Grilled Eggplant Parm Sandwiches

June 26, 2011 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu No Comments

I came across this modern and fresh version of the classic eggplant parm sandwich a little over a year ago when I started watching Sam the Cooking Guy. Like myself, Sam does not consider himself a chef, but rather the guy next door who likes to cook and have fun while experimenting in the kitchen. His cooking show is also both entertaining and educational, which is a big plus, considering all of the other trendy fly-by-night cooking shows these days.

I’d consider myself an eggplant parm junkie, and when I discovered this new twist on one of my favorite dishes, I was blown away (you may remember my suggesting Sam’s web page a while back through my Facebook group page). Unlike traditional eggplant, which is breaded and deep fried, then often left swimming in a heap of sauce and cheese, this recipe uses the key ingredients heated together on the grill. You’re simply slicing eggplants and tomatoes, seasoning them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grilling them up. You’re then toasting up some rolls (which essentially replaces the breadcrumbs), and you’re stacking the grilled eggplant and tomato on the roll with fresh basil, some shredded parmesan cheese and a slice of mozzarella cheese.

Grilling the tomato actually softens it up, and when added to the sandwich, it almost becomes its own sauce. Everything then comes together in each glorious, gooey bite. Simple, fresh and delicious! This sandwich has become a go-to staple in the summertime, and could very well be one of my all time favorite sandwiches. I follow Sam’s recipe step-by-step, but occasionally serve it on slider rolls as an appetizer (as pictured). I suggest you give this one a try, and definitely check out Sam the Cooking Guy (you can find the original link to  Sam’s recipe by clicking here).

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches
Courtesy of Sam the Cooking Guy

• 1 large globe eggplant – or 2 smaller ones
• 3 large tomatoes
• 4 slices mozzerella cheese
• 4 crusty Italian type rolls, split in half
• 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
• 1 bunch fresh basil
• Olive oil
• Kosher salt
• Fresh Ground Pepper

Cut eggplant & tomatoes to get eight 1/4 inch slices of each

Brush eggplant with olive oil and season with salt & pepper

Grill eggplant on both sides until soft and marked with grill lines

Do the same with tomatoes, but for about half the eggplant time

Heat broiler, and toast buns lightly

Remove from oven and on top of the bottom roll place, in this order…2 slices of eggplant, 2 slices of tomato, 3 large basil leaves, mozzerella cheese and finally about 2 tablespoons of parmesan

Place openface under broiler to melt cheese and brown the top – but don’t go far you don’t want them to burn.

Place tops on and slice in half – yummm

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Italian Potato Salad

June 17, 2011 Appetizer, Menu, Salads No Comments

Potato salad could arguably be one of the most popular salads served this time of year. From roast beef, chicken and pulled pork sandwiches, to grill-outs and picnics, potato salad is hands-down the side dish staple. The combination of potatoes and mayonnaise (often with the addition of carrots, celery, eggs, and even bacon bits) is both classic and comforting.

Now, I’m not always a big fan of the often too creamy, too gloppy texture of potato salad, especially during the dog days of summer. Also, I tend to find that the potato itself tends to get lost in the mix when too many other ingredients are included. Italian style potato salad, however, is much lighter in texture, and the key ingredients all work together and help enhance the taste of the potato, rather than disguise it. There are four key ingredients to Italian style potato salad: potatoes, olive oil, white vinegar and garlic. You can serve as is, or enhance the salad by using a number of additional ingredients, depending on the taste that you are going for. 

• For a fresh accent, add some fresh chopped parsley.

• If you’re looking for a zesty punch, add some Italian seasoning, and jack it up a bit more with some crushed red pepper.

• For a more earthy taste, add some fresh chopped rosemary and sage.

• And for a little extra texture, toss in some bacon or pancetta!  

ITALIAN POTATO SALAD
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced

Boil salted water in a large pot. Add potatoes, boil until tender but firm, about 20 minutes. Drain, cool and chop.

Mix together olive oil, vinegar and garlic.*

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil/vinegar/garlic mixture to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate over night.

*Adjust taste with additional flavors and seasonings.

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Lemon Carbonara with Asparagus

June 12, 2011 Menu, Pasta No Comments

Carbonara is a delicate, yet filling pasta dish that incorporates raw eggs and pecorino romano cheese as a sauce. Pancetta (Italian bacon) is also usually part of the mix, allowing the rendered fat to flavor both the sauce and the pasta. Vegetables, such as peas, mushrooms or asparagus (which I prefer) are very complimentary to this dish. Although this is a cream sauce, it is much lighter than the more traditional alfredo cream sauce. Also, the goal is to just coat the pasta rather than have it swim in the sauce. Long flat pasta, such as linguine or fettuccine, work best with this sauce. Noodles also work well and can be easier to manage if you’re like me and are not a big fan of long pasta.

