Stuffed Baby Eggplant

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I grew up up eating meals of meat, potatoes and bread. The basics. Vegetables included peas (canned), corn and green beans. NO purple vegetables on our table. But it’s a brave new world. I can’t think of a vegetable I don’t love now and, in fact, enjoy meals that include NO meat, potatoes or bread. Tonight purple vegetables were what’s for dinner.

3 T olive oil

3-4 small eggplants

1 large onion diced

1 fennel bulb diced

1 cup diced baby portabellas

5-6 cloves of garlic minced

1 pint (14.5 oz can) diced tomatoes

2 T capers

1/2 cup asiago cheese grated

fresh parsley

fresh basil

red pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper

1 cup homemade bread crumbs

1 T butter

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Preheat oven to 375.

With a sharp knife halve the eggplants and, leaving a quarter inch or so of meat, hollow out the inside. Heat 2 T olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sauté diced onion, fennel, mushrooms, eggplant and garlic until tender, 15-20 minutes.

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Add tomatoes, pepper flakes, basil, capers and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the tomatoes have cooked down. Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded asiago.

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In a food processor prepare bread crumbs. After the bread crumbs are done add fresh parsley and pulse to incorporate parsley. Heat 1 T of butter over medium heat and toast the breadcrumbs.

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I used individual casseroles but you can use one large casserole dish. Splash the remaining T of olive oil on the eggplant halves, season with salt and pepper, fill with the vegetable/tomato mixture and top each with some of the toasted bread crumbs. Bake for 20 minutes.

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Enjoy!  This is perfect for lunch with a tossed salad. Or for a heartier meal serve with sausage and peppers. You could also add fresh spinach, diced celery, sweet bell pepper. Substitute diced pitted kalamata olives for the capers and feta cheese for the asiago.

TIP:  I like to add fresh herbs and/or garlic to my bread crumbs. The herbs add great flavor and color to the bread crumbs. Add them in after the bread cubes have been thoroughly processed so they become incorporated but don’t lose their integrity.

 

 

Pulla – Finnish Cardamom Bread

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Okay!  It’s the Finnish Dish and finally!  A real Finnish dish. My grandmother used to make it best. She would make several loaves at a time and we would enjoy a slice or two with coffee. Whole cardamom seeds are a must vs ground cardamom. This bread reminds me of the unique way my grandfather used to drink coffee. Grandma always made coffee on the stove top in a percolator. No Mr. Coffee, Bunns or Keurigs. So the coffee was VERY hot. My grandpa would pour coffee from his cup into his saucer, balance the saucer on one hand and drink it with a lump of sugar in his cheek and a slice of buttered pulla to go with his coffee.   But I digress. Let’s make a loaf.

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2 tsp dry yeast

3/4 cups plus 2 T milk

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

4 T sugar

1 T whole cardamom seeds

2 eggs beaten

4 T unsalted butter melted

egg glaze made with 1 egg yolk beaten with one T water

Sprinkle yeast over warmed milk and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center and pour in dissolved yeast. Use a wooden spoon to draw in enough flour to form a soft paste. Cover the bowl with a dishcloth and let it sit for 20 minutes until frothy and risen.

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Add the sugar, cardamom seeds,  beaten eggs, and melted butter to the flour well. Mix in the flour from the sides to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes. Or you can knead in a mixer with a dough hook. After kneading put the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with a dish towel, and let it rise until doubled in size. About 2 hours.

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Preheat oven to 350. Punch down and let the dough rest 10 minutes. Divide into 3 equal pieces and roll to form 3 ropes (about 16 inches each). Attach the ropes and braid. Place on a buttered baking sheet, cover with a dish towel and proof until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.

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Brush with egg glaze and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes until richly golden and hollow sounding when tapped from underneath. Cool on wire rack.

If you’re Finnish or grew up around people who were hopefully each slice will bring back happy memories. If you grew up eating challah it may remind you of that. Pulla makes great toast, French toast or grilled sandwiches.

I watched an awesome video recently of a French lady making a variety of braided breads. Some had three ropes, some four, some five…  They all looked easy when she did them. I tried the one with four ropes that I thought I remembered. Well, I didn’t remember and after several failed attempts to make it look as awesome as hers I gave up and just did my best. Hence the irregular shape of my finished product. Next time I’ll stick with three ropes.

TIP: I was always told that when dissolving yeast the water/milk should be the temperature of a baby’s bath. If you’re unsure use a cooking thermometer. Yeast can be killed by temps of 130F or over. Ideal temp is approximately body temp, 98.6F.

Lemon Breaded Breast of Chicken

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I have a dear friend who is famous for her lemon breaded chicken. She makes tons of it every year for her Fourth of July party and it’s one of the first things to go. I’ve never tried her special recipe because I know mine would never taste quite like hers. But today I decided to try my own variation and it was pretty darn good!  I served it with Amish noodles in a creamy chicken sauce.  It’s what was for dinner tonight.

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2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (cut each in 2 and butterfly)

2 T olive oil

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (home made are best)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 generous T lemon pepper

2 cloves fresh garlic

1/2 cup fresh parsley

salt and pepper

2 eggs

1 cup flour

2 T butter

4 lemon slices

Preheat your oven to 350.

Save your stale bread; that good crusty loaf that you didn’t finish makes the best bread crumbs for breading, topping Mac and cheese, etc etc.  For this recipe cube your bread and run it through your food processor.  After the first run through measure out 1 1/2 cups of crumbs and put them back into the processor along with the garlic cloves and parsley. Process once more and then put them onto a plate. Grate your Parmesan cheese and add it to the bread crumbs as well as the lemon pepper and toss to combine.

