Monday, June 26, 2017
My dreams stay with me for very long periods of time. I feel like this is a blessing because so many people forget their dreams instantly. I have dreamt of my deceased grandmothers; I knew I was having a baby boy without a doubt because of my dreams; I dream of people I haven't seen in ages and then that day I see them; I dream multi-chaptered dreams of my friends and family. And I remember so much. Plot lines. Character development. Dialogue. Costumes. Sets. The twists and turns. So many details. It's a bit trippy. But I accept this as my sleep reality: Little sleep and a whole lot to think about.
Last night, I dreamt of this: Eggplant on a bed of arugula, topped with goat cheese, a plum tomato salad and a drizzle of balsamic. The colors, the plating, the taste - all there in my dream. Vividly. I woke up wanting to eat this immediately. Of course, I needed to make this happen ASAP.
My dreams always mean something. I think. Probably not. Although, I have read that people who remember their dreams more than three times per week are considered out-of-the-ordinary genius masterminds as opposed to common folk who actually sleep a solid eight hours, feel well-rested and remember nada.
So clearly I am a major rock star omniscient smarty pants.
I tell this to myself daily as I walk into rooms with a purpose, the task at hand slipping from my mind in a blink of an eye. Why am I here? I'm so existential. Or when I leave the grocery store only to immediately create a new list of items because I forgot this or that. Or when I run back to the house halfway down the street to double check that I locked the door or to grab my phone mocking me from the kitchen island. But, but, but.... I'm a dream erudite. Who cares if I'm a total moron in real life.
So, Summer Eggplant Salad. That's what I'm calling this dish. It is a wonderful salad fit for a dinner party or a fancy shindig or just you and The Husband on a Monday. Cause that's how we do. You can prepare the tomato salad and grill the eggplant ahead of time. And then plate it right before serving. I love how this dish highlights so many Jersey Fresh goodies at this time of year: Eggplant, tomatoes, basil and parsley. The goat cheese and balsamic are some decadence thrown in for good measure.
Summer Eggplant Salad
1 medium-large eggplant, cut into 8 to 10 half-inch thick slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat.
Brush each side of eggplant slices with olive oil. Season each side with salt and pepper to taste. Grill each side of eggplant for 6 to 10 minutes per side until nicely marked. Set aside.
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Gently mix all ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
To assemble salad:
8 grilled eggplant slices
4 cups baby arugula
8 Tbsp. fresh goat cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
On eight salad plates, place 1/2 cup of baby arugula. Season with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
On top of arugula, place a slice of eggplant.
On top of each eggplant slice, place one Tbsp. of goat cheese.
Spoon 1/4 cup of tomato salad onto the goat cheese. Lightly drizzle 1/2 tsp. of balsamic vinegar onto each finished plate.
Serve and enjoy!
Thursday, June 22, 2017
I mean, yeah, my 6-year-old has yet to taste a burger in his life, but whatever. He can eat two bowls of elbows slathered in cheese and we'll just call it a day.
Both recipes are vintage Rachael Ray. I did amend the burgers because hers involve bacon and red pepper relish and in my humble opinion both are totally unnecessary. Sometimes her recipes have like 100 flavors going on. Annnnd, that's not my style. The burger mix itself has 10 - yes 10 - ingredients. That's enough, Rachael. Seriously.
Also, with the mac and cheese I did not use nutmeg. I used ground mustard to season the sauce. And I used cheddar jack cheese because that's what I had up in the fridge. Also, a little black pepper never hurt anyone.
On the day I made this, I whipped up the mac and cheese first thing in the morning because of work obligations and four loads of laundry. I mixed the burger meat in the morning as well. And then after my son's t-ball game, I dusted off my pants and cooked the burgers, popped the mac and cheese under the broiler, got the boy washed up and poured a glass of wine. It's all about the timing and the juggle, no?
I literally had no extra time to get a salad or veg together so carrot and pepper sticks it is!
Here ya go with the recipes:
Cheddar Cheese and Macaroni
From "30 Minute Meals 2"
By Rachael Ray
Makes 4 entree servings or 8 side servings
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 8 minutes to al dente or to package directions
1 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil (once around the pan)
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
3 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (a couple of pinches)
Salt, to taste
Heat a medium-size deep skillet over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into the oil, stir in flour. Gently cook, whisking flour and butter, together until smooth and flour has had a chance to cook, about 3 minutes.
Slowly add milk while continuing to whisk. Gently bring milk to a bubble while stirring frequently. Allow the milk to thicken a bit, then stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, a handful at a time. Season sauce with nutmeg and cayenne. Taste and add a little salt, if you like. Add cooked pasta to the sauce and coat completely by turning over and over in the cheese sauce. Transfer to a baking dish, top with the remaining cheese, and place under a hot broiler for a minute or two to brown the top.
