Monthly Archives: May 2014

Italian-Style String Beans, Inspired by the Past

Farmers market fresh

Farmers market fresh

I got these string beans at the farmers market over the weekend. It’s true I have a hard time resisting rainbow veggies, and the moment I saw these, they reminded me of my great-grandmother on my father’s side. She was French, and the most I know about her is that she lived in Louisiana, and eventually moved to San Francisco. Many things she cooked, including these, had a Southern style to them, in spite of her European-ness. The beans remind me of a very specific recipe that she would cook on holidays, which was string beans cooked in bacon and shallots. I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t know what her method was, but those veggies were  very well done! I mean, they were quite over-cooked. In fact, they were boiled to death! But at that young age, I really didn’t much care. It wasn’t until a bit later, that my palate developed into that love of tender-crispness, the style that California vegetables tend to be cooked in. So, I had a thought that since I was cooking Italian food, (that’s my lovely Caprese Lasagna Roll Ups) I could channel just a bit of my great-grandma and get a bit of the flavor, without the too-done-for-my-taste texture.

Shallot

Shallots

The shallots were easy enough to find.

The prosciutto end is inexpensive, if you can find it

The prosciutto end is inexpensive, if you can find it

What I decided to use instead of bacon was a bit of prosciutto. Honolulu doesn’t have a lot of delicatessens, but we do have a couple of stores with gourmet sections. I went to the Foodland nearby and found the price of prosciutto prohibitively expensive at $22.00 a pound. I swallowed and told the clerk I just wanted one slice. She looked at me quizzically and asked me what I was using it for, and I told here that it was just to add flavor. That’s when she made the suggestion to just buy an end. I didn’t even realize that they sold them like that, and at the total price of only $2.99, I felt I had scored.

Simple ingredients here:

1 pound green beans, any kind

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small shallot

1 prosciutto end, or 1 small slice prosciutto, chopped into small pieces

1 dash white pepper

That’s it. You probably won’t need salt, since the prosciutto has some in it.

Trim and cut diagonally

Trim and cut diagonally

Wash the beans, trim and slice diagonally. I made the slices kind of thin, because these beans can be tougher that the thinner variety. In fact, I’ll come right out and tell you not to bother with the paler ones~ they ere extremely tough. But, the rest of them were quite good.

Drain and cool

Drain and cool

Steam the beans for about 10 minutes. They won’t be quite done, but they are going to get another cooking. Drain them and set aside.

Mince the shallot

Mince the shallot

Mince the shallot and chop the prosciutto into small pieces In a medium-sized frying pan, sauté the shallot and prosciutto until tender and fragrant. Add the string beans and cook them for about 10 minutes, stirring to combine ingredients. Sprinkle with a dash of white pepper.

Italian-style Beans with Shallot and Prosciutto

Italian-style Beans with Shallot and Prosciutto

Turn into a bowl and serve.

Perfect with Italian food

Perfect with Italian food

They go wonderful with any kind of Italian food. Enjoy!

Rolling Up Lasagna, Caprese Style

Okay, it’s time for an easy, weeknight meal. A friend posted a yummy looking recipe using lasagna noodles the other day, and it reminded me that I somehow have two partially-used packages of lasagna noodles in the pantry, and it would be best if I used up at least one of them. Since I’m not sure what else to make for dinner tonight, and I have most of the ingredients called for, I will be making these lovely Caprese Lasagna Roll Ups. This recipe includes directions for a homemade marinara sauce, but if you are in a hurry to get dinner on, you can cheat and use bottled. I am making my own sauce though, because I like doing that.

tomatoes

I added mushrooms to this recipe

I added mushrooms to this recipe

I did make a couple of changes along the way, just because I find it hard to leave something like this alone. I’m adding mushrooms and some spices to the marinara sauce, just because I find it hard to imagine almost any red sauce pasta sauce without them. In fact, I’ll start with what’s needed for the marinara sauce, since that should be made first.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, washed, stemmed & coarsely chopped

1-28 ounce (or 2-15 ounce) can(s) crushed tomatoes (you can use already seasoned ones for more flavor, just adjust the seasonings to taste)

herbs for seasoning such as thyme, rosemary, Italian seasoning, sage, etc.

salt & pepper to taste

First, heat the olive oil in a large pan and slowly sauté the onion. Sautéing it slowly helps to keep its sweetness. Once it is soft and translucent, stir in the garlic and cook for just a minute, or until it smells fragrant.

