How to: Recipe Makeover – Eggplant Parmesan

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We’ve been teased with a few days of warm weather over the last couple of weeks.

But I’m on to you, Mother Nature.  I’ve been a Canadian gal long enough to know you’re about to screw us over with a blast of icy garbage.

This ‘spring is just around the corner’ optimism hasn’t got me fooled! On the contrary. I’m still cooking comfort food. Crikey. I’m still cooking casseroles.

I promise, this one will take the edge off when winter does return with a vengeance.

And oh. It will.

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Do we have any eggplant haters out there?

Confession. I used to be one. In fact I was an extremely picky eater as a kid, but I had an especially big hate-on for bitter, spongy eggplant.

It turns out, all an eggplant needs to taste goddang delicious is a little love.

I haven’t had a bitter eggplant in a long time. Most of the bitterness long associated with eggplants has been bred out of the ones we’d find at the grocery store. Farmers 👈🏻 geniuses. Choose eggplants that have smooth skin and a very firm texture for freshness.

Salting the eggplant in this recipe isn’t to cut the bitterness, but to remove some of the excess moisture. Following the roasting step, you’ll be left with creamy, dreamy smokey slices of slightly salted eggplant that will be almost impossible to avoid eating on their own. You really can’t skip this step for this recipe because excess moisture will result in a really soupy final product.

As for the sponginess factor, eggplant, if given the chance will absorb a boatload of oil.  In this recipe we control the oil it can absorb by brushing lightly with oil.

Remember our AMAZEBALLS Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches? Here, we’re avoiding super spongy eggplant by providing a coating for the slices before we fry them up in oil.

And so there we have it. Eggplant: unmasked!

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As you read through the recipe below, you may find this tomato sauce recipe to be familiar. It’s a slight take on the insanely simple Three Ingredient Sauce we shared with you last year. No time for homemade sauce? Use your fave store bought. No brainer.

Half homemade is awesome too, guys. (Maybe just a smidgen of fresh basil to sprinkle in though?)

Now, layer away!

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Get your slippers ready, pour yourself a glass of red and scoop out an extra large portion of eggplant parm.  You are now prepared for winter’s final blast.

Erin

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Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 5-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
From magazine Inspired by Eggplant Parmesan from Food and Drink Winter 2017

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 can (796mL) Canned Whole Tomatoes with juices (preferably San Marzano Tomatoes)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 Medium yellow onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 2 Large cloves garlic (peeled and left whole)
  • 8-10 basil leaves (chopped)

Eggplant Casserole

  • 2 Large eggplants (sliced into 1/4 inch rounds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (divided)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese (about 300g, grated)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 cooked garlic cloves (removed from cooked tomato sauce)

Directions

Tomato Sauce
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add tomatoes, butter, onion and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, add basil and cook for 15-20 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat.
2. Remove onion and discard. Remove garlic and set aside to cool. Crush any large tomato pieces with the back of a spoon.
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3. Preheat oven to 400F. Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt on both sides and lay them in a single layer on a wire rack or over some paper towels. Let sit for 15 minutes, pat extra moisture dry with paper towels.
4. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush slices on both sides with 2 Tbsp of the canola oil. Bake 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until browned.
5. Meanwhile, mince cooled garlic cloves and combine with breadcrumbs, remaining Tbsp of canola oil and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
6. Spread 1/3 tomato sauce over bottom of oiled 8"x11" casserole dish. Place single layer of slightly overlapping eggplant sliced overtop. Combine mozzarella and remaining 3/4 cup parmesan and sprinkle 1/3 of the cheeses over eggplant slices. Repeat layering 2 more times.
7. Sprinkle bread crumb topping over casserole.
8. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling, cheese is melted and panko is golden brown. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

How to: Seasonal Cooking – Roasted Tomato Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Whether you notice or not, we categorize each of our new posts.

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If you shift your gaze slightly to the right (and you’re on a home computer) you’ll see we even have a category tab. We’ve got quickie meals, healthy snacks, big batch meals and about 10 others.  Recently, we’ve felt the need to add a new category – Seasonal Cooking; and let me tell you, it has become my very favourite.

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It turns out cooking seasonally also means cooking simply.  Which is kind of our M.O.

Using fresh, seasonal ingredients means less fuss is needed to reach optimal deliciousness. Nature does all the hard work. Sucker.

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Fresh and ripe Ontario tomatoes are availably widely at the moment.  I can get them at my supermarket, any local farmer’s market or in my neighbour’s backyard at my neighbourhood produce mart.

Roasting tomatoes, as we’ve demonstrated before amplifies their natural sweetness and adds a subtle smokiness to produce a deep, rich flavour.

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This simple soup is perfection on its own, but served alongside a 1-ingredient parmesan cheese crisp it’s elevated to gourmet status.

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Using a handy dandy immersion blender to puree is an easy option.  This would work well in a regular blender and may even produce a smoother consistency, depending on how awesome your blender is.

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I strained mine in a coarse mesh strainer which removed all the little bits of skin and seed. They are perfectly edible of course, I just prefer a nice smooth tomato soup.

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I know most of you out there don’t have silicone baking mats, so parchment paper is a good alternative for the crisps. If you’re eager to add to your non-essential kitchen gadget list, put one of these Silpats (brand name) on there. They are magic for baking cookies with even, perfectly browned bottoms.

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These taste like the  crispy cheese at the edge of a lasagna pan. Therefore, they are heavenly.

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And pretty like lace.

Enjoy 🙂

Erin

Roasted Tomato Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hour, 10 minutes
Website Adapted from Food Network's Tyler Florence

Ingredients

Roasted Tomato Soup

  • 2.5lb ripe plum tomatoes (about 10-12 tomatoes)
  • 6 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (divided)
  • 1 Medium yellow onion (chopped)
  • 2.5 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan Crisps

  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano

Note

Although delicious served plain, try garnishing your soup with fresh herbs, yogurt, a drizzle of heavy cream or some crunchy croutons.

