I was going to report on the state of hybrid schooling, child care, my feminist rant on the plight of women being removed from the workforce due to lack of child care options, and so on. But honestly, there is just too much negativity and stress to go around right now.
You know what? School started, sort of, and we are still here. The leaves are changing, which caused my chest to tighten a bit with the fear of being stuck indoors again for months on end. But then I listened to the advice of my husband who often reminds his anxiety riddled wife not to pay interest on life not yet lived. I am the worst kind of anticipator. And in my own defense, there is a lot to anticipate right now. So, in these early days of October, please for the love of Pete, make sure you are registered to vote.
Now on with our regularly scheduled meal planning, and for those of you schooling your children remotely, I have a recipe for you that includes lots of booze.
I am still hoarding the last of summer produce. I used making a giant eggplant parm as the perfect excuse for an early fall outdoor supper. When I delved into recipes I was unaware of the hot debate of whether to use mozzarella or just go purist and use only parmesan. I tried both, and can report that they both are delicious and have their virtues. I am going to give you the long form, more laborious recipe, but for you busy folk, here is the faster, parm only recipe here. (The debate can get even more nuanced! My talented caterer friend, Zahra, only uses Pecorino cheese!) Moral of the story: cheese.
Adapted from a recipe by Alex Guarnachelli
Make the tomato sauce first:
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (28 oz.) cans of crushed San Marzano Tomatoes
Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Cook the onions until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Season with salt and add red pepper flakes and stir. Add the two cans of tomatoes and cook 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and set aside to cool.
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs
5 Tablespoons milk
6 cups dried bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (dried is fine too)
3 medium globe eggplants (about 2 1/2 lbs.), cut into 1/2″ thick rounds
1 1/2 – 2 cups canola oil
1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1 inch slices
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Bread the eggplant:
Put the flour in a medium shallow bowl and season it with salt. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. In a third bow., combine the bread crumbs with the oregano and thyme. One by one, making sure to coat both sides, dip an eggplant slice in the flour and shake off any excess. Then dip in in the egg mixture and finally in the bread crumbs. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheets.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Cook the eggplant:
In a large skillet ( I got 2 skillets going at once to get through this step faster), pour vegetable oil to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Heat the oil until it begins to smoke lightly. Working in batches, use a pair of kitchen tongs to add a single layer of the eggplant to the pan. Cook until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the slices to a baking sheet lined with paper towel to soak up the excess oil. Keep frying away until all of the eggplant is done.
Assemble the parm:
In an 11 x 17 baking dish/ lasagna pan, spoon in a thin layer of your tomato sauce over the bottom. Top with a layer of the eggplant, one third of of the mozzarella, and one fourth of the Parmigiano. Spoon another layer of the sauce and repeat the layers two more times. Top with the remaining Parmigiano.
Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 15-20 minutes. Before serving, put the dish under a hot broiler for one minute to get an extra brown cheesy top. Mangia!
I know, I know pumpkin spice nonsense has jumped the shark, yet here we are…
I have been making this pumpkin bread since I was crammed into my shoebox of an apartment in the West Village, and friends still ask for it. It just wouldn’t be fall without making your neighbors a little jealous with the toasty smell of cloves and cinnamon wafting across the fire escape. Or you know, suburban backyard.
Spiced Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from a recipe printed in Bon Appetit, November 1995
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 16 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (totally optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil in a large bowl to blend (I use my stand mixer to make this even easier). Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir/ mix into pumpkin mixture in two additions. Mix in walnuts if using.
Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean about 1 hour, but sometimes more. Just keep checking it. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, if you can wait. Run a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen and turn out loaves on to rack to cool completely. Yeah, right.
As promised, here is a boozy diversion from remote learning. This concoction is brought to you by my fearless sister and brother in law who are in Houston totally homeschooling my niece and nephew, and trying to maintain their sanity. They say these Manhattans help, big time.
Brought to you by Houstonians, Kate and Matt Clower
Fill a martini glass with ice water to chill glass while you mix your drink.
Add to a cocktail shaker filled with ice:
2 shots bourbon, preferably Basil Hayden’s
1 shot red vermouth, preferably Dolin’s
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 dashes of orange bitters
Stir, (according to Matt, shaking “bruises” the bourbon… I’ll make fun of him for this later). Dump out the ice from your martini glass, and strain cocktail into the glass. Toss in a stemmed Maraschino cherry. Salut!
I love our kid, I really do, but heavens can a 6 year old really test your patience. I am a true believer that absence makes the heart grow fonder, so Stephane and I packed our bags for a quick overnight splurge at Troutbeck, a lovely inn in Amenia, New York. The inn has tons of history: in its heyday it was host to the likes of Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt to name a couple, and glorious grounds from which to take in the changing season. I highly recommend getting out of your routine, even just for a day to clear your head, and turn off the everyday noise.
Troutbeck has a few kinks to work out, but we are cutting everyone a major break these days. They get big snaps for their safety precautions such as reserved outdoor fire pit and Adirondack chair nooks where you can perch with a book. The hotel was designed by one of our interior design clients, Alexandra Champalimaud, and hats off to her for the warm details and emphasis on the surrounding nature. The dinner we shared was seasonal, local farm to table, and absolutely delicious.
What a treat it was to have a micro break and complete adult sentences and thoughts! If you are in this part of upstate New York, we highly recommend a pit stop through Millerton. There are tempting antique shops, a loaded bookstore, an independent movie theater (currently closed), a few clothing shops that would please any Brooklynite, and the best diner I have patronized in a long while, Oakhurst Diner. If you stop for lunch, order any of the Vietnamese specials which are such a fun surprise… of course they have eggs and coffee too.
Wishing you all the ability to anticipate positive roads ahead.
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