ZUCCHINI TRAPANESE: Spiralize The Gluten And Calories Away!

zucchini trapanese textSpring beckons backyard gardeners to the nursery in hopes of a bountiful crop. Summer brings the realization that, once again, we have an abundance of fresh vegetables that will rot if we don’t use them soon.

Zucchini, in particular, seems to be a particular problem since it keeps growing…and growing. Just how many loaves of zucchini bread can one eat?!

Enter the spiralizer. With a few twists of the hand-crank, that zucchini (or apple, sweet potato, carrot, etc) is transformed into spaghetti-like strips. You just boil them briefly, top with a pesto or marinara sauce, and – voila! – a low calorie ‘pasta dish’.  I couldn’t believe how fast and easy it was. zucchini spiralizerThere are many brands of spiralizers – I bought the Paderno and am extremely happy with it.

I chose a trapanese pesto to top my zucchini noodles in keeping with the fast, easy, and low calorie theme. It also had the added benefit of using up another summer crop – cherry tomatoes.

Note: Though we’re treating the zucchini like a pasta, it behaves like a vegetable in terms of size. While pasta plumps when boiled; zucchini shrinks (just like spinach or mushrooms). So plan on at least 1 lb of zucchini per person. Don’t be fooled by how massive it appears raw.

ZUCCHINI TRAPANESE

Trapanese Pesto – about 3-4 servings

  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2½ cups sweet cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 T deli-sliced jalapeño peppers (I use ‘tamed’ spice level – but if you want more kick, go to ‘hot’)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (use a good quality)
  • 1/2 cup (+ extra for sprinkling) Parmesan cheese, grated

Into a blender or food processor, place the almonds, tomatoes, basil, salt, red pepper flakes, jalapeños, and Parmesan. Pulse until blended – about 10 times. Add in the olive oil and blend about 5 seconds.

Zucchini

  • 1 lb zucchini per person

Spiralize zucchini according to directions. Bring a couple of inches of salted water to a boil – you don’t need as much as you would for pasta. Add in zucchini and let boil about 1 minute, 15 seconds. Pour into colander and serve immediately. Top with trapanese pesto. Sprinkle on Parmesan.

 

 

BIBIMBAP – A One Bowl Meal…With A Kick!

bibimbap textBibimbap is a mouth watering Korean veggie/rice dish topped with a fried egg. (The egg is optional.) It even tastes good the next day…and the next – this recipe makes a lot!

As with many Asian recipes, the prep takes the longest. Even though there’s time while cooking the individual veggies, I strongly suggest you concentrate on stirring rather than chopping since the stove is on a high heat.

BIBIMBAP – makes about 8-9 cups

  • 2 cups raw Chinese rice, unrinsed
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup go-chu-jang (it’s a bottled sauce in the Asian section – picture below)
  • 4 T sesame oil
  • 2 T + 2 tsp sugar, divided
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 6 T soy sauce
  • 6 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 15 oz carrots, shredded
  • 16 oz shiitake mushrooms, discard stems, coarsely chopped
  • 20 oz spinach, coarsely chopped
  • eggs – as many as you want

In a saucepan, combine rice, 2¼ cups water, and salt. Bring to boil, reduce to keep a simmer, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn off heat but leave pot on burner, covered.

While rice is cooking, use the time to prepare the sauces and veggies:

In a bowl put the go-chu-jang, sesame oil, 6 T water, and 2 tsp sugar. bibimbap11Whisk to combine and set aside. bibimbap7In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine 1 cup water, soy sauce, garlic, 2 T sugar, and scallions. (The measuring cup makes it easier to see how much you need.) bibimbap13Shred the carrots – use a food processor, if you have one. Otherwise, use a box grater. Place in a bowl.

Thoroughly wash mushrooms. Cut out and discard stems. (This can be done easily with kitchen shears!) bibimbap8Coarsely chop and place in a bowl.

Thoroughly wash spinach and coarsely chop. Place in another bowl. bibimbap9Time to get cooking!!!

Heat 2 tsp oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add in the carrots and 1/3 of garlic water. Stir until water has evaporated.bibimbap10 Transfer carrots back into bowl.

Heat 2 tsp oil in now-empty Dutch oven over high heat. Add mushrooms and 1/3 of garlic water. Cook until liquid has mostly evaporated. bibimbap3Pour back into bowl.

Heat the final 2 tsp oil in the Dutch oven over high heat. Add in the spinach and remainder of the garlic water. bibimbap4Cook until wilted. I’ve found the water doesn’t evaporate completely, so just go by the look of the spinach. (It’s amazing how that giant amount of spinach wilts down to nothing!)bibimbap5Pour back into bowl.

