Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maria Antoinette's Eggplant Parmesan

When we were visiting with friends this summer they served this absolutely scrumptious eggplant Parmesan dish. This variation is firmer than most, and not soggy, due to the eggplant being browned without the usual egg coating. It's a great main dish, but also works well as a side dish for a nice BBQ'd steak.
2 large eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch slices
8 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
4 cups marinara or tomato sauce
    Brown the eggplant in the oil over med-high heat. Drain on paper towels for several hours to pull out all the extra oil.
    Layer in a deep 9x13 baking dish: egg plant, sauce Parmesan and mozzarella and basil, then repeat, using just Parmesan for the very last layer. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. You want the entire dish to be really hot throughout, but not over cooked and mushy.

    Makes about 8 servings.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Chris's Lakeside Piña Colada

    While we were visiting with friends on Lake Payette our host made the best (and most potent) margaritas we'd ever had. He said it was a spur-of-the moment recipe, so as he made the second batch we wrote down the ingredients. Chris used a Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker to process the beverage. These machines have a two-stage ice crushing system, which produces a really thick, smooth product like you get in restaurants. If you don't have such a thing, start out with your ice partially crushed so your blender doesn't have to work so hard.

    Ingredients to make 36 oz. of Piña Colada
    14 oz. Mr. & Mrs.T Piña Colada mix (or your favorite)
     2 oz. Cream de Banana
     4 oz. Bacardi Coconut Rum
     2-4 oz. Sailor Jerry Spiced rum
     1 qt. ice

    Blend and enjoy beside the lake!

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Slow-cooker Banana Bread

    Whether you call it a slow-cooker or a Crock-Pot, these little appliances are the answer to cooking in hot weather. You do have to plan ahead a bit, but it's amazing what you can cook in one. When we're out traveling in our RV in hot weather I really hesitate to start up the oven as it puts a lot of heat out into the living area, and it can be really hard to get it cooled off again. Consequently, I don't bake much in the summer, and I start missing some of my favorite things. The craving for baked goodies and a hand full of overripe bananas resulted in a brain storm recently - slow-cooker banana bread! I didn't have a cook book along except for the Dutch oven cookbook we'd purchased recently at a state park visitor's center, so I started with that, adjusted the amounts a bit, and this is the result. It does take 3 hours to bake, but it doesn't heat up the house, and you can plug the pot in anywhere there's electricity. It was 104 outside the day I baked this (that's why I wasn't excited about cooking over hot coals!), so I plugged it in to the outlet on the side of the RV and let 'er bake!

    Before you start mixing the batter, plug in a small (2 qt.) slow cooker, set to HIGH and spray with no-stick cooking spray. 

    1/2 c. brown sugar
    1/3 c. Smart Balance
    2 eggs
    1 c. mashed very ripe banana (about 2 large bananas)
    1/2 t. each cinnamon and Bitters
    1/4 t. ground nutmeg
    1 t. baking soda
    1 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. salt
    1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
    1/2 c. chopped pecans

    Cream together the sugar and Smart Balance, blend in and then beat each of the eggs. Stir in the banana and the salt and the spices. Sprinkle 3/4 c. flout over the mixture and stir it in. Sprinkle the remaining 1 c. flour and all the baking soda and baking powder over the mixture, then beat until thoroughly blended. Stir in the nuts, then pour the batter into the heated pot.

    Cover with the lid and bake for 3 hours. Test with a knife or toothpick to be sure it's done in the middle before turning it out of the pot. This obviously does not yield the typical loaf shape. Slice it in half from top to bottom, the with the cut side down, make half circle slices. The resulting shape is pretty similar to a loaf slice that way. The top won't be brown as it does if cooked in the oven,  but the sides brown up pretty well, so you don't have the damp effect you get with a microwave baked product.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Mexican Pickled Carrots

    I first had these crispy pickles at a little Mexican restaurant near the University of Oregon. They're a perfect appetizer or side to tacos and other standard fare. The heat is easily adjusted by varying the amount of jalapenos that are used.
    2 lbs large carrots, peeled and sliced into ⅛ inch thick pieces
    ½ large white onion cut in ¼ inch slices
    5 cloves garlic peeled and diced
    1 ¾ cups cider vinegar
    1 ¾ cups water
    10 bay leaves, whole
    1 tablespoon peppercorns
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 oz. pickled jalapenos

    Combine vinegar, water, peppercorns, salt, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes and then add the carrots. Simmer 5 minutes. Add the jalapenos along with a little of the juice they were packed in and bring to a simmer again for another 5-10 minutes. Check for texture = you want the carrot slices firm, but tender enough to bite easily, not limp and mushy.

    Let the carrots cool to at least room temperature and then transfer the carrots and cooking liquid into a covered container and refrigerate overnight. It improves the flavor if you layer in a little fresh cilantro, but do this only if they will be eaten within a few days.
    Transfer hot into canning jars and seal. You can combine the carrots with fresh cilantro at serving time if you seal  them.

    Store the carrots in the liquid in the refrigerator and use a slotted spoon or pickle tongs to serve them. You may leave the bay leaves in the liquid to add to the flavor, but do not eat them.
    This proportion of jalapenos produces an only slightly hot pickle. Double it for more fire. The pickles also pick up more “heat” if they stand for several weeks. Best stored in the refrigerator a few days before serving so the flavors mingle, they will keep for several weeks.