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Monday, September 26, 2011

Tofu Tuesday

Vegetarian Tikka Masala
1 Package extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 TSP turmeric
Salt and pepper
1/2 Large white onion
1 Head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Jar tikka masala simmer sauce
2 Cups cooked basmati rice
1/4 Cup raisins
2 TBS sliced almonds 

I'm taking Tofu Tuesday to India, with a super-simple vegetarian tikka masala. I love paneer cheese in my Indian curries, but it's pretty hard to find in the supermarket sometimes.   Tofu is a great alternative, since it has a very similar texture.  Tonight I have a little help with a pre-made tikka masala sauce, which I don't usually use.  Maya Kaimal's All Natural Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce is a great option to achieve that silky, flavorful sauce without spending tons of time.  You also can actually pronounce all the ingredients, which include tomato paste, yogurt and spices.   

Toss tofu with turmeric, salt and pepper. Let marinate for several minutes. Blanch the cauliflower in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Shock in an ice bath, drain and set aside. 

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and sauté until each side is browned.  Add the onions and cauliflower and sauté for 5 minutes more.  Stir in the sauce, and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

Toss cooked rice with the raisins and sliced almonds. Serve with the tikka masala.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cheese & Spinach-Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Cheese & Spinach-Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce
1 Box jumbo shells
1/2 Medium onion, diced
5 Cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Lb sausage or ground meat
1-28 Oz can crushed tomatoes, plus 1-15 Oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 Cup red wine
30 Oz ricotta cheese
1 Cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1 Egg
12 Basil leaves, chiffonade, plus extra for serving
1-1/2 Cups packed cooked spinach, squeezed dry
Salt and pepper

I'm officially out of summer mode, which means more time at work and shorter days, so I need quick meals to get through the week.  I scoured my cookbooks and the internet for large casseroles and one-pot-meals to get me through the fall and winter.  My inspiration for this week comes from The Pioneer Woman's Three Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Meaty Tomato Sauce.  I added some cooked baby spinach to my ricotta mixture, and I used chicken sausage as my protein (any ground meat will do though).  While she claims this dish can be thrown together in no time, I believe stuffed shells are pretty labor intensive (stuffing dozens of slippery pasta shells ain't easy).  Either way, it's a good project for a Saturday or Sunday.  Did I mention that this recipe makes enough for a small army?  Enjoy hot, bubbly, cheesy goodness all week long!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic, and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add the meat and cook until nicely browned.  Add the wine, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, cook the shells for about half the cooking time (they will finish cooking in the oven).  Drain.

In a large bowl combine ricotta, parmesan, egg, and spinach.  Season generously with salt and pepper, then stir in basil.

Coat the bottom of the baking dish with some of the sauce.  Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture, making sure not to over stuff.  Lay seam-side down in the baking sheet.  Repeat.

Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and bake for 25 minutes.  Finish with more fresh-grated parmesan cheese and basil.      

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Season: Eggplant

Nearly Naked Eggplant Parmesan
1 Large Japanese eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick and drained of excess moisture
1 Egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
1 Cup panko bread crumbs
1 TSP Italian seasoning
1 Cup marinara sauce
Fresh-grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves, torn

While it's depressing that summer is almost over, I am looking forward to fall, which is my favorite season. While I'm waiting for chilly days and pumpkins, I can still enjoy what's left of summer's produce, including eggplant. I've eaten and cooked eggplant many different ways, but my favorite will always be the classic eggplant parm. Really good eggplant parmesan should be all about the eggplant, which is why I'm using fresh-picked Japanese eggplant straight from the garden. No need to smother with cheese or sauce, just let the main ingredient shine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the egg with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix the Italian seasoning into the panko. Coat eggplant slices with egg, then dredge in bread crumbs. Heat 2 TBS of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry in batches until brown and crisp, adding more oil if needed.
Layer eggplant with a spoonful of sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a few basil leaves to form towers (1 large eggplant will make 4-5 towers). Bake for 20 minutes. Top with more basil and cheese.

Have some eggplant leftover? A quick sauté of diced eggplant in olive oil with garlic, crushed red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts is the perfect combination. Lemon zest and lemon juice add brightness. Serve with your favorite pasta, polenta or couscous with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

After devouring both dishes, Rich confessed to me that he never really liked eggplant until now!

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The Hungry Yuppies, Annie and Rich, are a young couple from CT who are self-proclaimed foodies. Annie is the chef, and Rich is her willing taste tester. Juggling a full time job in the city wasn't going to get in the way of Annie's love for cooking. It's about eating well whether you have just 30 minutes on a Monday night, or all day on a rainy Sunday.