The Best of Summer and Fall: Eggplant Timbale, a transitional dish

The hot steam of mystery–is it a cake, or a casserole?

Sometimes, when you see a picture of a recipe, you have to try it.   I found this amazing recipe through (of course) Foodgawker.  My first impression: a big, awesome, savory pasta-filled cake wrapped in grilled eggplant.   The blogger who originally posted the recipe noted that it was her adaptation of a Giada De Laurentiis recipe which used ground beef instead of sausage and jarred marinara as opposed to the roasted grape tomatoes.  I really appreciate the changes she made: sausage already has built in seasonings and fat which = more flavor and, growing up with my grandmother and mother’s homemade sauce, jarred marinara is nearly sacrilege.  Now, I’ll admit, slicing and grilling 2-3 large or medium eggplants is, lightly put, a pain in the butt.  But by starting early enough and doing this part of the recipe first rather than nearly last as it was originally placed,  you can get this stressful portion out of the way, and also roast your grape tomatoes at the same time (15-20 minutes).  And for all the tedious grilling you have to do, isn’t it worth it for this?

Surprise it’s (sorta) both! (It was baked in a cake pan).

Roasting the grape tomatoes gave such a fresh flavor to the dish. It made me realize I didn’t actually need a crushed sauce because when I added the hot pasta water to the browned sausage-roasted tomato mixture, there is more than enough liquid to coat the pasta, but it doesn’t make the timbale a runny mess either.  And who can resist fresh grape tomatoes that make mid-September feel like summer?

Grape tomatoes, pre-roast.

In fact this dish is a perfect summer-fall transitional dish.  It has grilled eggplant (summer), fresh roasted grape tomatoes (roasting=fall, tomatoes=summer), fresh basil (summer), and cheesy pasta bake (fall).

Grape Tomatoes, post-roast.

So once your sauteed onion, browned sausage, roasted tomato sauce is all together in the pan, you will have something like this:

The roasted tomato and ground sausage sauce.

So while that was cooking down, your rigatoni should have been cooking, and then you add the pasta, peas, basil, parmigiano, and fresh mozzarella right to the skillet and make sure every thing is evenly incorporated.  At which point you should have something like this:

Pasta mixture without the eggplant wrapping.

Then, you get your springform pan (I always thing of it as a cheesecake pan) and grilled eggplant slices out.  Brush the interior of the pan lightly with olive oil, and then begin layering your eggplant slices on the bottom of the pan.  The recipe reminds you that the bottom of the pan will be the top of what people see on the finished product, so make sure there is no visible metal so that the pasta won’t leak out of your timbale.  After the bottom is covered, take your longer slices and layer them over the sides of the pan vertically, so about half of the slice will be hanging on the outside of the pan.  Once you have layer the slice around the side of the pan (being careful again so you don’t leave holes where the pasta will leak out of the sides of your timbale), you can pour the pasta mixture right on top of the layered eggplant.  Then you should be right aboutttt here:

Ok, technically this is only half of the pasta mixture, but you get the idea.

Then you flip the eggplant pieces hanging over the outside of the pan from the outside over onto the top of the pasta mixture.  Unless you managed to get freakishly huge or long eggplants, you will likely have a small hole in the center.  Worry not, you can use any small, seemingly useless bits of eggplant you have to patch your hole.  Observe:

Holy recipe problems, Batman!

Of course, a patch! Crisis averted.

Finally, cover with foil, bake for 30 minutes, and then remove and allow to cool for 15 more.  Then, flip the whole pan (careful, might still be hot) onto your serving platter and release the side ring piece.  Then carefully peel off the bottom of the pan (which is now the top of your timbale), and voila! You have a beautiful meal.

Timbaleeee that looks like it fell asleep on the textured couch for too long. But it’s still awesome.

