Eggplant Parm with Catch Me If You Can Cheese

My next recipe comes from Sicilian Cookery and you could say it is a variation of eggplant Parmesan with a substitute of a cheese called caciocavallo which is a native cheese of Southern Italy.

The quest to find caciocavallo was the hardest part of making this dish and finding it caused a bit of a hiatus for my cooking goals. My first attempt to buy this cheese was at a specialty cheese shop where they just happened to run out the previous day. They ordered it again, but by the time I got there it was sold out. I had no idea this cheese was so popular. I decided to go to Whole Foods after that and ended up empty handed, thankfully Bristol Farms had some. I must have been lucky that day, because I looked for it again out of curiosity after making this recipe and it was M.I.A. in the cheese section.

Hopefully you’ll have better luck with that than I did.

What you’ll need

  • 3 eggplants
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes
  • 4 oz or 1/4 pound of caciocavallo cheese
  • 2 oz or 1/2 cup of grated cheese
  • 4 or 5 basil leaves

The first step is to prepare the eggplants by cutting them lengthwise into sections as evenly as possible. Then you will cut slits into the fleshy part of the eggplant and soak in salted water for ten minutes.

I wanted to look up the physics as to why salting and soaking is necessary for eggplants and ended up finding this useful article from the LA Times. According to Russ Parsons, it only makes a difference to salt if you are frying. He also feels for there to be a true impact, the soaking should take place for at least 60 minutes.

I have to say, I think Russ is on to something, because when I’ve salted eggplant for only ten minutes, it didn’t do much at all.

Whatever you decide, once you’ve soaked the eggplant, you will pat dry and then allow it to cool. While it is cooling, you can prepare the tomato sauce that will eventually go on top of our eggplant concotion.

To make the sauce, the first step is to prepare the tomatoes by skinning and chopping them. If you don’t recall the proper way to do this, what you need to do is cut x’s into the top of the tomato and then boil them for about a minute. Throw those boiled tomatoes on some ice and then the skin should peel off.  After that, you cut and set aside.

The next step for the sauce is to fry two whole cloves of garlic in oil. Remove the cloves once they’ve been sufficiently fried. I love garlic and didn’t want to remove them, but leaving fried garlic in sauce can make the sauce bitter. If you want to keep the garlic anyway, I suggest mincing the garlic and lightly frying. My mother always told me the longer you let a garlic fry, the more sugar you have to add later to sweeten the bitterness.

Food is like people sometimes.

Once the garlic is ready, whether you keep or discard, the next step is to add those chopped tomatoes. Do so and cook for 5-10 minutes while stirring and sprinkling basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

As the sauce cooks, cut the garlic and caciocavallo into pieces that will fit in the slits you made for the eggplant pieces.

Once the slits are stuffed, sprinkle with some basil and then top them off with tomato sauce. As long as the sauce is cooked, of course.

The final touch will be to sprinkle with grated cheese and oil and bake for 30 minutes on the 350 setting of an oven.

Once your time is up, you’ll have a tasty alternative version to eggplant Parmesan.

My final result turned out well enough. I prefer Parmesan when it comes to eggplant. Caciocavallo is a bitter and harder cheese than Parmesan. I feel it doesn’t compliment the eggplant in a way that I like. I prefer the delicious gooey texture of melted Parmesan that pulls apart like string cheese.

homer-drools-in-a-dream-like-state-on-the-simpsons_408x408

Mmmm, string cheese

Have I mentioned that I love cheese lately? It’s important to tell the people things you love that you love them everyday. The little things count in this troubled world and the comfort of cheese is getting me through these troubling times every day.

Back to this dish, though. It was an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t beat Parmesan for me and it’s not worth the effort and hunt to use caciocavallo, in my opinion. If you’re adventurous, definitely try it out. Life is too short to not try new things.

 

Bourbon French Toast for the Lost Soul

If you put bourbon on French toast, does that make you an alcoholic or are you just Cajun? Cause you know, bourbon is a southern drink and Cajun people are Southerners who are French.

Don’t get it? It’s ok, I just drank ate too much Vanilla-Bourbon French Toast from Cook This, not That. 

Look I’m not coping well with the state of my nation and I haven’t cooked or written a blog post in so long and to top it off, my phone decided to stop acknowledging any touches on it’s screen which means I can’t access the photo of my drunk toast.

