Easy peasy lemon squeezy. This catch phrase from a British advertisement in the 1950’s aptly describes this week’s blog: a kale and chickpea grain bowl with a bright shot of lemon! Fresh and easily put together, this decidedly spring recipe reflects the changes in the gardens around our community: a riot of daffodils in the orchard, brave pansies and primroses blooming despite residual winter chill, delicate cherry blossoms and lush magnolias are all in force. These blooms never fail to inspire hope each year and the promise of better days ahead.
I never expect to see shiny, plump and beautiful eggplant in the grocery store until mid/late summer, but we’ve gotten lucky this year as a booming crop became readily available in our local market (unlike the empty paper towel and toilet paper shelves!) Since this is one of my favorite summer comfort foods, I thought I’d share and old world recipe with you. (If you want to skip a step and use purchased tomato sauce, that’s a great time saving option.)
You might ask why you need to soak your eggplant in salt water first. This does two things: it draws out any of the bitter juices that can be found in older eggplant and tightens up the flesh, making the eggplant less likely to soak up too much oil when you are frying them. This recipe will make 2 – 9×13″ pans. Since it can be a bit time consuming to make, it enables you to put one pan away in the freezer for another time.
Wash eggplant. Remove the top and bottom from the eggplant and slice across into 1/2" rounds (no need to peel) Submerge in a large bowl of cold water with 3 Tbsp Salt. Put a plate across the top of the bowl to keep the eggplant submerged. Let soak 30 min to 1 hr.
Prepare the sauce: In a medium pot on top of the stove, heat the oil and add diced onion and a teaspoon of sugar. Cook over low heat until the onions are translucent and soft.
Add the torn basil leaves, oregano and garlic. Continue cooking for another minute, watching that the garlic doesn't burn. Add the the salt and pepper and the tomatoes and the remaining sugar, if desired.
Continue cooking over low heat until the flavors meld. Let simmer 30 min. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Drain eggplant and dry on paper towels
Mix together the Flour, salt and pepper on one plate. In a second large shallow bowl or pie plate, beat the eggs together.
One at a time, dip the eggplant in the seasoned flour and then in the beaten eggs
Heat oil in a large skillet or fry pan
Fry the eggplants until golden on one side and then turn to continue frying on the other side. Remove to a paper lined sheet pan.
When all the eggplant are fried, you are ready to assemble!
Spray two 9X13" pan with PAM spray
Put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of each pan
Lightly sprinkle with the grated pecorino romano cheese
Layer the eggplant slices - touching but not overlapping
Sprinkle grated mozzarella over
Lightly sprinkle with grated pecorino romano cheese
Continue layering in this order:
Sprinkle Chopped Parsley
End with Sauc
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 min. Let rest 10-15 min.
Recently, another Sister and I shared our borscht recipes and memories! Like any well-loved food, memories play a part in its enjoyment. Our experiences of eating borscht are different but surprisingly parallel. Sr. Monica spent two months living at a Convent in Estonia when it was still part of the USSR. She has vivid memories of being there as the coup occurred when Gorbachev was still in power. I remember it too, because I was in Poland at the time, singing with our choir, Gloriae Dei Cantores. We had no way to communicate with our Sisters in Estonia since cell phones and e-mail were unavailable to us in 1991. We relied on prayer for their safety. Often, a particular recipe is a vehicle for comfort, even solace. We have had difficult times in the past, but we know God’s love is available to us. We offer this heartwarming recipe to you, along with our prayers for a healthy spring.
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CHANGE SERVING SIZE
2poundsbeefchuck roast or stew meat (if using bone-in meat, increase poundage to 3#)
Put the meat in a crockpot with 8 cups cold water, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and 1 Tbsp salt. Set on high for 4 hours. Cook until fork tender. Remove meat and strain and reserve the broth. Set aside
While the Beef is cooking, wrap beets in foil and place in a 400 degree oven—roast for 1hr. until fork tender. Cool slightly, but while they are still warm, remove the top, bottom and skin with a pairing knife (skins should come off easily if properly cooked) and either grate or julienne the beets. Set aside.
