Month: January 2016

Tackling A Classic: Eggplant Parmesan

I recently bought ready-made eggplant parmesan from a small (and authentic) grocery that stocks fresh pasta made in-store by the Italian owners. The parm was delicious. There is everything to love in the two main ingredients – eggplant and cheese! Unfortunately, my new health app registered the accompanying high number of calories which forced me to attempt a healthier version of the classic.

Eggplants are notorious for absorbing unhealthy amounts of oil, and by baking eggplants, my version cuts out frying the eggplant altogether. Cutting this step also eliminates both the eggs and breadcrumbs that coat the eggplant; these add to the amount of oil absorbed, as well as to the dish’s total calories. All that was left to do was to combine good tomato sauce (thickened with celery, carrots, onions, and garlic), fresh basil, and cheese, and bake. The toasted breadcrumbs that were sprinkled in between layers added crunch, but they are not essential.

Tomato sauce

San Marzano tomatoes (28 oz) can – 2

Tomato paste – 1½ tbsp

Onion – 1 medium, sliced

Carrots – 2, diced

Celery – 1 ½ stalks, chopped

Garlic cloves – 6-8, minced

Olive oil – 1 ½ tbsp

Salt – to taste

Chili pepper flakes – 1½ tsp

Pepper – 1 tsp

  • Heat the oil in a pan.
  • Add onions to the hot oil, and sauté until translucent.
  • Add garlic and stir-fry, until light brown.
  • Add carrots, celery and cook for about five minutes or until softened.
  • Remove the mixture from heat, and mix in the food processor to a grainy texture.
  • Add the mixture back to the pan. Start to heat the pan, adding tomatoes and tomato paste to the mixture. Cook the juice down, mashing up the tomato pieces.
  • Add the salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
  • Keep 3 cups aside, and boil it down until it is a thick liquid.
  • Freeze the rest of the sauce to use later. I often serve with meatballs, spiralized zucchini “noodles,” and grilled shrimp.


Eggplant – 2 medium sized, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼-inch strips (10-12 strips in total)

Olive oil – 1 tbsp

  • Heat the oven at 400°F.
  • Place the eggplant slices on aluminum foil and brush lightly with oil.
  • Cook for about 35-40 minutes, turning slices halfway through, until just soft. Keep aside.

For The Assembly Line:

Toasted breadcrumbs or panko – ½ cup

Mozzarella cheese – 12 oz, thinly sliced

Parmesan cheese – 4 oz, freshly grated

Fresh basil leaves – 12-15 leaves

Tomato sauce – see above

Baked eggplant – see above

  • Lightly grease a loaf pan or Pyrex dish.
  • Divide the ingredients in the following order for three layers: sauce, breadcrumbs, overlapping eggplant slices, cheese (parmesan and mozzarella), and basil. Repeat, until you have formed 3 layers.
  • Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes. Set under a broiler for 5 minutes at the end for a crisp topping.
  • Once cooled, the baked eggplant parmesan will be firm. Loosen the slides by sliding a knife along the edges. Flip over on to a serving plate.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Note: Reduce the tomato sauce, so that there is no excess liquid. Otherwise, your layers will not be firm.


Trending Now: Turmeric

Turmeric is an ancient spice, used in both Indian and Chinese medicines, as well as in everyday cooking. When peeled, the fresh gnarled ginger-like rhizome (underground stem) reveals a bright orange flesh. When the fresh turmeric is dried and crushed, the spice powder adds a distinctive warm hue to a dish. The curcumin compound in turmeric is responsible for color, and is one of the ingredients sought after for its powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. Turmeric is used in Indian and Asian cooking for exactly these reasons: to heal as well as to protect against possible spoilages, especially for meat. Turmeric is having its moment again, and trending now as a super food in the form of Golden Milk (or Golden Tea) and as supplements.

Golden Milk is a coconut milk-based drink, spiced with turmeric, cinnamon, and pepper. The tea is one of the many ways to add turmeric into a diet, and is especially powerful when combined with ingredients that boost the immune system. In Indian cooking, turmeric is always cooked in oil or ghee, along with other spices. When cooked in some fat, turmeric’s peppery aromatics are released while the raw bitter flavor mellows. Cinnamon, pepper, and ginger are also known as spices that fight against cold and sore throat, and this turmeric drink makes for a wonderful antidote to the cold weather.