Sigh…I need to make this again to drown my lost soul with bourbon toast.

If you feel similar, here’s what you’ll need

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup of bourbon (or the whole bottle, it’s ok, I won’t tell)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1 loaf of day-old country bread, preferably whole wheat, cut into 8 slices
  • Butter for pan
  • Syrup for serving

The first step in making drunk French toast is to pre-heat the oven to 225. This is for those of you who want to keep your first batches of cooked toast warm while you finish the rest.

The next step is to combine eggs, milk, bourbon, vanilla, sugar, and nutmeg in a shallow dish. Combine by whisking. Once everything is whisked away soak each slice for 30 seconds on both sides.

After your bread is sloshed soaked, heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt a small slice of butter on it to coat the pan. Add as many slices as you can fit into the pan and cook for about three minutes. Repeat this process on the other side as well.

You’ll know when they are done by the color and firmness of the bread. Ideally they should be golden brown and firm, but not necessarily toasty.

Once your first batch is cooked, you can place them in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest.

When all the toast has been cooked, serve with syrup and powdered sugar.

Or just a whole handle of bourbon. Why not?

Don’t really do that, that could possibly kill you and I don’t think it would actually be good anyway. So it’d be a waste of bourbon and your life.

drunktoast

Drunk toast, photo not mine because I lost my photo due to phone issues.

img_2101

Long lost footage of lost bread, retrieved from old phone!

Tunato, aka Pomodori con Tonno

I should be a movie executive. I  anthropomorphized food long before Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party and Tunato is far more epic sounding than Sharknado. Imagine it folks, a sequel of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, where the murderous tomatoes shred up some tuna with their giant teeth and smother people to death with it by spewing it out of their mouths. To death!!!

My writing is getting rusty. I am aware and I halfheartedly apologize.

Despite my bad writing, like Sharknado, Tunatos from The Italian Mama’s Kitchen should be an entertaining light snack for when you’re too lazy to make a meal of real subsistence.

What you’ll need

  • 4 large or 8 medium or 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 6 ounce can of solid white albacore tuna, drained
  • 1 red onion or 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of homemade mayo

Your first step will be to prepare the tomatoes. If you opted for large or medium sized tomatoes, slice off the tops, scoop out the insides, and discard the seeds. If you use cherry tomatoes, you could still do this, but I get the sense that stuffing a cherry tomato is a lot of effort with little pay off.

Like practically every relationship I’ve been in.

I recommend just slicing the cherry tomatoes in half if you opt for them.

All the tomatoes will need their tuna and the tuna will be mixed with onion, homemade mayo, and salt and pepper to your liking.

Homemade mayo will be homemade by you and  is simple to make. All you need to do so is listed below.

  • Yolk of 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup of sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

You can probably guess that all these items will be combined together to make the mayo and you would be correct. The only major notes I have are to add the egg yolk first, than slowly add the oil and other ingredients while whisking vigourously.

When you’ve whisked to your heart’s content, you may whisk some salt as well. Salt is always to your liking. I personally put as little salt as possible in my food but everyone is different.

As I mentioned before, this mayo mixture will be added to the tuna mixture. When both mixtures combine, you get Captain Planet!

hqdefault

He’s a hero

You don’t really get Captain Planet. I just wanted to post a picture of Don Cheadle as Captain Planet.

What you get instead is tuna stuffing for killer tomatoes. Killer as in tasty to eat.

Fill those tomatoes with the killer tuna and place the tomato tops on top. For cherry tomatoes, skip the filling step and combine everything together.

Not only will these killer tomatoes slay your tastebuds, but they are comfortable for consumption in a chill or relaxed room temperature state.

IMG_2083.JPG

Not a hero, but a real tomato

 

 

Hannibal Lector’s Favorite Salad

Today we will discuss Classic Pasta at Home’s Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad. A favorite for Dr. Lector, he pairs it with his favorite Chianti and liverwurst that he gets at some special butcher shop. I can’t remember which one….I think it’s called Buffalo Bill’s Exotic Meats or something.

9608155_orig

Dr. Lector and his Chianti

Unfortunately, I ran into Dr. Lector while shopping for fava beans. His love of fava beans has no bounds. He bought them all up at the grocery store and was unwilling to share any with me. He said something about having a special dinner party and that he would invite me, but he had already “outdone” himself as it was. I don’t know what that meant, but Dr. Lector has always been a little off.

