Archive for August, 2012

August 27, 2012

The best way I’ve ever eaten Eggplant

I am a bad Italian.  I HATE raw tomatoes and I’m not afraid to admit it anymore! There is something about the texture that freaks me out and to be frank, I am not all too crazy about the taste.  I know, it’s pretty horrible considering that tomatoes are a huge source of vitamins and I deprive myself of that on a regular basis.  Up until a couple of year ago, though, not only did I hate tomatoes but I also hated eggplant.  Beurk.  Non, merci.  I found it to be spongy and unpleasantly bitter.  An Italian who hates tomatoes and eggplant?  Not a good combination. But one day, I tasted eggplant in all of its glory — eggplant parmigiana.  How can anyone reject FRIED vegetables (screams the American inside of me?) It was outstanding.  Delicious.  Full of oil and happiness (and potential heart attacks.) But it still didn’t have a texture that suited me.

Now, it must be known that most of my hours trolling the internet  are spent on food websites.  And in my browsing, I stumbled upon an interesting technique for making eggplant that supposedly gets the bitterness out! I followed the instructions, and was bestowed with the discovery of the most silky, creamy eggplant that I’ve ever eaten in my life. Now I know how Christopher Columbus must’ve felt when he arrived in America.  Now, I will never eat eggplant any other way.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3-5 Tb. olive oil
  • salt
    (optional: drizzle 3 Tb. honey with thyme leaves and sea salt)

Now what?

  1. Peel and slice the eggplant into thin 1/6 inch rounds.
  2. Place the eggplant slices in an airtight tupperware and pour the milk over it. Cover and refrigerate over night. *This is the vital part of the eggplant amelioration process!* 
  3. In a slightly deep dish, mix the flour with 1 tsp. salt. Heat the olive oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Line a plate with paper towels.
  4. When the oil is hot, dip the eggplant in the flour but be sure to tap off the excess.  Place them in the pan and fry for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden.  Remove from the oil and place on the paper toweled plate. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, always adding oil as needed.

How we ate it?

We enjoyed this creamy eggplant with some creamy goat cheese.  One of the best parts of living in France is the Saturday morning market.  I have a cheese guy.  He has a serious mustache.  My life in France. Anyway, we assembled our sandwiches on English muffins (which could perhaps be a French faux pas considering all of the crusty baguettes running freely!)  On the bread, we spread some eggplant cavier (recipe to come soon), goat cheese, eggplant, goat cheese, eggplant, truffled salt until the result was too divine to be true.  I imagine that the sandwich ideas are endless with this sort of eggplant! How do YOU eat eggplant?

August 26, 2012

Fannie’s Chocolate Muffins | Muffins au chocolat de Fannie

After spending a week in the South West of France (near Bordeaux) with a group of very culinary people, I managed to pick up a few tricks of the trade.  In France, the only thing the French like more than eating is talking about food WHILE eating (what else is there to do when you spend 5 hours à table).  My heaven. And it isn’t the typical American banter, either.  The French don’t talk about calories, about portions, or about what they aren’t allowed to eat because it’s “bad for you.”  They talk about the basic steps involved in creating a fabulously flavorful yet simple dish.  Or the highly caloric pleasures they indulge in occasionally which leaves them satisfied but not one thousand pounds.

So while on vacation, two very lovely women tried their hand at a chocolate muffin bake-off.  All eleven of us sat around the table grading each muffin based on presentation, taste, texture, aftertaste, among other things.  No one was concerned about how many calories each muffin was.  That’s why I love France.  But anyway, I digress.  While both muffins were very tasty, I took with me the recipe for the winning muffin which is no more complicated than a very basic French fondant au chocolat.  Let me sell you this chocolately delight right now: 5 basic ingredients you are sure to have in your kitchen.  Very short preparation. 15 minutes in the oven.  Outstanding taste but very, very simple.  What the French do best, quoi.

Fannie’s Chocolate Muffins | Muffins au chocolat de Fannie

What you’ll need:

  • 7 ounces (200 g) dark chocolate
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (50 g) flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
  • 1 stick + 1 tbsp (120 g) butter

Now what?

  1. Melt the butter and the chocolate together in a microwave safe bowl (or on the stove in a bain marie)
  2. Add the eggs, sugar and flour.
  3. Bake at 350 f/ 180 c for 15-20 minutes.  Don’t overcook.  The inside should be melty and slightly undercooked!

(a willing Julie always ready to help get rid of the extra batter)

August 22, 2012

à bientôt!


A l’aise, fraise is currently on vacation.

Be back soon with some more delectable Franco-American experiments!