Eggplant Timbale

Recipe from Caramelized Sarcasm, VERY lightly adapted by me (Click for her original post)
2 huge (or 3 medium)eggplants
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen baby peas (don’t used canned please)
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 lb of fresh mozzarella, finely cubed
1 lb of sweet italian sausage, casing removed
1.5 lbs of grape tomatoes
1/2 of large onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
3/4 lb of rigatoni (about 3/4 of the regular box)
a few handfuls of fresh basil, roughly chopped or hand torn
lots of olive oil
salt+pepper

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil, and then put your grape tomatoes on it. Bake them for about 15-20 minutes until they pop and start to char on the outside.  Then turn your oven down to 400. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil on your back burner. When it boils, turn it down to low and cover.

prepare the eggplant:

Slice it vertically to about 1/4-inch thick slices. Brush each piece of eggplant with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper, and cook either on a real grill or a grill pan. Do this on a high heat; it should take 4-5 minutes per side. You want nice golden slices.

cooking the filling:
Heat up a large skillet and add a few tablespoons of olive oil and your chopped onion. Cook it on a medium heat until golden brown. This process should take 8-12 minutes.  When the onion is almost ready, add the garlic and stir it around for a minute (be careful not to burn!) Then add the sausage and begin to break it up with a spatula so none of the pieces are too big. Once all of the sausage is browned, add your charred tomatoes (with all of the pan juice) and half of your basil.

Liberally season the pasta water and turn it back on to high.  Bring it up to a rolling boil (this should only take a few minutes since it was simmering, still on the heat) and add the pasta to it. Cook it until it is about 2 minutes from al dente. Yes, it will have a little bit of white on the inside. Don’t worry, it will finish cooking in the oven. Add 1 cup of boiling water to the skillet and cover while the pasta cooks (medium heat). Once the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the pan. Sprinkle extra salt and cracked pepper. Add the mozzarella, parmigiano, peas, and basil. Toss everything to coat and make sure the cheese is distributed everywhere.

For the assembly:
Brush a springform pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with eggplant so there are no open spaces. Remember, the bottom will actually be the top of the “drum” so try to make it a nice pattern. Then, use more eggplant to cover the sides. Drape the slices over the pan so they hang over. Once you are done, fill the pan with the pasta mixture.  Then fold over the draped slices of eggplant to cover the pasta. Make sure everything is covered. Place the springform pan on an extra baking dish, just incase it drips. Cover it with foil, and bake for 30 minutes in the oven. Remove it and let it cool for 15 minutes or so. When you can handle the pan (with gloves on, please), release the side piece. Then, place a large serving plate on top of your timbale. Gently flip the whole thing over. Remove the bottom of the springform pan from your eggplant and serve in slices!

*Incase it wasn’t clear, the bottom the timbale is actually what will be the top. You must flip over the contents of the springform pan onto a plate before you can slice and serve!

A close-up, to see the filling in all its glory!

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Cure What Ails Ya…Chocolate Chip Cookies

Life isn’t always what you think it will be, but your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe usually is.  I found this recipe probably around a year ago, just after my annual christmas cookie baking bash with my aunt.  We were discussing our desire to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.  And can I note, even writing that sentence felt wrong to me.  I will always be willing to try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, because the idea that there might be one out there that’s better makes me feel twitchy and anxious to know the truth.  But for now, I think this recipe may have changed my mind.

But back to this recipe, which I located while trying to find a recipe that produced a cookie that met one major criteria in particular: it had to be puffy.  So I went to that miracle of all miracles that is Google, and literally typed in “fluffy chocolate chip cookies” and after some prolonged clicking and research found this link.  The recipe is this blogger’s adaptation of a Levain Bakery recipe, which produces these little babies:

The result is pretty darn near perfect–lightly crisp outside, dense but not too cake-y inside.  In order to get this kind of puffiness, most recipes will replace the butter with margarine, but this causes a severe deficiency in taste.  A typical, non-puffy recipe will start out with room-temperature butter to make it easier to cream with the sugars for a fluffy consistency.  But the key to the puffiness in this recipe is actually keeping the batter as cold as possible.  To me this is a bonus because I almost always forget to take the butter out of the fridge ahead of time to let it come up to room temperature.  So you start with the sugars and one stick of butter which the recipe says to cut into small cubes, so I did it in almost a dice:

Now I would show you what the mixed version with the egg and vanilla added looks like, but frankly, it wasn’t very photogenic.

