Tag Archives: olive oil

Eggplant Parmesan, Maren Frank Style!

Plated Eggplant Parmesan with fresh pasta and green beans.
Plated Eggplant Parmesan with fresh pasta and green beans.

This recipe is based on years of experimentation and work by Kevin’s mother Maren, it far exceeds any pallid imitations or pretenders you might have encountered previously. I always double this recipe, but I’m giving you the smaller amount instructions here. If you double this recipe you will end up with the two large pans and one smaller one that you see at the end of this post. I don’t think it’s worth doing this recipe for a small amount. You can always invite the neighbors over. Also, this dish gets better as it sits, so left-overs are Divine.

  1. Four regular eggplants, not the Japanese ones (picked according to Nicole’s instructions; click on this link to my Iranian Eggplant post to see the correct way to pick eggplants)
  2.  Good Salt for eggplants (Kosher probably best, but Himalayan Pink okay as well, see Let’s Talk Salt)
  3. Egg/Flour mixture: 2 large eggs or 3 small ones, 2–3 tablespoons of flour, ¼ cup of water, a dash of garlic salt or powder, fresh or parsley chopped very fine or dried parsley and some white pepper also
  4. Cheese: 2–3 blocks of part–skim, low fat or whole, never fat–free mozzarella, ½ cup or more of grated Parmesan cheese

Olive Oil: Option A: about a pint of good olive oil; Option B: use two good nonstick pans, you will then use less than a pint of good olive oil. I sometimes mix a little sunflower oil or canola oil in this, but the olive oil really makes it taste better.

Tomato Sauce:

A pot of warm tomato sauce (see Sapta Rachel’s Best Tomato Sauce prepared a day or two ahead or add another several hours of prep time, prior to beginning to make this dish). If you are doing my sauce, do not put fresh basil in it, use a little dried oregano, this dish doesn’t do well with fresh basil in the sauce. If you have to use prepared tomato sauce, the final outcome will reflect your choice. Maren recommends Prego, and only Prego, if you don’t have me handy or if you didn’t take the time to make my sauce, shame on you! I prefer organic sauces so I use Muir Glen or a locally made one from the Italian deli in our neighborhood. The fresher the better.

Breading:

One container of Contadina or Progresso Italian Flavored Bread Crumbs (don’t try other fancy, organic ones unless you are sure they have the same weight and consistency as these). We have tried the other kinds and been upset by the results. Since this recipe is a three to five hour effort depending on if you have helpers, it is not worth making a mistake. Follow our instructions and you will be pleased, stray from this path and feel the ache in your back and the frustration of a lot of time spent to yield something that isn’t that great.

Optional: Sauté up some mushrooms in butter, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley to use in one of the layers, or to serve on the side.

What you will need that isn’t a specific food item:

  1. Two large Baking Sheets
  2. Two large non–stick frying pans or two well–seasoned cast iron frying pans or one of each
  3. Two large casserole dishes
  4. Lots of clean counter space (see the Ten Commandments of Nicole’s Kitchen)
  5. An apron
  6. A sous–chef and a clean–up crew (these last two are highly recommended, if you can’t do this dish with a helper, make sure you have some good red wine handy to fortify yourself with ½ way through)
My super sous-chef Issac Frank, showing off his bear-paw hands, really good for frying and chopping and hand-holding too. Photo by Shakia Spink
My super sous-chef Issac Frank, showing off his bear-paw hands, really good for frying and chopping and hand-holding too. Photo by Shakia Spink

Peel eggplants, slice into ¼ inch round slices. Place a layer of paper towels on your baking sheet. Put a layer of the sliced eggplant down, sprinkle very lightly with salt. Put another layer of paper towels on top of these and repeat this whole process until you have used all your eggplant slices. Make sure you put a final paper towel on the top, then put the other baking sheet on top of all of this, weigh it down with your large cast pan or several heavy cans of food. The object here is to help drain the eggplants of extra water, the lightly salted layers release their water out into the paper towels and the weighting down further encourages this process. This must sit for at least ½ hour, during which time you will prepare the following:

Egg/Flour mixture: in a small covered jar, shake the ¼ cup of water and flour together so they are well combined. Beat eggs in a shallow dish or bowl. Add the flour water and mix, add white pepper, and garlic and parsley. In another shallow dish pour a small amount of breadcrumbs, if you pour a lot in, they goop up and get clumpy, which is not what you want. You want a light layer of bread crumbs.