Into the empty Dutch oven place the rice. bibimbap6Add the carrots, mushrooms, and spinach. bibimbap1Pour in the go-chu-jang sauce and mix. bibimbap2If you want to top with fried eggs, cook them in skillet either sunnyside-up or over-easy. Add these to individual bowls.

PAN PIZZA: Thick & Crispy Crust!

pan pizza textIt occurred to me that while I make pizza quite often, I’ve never written a blog about it. So I decided to start with one that’s easy to make and is actually one of my favorites: PAN PIZZA.

This recipe calls for mixing in a food processor, but you could use a heavy-duty mixer, such as a Kitchen Aid, or even knead by hand – although I have no idea how long that would take. And don’t worry – there’s no tossing the dough involved!

Plan 3 hours start to finish – most of that time is hands off.

Note:  You’ll see some measurements are underlined.  This is to indicate it’s a portion of the total amount called for.

PAN PIZZA – makes 2  9″ pizzas

  • 16¼ oz (3¾ cup) all-purpose flour – it’s best to weigh for accuracy
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 2¼ tsp sugar, divided
  • 2¼ tsp (1 packet) dry active yeast (any kind will do)
  • 1¼ cups water, room temperature
  • 9 T butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup onions, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, discard stem ends & chop tomatoes
  • 4 T fresh basil, chopped, divided
  • 5 T + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 4 T Parmesan cheese, grated

Melt 3 T butter. Also, set out 3 T butter to soften – cut it up to speed up the process. Set this aside for later.

Into the food processor put flour, tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, and yeast. Pulse a few times to mix.  Pour the 3 T melted butter into flour mixture and turn on machine. Then slowly add the water through the pour tube. Let processor run until the dough clumps together – about 45 seconds or so.

Put 1/2 tsp oil in a bowl and coat bottom and sides. Smash dough ball into bowl, then flip it and smash down again (this will coat both sides).pizza5 Cover with a plate and let rest about 30 minutes.

While dough is rising, prepare the marinara. Into a saucepan melt 2 T butter. Add in the onions, oregano, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until onions are golden. Add in garlic and cook 30 seconds more. pizza3Stir in the tomatoes and remaining 1/4 tsp sugar. Bring to simmer and cook uncovered over medium/low flame 25 minutes. pizza7The sauce will be thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 T basil and 1 T olive oil. Set aside. pizza8When the dough has risen for 30 minutes, roll it out on a NON-floured surface to a rectangle 15″ x 12″. Spread on the softened butter that you set aside earlier over dough to 1/2″ from edges. pizza12Starting at one of the short sides, roll up all the way into a cylinder. pizza11Roll cylinder into a rectangle 18″ x 4″. pizza15Cut in half (so now there are 2  9″ x 4″ pieces). pizza14Fold each piece in on itself in thirds – like a business letter, pinching ends to seal. pizza13Spread 1/2 tsp oil in bowl and place in the 2 dough balls. Cover with plate and place in refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit. Place rack about 2″ from bottom of oven.

Pour 2 T olive oil into each of 2  9″ cake pans (don’t use the kind where the bottom is separate, such as a springform – the oil will leak out). On NON floured surface, roll each dough ball into 13″ circles . Carefully, place each piece into a cake pan, pressing dough into corners and up the sides about 1″. Divide the mozzarella, sprinkling half onto each crust. Spread half the marinara over each pizza on top of cheese. Sprinkle with 2 T Parmesan each.  pizza9Place in oven and bake 20-30 minutes (rotating halfway through), until crust is well-browned. pizza10Sprinkle on remaining 2 T basil and let set in pan a couple of minutes, then remove to cutting board. Slice and serve immediately.

 

CHEESE LASAGNA – So Good, It’s Hard To Stop!!!

lasagna1 textLasagna is one of those dishes that’s good on many levels: it’s easy to put together, it’s a potluck favorite, it can be made ahead of time, and it’s fabulous leftover.

Queen Of Freeze Tip #1 – I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention the marinara sauce can be doubled, tripled, or more, then frozen in portions for future use. I was recently able to extra-quickly make Cheese Lasagna because I already had some marinara in the freezer. However, try the sauce first before increasing the amount – to be sure you like it.

Queen Of Freeze Tip #2 – Save the extra tomato paste in mounds of 1 tablespoons on waxed paper, and place in freezer.  When frozen, store in freezer container for future use.

