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/

egg drop soup with kale and potato

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Soup is in these days (yes, you might rightfully ask: when was it ever out?) If cool cities like Portland are an indication, soup is having a moment. I’ve seen hardy entrepreneurs load homemade soup into specially crafted thermal boxes fitted on the racks of their bicycles for delivery to hungry people around downtown Portland, sometimes with freshly baked bread on the side. I know there are lots of other cool cities with soup carts and bicycles but I’m just speaking from my personal experience in that particular one.

My sister-in-law lives in Portland, which is arguably the food truck capital of the world. And also maybe the rainy day capital of the world, so it makes a lot of sense that the demand for warm, comforting bowls of soup would be higher given the situation. When she was visiting recently, we talked about how we don’t seem to treat soup as a full meal. Or rather, I realized that I don’t. She goes out to the soup cart for lunch, after all.

It’s something I mean to change. I might even call it a New Year’s resolution – to make more soup! My son loves nothing more than eating soup, with the very strong exception of soup containing any form of seafood; so I know I have at least one taker.

egg drop soup egg drop soup with kale

This homey egg drop soup - stracciatella - is as Italian-grandma as it gets. Except for I don’t remember either of my Italian grandmothers making it –  a loss I can easily get over now that I’m a big girl.

You might know what happens to eggs when mixed with hot liquids, but the magic of this soup is that combined with fine semolina, they turn a basic broth into a creamy soup filled with “tiny shreds” of egg, the stracciatelle. I added some potato and kale to my soup to make it even more of a nourishing meal. It must be the Italian mama in me or something.

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Serving Size: Serves 4

The semolina flour swells as it cooks, giving the soup a creamy consistency. I like Asiago here; it's like a combination of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, but Parmesan will be delicious that's all you have.

Ingredients

  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  2. 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
  3. Salt
  4. 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  5. 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 2 tablespoons semolina flour
  8. 2 tablespoons freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
  9. 1 1/2 cups finely shredded kale

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil or butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes; stir in the onion with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for a few more minutes.
  2. Pour in 1 cup of the broth, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until the potato is soft.
  3. Whisk together 1 cup broth in a bowl with the eggs, flour and cheese.
  4. Add the remaining 2 cups broth to the pan and bring to a boil.
  5. Slowly add the egg mixture to pan, whisking constantly; turn the heat down to low and continue whisking for 2 minutes, until the soup thickens.
  6. Stir in the kale. Serve in bowls with additional cheese, if you like.

Notes

inspired by Mario Batali

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/egg-drop-soup-with-kale-and-potato/

spaghetti and meatballs: familystyle

Spagetti and meatballs, familystyle

I experience New Year’s Day with mixed emotion. As much as I love holding a new calendar fresh with possibilities for the year ahead, at the same time my head is spinning trying to process the one that just sped by, seemingly faster every time. What’s up with that?

I can only think it’s what happens when we’re living a full life – each day a series of events that unfolds onto the next. But in the middle of the daily process of work and school; relationships with family, friends, dog…it becomes like a monotonous ride. Some mornings I feel like a character in Groundhog Day.

Italian parsley and Parmigiano cheese

spaghetti

Which is why I’m grateful for the few weeks in December when I can make a plan to unplug; to spend time to nourish myself and my family, with things like mornings without an alarm clock and a schedule with absolutely nothing on it.

And food, of course. There aren’t many things that connect us like time shared around the table, especially when a large platter of spaghetti and meatballs is sitting on top of it.

I’ve shared my personal attempt at my mother’s meatball recipe on this blog before, but this latest version has become all my own. If my mom were here to sit at my table, I think she’d approve.

spaghetti and meatballs familystyle

Spaghetti and meatballs: familystyle

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

Ingredients

    Meatballs:
  1. 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  2. 1 ½ pounds ground pork
  3. 1 onion
  4. 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  5. ½ cup fresh bread crumbs *
  6. 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  7. 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano, Romano or Asiago cheese
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 3 teaspoons salt
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  11. Large pinch crushed red pepper
  12. Olive oil
  13. Gravy:
  14. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  15. 1 onion, finely chopped
  16. Salt
  17. 2 or 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
  18. 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  19. 1 container Pomi strained tomatoes
  20. Pinch sugar
  21. Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. To make the meatballs, put the ground meats into a large bowl. Grate the onion over the bowl on the side of a large box grater. Add the remaining ingredients (except the olive oil) and mix together with your hands or a large fork until thoroughly combined. Form into 2-inch diameter balls and arrange on a large baking sheet.
  2. Heat a large, deep sauté pan (12 – 14-inches in diameter) over moderate heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan completely and heat for a minute or two before adding the meatballs. Cook until nicely browned on one side; carefully turn the meatballs with tongs or a spatula to brown the other side. Transfer the meatballs to a platter.
  3. Drain the fat from the pan. (Note – if you don’t have a large sauté pan with at least 3 inch sides, fry the meatballs in a sauté pan, in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Make the sauce in a separate wide saucepan or soup pot.)
  4. To make the gravy, place the pan back over moderate heat. Add the olive oil, onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook the onions until they become very soft. If they begin to brown, add a few tablespoons of water, lower the heat and cover the pan until they’re ready.
  5. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
  6. Put the meatballs into the pan, cover and continue simmering for another 10 minutes or so.
  7. Serve the sauce and meatballs over hot spaghetti or pasta, with plenty of cheese grated over.

Notes

*To make fresh bread crumbs, trim the crust from a large hunk of crusty peasant bread. Cut the bread into large pieces and toast 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Grind in a food processor to form fine crumbs. Keep extra crumbs in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/spaghetti-and-meatballs-familystyle/