So I had to substitute with lima beans. Thankfully no other substitutes were needed.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 lbs of fava beans
  • 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of minced green onion, stem included
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 8 – 12 soft lettuce leaves, preferably red. (Dr. Lector prefers the shade of Chianti)
  • 2 oz pecorinio cheese such as Toscanello or Manchego.

The first step in making this salad is to shell the fava or lima beans. To do this, you must either soak overnight or boil them for what seems like an eternity. Don’t be impatient with this step because it can make or break this salad. In other words, you don’t want the beans to be hard.

If you use the boil method, have a bowl of ice water ready. This creates a fast hot to cold effect that will rip off the skin of the bean. Buffalo Bill told me about this wonderful method by the way.

Drain the water once you let it cool down and then mix the beans in a large bowl with the olive oil and the green onions. Once these are mixed, you can add the salt, pepper, and lemon juice to your liking.

We are now ready to add the lettuce. Do so by tearing the lettuce into bite sized pieces and tossing gently along with rest of the salad.

The final step is to garnish with some cheese! My favorite part!

The cookbook recommends using a vegetable peeler and shaving the cheese into paper-thin slices. I grated mine, but I do think the shaved method would produce a greater taste of cheese. Being a cheese lover, I wished I had done this instead.

Can’t live in the past, though, right?

Anyway, you will want to toss the cheese as well. Once you have done so, it will be ready for consumption. Pair it with whatever you wish, unless it’s Hannibal Lector that is. I wouldn’t recommend that.

IMG_2061.JPG

 

Hummus, A Healthy Snack Made Even Healthier; The Final Chapter Resident Olive

The epic saga of hummus in the tales of Light and Healthy has now reached it’s final chapter. Will the forces of Olive defeat the evil empire of Garbanzo?  Stay tuned to find out.

Starring,

  • 1 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 tablespoons of water
  • 1/4 cup of tahini
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of minced fresh parsley or cilantro
  • A jar of pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

Previously on Hummus, A Healthy Snack Made Even Healthier we discovered Princess Hummus was trapped in the evil Kingdom of Garbanzo. How did she get there? Click the link to find out.

Meanwhile, our hero, Resident Olive along with two tablespoons of his coarsely chopped olive friends have made there way to Isle of Food Processor where they joined rebel garbanzo beans in an attempt to combine forces to save Princess Hummus from their evil emperor. Once combined, they traveled to Princess Hummus’s prison bowl. Upon arrival, Resident Olive realized they would need more allies and called on two more tablespoons of coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives. When the allies arrived, the evil emperor fired bolts of fresh parsley on them in attempt to overtake the rescue.

Princess Hummus counterattacked this spell by casting a delicious hummus summon spell which caused a human to save everyone and return the people of Hummus to their rightful home, The Kingdom of Rachel’s Stomach.

All rejoiced and lived a happy, wonderful life.

img_2051

Resident Olive and his army of olives and garbanzo beans

 

Hamburger of the Chilies

My next recipe comes from I Love Spice, which if you don’t know, I do love spice. I want to marry spice, but I also love cheese and it’s been a real struggle figuring out who I want to settle down with.

Spice can be intense sometimes, but I like the intensity and cheese is nice and comforting, but sometimes I get bored with cheese because all we do is lay around and talk about how much we like pizza.

For this recipe I did manage to get spice and cheese together. So maybe we can all work things out and move to Utah or start a commune somewhere. I have faith in our relationships.

What you’ll need

  • 1 lb 7 oz/650 grams of ground beef
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 small fresh red chilies, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil, plus extra sprigs for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • hamburger buns, of course, unless you’re gluten-free, then maybe not.

The first step is to make your burger patties by combining all the ingredients except the salt, pepper, and the hamburger buns. That would be awkward.

Mix those ingredients so that they are dispersed in the meat evenly and then season with salt and pepper.

The next step is to form burger patties and you do this by invoking your child hood self’s love of play-dough. Don’t get too carried away though.

athf_ep010_07

You can’t compete with Meatwad anyway

Instead of Abraham Lincoln, you should be making four roundish patties, like so.

