Monday, June 28, 2010

New Favorite: Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

There are times in life when you find yourself alone, wanting something delicious and comforting.  And you have an eggplant in the fridge and it's time to use it.  But you've been watching your waistline because you might have had two HUGE sugar cookies the same day.  And you have an hour and have convinced yourself that baking summer in the middle of summer is a great idea.  Know those days?  No?  Oh.

Well, I know those days and on one such day last week, I decided to seek out a baked eggplant parmigiana recipe to try.  After some searching, I found this little beauty on Food Blogga.  It said "easy" and "baked," so I knew I was in business. 

Here's how this all went down.

First, get your eggplant in slice it into rounds.

And crack two eggs in a bowl.  If you are missing your husband, go ahead and use his Taz bowl.  Beat them together with a fork.

And then assemble these ingredients together, the breadcrumbs, red pepper flakes, salt, and parmesan.  I use panko breadcrumbs because they are crispy and crunchy, and since this isn't fried, I thought it could use some crispiness.

And mix it all together until you have this.

Then dip each eggplant slice into the beaten eggs and then through the breadcrumb mix.  Then line them up on a baking sheet.

Then bake these for 15-20 min at 400 degrees.  You can use this time to make some marinara sauce or you can pour a glass of wine and pull a jar of your favorite marinara sauce out of the pantry and grate a little cheese.  Your call.  Except about grating cheese.  Please take the time and effort to grate a block of real cheese.  The pre-shredded stuff is coated in some sort of powdery stuff that freaks me out.  The end.

Once the eggplant is out of the oven, put it in your casserole.

WAIT!  Psych!!!  Put the marinara sauce down first, silly.

There!  That's better.  Now, repeat with slices until bottom of your dish is covered with eggplant slices.

See how that little slice is sort of propped up on some others?  You can do that.  Life is short, so live it up a little, will ya?

 And then sprinkle some cheese on it!  That mozzarella and parmesan.  Looks great, right?  Here's a tip I learned:  Don't go crazy here with the cheese.  It will probably squeeze out the sides when cutting down on it later.

Now plop a little more sauce on top...

Doesn't have to be perfectly even or fancy or anything.  This is NOT a science, folks.  This is an approximation.  So do what you can and then let yourself off the hook.

Now repeat layers and bake for 35 min at 400 degrees.  Pull it out of the oven and you will have something like this:

Now here's the excercise in self-restraint.  Wait for 5 minutes.  This dish is hot.  And it's also delicious.  And you will not be able to stop yourself from scarfing it down and burning your tongue off if you do not wait for it to cool a bit.

Then serve it up with a grain of some sort.  Garlic bread would be nice, as would pasta.  Even rice.  Here, I had a toasted and buttered whole-grain English muffin.  It was good.  The eggplant is delicious.  Like, I was alone and "mmm"ing in the kitchen.  My dog thought I had officially gone bananas.  But then again, consider the source.

My husband ate this the next day and now it's his favorite meal.  He has been asking for it ever since Friday.  So turn up the A/C a little and make this pronto!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back in Action with Something Spicy

Oh Summer.  How you steal time away... tempting with fun little projects and getaways.  And then there's summer heat.  It's hot out and I am constantly sticky.  Which brings me to today's dish... Spicy Chipotle Peanut Noodles. 

Now.  These are lovely.  This is an easy recipe and is just the ticket if you want noodles, want spice, and want something velvety and peanut buttery.  All you need to know how to do is boil water, chop, open a can and stir.  Let's get cookin'!

You will need some cilantro, soy sauce, pasta or Chinese noodles, bell pepper, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, peanut butter, apple juice and carrots or peas & carrots.

First, set your water to boil.  Dump in your noodles when it's the right time.  You'll know.  Follow package instructions.  Always a good idea.

Then open up your can of chipotle peppers.   I have a strong belief that you should have some on hand at all time.  They're delicious!  There is not substitute for their hot, smoky and sweet flavor.  Anywhoodle, fish two of those babies out!  Then chop 'em and dice 'em until they're real fine.

Combine some peanut butter, soy sauce and apple juice and the chipotles in a bowl.  Add a little adobo sauce.  You'll feel much, much better about yourself if you do this.  Trust me.

Then stir that mess up, y'all!  Combine well.  It won't look pretty.  But this is a dressing, not a painting, so relax a little, will ya?

Then slice up some bell pepper.  You can use whichever kind you like.  The original recipe calls for red, but I had green on hand.  I'm a rebel, you see? 

At this point in the noodle cooking process, I threw in some frozen peas and carrots.  There was only about a minute left on the pasta, so it feel like the right time.  If you are using fresh carrots, you may want to throw them in a little earlier.  Then, once all of that is cooked, drain it and throw it in a bowl.

Then be kind and toss the hot pasta with the bell pepper.  I like my peppers a bit crunchy, so I use the heat of the noodles to cook them just slightly, but you can saute them before if you really have a thing for softer peppers.  It's your life. 

Then toss with the dressing that looked ugly.  It will look so much better when dispersed over the noodles and veggies.  Stir it up really well, y'all.  If the pasta absorbs too much dressing, add a splash more apple juice.

Scoop the noodles into a cute bowl and sprinkle with cilantro.  In real life, it will be in focus for but a moment, and then things get blurry because the adobo and peanuts and cilantro smell intoxicating together.  Allow yourself this buzz.  'Tis the stuff of life, my friend.


Here's my recipe, adapted from the goddess herself, Betty Crocker.

Spicy Chipotle-Peanut Noodle Bowls
serves 4

1/2 C creamy peanut butter
1/2 C apple juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, seeded and chopped
1 tsp adobo sauce from can
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1/2 C frozen peas and carrots or 2 medium carrots, julienned
1 medium bell pepper, julienned
10 oz dried whole-wheat spaghetti, or 8-10 oz of Chinese noodles

1.  In small bowl, combine peanut butter, apple juice, chiles and adobo sauce and soy sauce.
2.  Boil water, add pasta or noodles.  Cook peas and carrots/carrots in water at the end of cooking process.  Can boil or saute bell pepper if desired.
3.  Toss noodles, vegetables and dressing in a bowl.  Sprinkle with cilantro.