So then you add your dry ingredients in small batches to the butter mixture, and if your like me start to add a sprinkling of chocolate chips before you realize you forgot to take a picture of the chipless batter for your blog. 🙂

Then you (for reals) add the chips and mix it all together:

Now from what I remember of other recipes I have made before, the dough seemed a bit dry to me, but fear not, it will be delicious my choco-chip nirvana seeking friends.  Dare I say it will be legend…..wait for it….dary.

So at this point in our recipe, it says you should use an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough onto your parchment papered cookie sheet.  My house no longer has an ice cream scoop, so I used the roundest, moundiest (Yes, the English major made up a nonsense word) Tablespoon I could find.  I think it works out better because smaller cookies are less of a commitment in terms of how much you are able to eat at any given time. SOOO… this is what you’ll get:

Then in a sort of WTF moment, this recipe calls for you to push aside the chicken stock and throw away that quarter of a bag of frozen peas that is faintly reminiscent of garlic, so that you can put the whole tray directly into the freezer for 10 minutes.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.  It helps the puffy.  Respect the puffy.  Then you put directly into your preheated oven, and 12 minutes later you have a dozen of these little rascals.  I did this process twice so for me, with the Tablespoon portioning the recipe yields 2 dozen cookies.  But obviously, if you use the ice cream scoop method, your yield will be greater and your cooking time will vary depending on what level of doneness you want in the center of the cookie.  Do all this and you will be the proud (short term) owner of these little creatures:

In case you missed it in my earlier ramblings, find the recipe here, and Happy Baking Cookie Monsters!

New Year, Old Recipes, Same Delicious Food

Its been a few weeks.  Months.  I wish I had a good reason for neglecting this blog, but really, I don’t.  Writers fall into funks and make excuses, but the important thing is to pull yourself out of it.  And what better time than a brand new year?  I have two recipes to share today, and both of them were made on the same day wayyy back at the end of September.   Lasagna Soup and Beatty’s Chocolate Cake made up my mother’s birthday dinner.  It may have been way back at the beginning of fall, but this Lasagna Soup is perfect for the dead of winter (though it was a balmy 60 degrees on Long Island today so I’d say that’s pretty lively).

A bowl of hearty lasagna soup.

What’s not to love, right?  I think this is a great alternative to lasagna because it’s nowhere near as fussy.  No messing with  assembly stations and making all the components separately.  The only thing you have to make outside of the stockpot is a small bowl of ricotta and Parmesan cheeses mixed together.  Other than that, this dish is a one stop shop.  It’s got all the   main players from lasagna: cut up sausage, pasta with frills, onion, garlic, a tomato sauce (or broth really) and of course, the cheese.  Also this soup allows for everyone to control the level of cheese based on their preferences.  So, if Aunt Sally always complains there’s too much ricotta in the lasagna (do people really complain about this?!?!), she can put as much or as little as she wants at the bottom of the bowl before she ladles the hot soup over top.

The recipe is pretty straightforward too, brown the sausage, cut it into little rounds, and then saute the onions for a few minutes:

Sausage and onions gettin' down (dirtier than I intended).

Then add the garlic, spices, and tomato paste and saute a bit more to let the paste warm through:

Sausage and onions and garlic and tomato paste, oh my!

The you add diced tomatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock; bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for a half hour:

Ooooh the tomatoey goodness!

And finally, after it’s cooked down a bit, add the uncooked pasta of your choice.  Now, the recipe calls for Mafalda  or fusilli, but since Mafalda (or reginette) are hard to find around here and I don’t care much for fusilli, I was forced to make an alternate selection.  I settled on Campanelle (or what my beloved Italian grandmother called ‘bluebells’) because they have a frilly edge to them which is reminiscent of lasagna, but easier to eat on a spoon:

A little blurry, but I can see enough to make me crave this RIGHT NOW.

Put a little cheese (okay a lot people, new year’s resolutions be damned!) on the bottom of your bowl, ladle this beautiful soup on top, and enjoy.