Turn your oven onto 350° at this point.

After the ½ hour has passed, remove the top weights from over your eggplant layers and pat the top layer with paper towel.

You will need a couple of plates or platter to put the breaded eggplant on. We recommend arranging your counter space in a kind of assembly line. Eggplants, then egg mix, then bread crumbs, then plates.

egg, flour, herbs and water mixture for coating eggplant
egg, flour, herbs and water mixture for coating eggplant
2015-02-03 15.32.57
small amount of bread crumbs to coat eggplant after it has been in the egg mixture
2015-02-03 15.33.04
plate getting loaded up with eggplant rounds for frying

Dip each eggplant slice in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs so that it coats on both sides, place on your dish. Continue on ad–infinitum, until all the eggplant slices have been dipped and coated.

Now, over to the stove we go. Have your baking sheets clean and on hand to receive the fried eggplant. Take a deep breath or two. Pour olive oil into your pans, less for non–stick, more for other kinds, you need to cover the bottom of your pan and then have some extra, if you use a good amount, you won’t have to add oil in later to a smoking hot pan. Once the oil is hot, not smoking, it should be on a medium setting, fill each pan with the eggplant. Cook these a few minutes on each side, so that they brown a little.

Frying eggplant rounds in olive oil, the brownish red color is what you want. Once browned on both sides place on baking sheet for 20 minutes.
Frying eggplant rounds in olive oil, the brownish red color is what you want. Once browned on both sides place on baking sheet for 20 minutes.

You don’t want them to burn, PAY ATTENTION! Remove from stove and layer onto baking sheets. Once you have filled up a baking sheet, repeat frying procedure with remaining eggplant. This method allows you to use less oil, which makes a difference. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and put the baked eggplant rounds on fresh paper towels over cooking racks or grates, this step helps get rid of extra oil. You can layer paper towels and cooked eggplant onto a plate as well, if you don’t have cooking racks or grates.

Have grated or shredded cheese in a separate bowl and the Parmesan cheese also in a separate bag, bowl or container.

Now we are back to the assembly line process again. Assemble the Eggplant Parmesan in the following manner. Put a small amount of sauce on the bottom of your pan, just a little bit. Then you will put one layer of eggplant on the bottom of the casserole dish.

sauce on bottom, first layer of eggplant rounds
sauce on bottom, first layer of eggplant rounds

Now, take several spoons of the sauce and spread it lightly over the top of each eggplant slice, don’t pour a large amount. You want the end result to be moist, but not runny.

sauce on top of first layer of eggplant rounds
sauce on top of first layer of eggplant rounds

Sprinkle a generous amount of the grated mozzarella over this, then sprinkle a little bit of the Parmesan cheese over this, then repeat the whole procedure, don’t do more than two full layers per casserole, because you don’t want a gooey oven mess.

cheeses on top of first layer of eggplant rounds and sauce. Next step is to repeat the whole process.
cheeses on top of first layer of eggplant rounds and sauce. Next step is to repeat the whole process.

If you are into the mushrooms, you can insert the sautéed mushrooms after the first layer of eggplant, before the cheese. Your final layer, must always be the cheese. Use a little more Parmesan on the final layer. If you use too much this dish will be too salty and you’ll be sad.

Put them in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or more until the cheese is starting to get brownish. Remove from the oven. You are done! Except for the clean up which will take at least an hour or two. This dish is really only made for those your truly love, or those you are hoping to have love you for the rest of your life!

The finished masterpieces!
The finished masterpieces!

Latkes, Latkes, Latkes: How to Make them, How to Eat them, How to Survive them!

