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CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Summertime Recipes!

CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Summertime Recipes!

 

 

 

 

Back on CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Ryan Kristafer and Teresa Dufour this past Thursday morning!  I feel so fortunate to be working with such a wonderful group of people at WTNH Channel 8 who make it so fun to share The Traveling Epicurean recipes with all of you.

My goal for this segment was to show you a couple of creative and really delicious ideas for all your summertime produce. Panzanella and Berries in Dreamy Cream came to mind.

One of the wonderful things about making these dishes is the abundance and variety you have to choose from at the farmers markets in the summer. The incredible flavors in this Panzanella recipe go without saying. All the aroma’s from the fresh herbs, basil, parsley, thyme & oregano to the fresh vegetables like the heirloom tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, red onions really get you salavating. The creaminess from the fresh mozzarella and the crunchy from the homemade croutons balance it all out.

As for the Berries in Dreamy Cream, you can whip this one up in a matter of minutes as well. I’ve been making this sauce for over 20 years and always get the same delightful response from guests after their first bite. You would never think that melting Fluff and cream cheese together could make such a delectable sauce on fresh berries. It’s a sensation you have to treat your self to and then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

For other scrumptious, easy go to summertime dishes you’ve got to check out my Salsa 101, Best Guacamole Ever, Zucchini Spaghetti,  Fresh Grarden Tomato Sauce or Roasted Garlic & Cannelini Bean Dip ! ENJOY!

Easy Gourmet Eggplant Parmesan

Easy Gourmet Eggplant Parmesan

My easy gourmet eggplant Parmesan is sweet, saucy and oozing with mozzarella getting even better the next day when it’s re-heated if that’s even possible! Eggplant Parmesan one of my very favorite things to make. I used to watch my mother fry eggplant when I was young and I have been making this homemade eggplant Parmesan for 30 years now. Eggplant Parmesan is one of those delicious Italian comfort foods that can be a little bit of work to prepare so I show you how to keep the process simple by spreading out the steps.

The secret to sweet eggplant Parmesan is slicing , lightly salting and weighting down the eggplant letting it sit in the refrigerator for 2 hrs to overnight preferably to remove the bitter purple juice making my homemade baked eggplant Parmesan as sweet as ever. This is a simple but ingenious way that’s been in my family for generations.

It will be much easier to try and fry up only one eggplant if it’s your first time just to get the hang of it. If you have gone through the frying process before I would suggest cooking up two or three large eggplants. I like to fry up 3 eggplants because I freeze the slices I don’t use right away when they are completely cooled in between layers of thick durable Bounty paper towels in freezer Ziploc baggies. This way all your base work is done for you and you are able to pull them out of the freezer and whip up an eggplant rollatini, eggplant Parmesan, or even eggplant lasagna. When you take them out of the freezer they pop apart easily thawing in minutes too ready for what ever dish you may have in mind.

I recommend making my quick and easy tomato-basil pasta sauce  or even my slow cooked pasta sauce to baked this easy gourmet eggplant Parmesan dish. I love the fact that it can totally be made days ahead, even weeks ahead and put into the freezer ready to thaw when you need it.

If you’re feeling ambitious you may want to venture off and try my homemade eggplant rollatini with vodka sauce and, or my homemade ricotta which you can also make the day before or just treat yourself and buy Liuzzi Cheese ricotta or your favorite store brand for the rollatini. Planning is sometimes the name of the game for taking the labor out of scrumptious food like this where if you get it done in steps it makes everything go so smoothly.

