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And so today, I offer you this cute, fake bird so you don’t have to look at a giant (27-pound!!) raw turkey bobbing in a bag o’ water.  This Thanksgiving we get to cook for 29 people.  Ahhh- the best holiday of the year.  And I’m pretty sure my parents think they’ve won the lottery now that my sister is dating a cook too.

So today’s job is brining the turkey.  This is what we’re gonna do.

(…and slotted for tomorrow…cranberry sauce!)

Brining our turkey

This brine can be increased or decreased depending upon the size of the bird.  This year, we tripled it.

  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 1 gallon room-temp water
  • a few bay leaves
  • half a head of garlic
  • 1/2 bunch of sage
  • 3 whole allspice berries
  • 3 juniper berries

Combine half the water, salt, sugar, bay, garlic, herbs, and spices in a pot large enough to hold it all. Place over high heat and bring to a bare simmer.  This will allow the salt and sugar to dissolve and the aromatics to bloom. Cool to room temperature and add the other half of the water.  Place the turkey in the brining bag* and pour in the brine. We’re going to brine our bird for 3 days.

*If you’re using a brining bag as opposed to a bucket, you’ll need to be sure to rotate it a few times over the next few days to make sure that the whole bird gets equal contact with the brine.

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Alas, it’s nearly impossible to complete a project in the kitchen, and even harder to sit down at the computer to key in a clever write-up.  Because if you had the choice between hours on your feet or cooing at her….which would you choose?! But I have had a few spare moments to peruse a cookbook or two in lieu of actually cooking!  And with this drizzly, gray weather we’ve been having, this book has my heart!

Eggplant Parmesan

I can attest to the fact that this is excellent at room temperature.  And let me tell you why I know this.  My darling little Chloe seems to know exactly what time dinner is to be served.  No matter her sleeping schedule during the day, she makes it a point to wake up just as we’re sitting down to eat.  And she’s not interested in hanging out in our laps.  She wants to EAT!  So, alas, I feed her.  And when she is sated, I get back to my Eggplant Parmesan.  No longer hot.  But still delicious.

Eggplant Parmesan
yields 8-10 servings

To make your own fresh breadcrumbs, cut a large rustic loaf of bread in half and allow it to stale overnight.  The next day, use a bread knife to remove the crust and discard.  Cut the bread into rough cubes and process in a food processor until fine (nothing larger than 1/8-inch).

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • a pinch of chili flake
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 2 14-1/2 ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup water

Place a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, chili, bay, and salt.  Continue to cook gently until translucent.

Meanwhile, pour the canned tomatoes and liquid into a medium bowl.  Use your fingers to break up the tomatoes and remove any skin that remains.  Add to the cooked onions.  Use the water to “rinse” out the cans, and add to the pot.

Bring to a simmer, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook gently for about 45 minutes.  Taste for salt and set aside.

For the eggplant Parmesan:

  • 1 batch tomato sauce (see above recipe)
  • 2 large globe eggplants
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt plus another sprinkle on the fried eggplant
  • 4-5 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable oil or pure olive oil
  • 8 ounces mozzarella

Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds.  Lay them on a rack resting over a cookie sheet and sprinkle 2 teaspoons of kosher salt over them.  Allow to sit for approx 10 minutes.  Flip the eggplant over and sprinkle the other side with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.  Allow  to sit for 1-2 hours.

Using paper towels, pat the eggplant dry.

Meanwhile, set up a “breading station”.  Pour the flour onto one plate.  Pour some of the breadcrumbs onto another plate (you’ll add more crumbs as needed), and pour the eggs into a wide, shallow dish.  To bread the eggplant, first coat the slices in flour, then dip them in the egg, and then coat them with the breadcrumbs.  Place the breaded eggplant back onto the racks and allow them to “set” for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Heat about 1/3 of the oil in a large saute pan set over medium-low heat.  Carefully place a single layer of breaded eggplant slices into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides.   Set back on the rack and salt lightly.  Remove any burned bits from the pan, add more oil as necessary, and continue this process until all the eggplant has been browned.

Spoon about 1/4 of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.  Place a layer of fried eggplant on top of the tomato sauce.  Spoon another 1/4 of the tomato sauce over the eggplant, and sprinkle with 1/3 of the Parmesan and 1/3 of the mozzarella.  Add two more layers of eggplant, sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella.**

Cover with baking dish with a layer of parchment paper*, and then aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove cover, and bake for another 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is golden.

Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

*The acidity of the tomato sauce will react with the aluminum foil creating an “off” taste.  Always use parchment underneath foil when topping ingredients that are acidic.

**Another way I like to make this is to place the eggplant into the dish by tiling them (slightly overlapping) in a single layer, rather than stacking.  This method uses a little less eggplant and results in more crispy parts.

These became the best stale cookies I’ve ever eaten.

Wait.

Let me explain.

I made these cookies for the first time on July 28th.  That was a Wednesday.  Scott and I nibbled more than we should have for a day-and-a-half, and then…

I went into labor.

That was a Thursday.  (I’ll never forget it!)

And so the remaining uneaten cookies sat, lonesome-as-can-be, in the house until we got home on Saturday.

And let me tell you……..

There is nothing tastier than a stale homemade cookie when you’ve been eating hospital food for two days!

