Pantry “Eggplant Parmesan”

It’s weird when you feel like ever word in a recipe should have quotes around it. During the pandemic, my niece, Julia, ate eggplant parmesan. My son, Simon, saw it on FaceTime, and requested that I too make eggplant parmesan. I was happy to oblige, but have never been one for breading and deep frying eggplant. Also, I am always looking for ways to make my cooking a one-pot meal. And finally, when I made this the first time, it was the height of the pandemic and empty-shelves grocery stores, so I had to improvise. Thus was born what Simon calls eggplant parmesan, but what is really a beefy, tomato-y, mishmash of deliciousness. And I call this “pantry” because there are lots of ways to vary this given what you have on hand. One fresh item you will need, however, is eggplant.

Here’s what you need:

2-4 eggplants

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 yellow, or white, or red onion, diced

a few cloves of garlic, minced, or a couple tablespoons garlic paste, or some garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried basil and 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or you could do parsley, or you could use some fresh herbs if you have them, or even a few scoops of pantry or frozen pesto)

2 tablespoons tomato paste (or not, if you don’t have it)

1.5 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey, or ground chicken, or a little more or a little less)

1 can diced tomatoes and 1 jar tomato sauce (or 2 cans, diced or pureed or whatever, or two jars)

1 cup parmesan cheese (and/or some other cheese, like shredded mozzerella, or toss in some ricotta or mascarpone or even cottage cheese)

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Wash your eggplants and slice them in circles or cut them lengthwise, about 1/2 inch thick. Brush a large baking sheet with one tablespoon olive oil. Lay the eggplants out in a single layer, spray the tops of them with cooking spray, and bake for about 20 minutes. Check them, flip them, and give them another ten minutes. They should be softened and a little golden, but it’s okay if they aren’t 100% cooked.

3. Lower the heat in the oven to 350 degrees.

4. In a large, oven safe pot with a lid, warm the remaining olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and herbs, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions start to soften.

5. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute.

6. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost fully cooked.

7. Add the can of tomatos, or a jar of tomato sauce, and stir.

8. Turn off the heat. Layer the eggplant pieces on top of the beef/tomato mixture. Top with the remaining jar of sauce. Then top with whatever cheeses you are using. (Or, if you are using some creamy cheeses, like ricotta or cottage cheese, put that on top of the beef, and then layer the eggplant over it.)

9. Baked, covered, for about 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake another 10 minutes or so until the cheese is bubbly.


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Baked Peanut-Lime Tofu, Coconut-Cilantro-Lime Rice, and Peanut Green Salad Bowls

This recipe is a variation of one I saw in the NY Times Cooking Section. It uses lots of flavorful, fresh ingredients to make a delicious combination. If you don’t want to assemble all the parts, the tofu is great on its own! And it’s versatile because the marinade is slightly altered to turn into the salad dressing. So don’t be deterred by the long title–all the parts share ingredients and lead to a great combination.

Here’s what you need:

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (or any other oil of your choosing)

1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, drained and sliced in 1/4 inch slabs

1 cup creamy peanut butter

6 tablespoons lime juice, divided, plus zest from one lime (about 4-5 limes)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon red miso

1 teaspoon hot sauce, or a chopped jalapeno, or skip this

1 tablespoon grated ginger (a great trick is to buy fresh ginger, cut off the skin, cut into 2 inch pieces, and freeze; then you always have “fresh” ginger on hand, and it’s super easy to grate when frozen)

3/4 cup water

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 cups white rice

1 can full-fat coconut milk

salt to taste

bunch of cilantro, chopped

1 green onion, thinly sliced

as many handfuls of greens (spinach, arugula, spring mix) as you want for each bowl

Here’s what you do:

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Pour 1 tablespoon peanut oil on a large baking sheet and spread around.

3. Prepare the tofu. First, slice into 1/4 inch slabs. Then, allow to sit on paper towels, with more on top, and something heavy on top of that, for about 15 minutes, to drain.

4. Make the marinade: Whisk together the peanut butter, 4 tablespoons lime juice, honey, red miso, hot sauce, ginger, remaining 2 tablespoons peanut oil, and water.