Please note: The Jersey Girl uses dry mustard in place of nutmeg. She also uses fresh black ground pepper to season the sauce and cheddar jack shredded cheese instead of white cheddar cheese. This dish may be made ahead and popped under the broiler when ready to serve.
Urban Cowboy Turkey Burgers
From "Cooking 'Round the Clock"
By Rachael Ray
Makes 4 burgers
1 package (1 and 1/3 pounds) ground turkey breast
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large shallot or 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/2 small green, red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1-2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco
2 tsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick
Olive oil for drizzling
4 slices of pepper jack cheese
4 crusty Kaiser rolls, split
8 slices of turkey bacon (optional)
1 cup sweet red pepper relish or jelly (optional)
Red lettuce (optional)
Chop garlic and veggies.
If using bacon, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon, wipe excess grease from skillet, and return skillet to heat.
While bacon is cooking, combine turkey, garlic, shallot or onion, thyme, cilantro or parsley, bell pepper, serrano or jalapeno pepper, cumin, hot sauce and grill seasoning. Divide mixture into 4 equal mounds then form into patties. Drizzle patties with olive oil to coat. Cook in skillet over medium-high heat until done, 5 to 6 minutes on each side, placing the cheese over the patties in the last 2 minutes of cooking.
Serve on rolls with your toppings such as the bacon, red pepper relish and red lettuce. The Jersey Girl however likes romaine lettuce and tomatoes. Classic! These burgers are great open face as well or even without the roll if you are a carb-free kinda person.
Please note: The Jersey Girl uses the cilantro, jalapeno pepper and red pepper options when making these burgers. She cooks the burgers in a fab grill pan, not just a regular old skillet, also. See below:
Thursday, June 1, 2017
I do know for absolutely certain - because my good old fashioned cookbooks - like the ones printed and bound - have said this: sun-dried tomahtoes were all the rage, dahling, back in the 1980s and 1990s until they were overused so much they were shunned by anyone who is anyone in the world of cooking. Leading up to their demise, they were like the avocado of that time. Or the kale. Or the truffle oil. Or the quinoa.You get me? Off topic: How quinoa became a thang I will never know. When will quinoa's day come and go? That really is the question.
OK. Focus, Susan.
But just like bodysuits (gag) and flannels (this one I am behind as long as they are from J. Crew or Lucky or something), the cool stuff from the 90s is all the rage here now in 2017 and that includes sun dried tomatoes.
So, yay me for being right on trend with this fabulous Angel Hair Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese by Giada.
Truth is I have been making this dish since 2007 when I saw Giada whip it together in a very chic kitchen on the Food Network (remember when they actually showed interesting cooking shows of people actually cooking on the tellie? Memories....). And soon thereafter, I got my paws on the cookbook Everyday Pasta. In 2007, sun-dried tomatoes still weren't exactly the hotness on ingredient lists. At that time it was more like fancy salts (eyeroll) and slabs of bacon.
But I treat my food just like fashion, bandwagons be damned. You won't ever catch my in a bodysuit or willingly eating quinoa whether it is 1997 or 2017. And if I want a sun-dried tomato in a dish, I'm going for it. Because they taste good. And that's that.
The pasta is very bold in flavor, and the goat cheese adds a phenom touch. I love it tons.
And so did my son. Which floored me. A 6-year-old asking for seconds of sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. I'll take it.
I served this with a wonderful panko crusted salmon dish by Barefoot Contessa. Recipe is here: Panko-Crusted Salmon
Doesn't the salmon look fab?
As for the sun dried tomato pasta, I use tomatoes not packed in oil like the recipe says. I use regular olive oil in place of the sun-dried tomato oil. Also, I used spaghettini instead of angel hair aka cappellini. I find cappellini gets too dry for my liking.
And just a little tip so that you don't find tomato paste rotting in your fridge a week later: You can store leftover tomato paste in little baggies or in ice cube trays in your freezer. Yay!
Here is the salmon plated with the pasta. I love the colors and the textures:
As for the sun-dried tomato pasta, I use tomatoes not packed in oil like the recipe says. I use regular olive oil in place of the sun-dried tomato oil. Also, I used spaghettini instead of angel hair aka cappellini. I find cappellini gets too dry for my liking.
And just a little tip so that you don't find tomato paste rotting in your fridge a week later: You can store leftover tomato paste in little baggies or in ice cube trays in your freezer. Yay!