Naja Luz Tepe’s plate with one of my Ladino Latkes, and Nicole’s Home-made Applesauce

How to Make Them:

There are as many ways to make Latkes, as there are Jewish homes. Everyone has their own style and preferences. Here is my Ladino Latke Recipe

  1. Yukon gold or russet potatoes (8-10)
  2. 1-2 yellow or white onions
  3. 5-10 garlic cloves pressed (always remove the centers)
  4. a good handful of parsley, chopped up
  5. 2-3 carrots
  6. juice of 1-2 lemons
  7. salt & pepper to taste (a goodly amount)
  8. lots of eggs (7-10)
  9. A cup or more of Matzah meal which I prefer to flour
  10. lots and lots of sunflower oil or canola oil or schmaltz (oy vey!)
  11. Fresh thyme
  12. Freshly ground turmeric root
  13. Feta cheese (optional, but I highly recommend)
  14. Aloe Vera juice and ice-water on hand for when you burn yourself, and you will probably burn yourself, I do and I’m a seasoned pro!

So, I hand grate a lot of potatoes, uggghhh! It takes a long time and you have to be careful not to get your fingers grated in the process. I have made them with a food processor, but I have to tell you, the grater gets the potatoes thinner and into smaller pieces that cook quicker and absorb slightly less oil. You can make your own decision about this. I never bother peeling the potatoes, but I do clean them really well and remove any bad spots. Use a big bowl for this. I have also experimented with grating them into water and straining them. I’ve concluded that this particular idea is just one more step in a long and intense process, and it doesn’t seem to make any real difference. So, I no longer do it. I just grate them into a big bowl and try and pour out as much of the potato juice as I can.

I add the juice of one or two lemons, depending on how many potatoes I’m using, and stir that up, then I grate two or three carrots. The ratio of carrot to potato should be 1:3. So, one carrot for every three potatoes, for the non-math oriented folks. Since I am one of those kinds of people, it’s always a good idea to repeat myself when numbers are involved. You may have noticed, I rarely give exact amounts or numbers of things in my recipes. My apologies, I just don’t do numbers very much or very well. It’s an organic kind of thing in my kitchen with amounts shifting all the time.

I throw in some chopped parsley, fresh thyme and freshly pressed garlic (remember to remove the center parts, see Esti’s Parsley Sauce for pictures), lots of salt and pepper and then about 7-10 eggs and a bunch of larger crumbles of feta. If you are making these gluten-free, then you are done with the batter. If you want to add some Matzo Meal or flour then go ahead and put some of that in. I’ve made latkes so many different ways. I have not yet experimented with coconut flour or almond flour to see how that works. I often just go flour-less, since so many folks are not eating wheat or gluten these days.

You then will need three frying pans, four is too many to manage. If you use only one or two, good for you, it will take you another hour to be done, but you probably won’t burn yourself and need the aloe. Since I am always making these for a crowd, I am the three and sometimes four frying pan kind of woman. You can use any oil you want, but this recipe is about frying things in hot OIL.

Oil-rich foods are traditional for this time of year and this holiday because they are an additional way to get oil into our celebrations. The oil connects us to the miracle of the sacred oil lasting for eight days in the re-dedication of the Temple that is part of our traditional Hanukkah story. So, frying foods in oil and having lots of oil is just part of the holiday. I alternate between sunflower oil and coconut oil, depending on which I am more in the mood for. Both flavors are good.

Heat the oil to medium high, you can turn it down once you get going, but it needs to be pretty hot. Have lots of pot holders on hand and dishtowels on hand. Have two or more trays in the oven with cooling racks over them so you can put finished latkes on the rack and let the extra grease drip onto the pan below. Keep the oven on 250º so the latkes you’ve made stay warm, while you keep frying the rest of them.

This is the tricky part and the time-consuming part and the get yourself burned part. I wish I could say there was another way to do this, but basically, it’s a labor of love or love of tradition or some form of craziness. Take a slotted spoon, or a 1/2 cup measure and ladle the latke batter into three or four patties in the hot oil. Let them cook for a good five minutes or more per side, depending on the thickness. Smush them down so they are flatter after you turn them. I sometimes turn them too soon and then they are not golden brown and so I have to fry them on that side again.

