Thursday, November 29, 2012

Breakfast specialty: Louisville Lady Gourmet Eggs in a Basket!

The original Egg in a Basket
I can't believe I haven't written about this magnificent breakfast yet! I am pretty much known for my Eggs in a Basket. If you ever get to brunch at my house, it's either these babies or some form of pancake. This time we didn't have decent maple syrup in the house, so eggs in a basket it was.

I was originally inspired to try this out when I first saw V for Vendetta, way back in the day. I think perhaps it was the reaction of  Natalie Portman's character Evey, to that first breakfast with her kidnapper. She was overwhelmed with how delicious it was, and V quietly said that he had had plenty of time to master it. One of the true culinary-inspired scenes that stick out in my mind. I do think it is something to master...and I think I have, at least to my tastes.

To some, mastering might mean achieving perfection in one means of preparation, and the ability to replicate that one dish flawlessly for infinity. To me, mastering is being able to truly understand the dish and how its qualities can lead to constant, always delicious, evolution. I could crack and egg in the middle of some toast frying in a skillet any day...but can I transform that by adding ingredients and techniques to make the meal special and just as tasty every time? Yes, I think I can, and that is my goal in cooking. I clearly won't be making it to Le Cordon Bleu anytime soon :)

A seemingly simple breakfast: cutting a hole out of a piece of bread and frying an egg inside. But oh how many problems can arise, as well as many possibilities. You can have the heat too high and burn the bread before the egg is flippable, you can flip too soon and splatter egg all over the pan (easily redeemable, just cut around the toast and eat it as such), you can forget to season, and worst of all--you can have pale yellow yolked eggs...pure evil.

From my always optimistic point-of-view, you can turn this simple dish into something truly delicious.  The best way to accomplish this is to play with your seasonings. Curry and chili powder work amazing in eggs. Salt, white pepper, chili powder, and Hot Chili Sauce are incredible. Thyme, parsley, salt and black pepper work well with a squeeze of lemon. My recommendation is always going to be experimentation.

Also, I've never tried it, but I am sure that frying up some omelet ingredients and adding that to your egg in a basket is a fine idea--especially for those of the insatiable appetite quality. Now, something I have added that is pretty much common sense, is plenty of cheese. You can mix it in with the egg, sprinkle it on top, or fry it up in the pan...I would go with romano cheese or a nice shaving of parmesan.

Enough talk about your breadth of choices with this fine breakfast, let's get on with the recipe!

Eggs in a Basket
Eggs (one per slice of toast)
Hearty bread, preferably whole wheat or multi-grain
Real unsalted butter
Seasonings

Tools:
Whisk
Biscuit/cookie cutter or small glass
Spatula
Skillet
The idea is very simple, but I'm going to give you two specific variations on this, dependent on the form of the eggs. 

In any case, the first thing you're going to do is cut out the center of your bread so you have a hole, also known as the basket. You can use many tools for this project, the easiest being a biscuit cutter, but if you can't find yours for the love of god, like I can't, then you can use a small glass and press it into the bread until you can pop a circle out. I also got cute with this one and made a fleur de lis basket with our handy-dandy cookie cutter. It doesn't really show up after you cook it, but it looks adorable in the pan, and you fry up the fleur de lis you cut out anyway, so I just set that on top--so the happy diner would know that it was a fleur de lis cutout. Okay, enough of my kitchiness.

When you have cut the hole out of your bread, you need to take a moment to reflect on how you like your eggs. Here is where the two styles of preparation come in. Do you like the idea of a warm, silky flow of rich egg yolk bursting forth from the middle of your egg in a basket, just waiting to be sopped up by the surrounding buttery bread? Or would you prefer an evenly seasoned scrambled egg full of melted cheese and spices, and perhaps you're scared of the aforementioned yolk of my dreams? Those are your choices, friend.