Directions

Roasted Tomato Soup
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Halve tomatoes and place skin side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Add unpeeled garlic to pan. Drizzle tomatoes and garlic with 2 Tbsp olive oil, coarse salt and black pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, remove garlic from pan and set aside to cool. Continue roasting tomatoes for 15-30 more minutes until the underside skin is browned.
2. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Peel roasted garlic and add it to the pan with onions along with the tomatoes and stock. The stock should just cover the tomatoes. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.
4. An optional step is to strain the soup through a mesh strainer which will result in a smoother finished product.
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5. Preheat oven to 400 F.
6. On a silicone baking sheet, place 2 Tbsp of finely grated parmesan cheese in piles about 2 inches apart. Spread each pile into approximately 3 inches in diameter and pat them down lightly.
7. Bake for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool completely before removing gently from baking mat.

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How to: Cook Seasonally – Shaved Asparagus Pizza

While perusing my local vegetable market in search of inspiration for dinner this week, I did a double take when I spotted a new ‘Product of Ontario’ sign.

It was perched atop a big carton of fat, fresh asparagus.

I actually “EEEEE”d and clapped with delight.  The guy looking trough the leeks next to me quietly side stepped away.

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Now, I realize in my last post I mentioned there’s nothing like firing up the bbq to kick off warm weather season.

I’m sorry. I lied.
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Come spring, there’s nothing like getting your fill of local asparagus.

Asparagus Pizza -shavingFresh asparagus will be bright green with tightly closed and compact tips.  It can be eaten cooked as well as raw if it’s sliced or shaved finely, like in our Asparagus and Zucchini Salad.
Asparagus Pizza -shavings Finding fat asparagus is your best bet if you’re planning on shaving it.Asparagus Pizza - doughPizza and asparagus? You betcha. You can be ambitious and make your own pizza dough, or purchase pre-made dough or crust for an ultra quick appetizer or meal.Asparagus Pizza - dough with cheeseThis ‘white pizza’ doesn’t even call for sauce.  One less step to delicious town.
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I would love to hear what your favourite unconventional pizza toppings are.

Erin

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Serves 4-6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 30 minutes
Website Adapted from the blog Crumb - by Isabelle Boucher

Ingredients

  • 1/2lb asparagus (about 5 thick stalks)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (divided)
  • 150g ricotta cheese (about 3/4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives (minced)
  • 8 basil leaves (about 2 Tbsp of finely chopped leaves)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 500 gram package of fresh pizza dough (or homemade dough rolled and stretched to make a 12-14 inch crust)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F, with a pizza stone or a baking sheet in the oven while preheating.
2. Holding the asparagus by the thick, woody end use a vegetable peeler to shave each spear into 1/8" shavings. Toss with 1 tsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp of salt and set aside
3. Combine ricotto cheese, parmesan cheese, chives, basil and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.
4. Place rolled/stretched dough on the back of a lightly floured baking sheet (this allows for easy transfer of the raw pizza on to the hot preheated stone/baking sheet). Brush remaining 2 tsp of olive oil over surface of uncooked pizza crust. Spread cheese mixture over surface of dough, leaving a 1/2" border. Top with shaved asparagus.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until crust is browned and asparagus is beginning to char.

Asparagus Pizza - whole

How to: Recipe Makeover – Kale and Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad

I’m suffering from an airplane cold.  The kind that sneak attacked me on my way home from a relaxing and sunny vacation, thus ruining my healthy glow and all that extra sleep I caught up on. It’s also wreaking havoc on my taste buds. Which is clearly the worst part.

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So I’m in search of big, bold flavours. Preferably in a healthy format, since I’m feeling a little sluggish from pina colada overload.

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All hail Caesar! (I seriously have to google the spelling of Csasar every time)

This caesar’s got a couple of twists though.  Raw kale and brussels sprouts take the place of traditional romaine lettuce and a lightened up version of the dressing makes use of greek yogurt as the base.

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Raw kale and brussels sprouts are great make-ahead salad greens; a little wilting improves the flavour and texture of the finished product. Need help prepping your kale? Look no further than our previous kale post!

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I have finally discovered the microplane as a kitchen tool.  Dara’s been telling me it’s her favourite kitchen tool for ages.  I used it for the parmesan and the garlic in this recipe.  It grates the cheese so finely, you can make a small piece go really far.

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The crouton recipe is as simple as it gets.  I spiced mine up a bit by using Vulcan’s Fire Salt from The Spice House in Chicago. Muy Caliente.

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I also used an ACE bakery roasted onion bread. Go flavour!DSC_5408

 

I would love to hear how you personalize this recipe…

Erin

Kale and Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad

Serves 6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Website Adapted from Skinny Taste

Ingredients

  • 1 Small bunch of kale (stems removed and thinly sliced)
  • 8 - 10 brussels sprouts (cored and very finely sliced)
  • 1 Small clove garlic (finely grated or minced)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (finely grated)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeeze lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1/3 cup low fat greek yogurt
  • 3 slices whole grain bread (cubed. About 120g)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Note

This salad is even more delicious when made a day in advance.  Perfect for dinner parties or potlucks!

Directions

1. Preheat over to 400 F
Combine brussels sprouts in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl whisk to thoroughly combine: garlic, cheese, mustard, worcestershire, lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil and yogurt. Pour over salad and toss to evenly distribute. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
2. For the croutons, toss the cubed bread, 1 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper (or other desired seasonings) to taste.
Spread bread out evenly on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
Combine with salad once ready to serve.

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