Grilled Eggplant Lasagne

Grilled Eggplant Lasagne

Leftover night! I absolutely love eggplant and we enjoyed several dishes at my recent birthday party. I froze some of the leftover slices of grilled eggplant, so today I took them out of the freezer and in a few minutes put together a lasagne. The recipe can be doubled for a larger lasagne. This was a small one, although not as small as the photo — that was the leftover.

10-12 Slices of grilled eggplant
3/4 cup Crumbled feta cheese
2 Tomatoes, sliced
10 Basil leaves
Thyme sprigs
Olive oil and olive oil spray
Bread crumbs

Pre-heat oven to 325
Spray baking dish with olive oil spray
Place layer of eggplant and top with slices from 1 tomato, 5 basil leaves and 1/4 cup feta
Repeat
Top second layer with scattered thyme leaves and feta. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs.

Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.

Happy Cooking!

Peggy

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Pie #5 – Asparagus and Green Bean Quiche (3/15)

When I briefly worked as a personal chef for the family I used to nanny for it was requested of me to make a quiche every week. The family is vegetarian (at least they are at home) and quiches are quick and easy, and full of protein and vegetables without the necessity of meat (also in this case cheese). Once the crust is made (and quiche crusts are not difficult at all) you just throw in some veggies and eggs and you’re good to go. I love being both artistic and experimental when it comes to quiches, because that’s how I approach them with a good attitude.

My mom really loves quiches because you can eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I think that any food you can eat for all three meals is just fantastic, but I made this quiche for her upon my brief return to Los Angeles for spring break.

I had just received a beautiful bunch of asparagus in my farm box and I had some green beans with me so I went straight to work, and here is the result!

Asparagus and Green Bean Quiche

Crust:

1 Cup flour

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 Cup olive oil

1/4 Cup water

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. This is a quick crust so you do not need to refrigerate it like you would normally with a quiche crust. It’s a bit bland, which is why I added the oregano.

Preheat the oven to 400º F and pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes. If the crust puffs up at all (because you didn’t use pie weights or dried beans and you don’t have to) just press it down with the back of a spoon.

Filling:

Handful of green beans

1/2 Bunch asparagus

6 Eggs (I used 4 real eggs and 1 egg beaters (=2 eggs))

Salt and Pepper

Any other herbs you desire

Clean the green beans and asparagus (by trimming both ends off the green beans and the woody end off the asparagus). Put both the asparagus and green beans into a pot of cold salted water and bring slowly to a boil. In a large mixing bowl, make a bath of ice water with a strainer inside. When the vegetables are just the brightest green and not yet tender, drain them and put them into the ice bath. This will shock them and they will maintain their beautiful green color even after baking, you’ll see!

Drain and dry the vegetables a bit (you don’t want too much water interfering with your quiche) and then lay them out in the pre-baked crust. If you don’t want to lay them out, you can cut them up into smaller pieces and then just chuck them into the crust.

Beat the eggs with some salt and pepper and a dash of milk or cream (if you’d like). You can also add cheese if you want it, but I figured we could skip on the cholesterol. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the crust, and if you would like, add some more vegetables on top.

Bake in a 400º oven for 30 minutes or until eggs are fully cooked. Test the eggs in the center with a knife, if the knife comes out clean the eggs are cooked… just like a cake.

Serve with a garden salad, a chicken breast, some bacon (although I don’t eat bacon), or just by itself with a glass of champagne.

Love and Happy Spatulas,

Alyssa

Pie #4 – Straight Up Blackberry Pie (3/14)

I’m discovering, very quickly, that I really hate measuring ingredients. I like experimenting with flavors and I’m not really the kind of person who necessarily needs to taste the same thing twice. The biggest difference, in my opinion, between home-cooked meals and restaurant-cooked meals is the following:

You can eat at a restaurant twice and order the same dish twice and it will more or less taste exactly the same. This is perfectly fine because that’s part of the service some restaurants provide (those with a standing menu), and that’s the reason why people eat at restaurants, to try something their friends tried and enjoyed.

