GENIUS EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA

I am so excited about this recipe! I saw Jeff Mauro prepare it during a recent show of The Kitchen, and just knew I had to try it right away. Right away as in same day. That’s what happened. And then I could not wait much longer to share. Eggplant is a tricky veggie. It soaks oil like nobody’s business, I love eggplant parm, but usually avoid the breading and the frying and end up with a very simplified version starting from grilled slices. It is ok, but compared to this method? It doesn’t even seem like the same recipe.  Try it and I know you will be amazed.

EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA
(from Jeff Mauro, as seen in The Kitchen)

1 medium to large eggplant
2 eggs, beaten with a teaspoon of water
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
tomato sauce
slices of mozzarella cheese

Heat a baking sheet – empty – in a very hot oven, 450 to 500F.

While the baking sheet is heating, peel the eggplant, cut crosswise in 1/2 inch slices. Reserve.

Put the eggs, water, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Mix the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano cheese in another bowl next to it. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg wash, but allow just one side to get wet with the mixture. Dip it in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat, and carefully place on a rack with the crumb side up.

Make sure you have the tomato sauce warmed up and ready to go, and the cheese slices also nearby. Remove the baking sheet (careful, it’s going to be very hot) and drizzle the olive oil to coat the hot surface. Working quickly, add the eggplant slices with the crumb down. It will stick to the oil and start to get pretty hot right away.  Add the tomato sauce on top, cover with cheese, and place in the oven, reducing the temperature to 375 F.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. I added a little extra tomato sauce on top after 10 minutes.  When the cheese is starting to get golden brown at the edges,  the eggplant will be done. Serve right away with your favorite side dish.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I hope I made myself clear about how much we loved this recipe. Eggplant without excessive oil? Check. Eggplant with a delicate crunchy component? Check. Eggplant cooked to perfection, not a slight hint of mush? Check. Melted cheese with a bonus of browned up edges to nibble on? Check.

I doubt I’ll ever make it any other way. For the two of us, one-quarter sheet pan held 6 slices of eggplant, perfect for our meal with two slices leftover for a light lunch next day. That was exactly one eggplant. I used store-bought tomato sauce this time (Rao is a brand I like very much), and provolone cheese instead of the more traditional mozzarella.

I do hope you try it and let me know if it will make you do an extended version of a Happy Dance. Now, when you make it, please skip the exotic maneuver I used. When I was about to crack the second egg for the egg wash, it slipped and headed at 9.8 meters per second squared to the floor. With lightning fast reflexes (I am very proud of that, actually), I grabbed it between my knees, but that cracked the egg. There’s only so much luck a person can have.  Egg yolk miraculously stayed put inside the broken shell, but egg white made a truly epic mess in my pants. There was intense profanity going around, and a husband pretty much folded in two laughing. Thankfully, no pictures. But you can use your imagination, in case you need a good laugh, like some humans apparently do.

Never a dull moment, folks… never a dull moment…

ONE YEAR AGO: Rose, Cardamon and Coffee Squares

TWO YEARS AGO: When Side Dishes Steal the Show

THREE YEARS AGO: Venting on Vaccines

FOUR YEARS AGO: Prime Rib Roast, Mexican Style

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

SIX YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

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TRES LECHES CAKE: THREE TIMES A WINNER!

I baked this cake three times in the same month.
I shall now pause briefly so you can recover from the shock.

Breathe in…. Breathe out….
(image from Wikimedia)

Allow me to explain. I had never paid much attention to this cake, until a scientist from our department who joined another university in Kansas, mentioned that he would travel all the way back to our town if he knew I would be baking a Tres Leches. His all-time favorite cake. I filed that information in my neuronal system, and a few months later guess what happened? He needed to do some experiments with bacterial membranes and joined our group for the duration of the work. I decided to bake that cake for his first day in our lab, which, quite conveniently, fell on a Monday. And that’s when my best laid plans degenerated. He texted me to say he would be driving to the lab in a few minutes, and I assumed he was already in town since the evening before. Nope. He was not. What he was about to start was a 90 minute drive to our lab. When he arrived, not even a crumb of the cake was left.  Can you feel his pain, and my pain when I found out about this harsh outcome?  Undeterred, I made another Tres Leches on Thursday.  And you know what? The second turned out better than the first… Sweet mission finally accomplished!