The Louisville Egg in a Basket
If you want a full egg, you just crack the egg in the middle of the hole you made and go to town. If you prefer a scrambled egg, you can whisk the egg up and add cheese and salt--the other seasonings I would add while cooking in the pan for even distribution...spices tend to clump up and sink to the bottom with scrambled eggs. Then pour that mixture in the hole you made.

Your skillet should be heated pretty hot, but you will have to decrease the flame when you are cooking the egg, so as to not burn that side, and to cook the egg enough from the bottom up not to splatter it when you do decide to flip it. You can melt about a tablespoon or two of butter in the pan, and instead of buttering the other side of the bread, I just press the bread down into the butter and flip it over before adding the egg. That way, when you flip it, the other side of the bread will brown evenly and it saves on the amount of butter you need to use. If you're too scared to flip a piece of bread by hand in a hot skillet you can brush melted butter on it. Season the egg with your seasonings--remember to sprinkle high so that you get an even distribution of spices. You will know to flip the egg when the inside white is not so jiggly, then muster up some courage and flip it over!

If you are cooking with scrambled eggs, you will inevitably end up with more egg than fits in your basket. What I do in this case is take the hole that I cut out and soak that in the remaining egg mixture--then you have a french toast hole! It's going to be a thing...Finally, you can garnish with hot sauce and cheese and serve with a side of bacon or fresh cut fruit. I think this would be a nice side to salad too, especially in a brunch scenario.

So you can't tell it's a fleur de lis? Put the
bread on top of it while serving!
Yolk lava...mind-blowing!






Enjoy my favorite breakfast! ¡Buen provecho!

Monday, November 26, 2012

City Café: Never Fail, Delicious Vittles!

I am a near religious listener to WFPK Radio Louisville, and among the generous sponsors of our city's best radio station is one of the best cafés, City Café. I can recite to you that they offer citywide delivery to any location and that they provide the boxed lunches for members at WFPK's live lunch programs. They are an integral part of our fair city, and I credit them with numerous delights that they've brought to my table.

The location I have visited time and time again is next to Baxter Avenue Theatres. I personally know City Café from many post-cinematic visits, discussing films and grabbing a light meal. I have seriously never been disappointed. Their food is well-executed, not too fancy, and the perfect backdrop to discussing a thought-provoking (or quite the opposite) movie. To me, City Café has nailed the café style: relaxed, a perfect variety on their menu, dish-ware that can be washed after use, recycling for the rest, and real, honest food. Plus, they ask you if you want bread with your soup or salad...yes, yes I do!...but no wasting for the rest of you carb-counters. On top of everything, they have an ever-changing list of specials, and they are always conscious of what's available that season.


I could probably turn back the clock and name you a novel's worth of meals I've had at the City Café, but I'm just going to focus on what I had during my last visit after seeing Cloud Atlas, which by the way, led to a really great conversation. I found the film to be very entertaining and thorough, but that's for another blog altogether! I wasn't starving, but wanted something to please the impending grumblies, and that happened to be their soup of the day: Creamy Mushroom and their pasta salad special. My friend got their Balsamic Glazed Portabella Sandwich, which is always a favorite.

As usual, the meal was everything I wanted it to be. The soup was warm and comforting, with just the right amount of spice and richness. The pasta salad was chilled and speckled with peppers, cheese, and served with that happy slice of baguette. My friend was equally as delighted, savoring her sandwich with the City Café side of tortilla chips--I love that twist. This was actually the place where I discovered the combination of Sriracha sauce and tortilla chips...I highly recommend it!

On top of honest food, this café is honestly priced. You won't pay a ridiculous amount of money for anything, and their lunches sit at a happily priced $7.25. With three locations and citywide delivery, I daresay this should be your go-to for mealtime decision-making.