Angel Hair Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese4 to 6 servings
From "Everyday Pasta"
By Giada De Laurentiis
1 (10 ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped (oil reserved)
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound angel hair pasta
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3-4 ounces fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and chopped sun-dried tomatoes and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta and parsley to the tomato mixture and toss to coat, adding some of the reserved pasta water to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper. Mound the pasta in bowls, sprinkle with the goat cheese and serve.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
I was going to post the recipe last night - the actual day of making it. But it didn't seem right. A gal safe and sound in her house in Jersey sharing a classic, uncomplicated recipe for Chicken Piccata while all this turmoil was going on across the pond in Manchester.
I don't know.I guess I take my news hard. After scouring the news channels and internets for hours, I just headed to bed where I tossed and turned and didn't sleep much - for about the thirtieth night in a row.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Take, escargot. No, really. You can make it at home. Here's the dilly-o:
First of all, the Jersey Girl does not store escargot shells up in here. No, sir. A kitchen gadgety hoarder I most definitely am, but in my old age I have decided that kitchen gadgets that serve one purpose to be purposefully used once every five years have no purpose in my kitchen. Good riddance.
But up my sleeve I do have a gorg set of white ramekins that rock my world.
After doing some research I learned that these vessels are super perfect in which to cook the escargot. Who needs shells that make your fork meeting delicious garlicky snails even more of a challenge?
So, where do I get escargot in my parts? Igourmet.com, dahling. Click here to see what I bought.
I can't even find fresh mint in my town. And if you wait to hit the markets by 5 p.m. on some days in H'town, the fresh bread is GONE. So the chances of me finding escargot here are pretty slim. Reality is a bitch but we food snobs persevere. I knew the internets needed to be involved if escargot was getting cooked up by moi.
Finally, how do we get them all delicious? Really all you need is a boatload of butter, shallots, garlic, parsley and wine. Pop them in the oven and in minutes, voila! Make sure you have some amazing bread on the side!
These were a hit when I made them the first time last summer down the shore. I wasn't even in my kitchen and I was a total nervous nelly. But all escargot tasters gave rave reviews! I made this round for The Husband for Valentine's Day. He loved them, natch. Honestly, they taste better than those I've had in restaurants.
Hope you give this fanciness a whirl.
Escargot a la Bourguignonne
Makes six ramekins of 8-12 escargot
Container of 48 petite escargot
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 fresh flat leaf parsley
4 big garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. white wine
Salt to taste
Special equipment: Six 5-inch wide ramekins
In a food processor, place parsley, peeled and quartered shallot and 4 peeled garlic cloves. Pulse until finely minced.
In a glass bowl, place softened butter. Place mixture from the food processor in bowl with butter. Add white wine and a pinch of salt. Blend with a fork. (You can make this ahead and set aside.
In a strainer, drain escargot but do not rinse.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place six ramekins on a baking sheet.
Place 8-12 escargot in each ramekin. Top evenly with butter mixture.
Place in hot oven and bake for 12 minutes.
Serve hot with delicious bread!
Monday, February 20, 2017
I love the mix of green and black olives in this. The colors and deep flavors are gorgeous up against lovely tomatoes and soft goat cheese.
From "Extra Virgin"
By Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar
2 anchovy filets
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 cup green Sicilian olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and chopped
Toasted country bread slices, rubbed with raw garlic, for serving
1 heirloom tomato, sliced, for serving
Mash the anchovies with the garlic in a mortar and pestle, then mix well with the chopped olives. Combine with the 1/2 cup olive oil, the lemon juice, parsley and capers.
Spread the tapenade on the garlic rubbed toasts. Drizzle with olive oil and top with a slice of beautiful heirloom tomato.
Please note: The Jersey Girl serves this with goat cheese as well.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Seriously. OMG. Seriously.
I don't even like chips.
Or onion dip.
I mean skeeve.
But the next time you have a party. Make this.
I'm sure you're like: Bitch, please. Where was this two weeks ago for the freakin' Super Bowl?
Yeah. I know I suck. Maybe you can get it in for those riveting World Cup qualifier games. Or March Madness. That's big, right? Right?!
So the ratio of real onions to the trifecta of totally fattening clog-your-artery ingredients - mayo, cream cheese, sour cream - is like 3 to 1. I believe. I told myself. I really don't know. But whatever. That's what it looked like. And, oh right: You cook the onions in vegetable oil AND four tablespoons of butter. But, I mean who's counting?
This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe. So you know it's good. And she does not give a flying fig if this dip is healthy. And well, it's not!
This is more time consuming than opening a packet of tan chemicals labeled Onion Dip Mix and dumping it into a container of sour cream. But it so worth it. Your guests will love. Trust.
Pan-Fried Onion DipFrom the Barefoot Contessa CookbookBy Ina Garten2 large yellow onions.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter.
1/4 cup vegetable oil.
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.
1 teaspoon kosher salt.
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature.