Stir the mushrooms in

Stir the mushrooms in

Add in the mushrooms and cook for several minutes.

Next, stir in the tomatoes, bring the mixture to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer. Depending upon what kind of tomatoes you are using, depends upon how much seasoning you should add. If you are using seasoned tomatoes, let the sauce cook for a little bit and taste it, before adding any more. Then just add a pinch of what you want, if you think anything else is needed. If your tomatoes are unseasoned, just add a teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and/or oregano, thyme, or crushed rosemary. It’s only going to cook for 30 minutes, so whatever goes in, won’t have a lot of time to blend.

Slice them thin

Slice them thin

I like to use scissors to snip basil

I like to use scissors to snip basil

Meanwhile, while the tomatoes are cooking you can prepare the rest of the dish. You’ll need:

15 oz. ricotta cheese (I chose low-fat)

1½ cups mozzarella cheese, divided

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

pepper to taste

1 egg

10 wide lasagna noodles, cooked al dente

4-5 roma tomatoes, sliced very thin

1 small bunch basil, leaves stripped form stems and snipped, + some for garnish

Mix cheeses and egg together

Mix cheeses and egg together

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, ¾ cup of the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese along with the egg.

Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling, salted water that has about a tablespoon of olive oil added to it. The oil will help keep the noodles from sticking. Boil until they are just cooked and pliable~ you don’t want them to overcook, because they will fall apart more easily. When finished, drain, but don’t rinse.

This is a good time to pre-heat the oven to 350º.

Prepare a work area by laying down a large piece (or 2) of waxed paper over a large surface. When the noodles are cool enough to handle, lay them flat on the waxed paper.

Smooth the cheese onto the noodles

Smooth the cheese onto the noodles

Divide the cheese mixture over the noodles and work to smooth it over them as evenly as possible.

filling

Next, lay the tomatoes on top of the cheese. Depending on the sized of the tomatoes, each noodle should hold 4-5 slices.

Four to five tomatoes should fit

Four to five tomatoes should fit

Roll 'em up, seam side down

Roll ’em up, seam side down

This is a good time to pre-heat the oven to 350º.

In a 13″x9″x2″ baking dish, pour half of the sauce on the bottom. Roll the noodles up a tightly as possible, tucking the tomatoes in as you go. They are a bit slippery and will want to slide out, so you’ll need to work a little bit to keep them in. Place them seam side down in the dish.

Sprinkle cheese

Pour sauce and sprinkle cheese

When you finish rolling them up, pour the remainder of the sauce over the roll ups and sprinkle the remaining ¾ cup of mozzarella cheese over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling.

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

 

Caprese Lasagne Roll Ups

Caprese Lasagne Roll Ups

I served this with my very own Italian-style Green Beans with Prosciutto

I served this with my very own Italian-style Green Beans with Prosciutto

Serve with a salad or my special Italian green beans. Recipe coming right up!

A Farmers Market Summer Salad

The summer produce is showing its face at the farmers market, not that it changes too much from season to season, in a place like this. But with Memorial Day having passed, that awareness of summer is here, and I love it! It’s my favorite season for many things, and good salads are definitely one of them.

Green Bean Salad with Corn, Basil and Tomatoes

Green Bean Salad with Corn, Basil and Tomatoes

Seeing the bounty at farmer’s market last weekend, brought on an urge to make a favorite salad recipe that I found last year in Fine Cooking.

Corn is probably best organic, if you can find it

Corn is probably best organic, if you can find it

It has corn in it, so if you are conscious of how some things are grown, you might want to considered getting organic.

Fresh green beans

Fresh green beans

It also has green beans, so look for the freshest you can get.

Rainbow cherry tomatoes

Rainbow cherry tomatoes

Best of all, it has tomatoes, and since I’m quite partial to these locally-grown, rainbow cherry ones, that’s what I used.

You can already see the beautiful colors that happen by making this salad, and then it’s sprinkled with snipped basil and dressed with a simple vinaigrette. It becomes downright refreshing!

