Monthly Archive for November, 2009

Eggplant Parmigiana…the classic

It doesn’t get more authentic than this and no puddles of cheese are necessary. Thin layers of fried eggplant with a light marinara sauce make up this classic dish. Breaking from my usual Sicilian-self I’ve eliminated the extra breadcrumb calories. Aside from the obvious benefits of a lower calorie count this Eggplant Parmigiana dish has another benefit — it can be served as a first course, vegetable side dish or even a main course.

Eggplant Parmigiana- While the photo may not captivate you, the flavors will!

Eggplant Parmigiana- While the photo may not captivate you, the flavors will!

Eggplant Parmigiana Classica


2 1/2 lbs eggplant (approx 2 large or 4 small eggplants), skin and ends removed
3 cups + 3 TBS olive oil (can use 1/2 vegetable and 1/2 olive oil)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
3 1/2 lbs plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (can substitute 2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes, drained)
12 large basil leaves, washed/dried/sliced
8 oz fresh wet mozzarella, torn into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 cup (approximately 3 1/4 oz) Parmigiano-Reggiano
kosher salt
salt and pepper, to taste
2 TBS garlic salt
1 TBS Italian Seasoning


Take the eggplants and begin to prepare by first removing the ends and then removing the skin. Cut each eggplant crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Cover the sides and the bottom of a colander with a few eggplant slices and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. The salt will draw out the water and reduce the eggplant’s ability to absorb oil. Top with more layers of eggplant and salt until you run out of slices. Fill a large pot with water and place the colander with the eggplant in it, weighting it down with a heavy bowl. This will keep the eggplant from turning brown. Bathe the salted eggplant in the water for 30-60 minutes.

While eggplants are in the water begin to make the sauce. Heat 3 TBS of olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until just golden and fragrant, approximately 2-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and/or the diced tomatoes with 1/2 tsp salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir occasionally until the tomatoes begin to break down into a sauce consistency. If using canned tomatoes it will take 10 minutes however, if using fresh tomatoes it should take 20-25 minutes. (Note: When using fresh tomatoes the sauce tends to dry up before the tomatoes have properly been broken down. In this instance you will want to add warm water, 1 TBS at a time.) Lower the heat to medium, add in the garlic salt and Italian Seasoning. Continue cooking tomatoes 5-10 minutes until the sauce becomes thick and chunky sauce as if there is too much liquid the sauce will make the final dish watery. Turn off the heat, remove the garlic and stir in the basil leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Simple Marinara Infused with Garlic & Spices.

Simple Marinara Infused with Garlic & Spices.

Allow the eggplant to drain and pat dry each slice so to avoid dangerous hot oil splattering when it is time to fry the eggplant. It is easiest to do this by lining a baking sheet with paper towels and putting a few slices on it. Top with another paper towel and add in a few more slices, repeating until no slices remain.

To fry the eggplant, fill a 3-4 quart sauce pan or pot with the remainder of the oil and heat to 275 degrees (this can be checked with a candy thermometer or if you don’t have a candy thermometer cut a small edge of one eggplant and dip it into the oil – if it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.) I find that using a pot vs a sauce pan does reduce some of the oil splatter around the kitchen but can be a bit more dangerous when turning/browning the eggplant slices. When adding in the eggplant be certain not to crowd the pot/pan. Cook, turning only once, until golden brown on the other side. It is important to work quickly when frying and turning the eggplant and I recommend a slotted metal spoon or metal tongs. The second side always cooks quicker so watch carefully once turned onto the second side. Once cooked to desired brown color, drain-off as much oil as possible. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Repeat until all of the slices are fried, layering the refried eggplant between the paper towels.

Fried eggplants- the cornerstone ingredient to this classic Southern Italian dish.

Fried eggplants- the cornerstone ingredient to this classic Southern Italian dish.

Using a 8×10-inch baking dish, layer about 1/3 of the eggplant slices so they overlap slightly on the bottom. Next layer the marinara sauce over the eggplant, make sure to cover. Evenly sprinkle half of the mozzarella and then 1/3 cup Parmigiano cheese. Repeat for the second layer then for final layer put more tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese over the remaining eggplant slices.

Bake in preheated oven at 450 degrees on a rack positioned in the center of the oven until the cheese has melted evenly and the top is bubbly with browned edges. Cooking time is approximately 20-25minutes. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the cheese to become a bit more firm before serving so that it doesn’t fall apart when transferring from baking dish to plate.

