Streamlining eggplant parmesan

March 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

A healthier and simplified version of the breaded and fried classic. I also like that the servings come in uniform parcels of eggplant stuffed with seasoned ricotta and herbs. Leftovers taste great in a sandwich the next day.

Eggplant Parmesan Rolls (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices (I used three small ones because that’s all that was available in the produce section that day)
coarse salt
extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 15 oz container of whole-milk ricotta cheese (none of that low-fat crap)
1 1/4 cups of grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (supplied by my new hydroponic basil plant)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
about 4 cups tomato sauce
8 oz mozzarella, sliced (preferably fresh but regular mozzarella will do)

Cover bottom and sides of large colander with 1 layer of eggplant slices; sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Continue layering eggplant slices, sprinkling each layer with coarse salt, until all the eggplant slices are used. Place the colander over a large bowl and let stand for 30-60 minutes. Rinse eggplant slices to remove excess salt and then dry thoroughly using paper towels.

Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and grill on grill pan, griddle, or even nonstick skillet, about 2-3 minutes on each side, until each side is browned and the eggplant is fairly tender. Put eggplant slices to the side to cool while preparing the filling.

Filling:

Whisk eggs and pinch of coarse salt in medium bowl. Add ricotta cheese, 1 cup Parmesan, basil, and black pepper.

Lightly oil 15x10x2 baking dish. Spread half of tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of the dish. Divide ricotta mixture filling among eggplant slices, placing about 1 tablespoon filling in the center of each. Starting at 1 short end of each, loosely roll up eggplant slices, enclosing filling. Arrange rolls, seam side down, atop sauce in baking dish. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over. Place mozzarella slices in a single layer over rolls. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake eggplant Parmesan rolls, covered with foil, until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned on top and bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil.

A Summertime Salad

July 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s currently 102 degrees in Edison right now, and I haven’t left the house even once over the past 24 hours because it would mean parting my air-conditioned bubble. The suffocating heat also means minimal cooking, minimal physical labor when it comes to food. And maybe a huge bowl of Dutch chocolate ice cream…

I’ve always wanted to make panzanella, the Italian-style bread salad that uses day-old or stale bread. But watching Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie and its episode in Tuscany again finally pushed me over the edge.

This is a really easy light lunch or dinner, perfect for the summer, when tomatoes are at their very best, and there isn’t any need for a recipe since the ingredients are pretty much whatever’s currently in your fridge.

Here’s what I did to make my version:

Cut 6 leaves of romaine lettuce and 1 juicy beefsteak tomato into bite size pieces. If you have onions available, you can caramelize those and include them too. Take day-old Italian bread (or any other hearty bread like sourdough) and tear into chunks. Since the bread is most likely going to be very dry, add just a little water to soften it up again.

Put lettuce, tomato, onions and bread in a large bowl. Add whatever dressing or vinaigrette you prefer; I added my own Dijon dressing (Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, E.V.O.O., salt and pepper) but balsamic would work great here as well. If you have fresh herbs like basil on hand, that adds an extra dimension to the dish. Mix everything with your hands so the flavors marry and the juices from the tomato and dressing soak into the bread. Let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.

So simple, so filling. And relatively healthy too, at least compared to all the barbecue food I ate this past weekend. Seeing how I’ll soon be leaving for school again in little over a month, it’s time that I started cooking regularly again to develop a good habit.

A Voce and Otto Enoteca Pizzeria

June 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Saturday I met with not one, but two, good friends from Georgetown. I started uptown, where Melissa and I had lunch at A Voce, Missy Robbins’ relatively new Italian restaurant that has spectacular views of Columbus Circle. We began with their delicious and fresh focaccia bread and something new – a creamy goat cheese with spices, tons of olive oil, and fresh herbs. I could’ve eaten that for an entire meal actually.

Our main courses were the pappardelle with rabbit sausage and fennel and sagne all’amatriciana with bacon, onions, etc. Although my pasta was a bit hard to eat since it came in long thick sheets, it was so rich and full of flavor that I didn’t really mind. The rabbit sausage was tender and spicy, and even though there wasn’t an actual sauce, the fennel and onions imparted great savoriness and well-roundedness to the dish.¬†We didn’t order dessert, but later, the waiter came over with a small plate of doughy fritters sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with floral honey, a nice (and free) end to the meal.

Afterwards, we walked around the beautiful Time Warner building, only to find that the Samsung store had set up giant television screens and chairs for people to watch the USA vs. Ghana World Cup match that afternoon. So we spent the next two hours digesting our food and agonizing as the US team failed to convert on their shots on goal.

At around 5, I headed downtown to Washington Square Park, where I met Amy for dinner at OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria, Mario Batali’s casual eatery. It was already packed by the time we got there, but luckily since we’d made reservations, we didn’t have to deal with the crowds.

We started off with one of the special salads, with cucumber, watermelon, and sharp sheep’s cheese. I’d always been curious about savory salads with watermelon, but this was surprisingly good. The sweetness was balanced by the acidity of the balsamic vinegar and the cut of the red onions. We shared a prosciutto arugula pizza (my favorite) and a plate of the bucatini, which came tossed with guanciale (kind of like Italian bacon), onions, and other yummy goodness.

But the definite highlight of the meal was the olive oil coppetta. Olive oil gelato topped with large flakes of sea salt (weird, I know, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it), passionfruit granita (essentially Italian ice) basil syrup, fresh strawberries, and lime curd. Salty, sweet, tart…it was one of the most harmonious desserts I’ve ever had. And now everytime I go back to OTTO, I’m going to have to get it.

A Voce at Columbus Circle
10 Columbus Circle, 3rd floor, NYC
212.823.2523
www.avocerestaurant.com

OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria
1 5th Avenue, NYC
212.995.9559
http://ottopizzeria.com/

 

 

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