With a home-cooked meal you will almost never have the same thing twice. My mother has been cooking our cousin’s brisket recipe for years and it never once has tasted the same, even though she uses the same ingredients every time.

So as I went through the process of making the first three pies, which I felt had more strict recipes, I decided that I didn’t like doing it that way. When I was making the Lemon Tartlets I kept waiting to make a mistake. I feel that anything with a crust is a blank canvas for each person to put on it what s/he feels like. Instead of reading some of these “recipes” as recipes, read them as tips, suggestions or guidelines. And of course, have fun!

Straight Up Blackberry Pie (For Zoë)

Sweet pie crust (from lemon pie recipe, your own recipe, or a box)

2-3 Small containers of  Blackberries

1 Lemon, Zested & Juiced

Sugar

4-6 Tablespoons Butter

1-2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)

More Sugar (of the powdered variety)

I asked both of my roommates what kind of pies they wanted me to make, Zoë requested blackberry pie, and so I made it for her on Pi day, which was subsequently the day before I went to Los Angeles for spring break.

Once your crust is made (or if it is store-bought and brought to room temp), pre-bake it so it is partially done.

Wash your blackberries well! Then put them in a bowl with the lemon zest and juice, grand marnier, and some sugar. You don’t want it to be too sweet, but use your own judgement. Maybe 1/8 cup sugar for every cup of blackberries, but probably less (if you can’t handle the tartness, then add more sugar). Mix all of the ingredients together, it’s okay if you smash some of the blackberries, and then transfer the bowl to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have time to refrigerate, don’t fret, it will be fine, the flavors just won’t be as well blended.

Pre-heat the oven to 350º and transfer the refrigerated (and slightly smashed… double entendre) berries to the pie crust. Sprinkle some powdered sugar over the top for a kick of sweetness. The corn starch in the sugar should thicken up the liquid in the pie a bit as it cooks. Cut up the butter into small pieces and drop them about the surface of the pie.

Cook for 30-40 minutes or until the blackberries are bubbling. If the crust starts to burn around the edges, wrap the pie pan in foil (but don’t cover the center).

Cool and serve with some ice cream, or at least that’s what Zoë would do.

Love and Happy Spatulas,

Alyssa

Pie #3 – Lemon Pie/Tartlets (3/12)


Sorry for the delay, but the cold I’ve had for over a month still hasn’t quite gone away and I sort of lost all of my energy over the last several days. But I’m springing back with a very beautiful spring pie!

While thinking about this pie project, I’ve been pondering what actually constitutes a pie?

Dictionary.com says: that a pie is “a baked food having a filling of fruit, meat, pudding, etc., prepared in a pastry-lined pan or dish and often topped with a pastry crust.

Wikipedia.org says: “A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savory ingredients. Pies are defined by their crusts.”

These definitions are very standard, but what about tarts, quiches or dishes like clafoutis? The definition for a tart is so similar that I don’t see how they cannot be interchangeable for this one month.

As far as sweet pies and sweet pie crusts go, I’m no expert. I’ve only made one sweet pie in my life from scratch before, and apple pie one year at Thanksgiving. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if I actually made the crust myself. When it comes to times like this when I have no idea where to go when I get to my pantry, I seek help from other people like myself who love to cook and write about what they cook.

For this lemon-y explosion I’ve turned to the brilliant mind behind Smitten Kitchen, Deb. I’m not really on a first name basis with her, but I love her recipes and the way she writes about food, and she has a great pie crust recipe and a great lemon tart recipe… so I decided to try her recipes out and see where they got me.

Sweet Pie Crust (the great unshrinkable)

Makes one 9-inch tart or pie crust, or seven 4″ tartlet or mini-pie pans.

1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

1/2 Cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 Teaspoon salt

1 Stick plus 1 Tablespoon (9 Tablespoons) very cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg, lightly beaten

I don’t have a large food processor at the moment, so where she says to use a food processor I either use a hand mixer or an immersion blender (depends on the job).