As a main dish this serves four as a side dish it serves six.

Guimauve – pillows of the gods

Guimauve- French Marshmallows (Photo Credit:

Guimauve- French Marshmallows (Photo Credit:

Wherever did the Marsh find the Mallow? As history reports, the earliest recorded “confection” to have utilized the root sap of the Marsh Mallow was a simple recipe of nuts and honey prepared by the ancient Egyptians in 2000 B.C. It is believed that this confection was reserved solely for the enjoyment of Egyptian pharaohs and the Gods they worshiped.

By the early 1900’s, marshmallows were available for mass consumption and began appearing in American five-and-dime stores. Marshmallows quickly became an integral part of American desserts and side dishes, sweet treats (such as ambrosia, s’mores, Rice Krispies Treats) and, of course, as a condiment to hot chocolate.

Americans are believed to be the largest consumers of marshmallows, followed only by the French. Pâté de guimauve is traditionally shaped in the form of long thick ropes or “lanyards”. French confectioners have been known to display these lanyards in beautiful tall glass apothecary jars. Some of the most exclusive Parisian restaurants are said to offer guimauve as a post-dessert, finishing touch to a meal. The lanyards are “snipped with a flourish by the waiter” into small “pillows” at the patron’s table.

I took my first dive into what I used to consider a baking ingredient. And well, my pillows tasted just like the store bought ones only they were square. If that wasn’t enough, I had to up the anti and make the s’more a bit more I-talian. How you ask, with a simple flick of the wrist into the Nutella jar the damage was done…oh wait, and then a splash of chunky peanut butter on top of my home made marshmallows, gently broiled, and slathered onto a graham cracker. The result = sticky fingers, an added increment to my waste line and a nice gooey smile on my face. T’was all good.

I-Talian Smore

I-Talian Smore

Fluffy Squishy Puffy Marshmallows
Adapted from Gourmet, December 1998


1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided into 1/2 cup
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 TBS + 1 tsp vanilla (favorite substitutions: 2 tsps mint or orange extract)
food coloring (optional)


Take a paper towel and lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 13x9x2″ rectangular metal baking pan. Use a colander or sifter with a small amount of powdered sugar to dust bottom and sides of the pan.

In the standing electric mixer bowl, add 1/2 cup of very cold water and sprinkle gelatin over water, being careful not to let all of the gelatin clump in one place. Let stand to soften. (If you do not have a standing electric mixer you can do this first step in a large bowl).

In a medium-size (approximately 3-quart) heavy saucepan over low heat add sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt stirring with a wooden spoon or candy spatula, until sugar is dissolved. Increase to medium-high heat and boil, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 240 degrees, approximately 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (The hand held mixer does tend to take a little longer and might even need to go beyond 10 minutes.)

In separate medium-size bowl with cleaned beaters whip egg whites until stiff peaks are formed when the beaters are removed. Gently beat whites and vanilla (or other flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into the oiled baking pan. Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow in the refrigerator, uncovered, until firm, approximately three hours, and not longer than one day.

To remove from pan, run a thin knife around edges and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up (or peeling back) one corner of inverted pan, with dry fingers to loosen the marshmallow and ease it out of the pan and onto cutting board. With a large knife, or oiled pizza cutter, trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly two-inch cubes (you can cut them smaller but I love these large oversize pillows of candy). Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, dusting all sides.

Makes about 48 2-inch cubed marshmallows.

Keep marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature for 1-2 weeks.

My new obsession…and demise

A few weeks ago I was at a Halloween bake sale and there was this one type of cup cake that hardly anyone had purchased. I learned that the man selling them was also the baker of this quasi-untouched treat. I consequently purchased his cup cakes out of sympathy, so that he wouldn’t feel badly that his prized treats remained on the nearly empty table. I mistakenly never caught his name.

Upon returning home, having one of my usual Saturday chocolate cravings, I decided to give this treat a whirl on my palate. Much to my surprise, it was amongst the best cup cakes I have had to date. At my first bite, I realized I had found my new obsession. Chocolate cup cakes with caramel frosting….and obsess is exactly what I did over the next two weeks. I read at least 12 books and countless blogs to see if somehow I could recreate this delectable morsel which seemed like the perfect treasure to bestow upon a friend. I am happy to report success! While it may not be this mystery person’s recipe, I think it is a wonderful blend of flavors and I can divulge that I ate two while they were still warm out of the oven and- *just* frosted!

