. Ready?

The name of the city is… ITAQUAQUECETUBA

and now see how you did, by listening to yours truly…


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In closing, a little language trivia for you: the name Itaquaquecetuba comes from tupi-guarani, meaning “a place of abundant bamboo sharp as knives”.  

 

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HELEN FLETCHER’S OATMEAL COOKIES

A few months ago I started following the blog hosted by Helen Fletcher, a fantastic baker who has this to say about her site:

  With 25 years experience owning and operating a wholesale specialty bakery servicing hotels, restaurants and caterers, I am going to share a wealth of information I’ve gained over those years with you.

That would definitely be enough to capture my attention, but once I started browsing her site one more thing became clear: Helen not only has tremendous experience in baking, but she is also a natural teacher. You know how some people have a special talent to explain things clearly, to emphasize what really matters? That is exactly what she does.  She is also the author of three cookbooks: The New Pastry Cookbook, European Tarts, and  Baking as a Business (available in PDF format).

Just to give you a glimpse of the recipes (actually they are more like tutorials) available on her site, here are some of the ones that tempt me:  27 Layer Tuille Torte, Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Torte, A Trio of Angel Food Cakes, Orange Almond Madeleines, and even the show-stopping Hungarian Dobos Torte calls my name, as her instructions are so detailed. Now, don’t hold your breath, I am not attempting that one… yet.  Taking baby steps, I started with harmless cookies.

cooling

OATMEAL COOKIES
(recipe reprinted with permission from Helen S. Fletcher – Pastries like a Pro)

3 cups old-fashioned Quaker Oats (do not use the quick cooking type!) 
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (160 grams or 5 2/3 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar (225 grams or 8 ounces)
1 cup sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (114 grams, 4 ounces or 1 stick)
1/2 cup shortening (114 grams or 4 ounces)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound total chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit or nuts in any combination (454 grams)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Set aside.

Cream the sugars, butter and shortening until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined.  Add the vanilla.  If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it.

Add the flour mixture half at a time, beating on low until completely combined.  Lastly, add the nuts, chips or whatever you are adding in.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Drop the cookies using a #40 disher or 2 tablespoons spacing them apart.  Double pan and bake for 9 minutes, turn and bake 8 to 9 more.  They should still be puffy when you pull them out.  They will drop and finish baking on the baking sheet as they cool.  Cool for about 8 to 10 minutes and remove to a cooling rack with a spatula.  Cool completely.

Yield:  Approximately 50 – 3 inch cookies.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

waiting

Comments:  What made me want to make this recipe right away was this statement by Helen: “I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me how much they loved this oatmeal cookie.  It is not your usual oatmeal cookie… This is a chocolate chip version that is not shy on spices.”   Oatmeal, chocolate, and spices.  Cannot go wrong with those. As the recipe says, you can add any combination of nuts, dried fruits, and the type of chocolate you like, as long as you keep the high proportion of add-ons. That is important to give the cookies their unique texture.  I used white and dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and dried cranberries. Finally, how could I skip a recipe that includes this line in the instructions?

If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it…
;-)

If only cake baking could work smoothly like that!  I would be making genoises as if they were going out of style…  I exchanged a few emails with Helen, to get her opinion on halving the recipe: 50 cookies seemed like too  many.  She was very nice, and gently tried to convince me to make the full batch.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that she was right, and I should have followed her advice.  My batch made 20 cookies, as I tend to follow Phil’s preferences, and make cookies a little larger than average. The cookies vanished too fast, a full batch would have been better.  Oh, well. When a pro speaks, you should listen.  That’s what I keep trying to convey to our graduate students, but sometimes my shockingly wise words fall into deaf ears. Which explains 57% of my gray hair.

If a pro speaks, pay attention. If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it.
(free advice given to you by your bewitching hostess)

ONE YEAR AGO: Thai-Style Pesto with Brown Rice Pasta

TWO YEARS AGO: Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp

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A NEW TAKE ON CAULIFLOWER PUREE

Regular readers of my blog will likely say to themselves – there she comes AGAIN, with yet another recipe for mashed cauliflower.  When is she going to stop?  Probably not in the near future, because I keep finding interesting ways to enjoy one of my favorite side dishes. This version turned out pretty tasty,  so I must share with you, magnanimous person that I am. I got the idea from a post over at  Closet Cooking, and made a few changes to use what I had around in the fridge.  The spinach adds a lot in terms of flavor and nutrients.  This one will definitely be a regular appearance at our table.