This is very simple to make. To serve 6 people you’ll need:

3 cups fresh corn kernels, (about 3 ears)

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half

1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin

1 clove garlic

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup olive oil

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 cup snipped fresh basil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Corn kernels, cooked and cooled

Corn kernels, cooked and cooled

In a large pot of boiling, salted water,  blanch the corn kernels for one minute.  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, and allow them to drain and cool. Place them into a large bowl.

Brilliantly cooked green beans :)

Brilliantly cooked green beans

In the same water, cook the green beans until just tender and brilliant green, (about 3 minutes) then drain and cool. Add them to the bowl with the corn.

While the veggies are cooling, chill the onion in a small bowl of ice water for a few minutes. The ice will mellow its flavor and crisp its texture.

Also, make the vinaigrette~ mash the garlic with the side of a knife, a mortar & pestle, or even a garlic press and work it into a paste with a pinch of salt. Put the paste into a small bowl or a jar, (which is my favorite method) and whisk or shake in the vinegar. Let it sit with the garlic to blend flavors for several minutes and then whisk or shake in the olive oil.

Add in the soaked red onion

Add in the soaked red onion

 

I love rainbow cherry tomatoes

I love rainbow cherry tomatoes

Snipped fresh basil adds wonderful summer flavor

Snipped fresh basil adds wonderful summer flavor

When ready to serve, drain the onions and add them along with the tomatoes and basil, into the bowl with the corn and beans. Season with salt & pepper and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Gently toss, taste and add more salt & pepper, if necessary.

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

Serve immediately.

Fresh veggies make the best salads

Fresh veggies make the best salads

 

 

I went to a different farmers market this morning, and I really liked the change. It was because the weather was predicted to be so foul this weekend, and because Monty had to work early this morning, and I didn’t want to get stranded somewhere where I couldn’t take cover if I needed to. The change was good, because it wasn’t so crowded and the vendors were so much more relaxed. At this market, (I’m talking about the Ward Warehouse Saturday morning one) there is also much more of a consensus for everyone to display the food to be visually beautiful, and in walking around, my eyes were richly rewarded. As much as I love the KCC market, there was a lot to love about this one.

A Gift of Chayote, Brings a Gift in Learning and a New Recipe

I consider myself very fortunate that Monty has a job at a major landscaping company, here on the island. I also feel fortunate that I’ve made a friend or two there, too. Monty came home with a little gift for me the other day. Randy, who runs the nursery, sent Monty home with a couple of chayote. I realize I’m probably really stretching your brain cells here, because I had to look this one up myself. But, I must have heard of it before, because I looked at it, plugged the name into Google, and bingo~ that was the one. Something must have registered in my brain, even if it was long ago.

Chayote

Chayote

It would make sense that I’d heard of it before, because after looking it up, chayote (pronounced chay-yo-teh) is actually a squash of sorts known around the world, albeit by many different names. It turns out that the two I was given are white and are considered rarer, since most of them are green. It also seems that they are originally from Mexico, so I guess I’ll be authentic and cook them up in a Mexican way.

Mexican chicken-chayote soup ingredients

Mexican chicken-chayote soup ingredients

I found a very, simple recipe online for soup to get me started. I’m adding chicken to this, but this can be easily made vegan, by leaving that out and changing the chicken broth to vegetable. Here’s my adaptation…

1 quart chicken broth

1 small white (or yellow) onion, minced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 chayotes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (or any other oregano will do)

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided~ plus more for garnish

salt & pepper to taste

Discard the seed inside the chayote

Discard the seed inside the chayote

Knowing what I know now, peel the chayote first. I would highly recommend holding it with a paper towel while peeling it with the other hand, because it got quite slippery~ it kept wanting to fly out of my hand! The skin is also quite hard, so be careful you don’t do damage to yourself with the veggie peeler. Fortunately, it cuts very easily. There is one big seed in the center, much like an avocado. Just discard it.

Chop into 1/2-inch pieces

Chop into 1/2-inch pieces

After dicing the chayote, set it aside.

Boil chicken, then allow to cool until can handle

Boil chicken, then allow to cool until can handle

Put the chicken thighs into a pan and cover them with water. Boil them gently on the stove top until they are just cooked. They should be tender and their juice should run clear when pierced with a fork. Set them aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, shred or chop chicken, then cover and refrigerate until needed.