And now onto what I suspect most of you come here for, the dessert.  And the chocolate.  And also this time, some coffee, in your dessert.

Come to the VERY dark side.

Alright so I know these look like cow pies, but I promise you, they form the most delicious chocolate cake I have ever eaten.  And I generally prefer yellow or vanilla cakes.  This cake easily changed my mind.  One note: the batter may seem strangely thin for a cake, but take heed, this is completely normal.  Mine seemed thin but I trusted the recipe and it came out wonderful. The buttermilk keeps the cake unbelievably moist, and on the counter in a plastic domed cake carrier, it stayed that way for an entire week (the last piece had barely dried out at all, and I can speak from personal experience :)).

Lopsided is still every bit as heavenly!

Now if you have it out for buttercream you may balk at the frosting, but I have had many buttercreams I found to be excessively buttery–and this was not one of them.  The bitterness of the instant coffee along with the slight bitterness of the chocolate really balanced out the butter.  I have trouble describing how much I love this cake and what that means considering my sometimes turbulent relationship with chocolate and its various uses and preparations.  This is definitely a must try!

And I leave you with this:

When I asked my mom what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, her immediate, knee-jerk, one word reply: chocolate!

Here’s to a new year full of happy birthdays!

Great Adaptations: Butternut Pasta and Monkey Bread (sold separately)

 

Monkey bread!

Should have greased a bit more, but no worse for the wear!

 

Mmmm, more fall.

 

So it’s been a bit again since I’ve posted, and I have photos saved up from two recipes I made.  I didn’t have daylight to my advantage in these pictures so I’m less than thrilled with the ultimate results, but both were pretty tasty, so I thought it necessary to share.  The first recipe, the Butternut Squash Pasta was taken from an awesome pasta cookbook, and heavily adapted by me based on ingredients I had on hand.  Hey, when life gives you half a butternut squash, onions and a slab of precooked ham, make pasta.  In fact when life gives you anything, make pasta. Unless its a gluten allergy, then make special pasta.  Now, some might say that this is just glorified baby food tossed in pasta.  But this is a unique dish, which I think perfectly captures the type of food you want in the fall, except lightened up a bit, and super fast (compared to roasts and soups).  I started out with half the leftover squash in my fridge that I wanted to use before it went bad.  When I saw this recipe called for pumpkin, I figured I cold substitute the squash because it’s literally in the same plant family. The recipe called for pancetta, shallots, and pumpkin.  I subbed out the shallots for onion and ham for the pancetta.  I also added a few leaves of fresh sage to the pan, whole, and took them out after they had browned a bit.This is a slightly sweet dish, but the smokiness from the ham added a nice balance to the sauce, making it more palatable to those averse to sweet main courses.  Actually this pasta dish would make a nice side too if you wanted it to, alongside a pot roast or roasted chicken.

Diced squash with the sage I used to lightly flavor the sauce.

 

I would definitely make this dish again, but I think I would use the recommended shallot just because they have such a unique flavor that I love and I think they would really add another level of complexity to the dish.  Also I would be curious to see how different the flavors would be if I used the ingredients actually called for.

 

Penne with Pumpkin

From The Silver Spoon Pasta cookbook (my adaptations in purple)

