Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eggplant Lasagna


When I think of eggplant I can't help but remember the times when my mom would make breaded eggplant and convince my brothers and I that we were eating beef! Today my mom would not have to trick anymore! First, I would not fall for that trick. Second, I adore eggplant so much I could eat it everyday. But what I learned from that trick my mom played on me is that eggplant is a great choice for those days when I need a break from eating meat. This eggplant lasagna is a perfect example of that. Heart and comforting but yet light, this dish is a delicious alternative to the traditional heavy lasagna! 

Eggplant Lasagna

Ingredients 
For roasting the eggplant:
2 eggplants
olive oil to drizzle

For seasoning the eggplant:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Approximately 2 generous pinches of salt
Approximately 2 generous pinches of pepper
2 generous pinches of dried herbs such herbs de Provence or oregano 

For layering:
14 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
8 sheets of pasta
1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
lots of fresh basil

Topping
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 415F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice eggplants lengthwise. Put eggplants on the lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until slices are tender.

Transfer roasted eggplant to a large bowl and season it with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and dried herb. Set it aside. Note: 4 garlic cloves might seem  a lot to season the eggplant, but the garlic will actually end up seasoning the entire lasagna once in the oven. That is good specially if you are using a blend store bought tomato sauce. 

Cook the sheets of pasta in boiling salted water,  a few at a time, just enough so they soften (1 to 2 minutes). Transfer them to a plate.

Preheat oven to 400F. Use a 11x7 (or similar) baking dish to assemble the lasagna. Start with tomato sauce, then pasta, eggplant and cheese. Make sure to add some fresh basil in between the layers. Repeat until you run out of all ingredients. Top with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. 

Visualize











Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rich and Velvety Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake




I love simple cakes - no frosting and no filling, just cake. Compliment it with a cup of coffee and I am in paradise! With no sugary frosting to hide imperfections, simple cakes must be good, very good. Last week I decided that I really needed a slice of a simple chocolate cake, so I finally decided to try this recipe form Cook's Illustrated that I had been wanting to make for a long time.

Just by reading the ingredients list you will find that there is no way this would be a bad cake. Melted chocolate (and cocoa powder), a little espresso powder, brown sugar, sour cream...Sounds pretty good, right? So go ahead and try it too! If you want to dress it up a little, serve it with a scoop of ice-cream or whipped cream!


Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake
recipe from Cook's Illustrated


Ingredients
cake release (for the bundt pan)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoons cocoa, unsweetend

cake
3/4 cup natural cocoa (not Dutch-processed)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon instant expresso powder
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
5 large eggs, room temperature
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions
1 - Prepare the pan: stir together melted butter and cocoa powder until a paste forms. Using a pastry brush, coat all interior surfaces of a standard 12-cup bunt cake pan. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Heat oven to 350F.

2- To make the cake: combine cocoa, chopped chocolate, and espresso powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature and then whisk in the for cream. Set it aside.

3- Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in a second bowl to combine.

4- In a standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition and scrapping down bowl with rubber spatula. Reduce to medium-low speed (batter may appear separated); add about one third of flour mixture and half of chocolate/sour cream mixture and mix until just incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape bowl and repeat using half of the remaining flour mixture and all the remaining chocolate/sour cream mixture. Add remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 10 seconds. Scrape bowl and mix on medium-low until batter in throughly combined, about 30 seconds.

5-Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out with few crumbs attached, 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto parchment-lined wire rack. Cool to from temperature. Dust with confectioners' sugar, transfer to serving platter and serve.

Visualize
Grease the pan with melted butter and cocoa mixture:




Place cocoa powder, chopped chocolate and espresso powder in a bowl:


Add boiling water and disk until smooth:


Cool to room temperature and add sour cream (also at room temperature). Set it aside.


Beat sugar, butter and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time:


Add chocolate/sour cream mixture alternatively with...


...the mix of flour, salt, and baking soda:


Nice batter:


Ready to bake:


Hard to wait for it to cool. I typically do not wait. I love eating hot cake!!


Nice and velvety!!






Sunday, July 15, 2012

Coconut Cake

Another new recipe is live on BettyCrocker.com. This is an easy and delicious coconut cake that is perfect for the lunch box or picnic! Enjoy!

Click HERE for the full recipe.







Recipe HERE

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Roast Your Vegetables!



I think I already mentioned that roasting is my favorite way of cooking vegetables. Roasting is easy, healthy (unless you add too much stuff to it!) and it brings out the best in any food! When you roast vegetables at high heat, you concentrate and caramelize the natural sugars in them. That means tons of flavor!

Here is how I do it. First, I get whatever vegetables I have in the fridge. Yesterday I had potatoes, baby bella mushrooms, brussels sprouts, asparagus and baby carrots. You can pretty much use any vegetable you like.

Before cooking:

1 - Try chopping veggies at similar sizes, but think of the cooking times of each veggie also. For example, I cut the potatoes in very small cubes and kept mushroom whole because it takes longer for the potatoes to cook than for the mushrooms.

2 - Another important thing is not to overcrowd the baking sheet. For that reason I choose a rimmed cookie sheet - shallow and large. All vegetables should be touching the bottom of the baking sheet. If needed, use 2 baking sheets.