(Note: Be sure to read over the entire recipe as there are two ingredients lists and two sets of directions.)

Cocoa Fudge Cup Cakes topped with Classic Carmel Frosting
Makes 22-24 cup cakes

Cocoa Cup Cake


1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup soft shortening
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt.

Using a hand held mixer, stir in shortening, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat for two minutes at medium speed. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times to ensure that the dry ingredients are well mixed.

Add in eggs and beat for two minutes more, scraping bottom and sides of bowl often.

You can either coat the cup cake pan with cooking spray or use cup cake liners. Pour 2/3 of the way up the cup cake pan. Cook for 20-22 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out dry.

Classic Caramel Frosting


2 cups light brown sugar, tightly packed
4 TBS butter
4 TBS water
2 tsps vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
22 miniature marshmallows- optional


In a medium-size heavy-bottomed sauce pan, on medium-high heat melt the brown sugar, water and butter together, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue boiling for one minute before removing it from the heat.

While the mixture is still warm, add the vanilla and then stir in the powdered sugar under it reaches the frosting consistency you desire. Frost while mixture is warm for a smooth finish. Top with a miniature marshmallow.

Eat them!

Joost-a like Pasta Fazool – That’s Amore

Depending on the dialect of Italian being used, the word fagioli can even be pronounced “va-zu-l” in Sicilian. A 1927 song by Van and Schenck capitalizes on this latter pronunciation in the rhyme, “Don’t be a fool, eat pasta fazool.” And then there is the more recently famous Dean Martin song “That’s Amore”. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to feel or be in love…even if it is with a bit of bean soup. When love is on the menu, the line is long. >sings to herself, the excerpt below< When the stars make you drool
Joost-a like pasta fazool
That’s amore
When you dance down the street
With a cloud at your feet, you’re in love
When you walk in a dream
But you know you’re not dreamin’, signore
‘Scusami, but you see
Back in old Napoli, that’s amore

(When the moon hits your eye)
(Like a big-a pizza pie, that’s amore)

Attempting to dig back into this blog after a brief bout away I am in dire need of comfort and comfort foods. And this week the cravings were meatless yet hearty. Pasta fagioli or pasta e fagioli, meaning “pasta and beans”, is one of many traditional Italian peasant dishes that was widely available in all regions of Italy due to cheaply available beans and pasta. This recipe should be added to your files under -will keep you warm on a cold winter’s night.

Pasta e Fagioli


4 TBS olive oil, and 2 TBS olive oil
1 1/2 medium size yellow onion, finely chopped
7 cloves garlic, pressed hold 1 clove off to the side
3 cups dried cranberry beans (if rushed buy 3-15 oz cans)
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 sprigs rosemary
2 TBS fresh parsley, minced
1/2 tsp dried basil, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
salt & pepper to taste
7-8 oz tubetti or small pasta
pesto (optional)
Parmesan cheese, grated


In a large pot add 4 TBS olive oil, onions and garlic, salt and pepper and cook on medium-low heat until onions are translucent. Add in tomato paste and coat pan without allowing the paste to burn.

If using dried beans, place broth and beans in the same pot and bring to a rapid bowl, lid slightly off, for 40 minutes. Reduce heat, add in rosemary, salt, pepper and parsley, basil and oregano. Place lid on pot and turn heat to simmer for 1 1/2 hrs, checking after one hour to see if more water should be added to create sufficient broth.

If using canned beans, place broth and beans in the same pot and bring to a rapid bowl, lid slightly off, for 30 minutes. Reduce heat, add in rosemary, salt, pepper and parsley, basil and oregano. Place lid on pot and turn heat to simmer for 30 minutes.

In a medium size pot with a cap full of oil, bring water to a boil. Once boiling add in 1 TBS of salt and then add in the tubettini or other pasta. Cook according to package directions, drain and set aside.

In a small sauce pan add 3 TBS oil, 1 clove garlic, minced. Cook over a low heat until soft and then stir in rosemary which has been finely chopped. Add this mixture back into the soup.

To thicken soup you can either use a stick blender and puree 1/3 of the soup to gain a nice thickness or you can remove two cups of the beans and smash them in a mug with a fork and then return them to the pot, stirring well.

To serve, place drained pasta in an individual serving bowl, cover with pasta fazool then top with cheese, dash of olive oil and a spot of pesto. That’s Amore.