 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped ( about a quarter of a white onion)
  • 1/3 cup finely diced pancetta or bacon ( about 1/4 of a thick cut slice of precooked smoked ham)
  • 1 pound 2 ounces pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced (the entire round half of a butternut squash, same prep)
  • scant 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 12 ounces penne rigate ( 16 ounces Rigatoni)*
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (I used dried and added it into the sauce instead of at the end)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in the pan.  Add the shallot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes until lightly browned.  Add the pancetta or bacon, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes.  Add the pumpkin, season with salt and pepper (remember the pancetta or ham is salty), lower the heat and simmer, gradually stirring in the wine, for about 20 minutes until the pumpkin is pulpy (? I wasn’t sure what this meant so I just cooked it until it was soft enough to mash with a fork).  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter.  The sauce should be creamy and moist.  Cook the penne in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain, return to the pan and pour the pumpkin sauce over.  Transfer to a warmed serving dish, sprinkle with the parsley and Parmesan and serve immediately.
(Serves 4)
*No matter which cut of pasta you use, I highly recommend, of my own free will, the DeCecco brand of pastas, which are very dense and difficult to overcook, almost guaranteeing an al dente cook every time.  Another note about the pasta, I saved about 1/2 cup of the cooking water in case the sauce wasn’t moist enough, which you can add at your discretion, gradually, til it reaches the consistency you want.
And now onto the monkey bread, probably the real lure of this post. Sigh.  What is there left to say about it that hasn’t already been said?  So far, I haven’t met a person who doesn’t like this monkey bread.  I’ve made it about  3-4 times now and it has been mind-bogglingly good every time.  It is a food which produces silence–the marker of truly good grub.  The ingredients are simple, and you can make it the night before and refrigerate the assembled bundt form if you want to, because the process is somewhat long.  After the dough has proofed, you flatten it out into a big square or rectangular shape, then cut that down into approximately 1 inch squares.

First batch of cutting done, 7/8 of the rectangle to go!

 Then you roll them in melted butter, and then a mixture of brown sugar and a few teaspoons of cinnamon.

So much simultaneously wrong and right here.

 THEN, you assemble these buttery, sugary bits of dough in a well-greased (oops under-greased this time) bundt pan.

Here we go, assembly.

 The caramelized brown sugar melded with the butter is perfect.  Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normally while cutting, dipping and placing the Nth bit of dough into the bundt pan to experience what I like to call the “Why the #^%#$ did I start this recipe?” moment.  Before the expletives really fly, relax and imagine the best cinnamon bun you have ever had… got it?  This will be better.  On that note, do everything you can to eat this warm.  It will change you.

Post-baking, this is what you are going to see. Oh, and the smell while cooking is AMAZING,

Find the awesome, heavily adapted (from various sources ) recipe here.  This recipe also makes a glaze for the top, but I’m not a big glaze fan so I skip it.  But by all means, glaze away! And now, for the remaining pictures of the two recipes:

More prep!

 

 

Mmmm.

Slight Close-up.

 

Ooooh, saucy.

 

 

Dexter likes squash!

Right after I poured the hot pasta directly into the sauce.

 

Happy adapting chefs!

 

 

Fall is nearly upon us…Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins

Peekaboo! It's fall!

Okay so immediate disclaimer on this one.  There isn’t any *actual* cider in this recipe.  It uses apple juice concentrate (I used the 100% juice Stop and Shop variety) just to give a subtle apple flavor.  The result was delicious and I would definitely make this recipe again.  Perhaps if I can get my hands on some local cider later into the fall I will make my own syrup from it, but I digress, the muffins.  This is my second post about a breakfast food, which I find ironic because I am absolutely not a morning person and used to rarely eat breakfast at all.  But since my flexible part time job and the end of my schooling allow me to rise a lot later than the rest of the busy world, I have found myself rather enjoying my late morning breakfasts.  These cider doughnut muffins were no exception.

Now I know I will provoke some skepticism from cider doughnut purists who will look at them inquistively. “No greasy brown paper bag?”  they’ll wonder aloud,”Not from an apple orchard?!” they’ll scream, so close to your face spit flies at you like the remnants of a tropical storm, “No cider?!?!” they will bellow from the roof tops with pitchforks and homemade torches.  Okay well, maybe it won’t be that dramatic, but my point is if you are looking an apple cider doughnut, this isn’t it.  But what it IS is a slammin’ interpretation of a cider doughnut as a muffin.  Like its less appreciated but still pretty damn good cousin.  And no frying required.  As for the recipe itself? Easy-peasy, just remember to thaw out the juice concentrate for a little while before you get started, and per almost usual with baking, butter at room temperature (curses, I always forget!)

This muffin has good crumb.