1. Blend the flour, sugar and salt together using a dough mixer or a hand mixer (if you use a hand mixer be sure to cover your bowl and mixer with a tea towel so as to reduce dust). Add the butter pieces and mix until there is a variation of pea-shapes and quick-oats shapes. Mix in the egg a little bit at a time, pulsing the mixer (or food processor). Your mixture should start to look clumpy. When the sound of the machine you’re using changes, stop blending and knead by hand. Not too much, you’re not making bread. Just knead it until the mixture comes together and the dry bits are well-incorporated. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

2. Butter your tart or pie pan. Roll out the dough onto a floured sheet of parchment paper, or a floured work surface. Lift and turn the round as you roll it to create a more even layer of dough. Transfer dough to pan (or cut into smaller circles for smaller pans like I have done) and seal it to the sides of the pan. Trim around the edges, and pierce everywhere with a fork.

3. Freeze the crust in the pan for at least 30 minutes, or longer if you can, before baking.

4. For this recipe you need to partially bake the crust. Preheat the oven to 375º. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or several pieces if you’re making smaller pies) and cover the pan with crust inside tightly, butter side down. Put the tart pan, or pans on a baking sheet and into the oven (without pie weights) for 20 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed up use the back of a spoon to press it down. I found that my crust actually did shrink so I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong here. Put the crust back in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove the crust again and let cool before putting the filling inside the pie.

Lemon Tart Filling

1 Average-sized or two medium/smallish meyer lemons

1 1/2 Cups granulated sugar

1 Stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks

4 Large eggs

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 Teaspoon table salt

Powdered sugar for dusting

Slice the lemon into very thin slices, making sure you remove the seeds as you go along. A mandoline might help with this, but I did it carefully with an extremely large and sharp knife. You are using the entire lemon except for the seeds and the stems. Again, I don’t have a food processor and for this step I used an immersion blender which worked just fine.

Once the filling is smoth, pour it into the pre-baked pie crust. Put the pie into a 35oº oven and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pie filling is set. If you’re using individual-sized pans it will take less time, try for 20 – 30 minutes. It might turn a bit golden brown on top. If you push the pan gently and the center is still jiggling a bit, it is not set. Cool the pie on a rack, then remove from the mold or pie pan.


Serve with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, enjoy! It’s very rich, so start with a sliver.

Love and Happy Spatulas,

Alyssa

Baked Pears

Easy as pie. Well, it’s not pie, but while Alyssa is slaving away making pies this month, I decided to make the easiest baked dessert there is.

Ingredients

Bosc pears

Maple syrup

Stand pears in a microwaveable bowl. Pierce each pear a few times with a sharp knife point. Drizzle a little maple syrup over each pear. Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes. Let pears cool a bit. Serve in small bowls. Drizzle some of the syrupy juice over each pear. Or for an extra layer of flavor (and calories), serve with vanilla ice cream!

Happy Cooking!
Peggy

 

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Quick Bite — Aglio e Olio Pasta Primavera

There’s nothing I think I love more than pasta.

Okay well my favorite food group is actually dough-based foods with meat or vegetable stuffings (ravioli, tamales, samosas… etc.). But pasta dishes are a close second. Pasta has taken on many forms since I was a kid. There is now pasta for every kind of diet: gluten free, whole wheat, they even make pasta out of quinoa… but my new favorite thing is high fiber pasta. I feel that pasta is generally low in fiber, and also I’m probably not getting a ton of fiber in my daily diet, so I was very excited when Trader Joe’s revealed their new high fiber pastas (penne and spaghetti) for… I think $1.29. Not bad for pasta that will feed me for four meals. I instantly took to the spaghetti because I love long pastas, noodles, etc. but just recently I decided I would buy the penne.

There are two dishes made with pasta that are pretty much stand by pasta dishes that anyone can do with ingredients they most likely already have in their house. The first is pasta primavera, which you can make in a single pot with whatever vegetables you like and all you need for a “sauce” is butter, white wine, and cheese and maybe oregano if you’re feeling particularly fancy. The second is Aglio e Olio, or Garlic and Oil. The ingredients you need for that are olive oil (or vegetable oil if you don’t have olive oil), garlic cloves, and crushed red pepper flakes for a kick. I’ve combined these two recipes to suit my pantry and my taste buds. Enjoy!

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