TRES LECHES CAKE
(slightly modified from The Pioneer Woman)

for the cake and soaking:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 whole eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla)
1/3 cup milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

for the icing:
1 pint heavy cream
3 Tablespoons Sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high-speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high-speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry. Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1/3 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. I actually allowed it to sit in the fridge overnight, lightly covered with aluminum foil. To ice the cake, whip the heavy cream with the sugar until thick and spreadable.

Spread over the surface of the cake, you might not need all the amount made, but a thick layer of icing should be your goal. Decorate cake with maraschino cherries. Cut into squares and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is a fantastic cake. Period. It is sweet, it is rich, but it does not feel heavy. It is obviously super moist, with a very delicate crumb, and the icing goes perfectly with it. I’ve been baking cookies, cakes, tarts, pies, brownies on a regular basis to share with our departmental colleagues.  No other bake got even remotely close to this one in terms of praise. The second time around there was a migration of people to the mail room because they heard that “the best cake ever” was there. I know, I know, it sounds as if I’m bragging. I promise you, I’m not. It’s not my recipe, and as I mentioned, I had no idea what this cake was all about until then.

Tres Leches means “three milks” in Spanish. The name reflects the use of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream to soak the cake. Since there is a little regular milk in the cake, I suppose a more accurate description should be “Cuatro Leches“, but let’s not split hairs. We go with the soaking milk component only, as that is what gives the cake so much flavor and sweetness.  My only modification from the original recipe was to increase a little the amount of liquid in the cake (yeah, imagine that!). Ree advises to leave one full cup of the three milks  behind. I did it that way on my first time, but on the second cake I left just 1/3 cup behind. I liked the cake better that way, particularly when soaking it overnight. The extended time in the fridge allows the crumb to retain additional moisture. Consider making the cake the day before you intend to serve it.

You might be wondering why the title “Three times a winner?”  I actually baked it again just a couple of weeks later, as one a graduate student from another lab asked me if I could make one for his Birthday. It turns out he grew up enjoying Tres Leches baked by his family, and professed mine to be “the best one he’d ever had.”  I still carry a permanent internal smile for that. Complete gratitude should be directed to Ree Drummond as I followed her recipe to a T.  “T” for Total Winner!

(photo by Dr. P. Sukthankar)

ONE YEAR AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

TWO YEARS AGO: Auberge-Pecan Walnut Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Gluten-free and Vegan Raspberry Bars

FOUR YEARS AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

SIX YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

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SOUP SATURDAY: SAY GOODBYE TO WINTER

Since it’s the third Saturday of the month, it’s time to enjoy the soup event organized by Wendy. This month yours truly is hosting, and I chose as my theme a farewell to the season that tortures me: Winter.  My apologies to those who like to shiver, who enjoy having to cover their feet, hands, ears and nose before heading outside, and don’t mind a heating bill in the triple digits at the end of the month.

We still have a few evenings here and there with ungodly cold temperatures, and for those evenings, a soup that warms body and soul is the best thing in the world. So I made it smokin’ hot. Literally. Remember my new toy  from last Christmas, the electric smoker? We’ve been using it a lot, I just did not have a chance to blog about it yet, but now it’s the perfect opportunity. I made a smoked tomato soup. Very simple in terms of number of ingredients, but incredibly flavorful due to the subtle applewood smoke component.

SMOKED TOMATO SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

10 large Roma tomatoes, halved
olive oil spray
salt and pepper
applewood chips for smoker
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 shallot, minced
zest and juice of one blood orange
1 cup of chicken stock
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Turn your smoker to 250 F and place a few applewood chips in the chamber, according to the instructions of your smoker.

Drizzle the tomatoes with a little spray of olive oil, and season lightly with salt. When the smoker reaches the right temperature, place the tomatoes, cut side down, on the tray. Close the chamber and allow them to smoke for 40 minutes. At the end of the smoking time, remove the skin, that should peel off easily.