Find them at:
1250 Bardstown Rd. Lunch and Dinner hours: 11-9 or 10
Phone: 459.5600  This location is now Closed :(

505 W. Broadway: Lunch Hours 10-3
Phone: 589.1797

500 S. Preston (UofL Health Sciences Center): Breakfast and Lunch hours 7.30-3
Phone: 852.5739

Email: jbbccafe@yahoo.com
Website: City Café

Don't forget that they cater for breakfast and lunch!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftover Madness!

I wrote an article for Insider Louisville on handling Thanksgiving leftovers! The original article was published on this link:
Insider Louisville Thanksgiving Leftovers!


Now that Thanksgiving is over, and your house is still full of varying amounts of leftovers, it is time to get creative! I enjoy this part of the holiday as much as preparing the fresh ingredients because it gives me the opportunity to try new experiments…and if they don’t happen to work out, no worries, chances are it will be difficult to recreate the ingredients until the next Thanksgiving rolls around.

Let’s brainstorm a little bit to see what we can come up with, then I’ll try and throw a few recipes at you.

Turkey can be great in the post-Thanksgiving staple sandwich, but let’s think outside the box for a second and see where this versatile meat can take you.

When I was in Europe, I lived with quite a few Spaniards, who loooooved their croquetas. Croquetas can basically take any filling you like, but the turkey croquetas we whipped up were especially delicious and plentiful. These little fried bundles of joy can fill you and a small army of friends up in no time at all. When made correctly it is like eating a turkey-flavored cloud in light, crispy breading.

Regarding the nasty bits (the carcass and giblets, if you didn’t put them in the gravy), throw all that glory into a pot with some aromatic herbs and veggies and water and make yourself a stock! Then you can use it in soups all winter…it freezes like a dream!

Something else you can do is make a Strata (here’s my recipe), and layer the turkey, vegetables, leftover bread, even stuffing could be livened up in this dish. Then, if you have leftover cheese from you hors d’oeuvres, serve with a side of cranberry sauce.

Thanks to our friends down south, we have a great abundance and respect for the corn and flour tortilla.
Ever thought of making leftovers taco-style? Add some cumin to those green beans, mix some salsa into the stuffing, add a dollop of sweet potatoes, and reheat the turkey with garlic and peppers. Pile all of these onto a taco and you’re ready to go! Along the same vein, you can scatter various leftovers over some tortilla chips and heat them in the oven–Thanksgiving nachos…you’re welcome.

Hmm, what else? I bet you can mix turkey meat with stuffing and an egg, form them into patties and grill up some turkey burgers. Top with your cranberry sauce and some leftover salad greens and you have a party in your mouth.

Turkey Chili…you can run with that one if you want.

Ah, and to top it all off, I found something really intriguing at the store: gyoza wrappers! I’m sure rice wrappers for spring rolls could pull this off too, but gyoza wrappers (also commonly known as wonton wrappers or potsticker wrappers) are just begging to be filled with whatever combination you can imagine.

Cut the turkey into miniscule pieces and mix with caramelized peppers and onions and ginger, then fill the wrappers and steam, fry, or steam AND fry them. A similar combination can be made with desserts and you can have dessert bites. Fill these with your vegetable sides and you have a nice bite-sized meal ahead of you.

Making gyoza is a wonderful way to get people involved in the kitchen–take this opportunity to kick back after your 2-day cooking marathon and have everyone get their hands into some food. I guess this might be a good recipe to leave with you since it does involve a procedure that you may not be familiar with.

Leftover Gyoza
Gyoza wrappers (can be found at Asian supermarkets, and apparently mainstream ones now too)
Onions
Ginger
Garlic
Various leftover combinations
Bowl of water for finger-dipping


Make sure that you cut your leftovers, onions, ginger, and garlic into tiny pieces–that’s the secret to most Asian cooking, notice the small pieces that cook fast and evenly…I know, how could you have missed that detail?! Basically, you are going to mix up all of the ingredients except for the wrappers and sauté them until they become a nice little filling. Then you put about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Here comes the technique:

Dip your finger into the water bowl and swipe it along the top half-moon of the wrapper. This will allow you to fold up the bottom half-moon and adhere the wrapper dough to itself. If you want to look really authentic and hold in your ingredients well, you should fan-fold the wrapper before pressing it down on the dampened end. This is exactly the same technique you use when you are folding crimps into a pie crust. Call in your friends to help you here…it’s tons of fun!

