pasta with cutting-board parsley pesto

 “If you should ask me to name a dish that a bit of parsley would fail to improve, I might be startled as by an impertinence.” – Angelo Pellegrini; The Food Lover’s Garden

“The food processor separates you completely from the pleasures of physicality and from the sensual delight of working with your hands. ” - Viana La Place; The Unplugged Kitchen

This week felt like turning a corner. I can almost see the shabby coattails of the uninvited guest who’s been hanging around for months, flapping in the spring breeze as she scurries down the sidewalk of my street, around the block and then far away.

I haven’t told you this before, but for too many days this winter I’ve felt dreadful – I mean literally full of dread. We all go through stressful stuff sometimes that can be…well, draining. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling, and most of the time things turn around sooner rather than later. You recover and pick yourself right up.

But for me, this time it went on for so many weeks which turned into months,  that my body developed an imbalance.


I didn’t believe it at first. I mean, I’ve been aware of nutrition, healthy cooking and lifestyle choices for almost half my life. But no matter how much fresh, whole, naturally vitamin-packed food I was feeding myself and all the yoga breathing I tried to stop my heart racing and bumping in my chest, stress hormones kept up in an endless cycle, leaching my reserves, tapping out all the good stuff I had in storage. Drained. And feeling like I might die.

I’ve always believed that food is the best delivery system for nutrients – better than a bunch of pills, supplements or protein shakes. Eating whole food is the optimal way to stay healthy, but sometimes we need a little help. Now that I’ve had a number of doctor visits, tests and vials of blood drawn that ruled out serious disease, I’m on my way back to myself again. I’m taking a few supplements to replenish what I’m missing, and finally feeling ready to start a new chapter.  [Read more...]

winter salad with lemon anchovy cream

winter salad with lemon anchovy cream

March is the Month of Expectation – Emily Dickinson

It’s not quite March yet, but at this point of a particularly brutal one, it’s hard not to get antsy for The End of Winter….impatience fueled by a subtle shift of light. There’s light in the sky in the early morning when our groggy household starts the day, and still lingering now at dusk, 5:45 pm as I write this. We are moving closer to the sun!

winter salad with lemon anchovy cream

It was snowing again this morning, but I didn’t want to venture out for provisions. So I dug into the produce drawer of the refrigerator, hungry for the vitamins in fresh leaves and crisp vegetables. I felt like Captain Cook scrounging around in the galley for a wedge of lime to suck on.  [Read more...]

eggplant parm mac and cheese

eggplant-parm-mac-and-cheese-recipe

Eggplants are to Sicilians what potatoes are to the Irish. - Fabrizia Lanza

However you personally define comfort food, somewhere down the line it all comes down to memories of being cooked for and fed before you were able to do so on your own. I can’t help guessing what would trigger my food cravings if I hadn’t grown up in the United States during the sixties and seventies, but rather in a completely different culture; like Japan or India.

Or, a hundred years ago in the areas of Italy where my ancestors lived.

Instead of the sweet, white and starchy things that my generation learned to want as kids (and probably what lots of 21st century ones do, too) my taste buds might have been formed by a another set of flavors and textures. And if I had been a child during my Italian ancestors’ time, those things would have been the stuff of peasant cooking; la cucina povera.

baked-eggplant-parmesan-recipe

I’m drawn to those humble, earthy foods so completely that I wonder if it’s somehow coded in DNA. How else do I have a taste – and even a sense of nostalgia for – a way of eating and living I never experienced? A plain explanation must be just that it TASTES GOOD.  No matter the origins of any person’s family tree, we can all relate to satisfying our hungers with recipes that are grounded in peasant cooking.

I can’t know for sure that my great, great, great grandmothers prepared something similar to what Americans know as Eggplant Parmesan, but it’s safe to say that Neapolitans and Sicilians have definitely been eating eggplant, tomatoes and fresh cheeses like mozzarella for thousands of years.

I was thinking about my take on comfort food when the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board asked me to contribute a macaroni and cheese recipe to the blog 30 Days, 30 Ways with Macaroni and Cheese. Eggplant Parm plus any kind of pasta with cheese are right at the top of my list of favorites.

My everyday style of cooking doesn’t usually mean deep-frying, which is often a step in classic recipes. So I’ve come up with an oven-roasted method for crusty eggplant  – not exactly old school, but somehow it brings the old world and 21st century comfortably together.

eggplant-parm-mac-and-cheese-recipe

eggplant parm mac and cheese

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

I make my own marinara sauce, but feel free to use your favorite.

Ingredients

  1. 1 medium eggplant, ends trimmed; peeled
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1 teaspoon salt; plus more to taste
  4. ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  5. 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  6. 3 cups Italian-seasoned panko crumbs or bread crumbs
  7. Olive oil
  8. 2 tablespoons butter
  9. 2 tablespoons flour
  10. 2 cups whole milk
  11. ½ cup grated Asiago cheese
  12. 1 pound cooked pasta shells or spirals
  13. 1 cup marinara sauce
  14. 3/4 cup grated Fontina cheese

Instructions

  1. Place a large rimmed baking sheet on an oven rack and turn oven to 450 degrees to preheat.
  2. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and then into ½-inch wide half-moons.
  3. Whisk together egg, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and garlic in a large bowl; add eggplant and toss to coat. Dredge eggplant in crumbs on a cookie sheet.
  4. Pour enough olive oil over the bottom of the preheated baking sheet to cover to a depth of 1/8-inch. Lay eggplant on pan and roast 10 minutes; flip eggplant slices over and roast an additional 10 minutes or until eggplant is tender and crust is golden. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a medium saucepan over moderate heat; add butter and heat until foaming subsides and butter is melted. Whisk in flour; cook 1 minute. Slowly pour in milk while whisking. Bring to a simmer; lower heat and cook 5 – 10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in Asiago cheese; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Combine the pasta with the milk mixture and transfer to a large casserole or baking dish. Top with the eggplant, marinara and Fontina cheese. Bake 15 minutes, until hot and cheese is melted.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/eggplant-parm-mac-and-cheese/