Heat a large stockpot and add 4 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter and sauté onion for 2 min. Add diced potato and sauté another 5 min or until beginning to soften. Add the grated carrot, cabbage and garlic and 2 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to med/low and add the beets, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp tomato paste. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved strained broth and extra 2-3 cups beef broth. (I used' Better than Bouillon' Roasted Beef Base)
Simmer and cover until vegetables are tender. Add the diced, cooked Beef and 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill. Remove from heat and leave covered until flavors meld. Add 1/4 tsp pepper (If desired), and salt to taste. Adjust flavors to taste (you may want to add a bit more vinegar or sugar)
Serve warm or cold with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill.
This year, I’ve been doing some teaching where cooking is concerned, and along with that comes learning on my part. Testing new recipes, experimenting with foods of different cultures and also trying my hand at a healthier way of cooking and eating. As I was working with a friend, we decided we’d like to try to find a recipe for a really good veggie burger. First of all, I wasn’t sure those four words really went together… “really good” and “veggie burger”. But, once again, I was wrong. This vegetable and grain-based patty is delightful. It’s bursting with flavors – we commented to each other that you could truly taste each vegetable in it and the bonus is, it’s packed with protein. Even my most lovable meat craving Sister thought it was delicious. That was a real surprise.
So, as we head into Lent, I thought this might be a good time to share this recipe. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Make the herb mayo: In a blender, combine all the herb mayo ingredients. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a bowl.
Make the veggie burgers: In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the water and quinoa to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the quinoa is tender and all the water is absorbed, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Or cook the quinoa in a rice cooker, following manufacturer directions (I used 2 cups quinoa/2 cups water). You will be using 3 cups of cooked quinoa in this recipe.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, parsley and onion, and cook, stirring often, until the veggies are tender and lightly caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Then add the baby spinach to wilt along with the corn. Transfer to the bowl with the 3 cups of cooked quinoa - let cool and add the two beaten eggs.
Once the vegetables-and-quinoa mixture has cooled, mix in the remaining veggie burger ingredients until incorporated. Form into 8 - ½ cup patties and shape. Lay out on a piece of wax paper.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the veggie burgers until golden brown and crisp, 3 minutes per side.
To assemble: Top each veggie burger with some of the herbed mayo and top with tomato and avocado. Serve while the burger is still warm with a side of sweet potato fries.
Serving our mission in Italy has allowed me to learn about local dishes, and today’s blog features a favorite! Thanks to the generosity of Laura, co-owner of a local ristorante kitchen located in the historical center of Barga, I have been learning about traditional regional dishes during my time in Italy.
This white lasagna is different than anything I had ever made, as it showcases artichokes as the main flavor in this Italian classic. Rather than eat the outer leaves as we do in the States, the more tender inner leaves and heart are selected. Tasty and oh-so delizioso, this has become a surprise favorite on our table!
Ingredients and directions for the béchamel sauce are listed below, but you may also refer to our Baked Cauliflower Pie blog. That recipe is doubled below for this lasagna.
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Lasagne al Carciofo - Tuscan White Artichoke Lasagna
Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.
Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare the artichokes by cutting off the tops, about 2 inches. Chop the stem, leaving the leaves attached and cut the whole artichoke in half.
Thinly slice the artichoke in half vertically and set aside.
Drizzle the bottom of a pan with olive oil and add the slices of artichoke. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender. Remove from heat.
Gently combine the cooked artichoke with béchamel sauce and set aside
Thinly coat the bottom of a casserole dish with the béchamel sauce and begin layering the lasagna, beginning with the noodles, béchamel, and mozzarella. Continue layering for 3 layers, ending with a topping of mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the oven approximately 45 minutes or until the noodles are fully cooked, and the lasagna is bubbling around the edges.
This year, I am teaching a home school culinary class. It’s a great joy for me to pass on to the younger generation all the tips and skills that I learned. We loved making this Carrot Ginger soup together. When making soup, I always start by sautéing the vegetables. Sautéing caramelizes them and brings out the very best flavor of the vegetable – never start by boiling them in liquid, or you’ll produce a very tasteless soup! Carrot Ginger freezes well, so make a big pot of it, cool and freeze flat in zip lock bags. Once they are frozen, the bags can then stand upright in your freezer or be stacked. This soup can be made completely dairy-free, just substitute olive oil or coconut oil for the butter. Enjoy!