The speed of this process and the timing are pretty hard to get down perfectly. It’s sort of a dance between flipping, checking, frying, ladling and then putting them on the trays in the oven so they stay warm until you are done. If you want to be just a servant to your guests, you can omit the keeping them warm in the oven part and just fry them and then dish them out. People always say they only want one or two, but end up eating four or more. I promise you they will eat more than they say they will. There’s just something deeply compelling about a latke, cooked properly and served hot.

How to Eat Them:

You can serve them with applesauce (see my recipe) and sour-cream, with Esti’s Parsley Sauce and Greek yogurt, with hot-sauce of your choosing, with whatever condiments you like. There will rarely be left-overs, but if there are, they are good with eggs the next morning.

Apparently, if you cool the potatoes the night before, by putting them in the fridge, they cook better. This is the tip I got from the appliance repair man who was over at our house this morning. I cannot verify this, but am putting it in as a tip that may prove to be true. I only make these ONCE a year and last night was the night, so my testing this particular theory will have to wait. You can let me know if it makes a difference for your latke frying.

How to Survive Them:

To survive Latkes, only eat them one of the nights of Hanukkah, not all eight! Or make sure you eat lots of bitter greens (like mustard greens) or radishes, daikon is my favorite, and lots of green salads as well. This is the secret to making your tummy happy with vegetables and flavors that compliment the fat-oil zone you get into this time of year by over-eating latkes. You can also substitute yams for the potatoes, but those are very different tasting, and still need to be cooked in lots of oil.

Also, if you want a different/alternative Hanukkah story, check out my Midrash, The Woman Whose Pockets Gave Light.

Happy Hanukkah!

Esti’s Parsley, Garlic, Lemon, Jalapeno Supremely Special Sauce

Parsley ready for Esti's sauce, washed and dry
Parsley ready for Esti’s sauce, washed and dry

This recipe was given to me by an elderly Israeli woman who I used to visit and help. She was an amazing woman and this sauce, while slightly adapted from her original (I like mine spicier) is in memory of her. I should also warn you, this stuff is addictive and some of my friends just eat it by the spoonful.

The tops only of 1–3 bunches fresh parley, Italian flat preferred, washed very thoroughly, the bucket method (putting all the parsley in a large bowl or bucket of water, soaking it, then draining and doing this two more times over ½ hour to an hour). Then dry or drain so the parsley is not too wet. You can do this the day before and keep the parsley that has been washed in a cloth bag or dish towel in your fridge.

One whole bulb of peeled cloves of garlic per 2 bunches of parsley (2:1 ratio, 2 bunches of parsley to 1 whole bulb of garlic). The garlic must have the centers removed from each clove, this takes about 20 minutes to a ½ hour depending on your technique. Do not make this recipe or any recipe using raw garlic without removing the darker colored centers of each clove of garlic. The only exception to this rule is if you are using very fresh garlic that is young, it won’t have had time to spoil in the center. Also, if you are baking garlic you can avoid this step, but for any raw garlic dish, not doing this will make your recipe harsh, and bitter and will upset stomachs as well.

Better Garlic

One to two whole bulbs of garlic, not cloves, but bulbs, the whole bulb times two. This garlic MUST be prepared as described and shown or else the sauce will not be good. See the Ten Commandments of Nicole’s Kitchen (in reference to following my directions, refer to commandment #1).

Juice of 1– 2 lemons per bunch of parsley

1–5 fresh green whole jalapeños or serranos (just cut off the very tops)

1/4 cup -1/2 cup or more of virgin olive oil

Salt to taste (at least 1/2 tsp or more of good salt, please see upcoming posting “Let’s talk Salt”

Combine all of these ingredients in the blender and blend away. This sauce is to die for. Put it on everything and anything, bread, fish, meat, tofu, veggies. Don’t cook this sauce though or use it as a marinade. It is best cold and will keep for about 5 days in the fridge. You can use fewer peppers if you want less spice, or more if that’s your desire.

from Divine Delights, Persian, French & Sephardic Savors from the Kitchen of
© Nicole Barchilon Frank