When your gyoza are all folded and ready, you can throw them in a frying pan with a little peanut oil/sesame oil combo and brown them on both sides, then you can choose to steam them or hold them in the oven on low heat to keep them warm. When all your magnificent gyoza are finished, you can serve them with a ponzu sauce or simple soy sauce.

Delicious!
I hope that this guide can at least inspire some ideas for using all those delicious leftovers aside from just reheating them. Have a happy holiday and I hope you were able to enjoy Thanksgiving for all that it gives us!

Enjoy friends and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Ode to Louisville: This is what I'm thankful for...

This Louisville Lady Gourmet has tons to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. While my soup is simmering on the stove (we all know it's better the next day!), I would like to take a few precious minutes to digitally express my thanks for our fair city. I think that many people have not discovered the true gem that we have made our hometown. However, those who do know her and are well acquainted with her are sure to say that she's quite a looker, intelligent, friendly as can be, a magnificent cook, and can surprise you everyday, while remaining familiar and comfortable. This is my city and I couldn't be happier to seize this exciting life on the banks of the Ohio River.

I grew up thinking that many things unique to our city and state were just natural parts of life for any other American. This city has, in fact, brought some of the most interesting people,  events, ingredients, and traditions into my life, just by existing and being a place that ignites innovation with a community that can take it to great success.

I always thought it was normal for a kid to have a Benedictine and Bacon Sandwich in their school lunch--I just learned last year, at a Derby party in Spain, that nobody outside of Louisville knows what the heck Benedictine is (it is the most delicious cucumber cream cheese spread for you deprived ones). Bourbon is celebrated around the world, and the best and most traditional bourbon whiskeys come from our region; adding complexity, sweetness, and earthy qualities due to our limestone rich geology, golden corn-based agriculture, and the reverence and celebration of quality and variety in our products. Louisville is the crossroads of all fine food in our country. We have access to an incredible diversity of produce, a long history with our beloved swine, and in our past we have had countless characters moving in, out, and through our city to create the food culture we see today. Now we have an abundance of inspired chefs and food artisans to appease even the most particular foodie's fix.

But it isn't just about food (well, it is, but there are other details too!). Louisville lit the first display of the electric lightbulb. During the Southern Exposition, Thomas Edison's lightbulb prototype lit up that glorious space in what we call Old Louisville, to show the world where we were headed. To me, this is astounding. For Louisville to have that nugget of history in its pocket is amazing, and I still see the spirit of awe and fancy in our city everyday. Take a stroll in Old Louisville and see the most beautiful Victorian homes, full of history, ghost stories, and homeowners who aren't just living in their homes, they are preserving the great history and souls of our city's residents and visitors. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but Louisville shows up in that lovely book by F. Scott Fitzgerald--you should check it out and see where Daisy, the Louisville debutante came from--harkening back to the glistening age of the 20s and all of the bootlegging glory.

And don't get me started on my home in the Highlands. I love this neighborhood, and from the Highlands through the corridor to Crescent Hill and Clifton I feel most at home. This city is alive with interesting people with a past they'd love to share with you. Shop owners start to build business relationships with you the second you walk in the door, and after maybe your third visit, you are considered family. Restaurants are, of course, where the spirit of our city shine, using local talents and resources to celebrate our hometown the best way we know how. Finally, we can wash it all down with a local craft beer or a bourbon cocktail (the Old Fashioned cocktail was invented in Louisville in the late 1800s, btw), and a spirited conversation among friends--we are all pretty much friends around here.