Add in the chayote, cilantro and oregano

Add in the chayote, cilantro and oregano

Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat. When the onion turns tender and translucent, add the chayote, oregano and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro to the pot and stir continuously for 5 minutes. Then add the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon of cilantro, stir and bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower heat, cover and simmer for  about 1 hour, or until the chayote pierces very easily with a fork. Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust, if necessary.

Ready for the blender

Ready for the blender

Allow to cool for a bit, then blend the soup with an immersion blender.

Add in the chicken and reheat

Add in the chicken and reheat

 

Once blended, you may be surprised how creamy it is. Add the chopped chicken and reheat the soup again.

140521_1203

140521_1207

 

Chicken Chayote Soup

Chicken Chayote Soup

Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and a little cilantro garnish on the soup, and with a salad and tortillas or cornbread to make a complete meal. Serves 4.

Little Fishies, Just Like French Fries!

This may seem strange to some people, but when you live in a place where you are surrounded by water, you tend to eat a lot of fish. Even living in San Francisco for a good chunk of my life, it is another city mostly surrounded by water, and I ate a lot of fish there, too. That in itself is not so strange, but eating fish heads may not seem right to some. It’s like eating sushi, which I know some people wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, and I wasn’t sure I like sushi the first time I had it, but I was hooked by the third time. You could say that I have a pretty open palate.

I guess l learned at a relatively early age that a fish head has a lot of flavor. I’ve also learned that when you cook the fish whole, the flavor travels down the head and into the body. And since I’ve lived in Hawai‘i, I’ve learned that the area above the eye is the tastiest, and that a fabulous broth can be made from fish heads!

Little, bitty smelts

Smelts

Anyway, we were at Whole Foods the other day, and smelt were on sale. The young lady behind the counter was very enthusiastic about them, talking about how her father was a fisherman in San Francisco and also here, on the North Shore. She seemed to have a lot of knowledge about fish, and it seemed that she really wanted me to buy some. They were very inexpensive, so it wasn’t like she was going to get some big commission out of it or anything. I asked her how to cook them, and she told me how simple it is. Simply dip them in egg wash, coat them with flour and then fry in some oil until they turn golden brown, like French fries! I was intrigued. I did ask her about taking the heads off, and she said not to bother. Okay.

I met up with Monty at the meat counter, (he has steak on Saturdays~ I have fish) and I told him what happened at the fish counter. He proceeded to tell me about his his childhood memories of fishing off of Fisherman’s Wharf, and the old Italian men teaching him that he could eat smelt in the exact manner that the young lady had advised me. It really is a poor man’s delight, since they are quite under-fished, and that makes them quite sustainable, too.  So, Monty would catch them, take them home, and have his mom cook them up, just like that… in fact, he said the same thing~ “just like French fries!”  Except, for the heads. He just couldn’t get into eating those.

I had to research this, just to make sure, and what I found out is, yes, they are eaten whole, as long as they are small~ meaning under 6 inches. Mine were all about 4 inches, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Egg wash first~ 1 egg, beaten with about a tablespoon of water.

Dip in egg wash

Dip in egg wash

Dip into the egg wash, and then…

Coat in flour

Coat in flour, seasoned or not

…dip into the flour. I also figured there could be a bazillion ways to season the flour, but I went really simple, this being the first time. So I just used a simple white whole wheat flour. I know what I’m going to do next time, though. I think this would be great with a little bit of chile powder and garlic powder mixed in.

Fry a few at a time

Fry a few at a time

Make sure the oil is hot enough by putting a pinch of flour in it. If it sizzles, it’s ready. Fry fish a few at time, to keep them nice and crispy. Fry until golden brown on one side, then flip and do the same on the other. Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt. A squeeze of lemon is nice, too.

Fried smelts, just like French fries!

Fried smelts, just like French fries!

It really is as simple at. If you like fish, this is well worth a try, whether you like the heads or not. They are also guaranteed healthier than French fries, too!

