Posts Tagged italian

Eggplant Lasagna; Lunchbox

Sorry, no pictures again.  We have a semi-regular tradition of sharing dinner with another family in our building every couple of weeks – it’s a great way to make a complete meal out of the odds & ends of two pantries at the end of the week.  Tonight my contribution was an eggplant lasagna, brought to you by the fact that I had 3 eggplant and a box of lasagna noodles to use up.  Crushed tomatoes in the pantry are a staple, so the only shopping was for the cheese.

I sliced the eggplant medium-thin, salted it and let it sit in the colander for about 20 minutes.  Then I layered it on a plate with some paper towels and microwaved it for 5 minutes (hat-tip to Cook’s Illustrated for the idea).  What this extra step does is suck a TON of the moisture out of the eggplant so it doesn’t make your lasagna watery.

For the sauce, I did a simple base of chopped onion and red pepper, salt, pepper, garlic, Italian herb blend, and a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes.  I let that simmer while the eggplant drained.

Layered it up with some no-boil noodles and mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan on top, and into a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes.  Gorgeousness. Like an eggplant parmesan but without the hassle of breading and frying.  (Without the oil too, I guess, but I’m pretty sure there was enough extra cheese in the lasagna to wipe out that advantage.)

Lunchbox for Monday: Apple slices with peanut butter (peanut butter on the bottom of the container, apple slices vertical); salami & cheese mini-pita sandwiches; buttered green beans (hey, I can dream, right?)

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Seat-of-my-pants Lasagna

I say “oh, no recipe, I made this up” and it sounds impressive, but really, if you know how to make spaghetti sauce from scratch, you also know how to make lasagna.  And since my mother makes the best spaghetti sauce in the known universe, this was pretty much a no-brainer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Zuppa de Pesce & Peanut-butter Cupcakes

It’s DH’s birthday today, so dinner had to be a little special.  He requested this fish stew, from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  It’s a classic in our household too, but made less often now that we have kids.  It’s not only time-consuming to make, but also time-consuming to shop for, because it includes fish heads as one of Marcella’s CRITICAL ingredients.  If you’ve ever read a Marcella Hazan recipe, you already know that they are chock full of instructions like “And in order to make this recipe correctly, you’ll need to have been born a Silician fisherman and wake up at the crack of dawn to harvest your own scallops…” which, depending on the kind of cook you are, is either a deal-breaker or something you roll your eyes at and then go buy whatever scallops happen to be available at Whole Foods.

In most cases, I am the second kind of cook.  I nod appreciatively at what Marcella is trying to accomplish and then I make the closest approximation I can using American supermarket ingredients because I live in New York City and do not own a farm or a private jet.  But before we had kids, we lived in a much trendier neighborhood, and in this neighborhood there was a Really Awesome Fish Place.  And one day, after having made this recipe numerous times with no fish heads at all and thinking it was already pretty great, I thought to myself, Hey, Self, I bet the Awesome Fish Place would save some heads for you if you asked them a day or two in advance.  And they did.  And that week I made the recipe with the heads included and OH MY GOD MARCELLA I AM SO SORRY I EVER DOUBTED YOU.  The flavor was SO MUCH RICHER.  So, in short, fish heads matter, but require extra shopping, and that’s why we don’t have this very often anymore.

(PS, if you live in NYC, do NOT order the “fish heads and bones for stock” package from FreshDirect thinking you will get fish heads just because they’re in the name of the product.  I’ve tried this twice now and each time have received a very disappointing package of fish spines with NO HEADS.  I have written to complain and suggest you do the same.)

(PPS, in spite of my devotion to following Marcella’s orders because she is always right, I’ve still altered the recipe because hers assumes you will be serving 8 people, that you have the kind of money that buys five or six different kinds of shellfish, and also that you have the time to fillet whole fish yourself.  And that you are willing to use “1 cup of Italian plum tomatoes from a can” instead of just dumping the whole damn can in because REALLY, THERE IS ONLY SO FAR ONE CAN BEND.  I’m not giving exact measurements here because the amounts can be adjusted as needed depending on how many people you’re feeding.)

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