You may want to accompany this amazing Italian dish with some apps like crab cakes, a homemade Caesar saladMediterranean layered dip, or asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto and you could end it with the best chocolate cake you ever had that’s a snap to make! ENJOY! 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce or Slow cooked pasta 101 recipe
  • 2-3 large eggplants
  • 6-9 extra large eggs whisked (approx. 3 eggs per 1 extra-large eggplant)
  • 3 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs – (use “seasoned breadcrumbs” then you don’t have to add that in)
  • salt
  • 1 16 oz. block of part-skim or whole milk mozzarella shredded or sliced thinly
  • 3 1/2-4 cups canola oil for frying
  • fresh basil leaves
  • grated Parmesan for garnish
  • Cookie racks
  • 1 whole roll of Bounty Paper Towels (it’s important to get quality paper towel so they will absorb the oil properly and won’t fall apart)
  • Candy thermometer to keep oil at 300º

Directions – Pre-heat oven to 350º:

  1. Slice the ends off the eggplants
  2. Using a potato peeler peel off all the skin of the eggplants
  3. Slice up eggplants on a slight bias (on a little bit of an angle) into 1/4″ slices (1/4″ for rolling up for eggplant rollatini BUT you can cut them a little thicker 3/8″ for eggplant parm!
  4. NOTE: If i plan on freezing the left over fried eggplant slice’s for future dinners (eggplant rollatini) I cut them length wise so as to have enough length to roll up with ricotta in the middle BUT if I’m just making enough for parm I cut the eggplant on a slight bias because I don’t need the length…I try to cut them all the same so cooking time is constant.
  5. Layer the eggplant slices in a large glass bowl
  6. In between each layer sprinkle 1/4 Tsp of salt, and keep layering eggplant, salt, eggplant, salt…
  7. Cover with Saran wrap and place a small plate on top and then some heavy fry pans or large tomato can to weight down the eggplant and into the frig for 1-2 hours up to 1 day
  8. Drain the purple juice from the bowl
  9. Take the eggplant and pat them dry in layers between Bounty paper towels
  10. Whisk eggs
  11. Get your line-up of bowls in order: eggplant slices – whisked eggs – bread crumbs
  12. Add 3 1/2 – 4 cups canola oil to a large sauce pan and begin to heat up on medium/high heat
  13. The oil needs to get to about 300º …The temperature will go down a little when you start filling the pan with breaded eggplant slices so start with the heat on med/high then after you start to fry you will have to turn it up a little to maintain the 300º
  14. Lay out 2-3 cookie racks covered with layers of paper towels to absorb oil for frying
  15. Add slices of eggplant to the egg bowl in batches – only add in the 4 or 5 slices that are going next into the oil and ready to go into the bread crumbs
  16. Then dip into the bread crumbs and into the heated oil
  17. Put 4 or 5 slices of breaded eggplant into the oil at a time…
  18. They will fry for about 2-3 minutes per side til golden then flip the slice over
  19. While the 1st batch is frying get the 2nd batch ready to fry dipping into the egg and then into the bread crumbs and let them sit there on the bread crumbs til they are ready to go into the oil
  20. Once the eggplant are golden place onto cookie racks with paper towels and dab them with fresh paper towels, flip and do the same to the other side to remove all excess oil
  21. Throw away oily paper towels and re-place with a new set of paper towels for the next and replace with each batch there after
  22. Then place the eggplant onto the wire cookie racks with out paper towels to cool
  23. Finish frying the rest of the eggplant going thru the same procedures
  24. Get out your favorite baking dish and cover the bottom with sauce
  25. Begin to layer sauce, eggplant, mozzarella and some fresh basil leaves til you are 1″ from the top
  26. Cover with foil and bake for 50-55 minutes appox. with foil til sides are bubbling and bake another 5-10 with out foil so mozzarella can get bubbly

FREEZING TIPS: I love, love, love to freeze my fried eggplant slices because all the work is done for you the next time you want to make parm or rollatini. BEST way to freeze your eggplant slices:  let all the fried slices COMPLETELY cool on a cookie rack, then layer as many slices in between BOUNTY (need a durable paper towel)  paper towels. Layer enough slices to fit a SINGLE layer in between each sheet of Bounty in a FREEZER ZIP-LOC baggie.  Begin with a sheet of Bounty in the Zip-Loc, then slices of eggplant-single layer, then another sheet of Bounty, then another layer of eggplant slices and so on until you can barely close baggie. Lay flat in you freezer and Voilà! Freezes great 4-5 months!