Oaty chocolate chip cookies barely adapted from Staff Meals from Chanterelle by David Waltuck and Melicia Phillips
yields about 32 cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Set an oven rack in the center-most position, and preheat the oven to 375º.  Prepare 3 baking sheets by lightly buttering them or lining them with silpats.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add both sugars and the butter.  Mix on low speed until combined, then mix on medium for about 60 seconds, until light and fluffy.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and sprinkle in the baking soda and salt.  Again, mix well on medium speed for about 15 seconds.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour, one cup at a time, mixing to thoroughly combine before adding the second cup of flour.  Scrape down the bowl.

Add the oats, one cup at a time, mixing to thoroughly combine before adding the second cup of oats.  Scrape down the bowl.

Dump in the chocolate chips all at once, and mix until they are fully incorporated.

Drop 2-Tablespoon sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each ball of dough.  Bake the cookies, one tray at a time, for 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies have started to turn golden on the edges and are still slightly soft in the center.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

Please forgive my silence…We’ve had our hands full!

I’ve got friends in high places where the cognac drowns and the wine chases my blues away…

If I re-wrote Garth Brooks’ little diddy, that’s how the song would go.  See, I’ve got these friends.  They’re lovely.  They’re classy.  They’re superb cooks.  And they’ve got a place in France where guests go to absorb the beauty of the country and take part in cooking lessons whereby they shop at the local markets, prepare meals together and then enjoy the bounty of their efforts in the garden, sipping wine which has been specifically paired for the meal.  Sounds like heaven huh?  Yeah, I agree.

Well, Katie makes a lovely summer squash gratin that manages to grace the table when the season is ripe for zucchini, crook-neck, patty pan, and all manner of summer squashes.  It’s simple as can be, and absolutely delicious down to the last creamy, cheesy, nutmeg-infused bite.

So last week, after finding myself to have been a leeeeeetle overzealous buying summer squash at the Farmer’s Market, I begged for her recipe and she happily obliged.  I added corn to my gratin in an effort to use up another surplus from my overzealous market trip, and threw a few torn basil leaves in there too.

So this is my take on Katie’s specialty…

Katie’s super-dee, duper-dee lovely summer squash gratin (with corn and basil)

This recipe is adaptable to any size dish, from individual ramekins, to a huge gratin-dish.  Plan to layer the squash (and corn, if you’re using it) a couple inches deep.  So here, I’ll provide you with a method and leave the quantities up to you!

If you’re preparing one large dish, Katie recommends baking the gratin at 325º.  For the individual ramekins like I made, bake at 350º.  Also, this gratin is simply divine made with just squash– so don’t feel the need to add the corn and basil if you don’t have them on hand.  Also, Katie adds a sprinkling of Emmenthaler cheese to the top.

  • a variety of summer squash, washed and stems removed
  • heavy cream
  • finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • corn, scraped from the cobb
  • unsalted butter
  • torn basil
  • kosher salt

Slice the squash about 1/8-inch thick using a mandolin.  Layer the squash in a large bowl, lightly salting each layer as you go.  Allow the salted squash to sit for 30-60 minutes so that it releases it’s liquid.

Preheat the oven to the desired temperature (see note).

Gently cook the corn in butter, salting to taste.  Allow to cool.

Pour off the excess squash liquid, giving the squash a gentle push and squeeze to help extract any liquid that remains.

Begin by placing a layer or two of squash in the bottom of the dish.  Then layer in some corn.  Scatter in some torn basil.  Pour in a little cream, but don’t submerge the vegetables.  Sprinkle in some Parmesan.  Lightly dust with nutmeg (a little goes a long way).  Be sure to keep the layers densely packed, all the way to the edges of the dish.  Keep layering in this manner until all the vegetables are used up.  Then pour in a little more cream so that it almost reaches the top of the vegetables.  Lightly press down on the top of the vegetables to help douse them in the cream.  Sprinkle another healthy dose of Parmesan and Ementhaler (if using) over the top.

Place the gratin dish (or dishes) into the preheated oven, and bake until the cream bubbles around the edges, and the top is golden-brown.   Allow to cool slightly before serving- it’s gonna be hot!

These little snackies made it well worth the trouble to have made my own garbanzo bean dip! It’s up to you how many of these you make…just for yourself or for a crowd.  So I’ll give you the general ingredients and the method and leave the specific quantities up to you.

Open-faced sandwiches with garbanzo bean spread and herbed cherry tomatoes

  • sliced rustic-style bread (I used pugliese)
  • garbanzo bean dip
  • cherry tomatoes
  • chopped garden herbs (I used basil, oregano, and mint)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt

Slice the cherry tomatoes into small wedges.  I suggest sixths or eighths, depending up on their size.  Place the tomatoes in a small bowl and sprinkle them with salt.  Set them aside for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

After the tomatoes have released some of their juice, toss them with the chopped herbs and a healthy drizzle of olive oil.  This will create a vinaigrette of sorts (tomato juice and olive oil).

Toast the sliced bread until it’s crisp on the outside yet chewy in the center.  Spread the garbanzo bean dip liberally on each slice.  Divide the herbed tomatoes among the slices of bread, spooning the extra juice all around.

Delight in the yumminess!