In a large saucepan, saute the shallot and yellow bell pepper in olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. When soft and fragrant, add the zest of the blood orange add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a potato masher.  Simmer in medium heat for 5 minutes, add the chicken stock, cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a blender, blend until smooth. If you like a very smooth soup, pass through a sieve to remove the tomato seeds.  If too thick, add some chicken stock or water. Pour back into the pan, add blood orange juice, heavy cream, simmer a few minutes, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve with a drizzle of blood orange juice on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Talk about flavor!  What we’ve learned so far from our adventures with the smoker is that you don’t need that many added spices, in fact, it is best to mellow down the spices, so that the smokiness can shine. Even when tomatoes are far from their peak, the brief encounter with the smoke intensifies their flavor quite a bit. Very nice. If you don’t have a smoker, I suppose grilling the tomatoes could do a good job too. In that case, add some smoked paprika to the soup, while you are sauteing the veggies. If blood oranges are not available where you live (here, let me offer you a hug), you can use regular oranges, and decorate the soup with a drizzle or cream or yogurt.

I cannot tell you how happy I am to be saying goodbye to winter!  If you’d like to see what my virtual friends made for our Soup Saturday event, click on the link at the end of the post. Stay warm!

ONE YEAR AGO: Manchego and Poblano Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: A Smashing Pair

THREE YEARS AGO: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

FOUR YEARS AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung!

SIX YEARS AGO: Chickpea and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Double Asparagus Delight

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

 

 

 

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DEVILED EGGS GO GREEN

First things first:
Thank you to all of you who contributed by donating or sharing my gofund page on behalf of our graduate student Aritri.

Deviled eggs. Either you hate them or you love them, there’s no in-between. They are retro, I suppose, in the sense that their popularity seems to have faded compared to say, 20 years ago. But they are more retro than that, as the term dates to the XVIII century, applied to foods that carry a lot of spicy heat. My version added some avocado to the filling, and we both thought it was a nice little twist on this classic.

AVOCADO DEVILED EGGS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

6 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled (obviously)
2 medium avocados, ripe and tender
2 tablespoons full-fat yogurt
1 tsp Sriracha sauce (or more, to taste)
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and black pepper to taste
generous sprinkle of Tajin for serving

Cut the eggs in half, and gently scoop out the yolks, placing them in a small bowl.

To the yolks, add all other ingredients, except Tajin, and mash it all together with a fork.  Transfer the mixture to a piping bag or simply fill the egg whites with a small spoon. Divide the filling on all egg whites, you might have a little bit leftover. It goes nice on a piece of baguette or Ak-Mak cracker.

Sprinkle with Tajin, and serve.  It keeps well in the fridge, cover lightly with Saran-wrap.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Honestly, I don’t know why I don’t make deviled eggs more often. It is such a delicious little treat, retro or not, I could not care less. It is tasty, and Phil loves it.  He arrived home from golf on a Sunday and I surprised him with this batch. I don’t know if he was smiling so much because of his score (he had shot 72 and beat all his buddies) or if the deviled eggs were part of it. At any rate, these are awesome. I know some people don’t think avocados and eggs make a good match, and yes, maybe the whole “break an egg inside an avocado half and bake it” is pushing it a little. But in this preparation? No issues, I promise. I would make it for company anytime. And if you don’t have Tajin, don’t let that stop you. A little freshly ground pepper will do. But Tajin is pretty awesome, a perfect match for avocados, so if your grocery store carries it, bring a little bottle home.

ONE YEAR AGO: Tiramisu

TWO YEAR AGO: Pulled Pork, Slow-Cooker version

THREE YEARS AGO: The Pie of the Century

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken

FIVE YEARS AGO: Leaving on a Jet Plane

SIX YEARS AGO: A Pearfect Drink

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Paris, je t’aime!

 

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SUNFLOWER SEED KAMUT SOURDOUGH

Inspired by classic recipes around, this bread is for those who love a little texture with their soft crumb, and a very mild sourdough taste. The kamut flour makes the crumb slightly more “creamy” than a sourdough made exclusively with white flour. You can substitute it with spelt, whole wheat, or semolina flour, all will work well in the formula.