BEST Manicotti Ever Recipe

BEST Manicotti Ever Recipe

Yes, I am giving up the good’s on this one and I know you will appreciate it because this is one of my very favorite secret recipes that has been in our family for generations! My mother Maria taught me how to make these homemade gourmet manicotti when I was young and now I am thrilled to pass this very special dish on to you.

These are the BEST homemade manicotti I have EVER tasted and I know you will love them too. They are a poured pasta, a crêpe so to speak and are light and fluffy.  I’m partial to Liuzzi’s homemade whole milk ricotta, and I user a mix of mozzarella’s from Scamorza, which is a slightly salted/dryer mozzarella to whole milk and skim milk mozzarella. I start off with either my tomato-basil pasta sauce or my pasta sauce 101 for the homemade manicotti. These are an especially festive and a special dish to make for the holidays.

This manicotti batter is poured like a crêpe. It’s light and airy like a crepe but definitely different in texture. The texture of the crêpe is a pasta texture, creamy and soft. These manicotti shells (crêpes) are truly gourmet and you’ll will appreciate how delicate a dish this really is when you make them for your own family and friends. My turkey meatballs would go great with this holiday dish also.  A spread of spiral ham or roasted lamb with gourmet manicotti and turkey meatballs …who’s better than you?!

It’s nice to serve a refreshing salad with pasta like my Caesar Salad then maybe an appetizer like crab cakes and sides like Roasted Beet Salad with Mint and Feta or Yogurt Chicken Kabobs. A light pavlova dessert with fresh pineapple and berries would make the perfect end for this manicotti dinner.

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Ingredients:

    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 Tsp salt
    • 4 extra large eggs
    • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
    • 3 lbs. Liuzzi whole milk or “fina style” (a finer ricotta), or your favorite
    • 5 0z. shredded whole milk, 5 oz. park skim and 5 oz. Scamorza mozzarella mixed together
    • (you can also do 8 oz. whole milk and 8 oz. part skim shedded and mixed)
    • 5″ cast iron pan or 5″ non-stick pan
    • Baking pan approx. 11″ x 16″

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl whisk 1 cup flour, 1/4 Tsp salt with 1 cup water (approx. 20 whisks)
  2. Add in 1 egg at a time and whisk about 5 whisks per egg
  3. Put cast iron pan on stove on medium/high heat (a 7 out of an 11)
  4. Put a couple of Tbsp of olive oil in a bowl with a paper towel
  5. Rub pan with olive oil-saturated paper towel in between cooking poured pasta batter
  6. Pour in a ladle of batter into hot pan, approx. a little less than 1/4 cup laddle
  7. Pick up pan and swirl around 3 times and place back down onto stove
  8. Wait about 25 seconds and flip pasta crepe over, you can use a flexible pastry knife to help you get under it…it will be easy to flip and will not ever be stuck
  9. You never want the pasta crepe to be golden on the edges-that would be over cooking them…they should look like the photo above light in color
  10. Immediately flip over onto floured board and flip a couple of times to cool a little
  11. Repeat dredging saturated paper towel into pan to coat and then pour another 1/4 cup ladle of batter into pan.
  12. Repeat this over and over until you run out of batter…this amount will make 16 manicotti
  13. When you are done lay out a work board to roll manicotti’s on
  14. Put ricotta in a bowl so it’s easy to work with
  15. Pour about 2 cup of tomato sauce into the baking pan
  16. Lay out manicotti crepe and scoop 1/4 cup ricotta going across the center of the circle as shown in the photo
  17. Lay a piece of mozzarella in the center and roll up manicotti
  18. Place rolled manicotti on top of sauce in pan and continue on until all the pasta crepes are done
  19. Pour another 2-2 1/2 cups of sauce on top of roll manicotti’s, sprinkle with parmesan and cover with foil
  20. Place in frig until you are ready to bake
  21. Or cover with saran and then foil and put into the freezer until your event is near and then pull out two nights before and put into the frig to thaw
  22. When you are ready to bake your manicotti put into a 350º oven and bake for 45 minutes
  23. The manicotti will be bubbly when you take it out of the oven and need to rest for 5 minutes before serving