These muffins have got everything you could ask for from a fall treat–cinnamon:check; apple juice: check; brown sugar (okay, not particular to fall really but goes AWESOME with apples): check; and finally the fall-iest spice of them all nutmeg: check.  For all you coffee drinkers out there who are excited because Pumpkin Spice Lattes are making there way back onto coffee shop menus, this muffin is the breakfast food equivalent (especially for those of us not too fond of pumpkin, sorry).  I mean for Christmas’ sake, these damn things are dipped in melted butter and then cinnamon-sugar, are you people on board yet?  Because I might just have to go eat another one.

Here is a link to the recipe found on the blog girl versus dough via Tastespotting.

P.S.  This blog reminded me of the King Arthur Flour website (which I had forgotten about) with its many lovely recipes which I will definitely try to utilize more in the future!

And now, moar pictures.

The lone prep shot, the batter.

Creeper.

Apple-tastic!

That’s all for now folks, happy breakfasting!

Waffles: The buttery treat and its sticky cohort.

Waffles!

Belgium, here I come.

Waffles are definitely one of my favorite breakfast foods.  Largely, I don’t discriminate against them, unless they are achingly sweet or use too much vanilla.  But in terms of texture, I like mine soft and cakey or even crunchy crisp.  When I make waffles or pancakes at home, I rarely ever eat them with syrup.  There’s just something about the cake or waffle coming hot off the griddle that is so right to me, I feel like syrup is an insult.  Not to mention the fact that when you’re at home syrup seems to get all up in ERREwhere.  I didn’t even use syrup (my mom and sister did), and after I ate these, I found a patch of it in my hair (oh, being a woman).  And there seem to be lingering traces of it everywhere, the table, the counter, even the floor (WTF?!).

Don’t get me wrong, syrup and I have no gripes about flavor.  If I am eating some challah french toast, best BELIEVE I’m dousing that bad boy in a healthy serving of syrup.  But if the waffles are hot off the press, I prefer au natural.  Okay so now onto the recipe.  Yes, it does contain a whole stick of butter, but one waffle is really enough to sate anyone, and this particular recipe made six for me, so I think a little over one tablespoon is a mild indulgence.  Also, I was a little wary of a waffle recipe using yeast, which I was not aware it required, but if you have the time to let it sit, the taste is excellent.  It has a fluffy, almost spongey, eggy texture, which I found to be quite similar to popovers (and I love me some popovers, so thumbs up).

And a little tip about your waffle iron ( yes some equipment necessary in this one): I was told that using melted margarine over butter or non-stick baking sprays, works well and doesn’t impart the waffles with any funky flavors.  Just warm some up in the microwave, and brush it onto your pre-heated iron (waffle, folks, buttery clothes=not so good).  I haven’t really experimented with the other ‘greasing’ methods, but I can attest this one worked well.

The Hardware

It's like special power tools, for foodies.

Really, between butter and egg and vanilla, how can you go wrong? In my book, you simply cannot.  We had about three extras, so I froze them up in a giant freezer bag separated by wax paper.  One of the select number of leftovers I have the feeling I will actually enjoy.  I ‘ll let you know if the freezing/ reheating is extremely detrimental to the flavor or texture.  At least I have three to “experiment with different methods.”

Texture Shot

Just look at those goldeny pockets of goodness!

Recipe taken from The Café Sucré Farine

Classic Belgian Waffles

1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 cup very warm water, 110-115 degrees F
¼ cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, separated
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
powdered sugar, for dusting, if desired
butter and maple syrup, if desired
fresh fruit, for topping, if desired

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the yeast and stir to combine; let mixture sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, stir the flour with the salt. Whisk in the yeast mixture, milk, butter, egg yolks and vanilla until smooth.

3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold them into the batter and let stand for 1 hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 225°. Heat and grease a Belgian waffle iron. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the batter into the iron and cook until the waffles are golden, 3-5 minutes, depending on your waffle maker. Transfer the waffles to the oven. Repeat with the remaining batter. Dust the waffles with powdered sugar or serve with butter and warm syrup. We also love these waffles topped with fresh fruit.

Adapted from Food and Wine

More awesome waffle shots:

Stackinnn

Stackingggg

Do you know what rhymes with waffles and syrup? Waffles and hyrrup. (Mom's syrupped waffle)

So goldeny gorgeous!