SUNFLOWER SEED KAMUT SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100 g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
110 g water, at room temperature
200 g bread flour
50 g kamut flour (or another flour of your choice)
100 g sunflower seeds, toasted
3/4 tsp sea salt
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

Combine the flours with the toasted sunflower seeds and the salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the water with the sourdough starter, dissolving it gently. Add the honey and the yeast, mix to combine.

Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl with the flour mixture, and incorporate it all using your hands. It will be pretty shaggy, once it’s more or less incorporated, allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Knead briefly on a surface coated with oil (avoid adding more flour), allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Knead briefly again, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Knead briefly one last time and let the dough rest for 1 hour.

Shape it as a ball, place in a banetton with the seam side up to rise for 2 hours.

Invert it on a piece of parchment paper, slash the surface and bake in a 450 F oven for 40 minutes, with initial steam.

Allow it to cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here 

Comments: This recipe makes a reasonably small loaf, perfect for the two of us to enjoy and then freeze a few more slices for delayed bread pleasure. The toasted sunflower seeds have almost a popcorn flavor, do not skip the toasting part because it is a game changer in this type of bread.

A perfect match for this sourdough is a slice of Roquefort cheese. Something about the sunflower seeds meeting the salty and sharp nature of the blue cheese makes it all pretty hard to resist.

ONE YEAR AGO: Sweet Potato “Hummus”

TWO YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

THREE YEARS AGO: Silky Rutabaga Puree

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken: Light and Spectacular

FIVE YEARS AGO: Red Wine Sourdough Bread with Cranberries

SIX YEARS AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola

 

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WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE

For the past couple of months we’ve been struggling with intense sadness, brought by the shocking news that our very dear graduate student, and my lovely friend, Aritri was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive type of cancer. She had surgery on the day of her 30th Birthday, and the diagnosis came a few days later as a New Year sarcastic surprise, on January 1st. Her cancer, leiomyosarcoma, is pretty much unheard of in women in her age bracket, hitting those in their 50’s instead. Usually post-menopausal women. A very unlucky roll of the dice for our friend.

Aritri has been working daily on the bench right next to mine for the past 5 years. I taught her every technique of molecular biology I know, and she not only learned them all, but I must admit, she does them better and faster than her mentor. You want something tricky done as efficiently as possible? Give it to Aritri.  She loves having a ton of stuff to do (I often think she pushes the envelope a little), and after lab meetings in which we go over what everyone is doing, she will often approach me with a very characteristic smile and ask  “why don’t you let me do it for you?”  She loves being busy, she loves earrings, colorful outfits, she loves to cook, to have fun, she loves to sing and does so beautifully – at a professional level, actually. She often performs at functions on campus.

Bottom line is, she is a special person in our lab in general and in my life in particular. I wish I had a magic wand to wave and make this nightmare go away from her life. So that she can go on to become a successful scientist, so that she can go on singing, and brightening up the world around her with her smile, her beauty, her sense of humor and sweetness.  I don’t have a magic wand, but I do have this blog and I hope that you understand if I use it to at least try to help her deal with the financial burden of what she is going through.

To this end, I am setting up a GoFundMe campaign for her, and the link is here.

I should let you know that I will not keep track of who is donating or not, I don’t want to do that. Not everyone can donate, and that doesn’t mean a person does not care. I leave it up to you, if you can do it, we really appreciate it.

One final note: if you try to donate, the way gofund is set up, it makes you think there is no way to avoid including an extra tip. Just scroll to “OTHER” and fill the value with zero.  

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FIRST MONDAY FAVORITE: FEBRUARY 2018

First Monday of the month… Time to pick  my favorite post from last month. Macarons are always dear to my heart, but this time I will pick a cake, one that made me very very happy!

To read the full post about it, click here….

The link below takes you to the favorite post of my virtual friends who participate of this event. If you are a blogger and would like to join us, contact Sybil at http://www.sidsseapalmcooking.com

(comments are shutdown for this post)

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