ratatouille spirals


Ratatouille Spirals

In a weird way, I think this dish is representative of me.  It is a dish that tries to please everyone.  It looks complicated, but is really straight forward.  And you are committed to it, even though it is a bit of a pain in the ass to make.  I saw this recipe in a magazine and knew right away I needed to make it.  I haven’t mastered it yet, because I think the proportions are off a little with both the veggies and/or the size of the pan, but nevertheless, it is still a good dish.  The first time I made it, I followed the recipe and used the anchovies.  The dish got an F.  The kids were coughing and dry heaving, and then my husband, because he still is a child, did the same. So, obviously the anchovies didn’t dissolve, and ruined the dish (for us).  My suggestion to pick around the anchovies got tossed about as fast as the dish did.  How was I ever going to bring back my dish that I was in love with for the strangest reasons?  Thankfully, the opportunity came up when my cooking soul mate called, and we decided to make dinner reservations.  As the night out drew closer, we made the convenient excuse to just get together and cook a meal ourselves.  We met to go food shopping for a menu that was basically nonexistent, with the exception of the spirals I was making.  But at 5:30pm, in the cheese aisle, our menu took shape.  I think that if we didn’t have a clock or a liver, we could have cooked all night.  Ok, so maybe just not a clock…kidding.  So after the cooking marathon, the hour on the clock told us we were tired and the empty bottles of wine signaled the immediacy of going to bed.  However, we had successfully made stuffed jalapeños with Brie, caramelized onion and mushroom ravioli, and of course, I got to make my spirals again.  This time, I substituted fresh basil for the anchovies.  I still didn’t fill the pan with spirals, but what I could fill was my belly and my fridge full of left overs!

zucchini slices

ratatouille spirals  (adapted from Bon Appetit)

3  lbs beefsteak tomatoes, scored with an “X” on the bottoms
3  TB extra virgin olive oil
1  medium onion, diced
2  large garlic cloves, minced
1/2  tsp crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2  cups cubed country bread
2 1/2  lbs medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
2 1/2  lbs small japanese or italian eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
3  roasted bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
20 – 24  fresh basil leaves
1  lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 x 2 inch sticks
freshly grated parmesan cheese

get started on the spirals:

scored tomatoes

In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds.  Drain them and then slip off the skins and halve the tomatoes crosswise.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes, keeping the juices and seeds.
Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large skillet, heat 2 TB of the oil.  Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat for 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and juices and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook while stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toss the bread cubes with the remaining 1 TB of olive oil.  Toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until golden.
In a colander, toss the zucchini and eggplant with 2 TB of kosher salt (can be done in separate colanders), and let drain for 15 minutes.  Shake out the excess liquid and pat the slices dry.
Spoon the tomato sauce into a shallow 2 1/2 qt. baking dish and scatter the bread cubes on top.

bread in sauce

On a clean work surface, top each zucchini slice with a slice of eggplant.  Blot dry if necessary.  Place a strip of roasted red pepper and then top with a basil leaf.  Place a stick of mozzarella at one end.  Sprinkle each stack with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and roll up.  Stand the rolls in the baking dish and drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

assembly line

Cover with parchment paper or foil.  Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender and the ratatouille is bubbling.  Remove the parchment paper halfway through baking.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

rolls

note:  this dish serves 8 people

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asian turkey meatballs with chili garlic glaze


turkey meatball

Ok, so what is with life getting in the way of posting???  Sorry…weak moment.
I was lucky enough earlier in the year, to be invited to a Chinese New Year party, and so there was an obvious theme for the pot luck buffet.  I knew some of the dishes that the host and guests were making, and so I needed to try to come up with something that would compliment the table.  My mind went blank as to what to make.  Nothing inspired me in all my cookbooks, so I decided that sometimes, you have to go back to party basics.  Growing up, I was never a big fan of Swedish meatballs, but back in the day, they were the star of crockpots everywhere!  So for the party, and to pay homage to the Swedes, I decided to make an asian meatball.   Perfect.  So, I looked online for ideas and came across this recipe from Aggie’s Kitchen.  What caught my eye was the chili garlic glaze.  I figured that would help in two ways – keep them tasty and keep them moist.  Who likes dry, flavorless meatballs?