What I particularly like about Carbonara is its overall ease and flexibility. With just a few ingredients, you have total control over how much sauce you make and how flavorful you want it. Both pancetta and pecorino romano are quite salty, so there is no real need for any other herbs or spices. However, I like to add lemon zest to my sauce. It gives a fresh and welcoming zing. You can also substitute bacon for the pancetta for a more smokey flavor. Or you could do half pancetta and half bacon for a nice smokey/salty balance! This is not a dish that you want to make in excess. Since it is an egg-based sauce, it would be tricky to reheat and keep the intended texture. I suggest making between 2-4 servings, at least until you find an egg/cheese ratio that you are happy with. The recipe below serves two people, but feel free to adjust the cheese and egg measurements to your liking!

LEMON CARBONARA WITH ASPARAGUS

2 eggs
1/4 cup pecorino romano, plus more for serving
1/4 cup pancetta, chopped into 1″ cubes
1/4 cup asparagus, chopped
1/2 lb pasta
2 tbspn EVOO
Zest of one lemon
Black pepper to taste

Heat the EVOO in a frying pan, add the chopped pancetta. Cook 3-4 minutes, until the pancetta is slightly crispy and the fat is rendered. Remove from pan, set aside. Do a quick wipe-down of the pan to remove any gristle and excessive oil. Set pan aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus, cook until crisp-tender. Remove asparagus from water and place it into a bowl filled with ice water to shock the asparagus (meaning it will bring the cooking process to a complete stop and will keep the asparagus crispy and bright green). Drain and set aside.

Bring another pot of water to a boil. Add pasta. Because the pancetta is salty, there is no real need to salt the pasta water. As the pasta is boiling, you will mix the egg, pecorino romano, pepper and lemon zest in a bowl (as if you were preparing an egg omelette batter). Add the pancetta and asparagus, stir in, set aside.

When the pasta is done, remove from water (reserving the water). Place the pasta into the pan used for the pancetta. Quickly toss the pasta in the pan to coat it in the pancetta fat. Immediately after this, pour the egg batter over the pasta. Make sure that the pan is not on the heat, as this will cook the egg, which you do not want to do. The hot pasta will supply enough heat to properly cook the egg mixture. Whisk the batter into the pasta until it starts to thicken up a bit and all of the pasta is coated (again, you DO NOT want a scrambled egg texture, but rather a creamy sauce). You can add some pasta water to the pan a little at a time, until you get a consistency that you like.

Place the pasta on a dish, top with some more pecorino romano. Enjoy!

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Taking Center Stage!

June 6, 2011 Menu No Comments

This past weekend I had the honor of taking part in the Cucina Chatter LIVE radio broadcast with host Lorraine Ranalli and fellow CC cast members Rhonda Fink-Whitman, Chef Jacquie Peccina Kelly and Natalie Stone at the Rose Tree Park Italian American Heritage Festival….and it couldn’t have been a better day! The weather was great, and the park was jam packed with patrons, vendors, music, Mummers and the terrific smells of Italian food. I also had the pleasure of meeting and talking with a few people who were interested in my blog. Talk about instant gratification! I was also very fortunate to have my family and many close friends come out to join and support me and my ‘stage debut.’ But the biggest thrill was to have my two girls, Julianna and Ava, join me on stage (Julianna was asked to join us by Lorraine, while Ava took it upon herself to just jump up on stage and ham it up a bit).

To say that this was the biggest highlight of my blogging career would be an understatement. I have seen my blog grow from just a personal project, to being included on various food blogs and web sites. To have a few moments to actually meet people face-to-face and speak about my blog is a milestone that I will never forget.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support me and to those who sent me well wishes for the event. Special thanks to Phil Heron and the Delaware County Daily Times for giving me this tremendous opportunity. And of course, extra special thanks to Lorraine…you rock!

You can now check out vidoe clips of the show at the Delaware County Times website (my kids are in part 3, hint-hint!)
http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2011/06/06/entertainment/doc4deb714345335962231563.txt

Also, be sure to visit Chef Jacquie at www.taste4travel.net.

And the next time you’re in the mood for biscotti, you have to try www.bellasbiscotti.com. It doesn’t get any better than that!

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