A Blackberry-Lemon Gelato, While Waiting for the Lilikoi to Fruit

blueberry-lemon

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m crazy about homemade gelato. I first started making it two years ago, when we acquired our ice cream maker, and after the first time I made it, I was hooked on everything about it. The idea of so many creative flavors… it can make your imagination soar! Now I’m getting anxious for the lilikoi vines to start fruiting, because it is my absolute favorite flavor. So I figured it was time to try something to hold me over. We bought a pint of blackberries at Costco over the weekend, and I figured I probably should use them sooner, rather than later. Sifting through many gelato recipes, I was trying to find one that didn’t have tons of sugar or fat. After all, that’s the whole point of making gelato, rather than ice cream. I did find one, but it was using totally different fruit than what I have, though I liked one feature of it. But, I noticed it was poorly written and it was confusing. So I took a couple of the ingredients from that recipe, and I figured I’d stick with my own method that I use for my lilikoi one. Here’s what I used and what I did…

2 cups fresh blackberries

¼ cup blackberry jam

¼ cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

3 large egg yolks

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

There are three main steps in the process of preparing this recipe, at least before the freezing of it. I’ve learned to take my time with gelato, just because it seems to need a lot of chilling at various phases.

First, combine the berries, water, salt and jam in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring it occasionally. Remove from heat and let it cool a bit. With an immersion blender, whir until mostly smooth. I say “mostly,” because the seeds will still be there. Get a sieve and strain them out~ you’ll likely be surprised at how many there are. Set the berry mixture aside.

Eggs & sugar should be thick and light

Eggs & sugar should be thick and light

Secondly, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, until it’s very thick and light in color. Add the milk and combine with the eggs and sugar.

Mixture will thicken like custard

the mixture will thicken like custard

Lastly, transfer the milk, eggs and sugar into a large sauce pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously. If you do this once, you’ll realize that gelato is really not much more than a kind of custard. You also want to keep the milk from boiling. You’ll know it’s done when the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Blend in the berry mixture

Blend in the berry mixture

Add the berry mixture into the custard mixture and blend it in. When it’s fully cooled, blend in the lemon juice and zest. The lemon is really done to taste, since I’m using less than was originally called for. It adds wonderful tang and brightness to the berries, but I was worried about it getting bitter. I found these amounts worked well for my taste.

blended

This is now ready to be chilled, at least several hours, and preferably overnight. Gelato making takes patience!

The next day, (ideally) you can freeze the mixture in your ice cream freezer, according to manufacturer’s instructions. This will make about 4 cups of gelato, so you’ll need to spoon it into a large enough container, once it’s done being processed in the ice cream maker. Again, it should be frozen (or cured, as some will call it) overnight.

You will, of course, want to lick the freezer container! That’s when you’ll get an idea how tasty this is.

Blackberry-Lemon Gelato

Blackberry-Lemon Gelato

Of course, when it’s done, it’s totally drool-worthy….

Creamy

What is there not to love about gelato?

What is there not to love about gelato?

So when life hands you lemons, it’s time to go find some blackberries!

Meatless Monday, Italian Style

Beautiful eggplant!

Beautiful eggplant!

 

How about a nice Eggplant Parmesan? I remember having this for the first time at a potluck dinner party in San Francisco, many years ago. I was reluctant to try it, because at that point in time, I didn’t like eggplant. But, because a good friend brought this dish, and I didn’t want to insult him, I tried it. It was absolutely delicious!

The biggest issue I usually have with making this dish is usually the high calorie content. Normally, the eggplant is breaded and fried, but I’m going to slash some of the fat by baking it instead. Cooking spray can be your best friend in the kitchen! Another issue I have with anything made with breadcrumbs is that it’s a pain to make them yourself, mainly because it seems like they end up everywhere. Then if you buy them, you usually end up with some unsavory ingredient like a bunch of preservatives or high fructose corn syrup, which I avoid like the plague. In bread crumbs? Really? It’s crazy, but many off-the-shelf brands have it listed on the ingredients list, and I can’t see adding any kind of sugar to something so savory.

Just, plain breadcrumbs

Just, plain breadcrumbs

I did find a solution to this, which truly sold me on making this. I found these ready-made crumbs at Whole Foods, and all I’ll need to do them is add my own Italian seasoning. It works for me!

So in order to make this, I’ll need 2 cups of bread crumbs, and I’ve whisked in 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning, a ¾ of a teaspoon of garlic powder and about ½ teaspoon of thyme. They sure smell good!