Happy breakfasting (or desserting with vanilla ice cream….mmm, waffle sundae)!

Soupe au Pistou (Ooh La La): The Stoup v. Stew Issue and “Blender Wars”

Greetings, friends.  Today I have another lesson to share with you.  If you’re making a soup with many vegetables, make sure you chop them all up before you really start the recipe, or you’ll be scrambling to get everything in on time.  This is the lesson my mother and I learned while making this lovely Soupe au Pistou. Find the recipe on Saveur’s website here.  Also cut back on your chopping by using the pre-cut bags of cabbage at the supermarket instead of buying the whole head and only using a quarter.

Soup

Okay so this is really more like stoup, whatevs.

Okay, so I know what you’re thinking…what is this pasta with the extremely thin sauce this girl is trying to pass off as soup?  Well, therein lies the pickle (or broth question).  In soups that contain pasta, I always feel there isn’t enough of it.  My family agrees in general that we would rather have more pasta and a stew-like consistency than feel like we’re getting gypped on the substantial stuff and get a load of broth.  Though this soup was so awesome, I’d probably like it either way.  And as pro-stoup as I am, next time I make this, I will probably up the amount of stock I use by a few cups just to get a tad more liquid.

But I digress, back to the flavor.  This is described by Saveur as a Provencal Vegetable soup, and to me, its like Minestrone’s cool cousin.  Less tomato juice makes the broth much richer and less bitey, which in this case I prefer.  Also, the pistou, the Provencal version of pesto (pistou, pesto, pistou, pesto) does not contain nuts, which made the herb flavor a little more  concentrated.  That worked perfectly with the soup, which doesn’t have any major flavorings other than garlic and those inherent in the stock and vegetables.  The soup alone is still very good, with solid flavors and a potpourri (oui oui) of vegetables.  But the pistou adds a wonderful layered brightness to the soup, with the parmesan cheese, basil and (surprise!) more garlic adding richness to the dish.  But the garlic flavor was very subtle, in the best way possible.  If only the pistou’s creation didn’t lead to a little something I like to call “Blender Wars.”

The further along I walk on this culinary path, the more evident it has become to me that a blender sometimes is just not an adequate substitute for a food processor.  Granted, I know (from the well-crafted article on pesto in Saveur where I got this recipe) that pesto in Italy was originally made using a mortar and pestle (which interestingly enough the author of said article says give it a more velvety, luxurious texture), so I shouldn’t really be complaining too much.  But I think many among us know the frustration that comes with hitting that pulse button and seeing liquid forming and the very bottom and the mass of ingredients stagnant at the top.  (Dear Santa, Please bring me a cuisinart with multiple settings and attachments)  But eventually, with a lot of teamwork and patience, it all came together.

Pistou-la-la

In the battle of Emily v. Blender, Emily takes all. BOOYAH.

Oh yea, I almost forgot, we made one of my favorite sandwiches- BATs (Bacon, Avocado, Tomato) to go along with our soup.  The recipe, is pretty simple, I gather you can do it yourself without me spelling it out any further (punny).  It’s really all about what kind of bread and spreads you like to complement it.  I used toasted pumpernickel and a light shmear of dijonaise , which worked out quite well.  I forgot to take a picture of my delicious sandwich because I inhaled it in about 2 minutes, but I did remember to get some delightful shots of the avocado and tomatoes, below are the best of the bunch.

Pistou and fresh veg, delish.

Guest appearance by the Pistou!

Sliced avocado and Local Grown Heirloom Tomato

That avocado was like BUTTAH. And word up fresh local grown Heirloom Tomatoes from Stop and Shop!

And finally, some gratuitous action shots from the soup construction.  SHIELD THE CHILDREN!

Crushing whole tomatoes into the soup.

Smashin some tomat-hoesss.

Sauteed veggies!

Nitty gritty shot of the veggies cookin downnnn.

Before spaghetti, after stock.

Everthings a-simmer. (Damn you bad lighting)

That’s it for today, happy cooking!