1/2 cup sour cream.
1/2 cup good mayonaisse
Sunday, February 12, 2017
As is often the case when I make something that is multi-stepped and requires some waiting around, timing things just right and a cooling off period, I so wanted to ring up my Mommom and tell her all about my culinary adventure, hoping to pop by and give her a taste. But that experience in my cooking accomplishments has come and gone. Mommom passed away about a year ago.
She made an amazing marinated eggplant. And I guess that's why it's on my mind. Approaching the anniversary of her death, I can't help but think about the unforgettable dishes she has made throughout the many years of her cooking for all of us.
I don't have a copy of my grandmother's marinated eggplant. I don't really know if she had one. She often stored culinary blueprints in the corners of her brilliant mind with no tangible documentation save for the finished delicious product.
But I tried to replicate it as best I could with this Poached Eggplant with Vinegar, Garlic and Mint recipe by Lidia Bastianich. I used basil instead of mint. I couldn't get my hands on nice mint at the time. I know this isn't peak eggplant season, but I wanted to give it a try before summer hits so I know what I'm doing when I find myself with boatloads of eggplant. (My students, family and friends often bestow me with vast quantities of produce. A fact of life if you live in South Jersey.)
This if magnifico on just really fresh Italian bread. I'm sure it would rock with some grilled meats or swordfish. And of course a wonderful glass or bottle of vino. I know I did my Mommom proud with this one.
Poached Eggplant with Vinegar, Garlic and Mint
By Lidia Bastianich
From Lidia's Family Table
2 1/4 pounds small, firm eggplants (preferably 6 to 8 ounces each)
2 cups red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 to 20 small fresh mint leaves, shredded
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
An 8-quart pot or saucepan for poaching
A flat baking sheet or platter for cooling the eggplant
Prepping and Poaching the Eggplant
Trim the stem and bottom (blossom) ends of the eggplants. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, then slice each half into wedges, about 1 1/2 inches wide on the outside (peel side). You should have thirty or more wedges.
Pour the vinegar and 20 cups water into the pot, cover and heat quickly until boiling. Drop in all the eggplant slices, cover and return the liquid to the boil rapidly, then set the cover ajar and adjust the heat so it's a moderate boil.
Push the eggplant under the surface frequently, shifting the pieces around a bit so they all poach evenly. After about 10 minutes, reduce the heat so the liquid is perking gently and won't break up the softening wedges. Cook for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, until the flesh of the eggplant appears completely translucent - any opaque streaks means it is not cooked through. Don't cook any longer than necessary; as soon as they are done, turn off the heat and carefully lift the wedges out of the liquid with a wide, perforated spatula or strainer - let the liquid drain off briefly - and lay them on the baking sheet. Spread the slices apart from each other in one layer and let them cool for a few minutes.
Marinating the Eggplant
Using a paring knife, cut out the stuck-together mass of seeds on each slice and discard, taking care not to tear the flesh; don't worry if a few seeds are left.
As you seed them, lay a third of the wedges in the small gratin dish in one layer, and top them with the seasonings; sprinkle on a third of the salt and a third of the mint-leaf shreds, scatter a third of the garlic slices, and drizzle a third of the oil all over. Arrange and season two more layers of eggplant in the same way.
Marinate the eggplant for about an hour at room temperature before serving or using in a dish (though they will be tasty in 30 minutes if you need them sooner).
If you are making this ahead for serving the next day, seal the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate; remove at least an hour before using so it comes to room temperature. To keep after the second day, remove the garlic slices from the dish, wrap and refrigerate; use within a week.
Please note: The Jersey Girl used basil instead of mint.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
It's totally vegetarian. It's packed with many veggies and you can freeze half of it when your husband and son refuse to eat any.
I found the recipe on Pinterest. I added chopped celery because I felt like it. And I used one gigantic carrot instead of three carrots as listed.
Also, I wholeheartedly support topping a bowl of this deliciousness with some feta because when I detox I don't REALLY detox. Wine and cheese are pretty much always a part of my day. If that's wrong I don't want to be right. Feta is seriously good on top. For reals.
The colors of this soup are just so pretty. It is sure to brighten up any day.
Lentil Spinach SoupBy The Garden Grazer
4-5 cloves garlic
2 cups dry lentils (green or brown)
15 oz. can diced tomatoes (or fresh)
4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
4-5 oz. spinach
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. salt, more to taste
Optional: potato is great in this too!
Dice onion and carrot.
In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute onion and carrot for about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, mince garlic and rinse lentils.
Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt to stockpot. Saute 1 minute.
Add broth, water, tomatoes, and lentils.
Increase heat and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
Meanwhile, roughly chop spinach.
Add spinach during last couple minutes of cooking.
Salt to taste.