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Get out a casserole dish and spread the olive oil in the bottom. Dip your chicken pieces first into the flour that you’ve added a little salt and pepper to, then the egg that you have lightly whisked, and finally the bread crumbs. I like to do this whole process with my hands but if you like you can use tongs and keep your fingers from getting gooped up.  Lay the breaded chicken pieces in your greased casserole dish. Put a small pat of butter on top of each piece of chicken as well as a thin slice of lemon.

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Bake at 350 for about 30-40 minutes or until chicken is 165 degrees. Bake time depends on the thickness of your chicken pieces but don’t over bake or your chicken will be dry.

I always like to have cranberry sauce with chicken dishes but I didn’t have any. That’s the next canning project!  There will be plenty of fresh cranberries in the grocery soon and I’ll be grabbing up lots of those. The noodles sounded good tonight but any sides would go well with this dish.

Tip:  I ended up with a few extra cups of breadcrumbs today. I put them in quart freezer bags, get as much of the air out as possible and I freeze them. I can take them out another time when I need them for topping a casserole or a vegetable dish. Just toast them on top of your stove in a skillet with a little butter. Good food is a terrible thing to waste.

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Enjoy the chicken. I may have to invite my friend over to sample it next time I make it.

Lemon Poppyseed Loaf

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Today was a baking day. I found a recipe for lemon loaf and made some modifications including the poppy seeds. I remember having lemon poppy seed muffins frequently at the Courtland Room in Jacobsons and when I tasted this loaf it reminded me a lot of those muffins.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 T poppy seeds

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 T butter at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp lemon extract

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 T lemon zest

1/2 cup canola oil

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Preheat oven to 350. With a hand mixer on low speed beat the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract, and lemon juice until well combined. Whisk together dry ingredients including lemon zest and poppy seeds and gradually add to egg mixture beating on low until well combined. Add canola oil and mix well.

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Pour batter into a greased 9×5″ loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. After 10 minutes or so invert the pan.  Allow the loaf to cool completely before adding the glaze.

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

2 T milk or lemon juice

Add the liquid to the powdered sugar gradually and continue whisking until the glaze is smooth and has a good drizzling consistency.  You may not need a full 2 T of liquid. I used lemon juice for my glaze because I liked the additional tartness.

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This will be a new favorite for us. I have some key lime extract so I may try using that with key lime juice and zest for a little different taste experience. But it’s all good.

TIP:  If you have extra lemon or lime juice measure it out, put it in a zip lock snack bag, and store in your freezer. Next time you need fresh lemon juice for a recipe and you have no lemons you’ll be glad you saved that extra juice.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Farro Salad

I made country style pork ribs with homemade barbecue sauce for dinner and decided to make a healthy grain with sweet potato for a side. Farro is a grain with a nutty flavor, it’s chewy and it’s a great source of protein. When cooking the Farro make sure your sauce pan is deep enough. First try it boiled over and made a mess on my stove. I got a bigger, deeper pan, transferred the grain and water to the new pan and it boiled over again and made another mess!  Now I know which pan to use next time.   Other than the twice messy stove the recipe was easy.

3-4 medium sweet potatoes

5-6 cloves of garlic

5 T olive oil, divided

1 cup semi pearled farro

zest and juice of one lemon (about 4 T)

1/2 cup curly leaf parsley rough chopped

1/2 cup mint rough chopped

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Preheat oven to 425. Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Put sweet potatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves on a jelly roll pan and toss with 3 T of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast 30-35 minutes flipping once until tender.

While the potatoes are roasting begin cooking the Farro. Remember my messy experience and use a nice deep saucepan. Cover the Farro with several inches of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-35 minutes until tender. Drain and toss with remaining 2T of olive oil in a large bowl.

When cool remove garlic from their peels and smash with a fork.

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Add the zest and lemon juice to the garlic to make the dressing. Add the cleaned and chopped herbs and the sweet potatoes to the Farro. Dress and gently toss the salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Best served at room temperature.

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With the the nutty taste of the Farro, the sweetness of the potato and the freshness of the lemon and herbs this salad is very hearty and yet refreshing.   One recipe I saw for a Farro salad called for sprouts. I didn’t have any sprouts on hand but I think they would have been a good addition.

 

 

Apple Butterscotch Blondies

It’s apple season and there are so many good things to make with apples. I found this recipe in one of my food magazines and decided to give it a try. We had bacon, lettuce, tomato and over easy egg sandwiches on sour dough bread for dinner and these made the perfect dessert. Another bonus is they are super easy to make.

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Preheat the oven to 350.

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

6 T unsalted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)

1 tsp pure vanilla

2 large eggs

2 medium apples peeled, cored and finely chopped

1/3 cup butterscotch chips

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I mixed everything in one saucepan. Melt the butter in the saucepan swirling occasionally until the butter begins to brown. Remove from the heat and whisk in the brown sugar and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool briefly and whisk in the 2 eggs until well combined.

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With the a rubber spatula mix in the dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder). Stir in the diced apples and butterscotch chips. Pour the batter into a 9″x9″ pan lined with foil. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the sides are set.

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Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

You might want to add a little whipped cream or a scoop of butter pecan or vanilla bean ice cream.

I will definitely be making these again. I might try substituting some golden raisins or chopped walnuts for the butterscotch chips. Of course I’d have to call them apple raisin Blondies or apple walnut Blondies. That’s the beauty of baking and cooking. You can make modifications to recipes to suit your personal tastes.