3 - Also, I like to line the baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil. Some veggies tend to stick to the pan as they roast.

4- I add tons of whole garlic cloves to the vegetables. The garlic adds great aroma and flavor and it roasts beautifully - it becomes creamy and sweet!

5 - Add fresh or dried herbs. If using fresh herbs, choose a hardy one, such as thyme and rosemary, chopped or whole.

6 - Drizzle the veggies generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.



During Cooking

1- Preheat oven to 425F (anywhere form 400F to 450F is fine).

2- Place veggies in the oven and cook until they are tender and golden to golden brown. You  may flip them halfway through the cooking time. It can take 30 minutes to 1 hour for veggies to roast depending on how full the baking sheet is and on what size you chopped the veggies.



After Cooking

1- Taste the veggies and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.

2- Optional: add chopped fresh basil an lemon zest for a bright and fresh flavor!

3- Transfer veggies to serving platter, drizzle with extra-virgen olive oil and serve while still hot.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fall Off the Bones Pork Ribs with Chipotle-Maple Barbecue Sauce




  • For a long time I thought that barbecue sauce was a huge mistake of humanity. I just could not eat it or understand it. But the day I decided to make pork ribs at home my husband convinced me that there is only one right way of cooking them - drenched in barbecue sauce. I knew I could make it without that sauce but I got a feeling that my husband was really trying to challenge me! I immediately went on-line in search for  a great recipe when I stumbled upon this fall off the bone pork ribs recipe on David's LeiteCulinaria.com. I decided to fight my fear of barbecue sauce and made it. I believe I could not have picked a better recipe. These ribs melt in your mouth and the barbecue sauce is a balanced mixture of sweet, smoky, and spicy. I still can't say I love any barbecue sauce, but this one (along with the ribs) is now a staple in our house! I actually crave it!

    This recipe is very easy to make and SO worth trying!!


    Fall Off The Bone Pork Ribs with Chipotle-Maple Barbecue Sauce
    Recipe slightly adapted from Clarkson Porter via Leite's Culinaria

    For the Ribs:
    2 slabs pork ribs ( I use pork loin back ribs from Costco)
    1 large onion or 2 leeks, sliced into rings (
    1 12-ounce bottle of beer
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  • 3. Spread the onion slices evenly on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Place the ribs, bone side down, on the onion. Pour the beer over the ribs, season with salt and pepper, and cover tightly with a double layer of foil. Bake, undisturbed, for 2 to 3 hours (depending on which kind of ribs you use) until meat is fork tender. This time, my pork loin back ribs cooked in 2:45 minutes.
  • 4. Preheat gas grill to high heat or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill and let the coals burn to a gray ash with a faint red glow, or until you can hold your hand 3 to 4 inches above the fire for no more than 6 seconds.
  • 5. Brush both sides of the baby back ribs with the barbecue sauce and place the ribs, meat side down, over the coals. Grill the ribs, basting the top side several times, until slightly charred, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the slab of ribs and liberally baste the cooked side. Close the lid of the grill and cook the ribs, basting often, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Cut the slabs into individual ribs, pile them onto a large platter, and serve warm.


  • Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce
    by Sara Foster via Leite's Culinaria

    Ingredients
    One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

    1/2 cup maple syrup

    1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

    2 chipotle peppers in adobo, diced
    
1 cup white vinegar

    1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

    1/2 cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice

    Juice of 2 lemons

    4 garlic cloves, minced
    
2 tablespoons Colman’s dry mustard
    
2 teaspoons sea salt
    
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

    Directions
    1. Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to combine.
    2. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat.
    3. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is thick and reduced by about a quarter, 30 to 45 minutes. Let cool slightly.
    4. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

    Visualize:

    PLace ribs (bone side down)over the onions or leeks:



    Pour beer over the meat:


    Season generously with salt and pepper:


    Cover tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil and place it in the preheated oven. Cook until fork tender (2 to 3 hours).


     Meanwhile make the barbecue sauce by simply placing all the listed ingredients on a sauce pan and cooking for about 40 minutes until sauce reduces by a quarter and thickens.

    You will need apple cider or unfiltered apple juice for the sauce. Here is what the unfiltered juice looks like:


    And here is the lovely sauce:


    To finalize the dish, when grill is hot, spread barbecue sauce on both sides of the cooked ribs and place them on the girl (meat side down).


    Cook for about 10 minutes, turn and bast the meat with more sauce. Cook bone side down for another 10 minutes or so.


    Transfer to platter and serve hot with the remainder barbecue sauce on the side:




    Saturday, July 7, 2012

    Champagne for Breakfast



    I turned Mimosa (Orange Juice with Champagne) into a lovely mini pancake stack.  You can follow this link to BettyCrocker.com to see the full article and recipe!


    Fresh orange juice in the pancake batter
    Stack pancakes with layers of orange marmalade.

    Champagne in the mascarpone-cream topping!

    Whole Artichoke with Lemon-Thyme Dipping Sauce


    If you ever feel intimidated by the idea of cooking whole artichokes, or if you simply want a recipe for a lovely and light dipping sauce to go with it, go to BettyCrocker.com and see my step-by-step instructions on how to prepare, cook, and serve artichokes!