asian turkey meatballs with chili garlic glaze  (adapted from Aggie’s recipe)

2  lbs. lean ground turkey (not the 99% lean!)
2  TB ginger, grated
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2  cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2  cup green onions, sliced
1  clove garlic, minced
1  jalapeño pepper, minced
2  TB soy sauce
1  TB sesame oil
1  tsp kosher salt
ground black pepper
cooking spray

chili garlic glaze:

6  TB soy sauce
4  TB chili garlic sauce
2  TB brown sugar
4  TB water
1  TB jalapeño, minced

red bell pepperjalapeño

get started on the meatballs:

Preheat oven to 400.  In a large bowl, combine the turkey and the rest of the ingredients until just mixed together.  Do not over mix.  Scoop about 1.5 tablespoon of turkey mixture and roll in your hands lightly and place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Make sure the size is slightly smaller than a golf ball so it can be picked up with a toothpick easily.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the glaze by whisking the ingredients in a small bowl until the brown sugar dissolves.  Set aside 1/2 of the glaze and place in a small bowl for dipping.  After the meatballs have baked for ten minutes, brush the meatballs with the glaze.  Bake for another 3 minutes until cooked through.  Discard glaze.  Serve with dipping sauce.

meatball madnessmeatballs anyone?

note:  this makes about 42-48 meatballs.

sautéed broccoli rabe


broccoli rabe cracker

We are a big appetizer family.  It can be as informal as a bag of Tostitos and burning hot salsa, with my son stealing dollops of sour cream, or it could be as involved as pulled pork chalupas topped with guacamole.  Last weekend, my girlfriend was over our house, and was generously preparing an awesome dish of shrimp in Thai coconut broth for us, so I wanted to keep the appetizer healthy too.  I had an old recipe for broccoli rabe that I wanted to try because it was different from how my husband makes it, since he usually mans the rabe station.  I was curious to see if it would taste any different.  So I got the chance to make it when he opted to leave the two ladies in the kitchen to chat it up, and busy himself in the family room watching the Flyers lose.  During intermissions, he kept visiting the kitchen to see what was coming out of it other than all the chatter.  I placed the bowl of the sautéed broccoli rabe before him and cut up some provolone cheese and waited.  The bowl was gone in 10 minutes.  He asked me to make it again this weekend so I guess he liked it.  The difference between his preparation and mine, is that I trimmed off the thicker stems and then blanched the broccoli rabe for barely 5 minutes before sautéing.  He sautés and steams his in wine or beer.  I like it prepared either way.  His retains more of the bitterness, but I have a palate for that.  The way I prepared it made it seem brighter and sweeter….unlike my personality….haha.

broccoli rabe floretgarlic

sautéed broccoli rabe: 

2  bunches broccoli rabe (about 2 lbs), tough ends discarded
3  TB extra virgin olive oil
4  garlic cloves sliced
crushed red pepper
1/4 cup water
kosher salt and pepper

garlic and crushed red pepper

get started on the broccoli rabe:

After you have trimmed and discarded any thick stems from the broccoli rabe, add the remaining broccoli rabe to a large pot of boiling, salted water.  Blanch for 5 minutes until some of the thicker stems are softened.  Remove and drain completely in a colander.  In a sauté pan, cook the garlic and crushed red pepper in oil over medium heat.  Stir occasionally so that the garlic becomes golden but not burned, about 2 minutes.  Add the broccoli rabe, water, and salt and pepper to the pan.  Stir uncovered about 2 minutes.  You want the broccoli rabe to remain a bright green.  Serve in a bowl with a serving fork for topping crostini or crackers.

crostini

note:  Watch that clock when blanching…much more than five minutes and you have green mush.  This also makes a great side dish for fish or pork chops.  You get a good amount of appetizer servings for a group of 4 or 5.