Now that we’ve settled that, if you want to make this recipe, you’ll need:

2 large eggplant

salt for sprinkling on the eggplant

2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water and a dash of salt & pepper

2 cups of breadcrumbs, seasoned as discussed above

1 24-oz. jar of high quality marinara sauce

15 oz. ricotta cheese, I used low-fat

1½ cups mozzarella cheese

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed

½ cup Parmesan cheese

large pinch red pepper flakes

5-6 basil leaves, snipped

Before you start to put this together, make sure that your cheeses are ready.

Grate mozzarella first, if needed

Grate mozzarella first, if needed

If your mozzarella needs grating, get it ready.

Ricotta cheese, garlic, Parmesan, red pepper flakes and snipped basil

Ricotta cheese, garlic, Parmesan, red pepper flakes and snipped basil

Also, mix the ricotta cheese with the minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and snipped basil. It’s better to have everything ready, rather than be scrambling around.

Cut into half-inch slices

Cut into half-inch slices

You’ll need a 13″x9″ baking dish or casserole for this. Spray the bottom of the dish with cooking spray and pre-heat the oven to 350º F. Slice the eggplant cross-wise into ½-inch slices.

Salt them generously

Salt them generously

Generously sprinkle salt all over both sides of the slices and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.

 

Water will bead up on the slices

Water will bead up on the slices

Shortly, you’ll start to see water bead up on the slices~ supposedly this will pull out any bitterness that might be in the eggplant, and it will also make it more tender. When they are done, rinse with water in a colander and pat dry with paper towels.

Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with cooking spray.

Dip in egg first…

Dip in egg first…

 

…then dip in bread crumbs

…then dip in bread crumbs

Dip each slice of the eggplant into the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumbs.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Arrange on the cooking sheet, and when filled, bake for 15 minutes, then flip the eggplant and rotate the sheet 180 º for even baking. You may need to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your eggplants.

A layer of eggplant on top of sauce

A layer of eggplant on top of sauce

When all of the eggplant has been baked, it is ready to be assembled. Start by spooning ½ cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of the baking dish, then add a layer of eggplant.

Smooth ricotta mixture over eggplant and sauce

Smooth ricotta mixture over the eggplant and marinara sauce

Next, spoon about ¾ cup of the marinara atop of the eggplant, spreading it to cover the eggplant as much a possible. Then spoon half of the ricotta mixture on top of the marinara, using the back of a spoon to spread it evenly.

Sprinkle with mozzarella

Sprinkle with mozzarella

Sprinkle on 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese, and repeat the layers, ending with the small amount of remaining sauce.

Ready to be covered in foil and put in the oven

Ready to be covered in foil and put in the oven

I couldn’t resist adding an additional sprinkle of shaved Parmesan… it is Eggplant Parmesan, after all!

At this point, cover the top will aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated 350º oven. Bake for 35 minutes, then remove the foil. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese and bake for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with snipped basil

Sprinkle with snipped basil

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with snipped basil for garnish and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

 

Serve with a salad and some nice, Italian bread

Serve with a salad and some nice, Italian bread

 

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant16

Serve with a salad and some wonderful Italian bread. You will love the smell in your kitchen!

 

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Skewers

skewers12

After so much Mexican-style food last week, as much as I love it, I think it’s time to switch gears. I have a great love of ginger soy marinades, especially on chicken, and I’ve been craving something marinated and grilled. What I really like about making my own marinade instead of buying it from a bottle, is that I know what’s in it and I can adjust flavors as I go. I just happened to see this recipe on a supermarket handout, and I have to admit, it made me salivate. I’m liking the idea of something spicy and just a little sweet, so I think these chicken skewers will do the trick. What I also love about this recipe is the recipe for the cabbage salad that gets served with it. Though I wouldn’t let that stop me from serving it with anything else~ I also know that such a marinade also goes really well with potato salad, green salad, or just about anything else. Marinades are also nice because you can make it, and then forget about it for a while, while the meat, fish or chicken, soaks up all the wonderful flavors.