IMG_2031

Once you’ve formed your patties, pre-heat a broiler or grill and then cook those puppies for 5-8 minutes on each side or until they have reached the level of doneness you prefer.

Once they are cooked to your liking, you can garnish with basil sprigs and serve on your hamburger bun with all the fixings you like.

You can also add cheese, which I did. I added pepperjack, because obviously it’s my two loves together and why wouldn’t I?

My final result turned out well. I feel like it’s hard to mess up a burger patty. As long as you don’t over or undercook it, it should turn out well.

I loved the kick of the spices and it was juicy and delicious. So, if you love spice or want to try something new for your Labor Day Cookout, go ahead and give this guy a try. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Cheesy and Nutty Cherry Pie without the Crust

Today’s recipe got me thinking. Remember the song Cherry Pie from 1990?

The other day I was talking to a co-worker and he was telling me about some hangout that 80’s glam rockers would go to in LA to get pie. Actual pie.

Me, being my immature self, cocked an eyebrow and said, “Yeah, I bet they went there to get “pie”. I bet they got a lot of “pie” there.”

The combination of that conversation and this cherry pie like dessert made me wonder if the band Warrant was inspired by this pie eatery.

Wikipedia informed me this wasn’t the case and I learned some other sad and interesting facts about the band Warrant, the cherry pie girl, and the lead singer who sadly passed away a few years ago to alcohol poisoning.

One fact, I found quite inspiring.  The cherry pie girl in the video used coke to slim down for most of her modeling shoots. Now this girl is not rail thin. She has the body that I’d like to have and lately I’ve been feeling bloated, fat, and envious of girls on social media who post photos of their skinny and fashionable selves.

7_212015_bobby-jean-brown8201

Look at that coke body!

It’s comforting to know that all I have to do is develop a coke habit and my fat will just slide off.

That’s sarcasm folks. My real feelings are a mix of concern for the model and an admitted smug satisfaction of, “Ha! I bet some of those skinny girls I envy are coke heads!”

I’m not always a wonderful human being.

In conclusion, I discovered that this song is not about cherry pie at all. Not that I’m surprised. This recipe, however is loosely based on cherry pie and comes from Cooking Light.

What you’ll need

  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 15 ounce carton part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon creme de cassis (black currant-flavored liqueur)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds of sweet cherries, pitted
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons of sliced almonds, toasted

The first step is to combine the rind and ricotta. Set this aside when finished.

Then combine the juice, liqueur, and pepper. You can use a small bowl for this. Now get out a 12 inch skillet that won’t melt in the oven. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar evenly on the skillet. Heat this on medium-high heat for about two minutes or when the sugar starts to melt.

Add the cherries to the pan once the sugar starts to melt and cook for an additional two minutes. Pour the liqueur mixture over the cherries and cook again for two minutes or until the mixture thickens.

The cherries are almost ready to be put in the oven, but we’ve got a few steps left so at this moment you should pre-heat your broiler.

The last steps area as follows. Get a double boiler. If you don’t have one, I don’t, you can make your own by getting a small pan, adding a bit of water in the pan and then placing a bowl of some sort that won’t sink into the pan. Meaning, it’s not so small that it would fit entirely in the pan, but not so big that you can’t have it rest on top.

Whether you have one or not, place the remaining sugar, salt, and egg whites in the bowl or the top of the boiler. Cook this for about two minutes once the water in the pan has simmered.

While it cooks, stir continuously with a whisk. Once cooked, remove and then beat until it stiffens. If you have a mixer this process will be easier. Otherwise you’re just going to have to beat away with a fork for what feels like an eternity.

Add one-fourth of this egg mixture into the ricotta mixture until it has blended well. Keep doing this until all the of the egg whites have been used up.

Finally, evenly spoon in the remaining mixture over the cherries and broil in the oven for three minutes. If in those three minutes, it should be ready for consumption. After you sprinkle it with the almonds that is!

I enjoyed this desert. It’s just enough of a stray from a classic cherry pie to keep things interesting but not in disappointment. The ricotta was a bit much for me, at times. If I made it again, I’d probably add less of it. Then again, a beater, most likely would have given me a different result concerning the egg whites which could have altered the taste of the ricotta.

All in all, I recommend  trying this recipe out. Especially if you enjoy 80’s glam rock and cherry pie at diners.