CHEESE LASAGNA – makes one 9″x13″ casserole

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1 onion (about 1½ cups), chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 42 oz canned whole tomatoes (1 28 oz can, & 1  14 oz can)
  • 6 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, shredded, divided
  • 8 oz whole milk cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/8 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 14 curly edged dried lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups Italian Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

To make the marinara, put the olive oil, sugar, onion, red pepper flakes, oregano, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large saucepan (so it doesn’t splatter).  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.lasagna prep8Remove and discard the stem ends, peels, and any imperfections from canned tomatoes. Pulse in food processor or chop by hand. Add to onion mixture along with tomato paste, and 1/2 cup Pecorino (1 1/4 oz). Bring to boil, then lower flame to keep a simmer for 20 minutes UNcovered.lasagna prep15Boil at least 4 cups of water. Place dried noodles in 9″x13″ casserole dish. When water is boiling, pour over noodles so they’re immersed. Gyrate them so they don’t stick. Let set 15 minutes to parcook.lasagna prep10While the noodles are softening and the sauce is cooking, mix together cottage cheese, 4 oz (1½ cups) Pecorino, cream, garlic, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Set aside.lasagna prep16When 15 minutes for the noodles is up, place them on tea towels in a single layer. Pat tops to dry. Cut 2 of them in half widthwise (so they’re each about 5″ long).  Empty and dry casserole dish.lasagna prep11Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

To assemble lasagna:

LAYER ONE: Spread 1½ cups marinara sauce on bottom. lasagna prep4Lay 3 long noodles, all touching the same short side of casserole. Take one of the short noodles and lay it along the opposite short side. (This will fill in the gap.) lasagna prep5Carefully spread half of the cottage cheese mixture over noodles. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep6LAYER TWO: Place 3 long noodles on top, this time touching the opposite short side. Take 1 short noodle and place it along the other short side of casserole. lasagna prep3Pour and spread 1½ cups sauce. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep13LAYER THREE: Place 3 long noodles on top, touching the same side as layer one, followed by (you guessed it) 1 short noodle on the opposite side. lasagna prep14Spread on the remaining cottage cheese mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep2TOP LAYER: Place 3 long noodles touching the same side as layer two, and the remaining short piece on opposite side. lasagna prep7Pour on remaining marinara sauce. With your fingers, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup Fontina with 1/8 tsp cornstarch. Sprinkle on top of sauce. Finally, sprinkle on remaining Pecorino.lasagna prep17Cover with foil and bake at 375ºF for 35 minutes. Increase oven to 500ºF and remove foil. Bake 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let lasagna rest on stovetop at least 20 minutes to set. Sprinkle on basil.lasagna prep1

 

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY: Filling, Flavorful, & Low In Calories!!!

tofu veg curry1 text

I love vegetarian curry dishes! The warm spices wake up your mouth, it fills you up, and – best of all – they’re low in calories! Without the rice, TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY is about 200 calories per cup. Yay!

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY also has the benefit of being easy and fairly quick to prepare – about 40 minutes total (and the last 15 minutes are hands off simmering).

If you’ve already glanced at the recipe below, you may be leery of making it due to the long list of ingredients. Fear not! Notice that most of them are spices. If you’ve been cooking for awhile then you may already have many, if not all – they’re very common in cooking.

Note:  If you prefer, you can substitute 2 T garam masala spice blend for the first 10 ingredients.  Then start with the chili powder.

Additional Note: Don’t skip the cream – it truly makes all the difference in the world. (There’s only 1/4 cup in the whole batch anyway.)

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY – makes about 8 cups

  • 1 T coriander
  • 1¼ tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 4 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 cups  onions, chopped
  • 1 cup red potatoes (or Yukon gold), unpeeled and cubed into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 serrano chili, minced
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 14 oz canned whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 6 oz extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ cup green peas
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Have all ingredients prepped, in order to speed things up.

Place a small bowl near the stove. Into a dry Dutch oven add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, mustard, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cayenne, and chili powder. Turn flame on to medium/high. Stir constantly for 1 minute – you’re toasting the spices. You’ll notice a puff of smoke at about the 1 minute mark. Immediately empty the spices into the bowl and set aside.

Into the now empty Dutch oven add 3 T oil, onions, and potatoes. Sauté over medium/high until browned – about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.

Shove the onions and potatoes to the edge of the pot. Into the center place the remaining 1 T oil, garlic, serrano, and tomato paste. Over medium flame stir just the tomato paste mixture for 1 minute to bloom them. Then stir the onions/potatoes and tomato paste mixture together, cooking an additional 2 minutes.

Add in the cauliflower and spices (from bowl),  and cook 2 more minutes, stirring often.