This recipe calls for…  6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into halves. You’re also going to need some bamboos skewers that have been soaked in water for at least thirty minutes, before grilling. skewers1

This marinade will need…

1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, minced 1 tablespoon of fresh garlic, minced 1 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce, or any other hot sauce 1 fresh jalapeño, sliced 1/8-inch thick 1/3 cup soy sauce 2 tablespoons orange or pineapple juice (I used both, because I’m like that) 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 1/4 cup of honey 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil 1/4 cup vegetable oil a pinch of black pepper This ingredient list looks so good to me!

Put all ingredients into a jar

Put all ingredients into a jar

 

Simply shake to blend

Simply shake to blend

Combine all of the above ingredients into a jar and shake it up! Save about half of the mixture for basting, and then put the rest into a plastic, zip-lock bag along with the chicken. Make sure that all parts of the chicken are coated with the marinade, and then refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. Meanwhile, you can make the cabbage salad. salad1

For the cabbage salad you’ll need:

2 cups of shredded cabbage

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1 cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced on the bias

salad2

It really was beautiful… I was shocked!

You may think I’m crazy, but this is also the most beautiful cabbage I think I’ve ever seen! It really took me aback….

Shred the cabbage, or at least slice it really thin, shred the carrots on a grater and slice the cucumber.

salad3

Toss ’em all together

O In a bowl, toss the above ingredients together. Cilantro leaves and sliced green onions make for a beautiful garnish, so if you have or can acquire some, it’s a good thing!

You can make a dressing with…

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce (I always use “lite”)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

salt & pepper to taste

You may have to tweak the dressing to your taste… I added in about a tablespoon of honey and a healthy dash of sesame oil for good measure. I think it did it some good, so I would recommend it.

 

Ready for the grill!

Ready for the grill!

When ready to cook the chicken, heat up the grill to high heat. Thread the chicken onto to the skewers and grill on both sides, basting as needed with the reserved marinade. Grill until cooked through.

Brush the marinade on periodically

Brush the marinade on periodically

 

Smokin'!

Smokin’!

When fully cooked, serve on top of the salad and garnish with the green onions and cilantro. skewers_5   skewers8 skewers14

This is wonderful served with brown jasmine rice, which I just found out even exists. Joy!

Avocado-Strawberry-Spinach-Salad~ A Post That’s Been Screaming “Make Me!”

If you are on Facebook, I can almost bet that you’ve seen this salad:

I keep seeing this!

I keep seeing this!

I guess it helps to have healthy friends, because they keep posting it, and I keep seeing it. It seems to me it’s been floating around for at least a year now, and every time I see it, I think I should make this. Well, guess what? I just made this, and it’s delicious!

Simple ingredients at hand

Simple ingredients at hand

I looked at it again this morning, and realized that I already have the ingredients, so I might as well make something different, fresh and raw. It also gives me a chance  to use up a few vegetables that are left before we go load up again at the farmers market tomorrow, so this is a just another good thing. It’s so simple to make, too!

Toast almonds first

Toast almonds first

I started by toasting the almonds in a small frying pan, until they turned golden and that roasted nutty aroma began to drive me crazy. (I love that smell!) I did this first so they’d have a chance to cool.

spin_2

Then I chopped red onion and added it to the spinach.

Slice strawberries

Sliced strawberries~ yum!

 

Add strawberries to spinach and onion

Add strawberries to spinach and onion

I sliced the strawberries next, then added them in.

Add bleu or gorgonzola cheese

Add bleu or gorgonzola cheese

I used bleu cheese, though you can use gorgonzola, or really any other kind of soft, crumbly cheese.

Dice avocado

Dice the avocado

Then I diced the avocado….

Add avocado & almonds

Add avocado & almonds

… and added it in, along with the almonds. Then I tossed it gently, to keep from squishing up the avocado.

Put dressing ingredients into a jar

Put dressing ingredients into a jar

I like to put homemade dressings into a jar, because they are so easy to just shake and pour. I used olive oil with this, and instead of using the optional ground mustard called for, I used ¼ of a teaspoon of dijon mustard. It came out just fine!

poppyseeds

By the way, have you ever seen poppy seeds close up? They are fascinating!

Shake it up!

Shake it up!

I shook it up and poured it when the salad was ready.

Add dressing and serve

Add dressing and serve

Spinach, Strawberry and Avocado Salad

Spinach, Strawberry and Avocado Salad

spin_12

Have it for lunch, or have it for dinner~ it’s worth a try!