5. Lay the drained tofu slices out in a single layer on the oiled baking sheet. Spoon 2 tablespoons of sauce over each one, allowing to drip down the sides. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until browned on the bottom and baked in on the top.

6. Turn the remaining marinade into dressing by whisking in the rice vinegar and sesame oil.

7. Make the rice: Combine the rice, coconut milk, remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice, a teaspoon of salt, and half of the cilantro in a rice cooker or pot. Add water as necessary to get the correct ratio (per the package, or per your rice cooker). Cook rice according to package directions/rice cooker.

8. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the lime zest, remaining chopped cilantro, the sliced green onion, and additional salt as need.

9. To assemble the bowls: Place as many handfuls of greens as desired in the bowl. Drizzle with dressing. Top with a scoop of rice and two slabs of tofu.


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Apple Fritter Cake

If the title didn’t make you run to your kitchen, I don’t know what will. This recipe was featured in the LA Times Thanksgiving Food Section this year as an alternative to traditional dessert. I can’t say it tastes exactly like an apple fritter, but I can say it tastes ridiculously delicious.

Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

1 cup white sugar

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus a bit more for dusting)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch pieces (or enough apples to make a heaping 2 cups)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze:

1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)

2 tablespoons white sguar

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Here’s what you do:

To make the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8×8 inch pan with butter, lay a piece of parchment paper across the bottom and up two sides, grease the paper, and then dust the entire pan with flour. Tap to remove excess.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth. Then, whisk vigorously until pale and thick, about 20-30 seconds. Then, whisk in the butter until it emulsifies and takes on a hollandaise-like sheen.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another small bowl, mix together the apples, lemon juice and cinnamon.

4. Putting the batter together: Add the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, using a spatula to mix until halfway combined. Then, add the apple mixture and stir until the apples are evenly coated in the batter.

5. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out on the top. Bake until brown on top, crisp on the edge, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 minutes. (Rotate the cake halfway through.)

To make the glaze:

6. When the cake has 15 minutes left, make the glaze. Combine the sugars, cream, butter and salt in a small saucepan. Place over low-medium heat, and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts.

7. Turn up to medium-high heat, stirring occassionaly. When the entire surface bubbles, set a timer for two minutes, stirring often.

8. When two minutes are up, remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and keep covered and warm.

Putting it all together:

9. When the cake is done baking, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Then spread the glaze over the top. Allow to cool completely.


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Blueberry Muffins, How They Should Taste

Little Flower in Pasadena has always been a favorite cafe and bakery of mine and my sisters. We used to enjoy food and treats there when they both lived in Pasadena. While I don’t make it out there much anymore, I did buy the cookbook, and when my son requested blueberry muffins tonight, I thought to myself, let’s just see if the Little Flower cookbook has a recipe. Lo and behold, it did. While these didn’t look exactly how I thought perfectly-tasting blueberry muffins would, I took a bite and knew they were just right.

Here’s what you need:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar, divided

2 eggs, separated

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon cake flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a regular muffin tin, or mini-muffin tin.

Bowl usage note: This recipe required called for a lot of mixing bowls, but I like to be economical about how much I get dirty, so the below will help you use the least amount of dishes possible. To plan, you will need the following, in this order: one little bowl, one big mixing bowl, one regular cereal bowl, a 2-cup measuring cup, and a tablespoon.

2. Separate your eggs, placing the yolks in the little bowl, and the whites in the bix mixing bowl.

3. In the big mixing bowl, use an electric mixer on high speed to beat together 1/2 cup sugar with the egg whites until they are stiff and glossy (a few minutes). Transfer the egg whites to the cereal bowl.

4. In the big mixing bowl, beat together the butter with the remaining sugar until pale. Add the egg yolks and vanilla, and mix to combine.

5. In the measuring cup, stir the 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.

6. To combine the batter: beat 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, then add half of the milk (4 tablespoons). Repeat again. Then finish with the last of the flour. Finally, gently fold in the egg whites.