Cauliflower Puree

 

CAULIFLOWER-SPINACH PUREE
(modified from Closet Cooking)

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 ounces spinach
squeeze of lemon juice (1 or 2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat if you can find it (good luck!)
freshly ground nutmeg
almond milk to taste
salt and pepper
fresh chives, minced

Place the cauliflower in a steamer over boiling water and steam until fork tender, about 10 minutes. While the cauliflower cooks, sautée the fresh spinach in olive oil until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, add a little lemon juice and reserve.  Place the cooked cauliflower in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the feta cheese, yogurt, nutmeg, salt and  pepper, and process until well combined.  Add the reserved spinach, process for a few seconds.  If too thick add almond milk until you reach the right consistency.   The puree can  be warmed up for a minute in the microwave if the cold ingredients added to it cooled it down too much, but probably it will not be necessary.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I loved this take on cauliflower puree so much that I made it again the following week,  using kale instead of spinach, and adding a little bit of sun-dried tomato to the mix.  It turned out almost great, but not quite.  A few details that I should have paid more attention to compromised the quality of the dish. I used chopped kale, pre-bagged, thinking it would make my life a lot easier. Well, it did, but it didn’t.  In the bagged version, the stems are chopped together with the leaves, so because I cooked them very little to preserve that nice bright green color, the stems were a bit tough.  Not pleasant in the middle of the smooth cauliflower puree.  So, my advice is to either go for spinach, or if you like the assertive taste of  kale, buy the leaves, and chop them. If the food police is not around, you can discard the stems, but if you have guilty feelings about it, cook the kale in two steps, stems first, leaves at the end.

This is such a nice side dish, it goes well with almost anything, from seafood to beef, and leftovers keep well in the fridge.  I bet they could be wonderful made into little fritters, adding an egg, maybe a bit of almond flour. This spinach version I shared today we enjoyed a while ago with Chicken Thighs with Roasted Tomato Salsa. The kale variation was matched with another interesting recipe from Cooking Light magazine, which I shall blog about in the near future: a Cremini Mushroom Meatloaf, which is actually a lot more mushroom than meat. Great recipe, stay tuned…   ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: In My (NEW!) Kitchen

TWO YEARS AGO: The Lab Move and New Beginnings

THREE YEARS AGO: Honey-Oat Pain de Mie

FOUR YEARS AGO: Carrot and Leek Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana 101

 

MILLET COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CARROTS

Saw this recipe in Bon Appetit.  Made it that same evening for dinner. Lightning speed. Not that usual for me, but I had all the ingredients and was also anxious to cook millet for the first time. One of our grocery stores carries a very nice assortment of grains, seeds & flours in bulk. It is quite convenient when I feel like baking a special bread but do not want to carry home 1kg of oat flour or some other exotic being.  Millet was one of the goodies I brought home from a recent visit.   This recipe, a perfect way to welcome it in our kitchen.

MilletCouscous3

 

MILLET COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CARROTS
(from Bon Appetit)

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (I used a bit less)
1 cup millet
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 + ¼ cups chicken broth
6 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems (I omitted, did not have any around)

Heat oven to 400°. Toss carrots with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add millet and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until millet is tender, 25–35 minutes (it took me closer to 35 minutes).

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil (I used about 1 teaspoon instead) in a small skillet over low heat; cook almonds and cayenne, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Serve millet topped with carrots, cilantro, and almond mixture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

comosite
When I told Phil we were not having “real couscous”, he was a bit surprised. It looks almost exactly the same as semolina couscous. It takes longer to cook, though, and has a firmer texture. The flavor is slightly more “nutty”, but still quite mild.  I imagine most people will love it, there’s really nothing not to like about it. Plus, like your regular couscous, it will absorb the flavors of everything else you cook with it. Use  a flavorful chicken or veggie stock if you have it around.  The roasted carrots and sautéed almonds turn it into almost a complete meal.  Of course, we enjoyed it with a nice roast chicken, just because… Full disclosure: the roast chicken was prepared at the grocery store.  And I am not even slightly ashamed to admit it.

On a slight tangent,  a couple of years ago I read a pretty good article written by one of the popular celebrity chefs, I don’t remember who it was,  it was not Thomas Keller, but some other star almost as bright.  Anyway, he went on and on about never buying a roast chicken from a rotisserie. That he could have a much better dinner by buying the chicken (organic, of course), sticking it in the oven with just a sprinkle of salt, pepper, a lemon or two quickly placed inside the bird.  I am all for cooking from scratch, but I must say a chicken ready for me on my way home from work is very handy. It makes life so much easier! I don’t have to deal with the raw chicken, I don’t have to wait for my oven to warm up to temperature (it does take a while with our potent Supernova), and I can concentrate on making a quick and easy side dish such as couscous, or from now on, millet…   So, yes, 8 times out of 10, I reach for a rotisserie chicken.  And 6 times out of 10, I resort to cheese pre-shredded, from a bag.

Confession: good for the food blogger ;-)

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