August 11, 2012

New York Style Garlic Knots

Every once in a while I get an unidentifiable and sudden craving for my New York.  I get in a rut.  I want the ability to just fly home, hug my family, eat a pizza, and come back to France by dinner time…though modern technology isn’t exactly working in my favor just yet (for human OR pizza transportation.)  When this happens (let’s say once every month…bare minimum) I feel the need to take to the kitchen to recreate what it is that I’m missing the most and then I can take to skype to get those mini cyber hugs (it’s not the same, but still it does work wonders!)  Usually, the hardest part is identifying the craving….what it is that I’m missing the most.  Until one random Tuesday I could be walking down the street and suddenly all around me, everyone has a head replaced by a giant garlic knot.  I’m not saying that this exact scenario happened….but I’m also not saying that this exact scenario DIDN’T happen.  Message received.

Off to the kitchen to recreate a New York classic that reminds me of Thursday night pizza nights where a “pie” was always accompanied by “a dozen knots” and the 40-minute wait for the doorbell to ring seemed like an eternity.  My mom and dad have been known to make their own garlic knots, but I think that I have uncovered a minor hitch in the process.  The usual technique would be to put raw pizza dough in knots on a baking dish, sprinkle them with garlic, maybe a little oil and then throw them in the oven until cooked.  The revised method?  Bake them in the oven with NOTHING on them, and then let them drown in a pool of oily deliciousness.  I guarantee an infinitely different result.

New York Style Garlic Knots

What you’ll need:

  • Pizza dough (homemade or store-bought!)
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Now what?

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with wax paper.
  2. On a floured surface (be generous), roll out the pizza dough.  Cut the dough into strips of similar size (some may be smaller than others which would only lead to some baby knots!)
  3. Stretch gently and loosely tie the strips into knots and place on the wax paper, about 1/2 inch apart.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tops start to brown slightly.  I would err on the side of underdone because there is less pleasure in an overcooked garlic knot!
  5. Combine garlic, oil, parsley, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add the knots while still warm to the mixture, making sure to cover completely.  Remove from the oil and set on a plate.  Eat while still warm!

August 6, 2012

Grandma Edith’s Ricotta Cheesecake | Cheesecake à la ricotta

I am an Italian American which means that I grew up feasting on all things delicious (and saying things like ‘rigoth’ instead of ricotta and ‘ganol’ instead of cannoli).  As a child though, I didn’t fully appreciate the allure of this cake.  Every Easter, I poo-pooed it and grabbed some Cadberry eggs instead, satiating my sophomoric taste buds.  But there is something funny about being across an entire ocean that makes me rethink all of those old recipes that I grew up knowing but turning my nose up at out of sheer ignorance.  When spending Easter without your family, for example, all that you can think about making is your Grandma’s cheesecake, even though you can’t seem to remember exactly how it tastes.  In just creating the cake with your own hands, it brings forth an entire culture, familial history and series of memories that are essential on all days, but on holidays in particular.

But it’s no such holiday right now and I am simply fulfilling a request for an Italian cheesecake.  Using ricotta instead of cream cheese really changes the texture a whole lot.  Don’t poo-poo this cake like I did a very long time ago.  Make it just once and it will be your go-to cheesecake for a while!

Usually this produces an enormous amount of batter.  Since I was cooking for 8 (on two separate occasions, I know, cheating my way out of baking two separate desserts! How dare I!),  I thought I would make single serving portions out of wax paper.  This could be a very fruitful idea, in theory, but be sure to press your crust INTO place to prevent overflowing cheese rivers that create your very first  kitchen “debacle.” I did manage to salvage four cheesecakes (which I believe to be kitchen karma telling me I should’ve never lump-summed two desserts into one…)

Grandma Edith’s Ricotta Cheesecake

What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ lb (600g) ricotta
  • 1 cup (250 g) of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (32 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½  tsp vanilla
  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ cup (60 g) heavy cream, whipped
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups graham crackers (or speculoos cookies), crushed

Now what?

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Beat drained ricotta until smooth and gradually add ¾ cups sugar and egg yolks, beating after each addition.
  3. Beat in flour, lemon zest and vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with remaining sugar until stiff and then combine with whipped cream.  Gently fold cream mixture into ricotta mixture.
  5. Turn into 12-inch spring form pan (or mini vessels, or mini muffin tins, or mini ramekins or whatever you’d like) which has been well buttered and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.
  6. Bake 10 minutes at 425 and then lower oven temperature to 350 and bake for one hour or until golden brown and wobbly to the touch.
  7. Turn off heat and allow to cool in the oven with the door closed.
  8. Cool in fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

(the vessels)

(the cream)

(the very minis)

(the salvaged)

(the explosion)

(the massacre)

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