7. Fill your muffin tins 3/4 of the way.

8. In the measuring cup, mix your blueberries with the last tablespoon of flour. If doing mini-muffins, place 2-4 blueberries on the top of each muffin. If doing regular sized, place more. (The cookbook said they would “sink” while baking. I didn’t find that mine sank very much, but they were still perfectly placed.)

9. Bake your muffins. If mini-muffins, start checking them at 10 minutes. The top won’t be golden, but they should be cooked through so a toothpick comes out clean. Mine ultimately took about 13 minutes. If doing regular sized, the cookbook says about 25 minutes.

Cool and enjoy!

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Indonesian Chicken

Last weekend, we spent a couple of days at my parents’ house. While there, I saw that my dad had the Barefoot Contessa cookbook and asked if I could borrow it. Of course he said okay, and, much to my surprise, when I opened it, there was an inscription to Brock. Guess it was part of my dad’s “inheritance.” I’ve already tried a few recipes that I’ll add here. This one was a hit. We ate it with steamed rice, and some roasted veggies I’d made the other day (brussels, green bell peppers and zucchini).

Here’s what you need:

2 pounds chicken (I did one pound drumsticks, one pound boneless/skinless thighs)

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and diced small

6 garlic cloves, minced

Here’s what you do:

1. In a saucepan, combine the honey, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Heat over low heat until the honey is melted.

2. In a baking pan, arrange the chicken skin side down. (Mine didn’t really have a skin side to go down, so I just placed them in the pan.) Pour the marinade over the top, cover tightly with foil, and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight (or two…).

3. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.

4. Increase the temperature to 375 degrees, remove the foil, flip the chicken, and cook another 30 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce becomes a bit thick and sticky.


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Sheet Pan Fajitas

The marinade on these is so delicious! The first time, I made these with skirt steak, green bell peppers, and red onion (more or less per the original recipe from here). But, next time, I think these would be great with chicken, or with mushrooms, or all veggies (without marinating overnight).

Here’s what you need:

For the marinade:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4-8 limes)

1/2 cup safflower oil (or other neutral oil)

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cumin

freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chili powder

3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed

For the fajitas:

2 pounds skirt steak, cut crosswise

3 bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into thin strips

1-2 red onions, cut into eighths

Heres’s what you do:

1. Make the marinade by combining the soy sauce, lime juice, oil, brown sugar, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and garlic in a gallon size ziploc bag.

2. Add the steak to the marinade bag, turn around a few times, and place in the refrigerator lying flat. Allow to marinate at least 3 hours (can leave it overnight or two). Turn the bag over occasionally.

3. When you are ready to cook the fajitas, preheat the broiler in your oven, and place the oven rack to the highest position. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the highest rack, with the sheet pan on top, while the broiler is heating. If you don’t have a pizza stone, no problem; just don’t pre-heat the pan.

4. When the oven is ready, spread the pieces on the sheet pan in a single layer and blot lightly with a paper towel. Save the marinade.

5. Place the pan in the oven, on top of the pizza stone (or, if no stone, on the top rack), and broil without flipping, about 4 minutes. (The steaks will be well charred on the top.) If you used a pizza stone, remove the steak from the oven. If not, then flip the steak and cook another 30 seconds or so. Then, remove from oven.

6. Switch the oven to 450 degrees.

7. Remove the steak from the sheet pan, and spread the bell peppers and onions on the sheet pan. Pour the marinade over them. Bake for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Do not place on the pizza stone.)

8. While the veggies are cooking, cut the steak against the grain into bite-sized pieces.

9. Once the veggies are cooked and browned, add the steak back to the pan, stir to combine, and cook 1-2 more minutes.


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Sheet Pan Cauliflower Gratin

Ina Garten has some great recipes, including one for cauliflower toasts. However, in an attempt to eat more veggies and less bread, I made this into a lightened cauliflower gratin. And, the second time I made it–because it was quite popular in my house–I modified even further to use just one pan and double the output. (The photos are from the first go around–same concept, but sheet pan was way better.)

Here’s what you need:

2 heads cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

3 ounces mascarpone cheese

6 ounces sour cream

bunch of chives, chopped

freshly ground nutmeg (or 1/2 tsp ground)

4 ounces havarti cheese, or gruyere, or provolone, shredded or chopped up

optional: 2 slices turkey bacon, thinly sliced

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place the cauliflower upside down on the cutting board and cut out the thick stem. Wash thoroughly. Cut into 1-2 inch florets. Repeat with the second head of cauliflower.