Pour in the canned tomatoes, water, chickpeas, sugar, tofu, and salt. Bring to boil, cover, then turn down heat to keep a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.

Stir in the peas and cream. Serve as is, or over rice with NAAN BREAD (which I prefer!).

CHEESY BRUNCH POTATOES: They’re Delicious All Day Long!

cheesy brunch potatoes textI’m a fan of potatoes – dressed up or dressed down, they’re pretty much always good. I’m, also, a fan of brunch….only for dinner. So CHEESY BRUNCH POTATOES is an Antonini family favorite evening meal.

Served with a vegetable, salad, and a yogurt shake, you’ve got yourself a fast, filling, and kid-friendly meal.

CHEESY BRUNCH POTATOES – serves about 6 (unless you have teenagers – then it’s 2)

  • 1½ lbs red potatoes (Yukon gold potatoes are fine, too – just not russet)
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1¼ cup jalapeño jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup avocado, cubed

Get a pot of salted water boiling. Cut unpeeled potatoes into 3/4″ cubes. potatoes choppedWhen water reaches boil, drop in potatoes and cook about 5 minutes – just to par-cook them. potatoes boiled(You don’t want them completely cooked or they’ll start to mash when fried.) Pour into sieve to drain.

In a large nonstick skillet (at least 12″), melt butter over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, flipping them with non-metal spatula every few minutes. After about 5 minutes add in the onions (they cook faster than the potatoes – you don’t want to burn them). potatoes onions friedContinue flipping until the potatoes are browned. potatoes onions fried2Turn off flame.

Stir in salt and cheeses to blend. Gently fold in tomatoes and avocado. Add salt and pepper, if desired.brunch potatoes beauty

CRISPY EGGPLANT PARMESAN: New And Improved!!!

eggplant parm textPreviously, I posted an Eggplant Parmesan recipe made in the traditional manner:  coated fried eggplant, slathered with marinara sauce, and topped with mozzarella. This was baked to fully cook the eggplant and melt the cheese. What I ended up with was mushy eggplant, soggy crust, bland marinara, and rubbery mozzarella. I knew no different.

Until I watched an America’s Test Kitchen episode where they made Chicken Parmesan. Significant changes were made, thus producing a crispy crust, fresh-tasting marinara, and melty cheese. Of course, I substituted eggplant for the chicken.

What changes, you ask? They used panko crumbs in lieu of bread crumbs for a crunchy coat. They cut the mozzarella with Italian Fontina to achieve a nice melt without being rubbery.  They added the marinara sauce at the end to retain the fresh tomato taste and crispy crust. And, finally, they didn’t bake the heck out of it – in fact, they merely broiled it enough to melt the cheese. Brilliant!!!

NOTE:  A Queen Of Freeze time-saving tip is to double or triple the marinara recipe. Then freeze it in portions for future use. Don’t add the basil before freezing, though – it will lose it’s potency.

CRISPY EGGPLANT PARMESAN

  • 2 eggplants (about 1½ pounds total)
  • kosher salt
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, divided
  • 1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped (discard stem ends & peels)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 2 T  fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 c panko crumbs
  • 3/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Italian Fontina cheese

Remove ends of unpeeled eggplants and discard. Cut into 3/4″ pieces. Lay rounds on a wire rack and sprinkle 1/8 tsp of kosher salt on each side of slices. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the salt to draw out water from the eggplant. eggplant salt sprinklePrepare the marinara:  In a saucepan, heat 1 T olive oil. Add in the garlic, 1/4 tsp table salt, 1/4 tsp oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds to bloom. Add the canned tomatoes and sugar. Bring to simmer and cook 20 minutes, uncovered. Stir now and then. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the basil and remaining 1 T olive oil. Set aside.marinaraIn a bowl, mix together panko, Parmesan, garlic powder, 1/4 tsp oregano, and pepper. Pour onto a large plate.

Using a spoon, mix together the flour and egg, smashing out the flour lumps as best you can. Pour onto a large plate.

Wipe down both sides of eggplant slices with paper towel to remove excess salt. Heat several tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Dredge eggplant slices first into egg (both sides),eggplant dipped in eggand then into panko mix (both sides)eggplant dipped in pankoPlace into skillet, frying both sides to golden brown.eggplant friedPlace eggplant on a broiler pan and preheat broiler with rack in upper third of oven.

Combine Fontina and mozzarella. Sprinkle cheese on eggplant. Broil about 3 minutes, until cheese is melted.eggplant melted cheeseTo serve, top with marinara. Sprinkle on additional basil, if desired.eggplant parm cropped