Golden Milk (Golden Tea)

Vegetable oil – ½ tsp

Turmeric powder – ¼ -½ tsp

Ginger – 1-inch piece cut into slivers

Peppercorns – 4-5

Cinnamon – 1 stick

Coconut milk (unsweetened and light) – 1 cup

  • Heat oil in a small wok or pan.
  • Add ginger and sauté for a minute, or until aromatic flavors are released.
  • Add the turmeric, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  • Warm (do not boil) the coconut milk separately.
  • Add the spice mixture to the milk and let them steep for about 10 minutes. Remove whole spices, if desired, before drinking.



Suggested Daily Uses For Turmeric:

Salads: Add turmeric to make a salad dressing. Warm olive oil, and stir-fry a ¼ tsp of turmeric along with shallots or onions. Add red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix together.

Fresh Vegetables and Lentils: Add turmeric to the vegetable oil used to sauté onions and pepper and mix the spiced oil with vegetables and cooked lentils.

Eggs: Add mustard (color in mustard comes from turmeric) or turmeric to the hot oil before eggs are scrambled.



Note: Keeping up with current trends, please check out my recipes on Pinterest and Yummly.




Fruit of Knowledge: Apple (Part 3)

I wanted to use the apples from a fruit basket that I received over the holidays to follow a cousin’s apple cake recipe. Her apple cake is more than just dessert; the cake is usually devoured for breakfast as well as in-between snacks whenever our family gets together. However, to prevent the large quantity of apples from spoiling, I ended up puréeing most of the apples into applesauce. The refrigerated sauce stays fresh for a week. The bonus – adding the applesauce to cake ingredients — resulted in a moist cake.

Applesauce is more than just stomach-settling baby food purée. Roughly-mashed apples, when cooked down in a sugary syrup with spices such as cinnamon and cloves or zests of orange and lemon, work equally well as dessert or as a condiment. In savory dishes, applesauce works like gravy when accompanying pork roasts or potato pancakes. Applesauce becomes a delicious hot compote dessert, and can also be served with ice cream or whipped cream. During the war years, applesauce replaced eggs and butter that were in short supply. Taking advantage of the fruit’s natural sweetness and the cooked down creamy sauce, I ended up with a low-fat (less sugar) and low cholesterol (no eggs) cake.


Apples (2 granny smith plus any other firm apples) – 5, peel, core, and cut into chunks

Brown sugar – ¼ cup

Cinnamon stick – 1

Water – ¾ cup

  • Add all the ingredients together in a pan. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
  • Process the mixture in a blender for a creamy applesauce or blend with a potato masher for a more chunky sauce.


Applesauce Cake

Applesauce – 1¼ cup

Apples – 3, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices

Flour – 2 cups, sifted

Vegetable oil – ½ cup

Sugar – ½ cup

Baking soda – 1 tsp

Cinnamon powder – ½ tsp

Chopped walnuts – 1 cup

  • Mix the applesauce, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor.
  • While the processor is running, add the sifted flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix until incorporated. Do not over mix.
  • Add the oil while the food processor is running.
  • Add walnuts to the mixture.
  • Pour the batter onto a greased 9×13-inch pan.
  • Add the apple slices, mixing and coating them with batter.
  • Bake at 350ºF for 40-60 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.
  • Cool and serve.

Note: The applesauce cake had more of an apple bread consistency, as I had reduced the amount of oil and sugar to make it a healthy treat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.








Raclette Grill

I posted several communal food blogs over this past year, and all of the featured meals worked well when friends and family visited. As we all gathered around one pot, the kitchen buzzed with collaborative activity and commotion. Each person took charge of one aspect of assembling the necessary ingredients around the main event. It seemed appropriate to usher in the New Year with a communal meal, working with a familiar theme and a favorite ingredient – cheese.

My niece’s Christmas present, a raclette grill, inspired me to borrow a German New Year’s Eve tradition to usher in 2016. The raclette grill is a combination of a table-top hot plate and small spade-like pans called coupelles. Many more people can hover around a raclette grill than a fondue pot, while melting individual pans of cheese and interspersing them with fondue favorite accompaniments of boiled potatoes, green beans, and pickled onions. Fresh tomatoes and peppers were reintroduced, as they added color and contrasting texture. New additions, such as kielbasa, bratwurst sausages, and shrimp sizzled on the hotplate. Some of us scattered raclette cheese on the accompaniments to set under the grill, while others preferred to slide the melted cheese right off the coupelles on to the dinner plate. Whatever our choices, going into the New Year was remarkably easy.

Best wishes for festive and shared meals in the New Year!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.