3. Place the cauliflower on a sheet pan, and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

4. Roast the cauliflower for 20-40 minutes, flipping at 15 minute intervals, until browned (at least on one side) and softened.

5. Remove the sheet pan from the oven, and switch the oven to broil.

6. Directly on the sheet pan, toss the cauliflower with the chives, mascarpone, sour cream, nutmeg, and 1/3 of the cheese.

7. Top with the rest of the cheese (and the bacon, if using).

8. Place the sheet pan back in the oven, very close to the broiler, turning and checking ever minute or two until the cheese is bubbly and hot.


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Savory Leek, Dill and Cheese Kugel

I recently discovered this awesome cooking blog called The Splendid Table. It’s an American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio production, and has lots of delicious recipes. This one is modified from a recipe I found there. Hope you enjoy!

Here’s what you need:

1 bag egg noodles (12-16 oz, with or without yolks)

3-4 leeks, trimmed, washed, halved, and thinly sliced

4 tablespoons butter, divided in half

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 eggs, or 2 eggs and 2 egg whites

16 oz. cottage cheese

10 oz. sour cream

1 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped

4 oz. goat cheese, or herbed goat cheese, or feta, divided in half

Here’s what you do:

1. Cook the noodles in salted water according to the package directions until just al dente. (My package said 7-9 minutes; they were ready in 5.) When the noodles are done, drain, toss with a scoop or two of the sour cream (to keep from sticking), a teaspoon of salt, and put back in the pot with the lid.

2. While the noodles are cooking, cook the leeks. Add two tablespoons butter to a pan over medium heat. Once melted, add all the leeks, and cook until they begin to soften, about 7 minutes.

3. Then, add the remaining butter to the leek pan, add the garlic, and cook until the leeks are fully softened, about another 7 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

5. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the cottage cheese, sour cream (whatever you didn’t already use in the noodles), the dill, salt and pepper to taste, and half of the goat cheese. Mix well to combine.

6. In the noodle pot, add the leeks/garlic. Then, stir in the cheese mixture.

7. Spread the noodles into the baking pan. Top with the remaining goat cheese.

8. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. If your kugel starts to get brown about halfway through (mine did), cover with foil for the remainder of the cooking time.


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New Favorite Turkey Meatloaf

Here’s what may be my new go-to turkey meatloaf recipe. It’s moist, simple, and uses mostly ingredients in your fridge or pantry. It’s been adapted from Ina Garten.

Here’s what you need:

1-2 large yellow onions, finely diced or chopped in a food processor

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1/2 cup water

1 boullion cube

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 pounds ground turkey

1 cup breadcrumbs

2 eggs, beaten

ketchup to cover the top

Here’s what you do:

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, salt, and thyme to the pan, and decrease heat to medium-low. Cook the onion for about 15 minutes.

2. Add the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, mustard, water, bouillon cube and tomato paste to the onion mixture. Mix well and turn off the heat.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, breadcrumbs, and eggs.

5. Mix the onion mixture into the turkey mixture. Combine well.

6. Grease a large piece of foil on top of a large baking sheet. Form the turkey mixture into a large meatloaf. Cover the top with ketchup.

7. Bake for about an hour and a half, until the turkey is cooked through.


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Lebanese Cabbage Salad

One of my favorite sides when ordering from a delicious restaurant in LA and Glendale called Carousel is a lemony, garlicky cabbage salad. I stumbled across a recipe that says it came from someone’s Lebanese mom, so it seemed like it could work. It was simple and delicious and tasted just right!

Here’s what you need:

1 head green cabbage, finely shredded

1 tablespoon salt

4-6 cloves garlic, crushed or smashed

1 tablespoon dried mint

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

Here’s what you do:

1. Massage the cabbage with the salt and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Drain off liquid, rinse the cabbage, and drain again.

2. Mix the cabbage together with the garlic, mint, lemon and olive oil.

3. Allow to sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes.


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