This Thanksgiving, I am going to be surrounded by friends and family, some I have known for ages, some are new but still welcome as family. We will go to Wild and Woolley tonight to get some rentals from our favorite local video shop (cult, classic, horror, foreign :D), hit up Old Town Liquors for our final bottle(s) of wine, record the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade, throw on our aprons and go to town on a fabulous meal. My turkey came from our local butcher Kinglsey Meats, our veggies came from our earth, and you can be sure that I'm going to splash some bourbon here and there to add that complex note of Kentucky's fine liquid amber. I will remember this Thanksgiving as I remember all I have celebrated in the past. I live in a wonderful city that I am proud to call my hometown, and I have the opportunity to share that city with people I truly love and am delighted to explore and experience life with.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Celebrate this holiday around a delicious table, and if you are brave enough to risk your life on Black Friday, remember to shop local. You can find a special insert from the Keep Louisville Weird people (Louisville Independent Business Assoc.) in the LEO magazine today, which has quite a few coupies and a comprehensive list of where you can get anything and everything...from your neighbor!

Bon appétit and a safe and happy holiday weekend to you!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Extravaganza 2012!

This turkey's waving at us! Photo credit: Levent Neyse
Thanksgiving is coming up on us quick and all I can think about is how incredible it is going to be! So many happy people in the house, anticipating delicious food, laughing and munching on some hors d'oeuvres before the turkey comes out of the oven. I'll most likely have the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade playing in the background (recording it earlier in the morning). I heard some people even start playing their Christmas music at this time. I reserve that for the day AFTER Thanksgiving, when we can plow through full-on decoration mode while being nourished by mountains of leftovers!

Oh, I can smell the rich perfume of a turkey roasting in its juices, wine, and aromatics, the Glühwein simmering away on the stove, the pies taunting me on the windowsill (does anyone else do that to themselves?). You know, the sense of smell is the strongest sense attached to memory, and I can tell you that the fragrance of Thanksgiving brings back some lovely memories from Thanksgiving here at home in Louisville as well as the holiday I bought along with me to Austria and Spain. You can always find loving people to share a glorious meal with, even when you're far away.

I know I'm waxing poetic and you can probably see the stars in my glazed over eyes, but seriously this holiday is a dream for me. People often find it stressful, what with all the relatives and friends coming over, wrapping your head around a double-digit guest list, and preparing the meal of the year for at least a full day, if not two. If you're worried about any of the above (plus any other grievances you might have), my advice to you is to relax and don't freak out! If something doesn't turn out right, chances are you have 15 other choices to make someone happy. If you have a list of dietary restrictions to take care of, don't worry--there are plenty of substitutes to make sure everyone is full. Finally, whether this is your first or 50th Thanksgiving, remind yourself that we are all fortunate to be able to share a great meal together, in peace and good company. So, take it easy! There's no need to stress. Here are some tips to get you through the holiday:

Planning is key! Check out Insider Louisville for Preparation & Decoration suggestions Follow this link: 
Louisville Lady Gourmet's Thanksgiving Special Part I: The Game Plan

Collect and organize your recipes into a menu. If you have never tried a recipe before, it would behoove you to put it through the test kitchen before unveiling it on the table.
Here is my menu for this year with some extra suggestions (I'm not really making ALL of this):

Appetizers:
Assorted Cheeses and Homemade Crackers
Cheese Straws
Candied Pecans
Roasted Chestnuts

First course:
Root Vegetable Terrine
Celery Root and Apple Soup
Autumn Salad 

Main course and sides:
Herbed Buttered Turkey
Cornbread Stuffing
Sourdough Sage Stuffing
Roasted Potatoes and Apples (AMAZING)
Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Maple
Sweet Potato Soufflé
Braised Red Cabbage
Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Cauliflower Gratin
Roasted Assorted Squash (Butternut, Acorn, Pumpkin, etc)
Roasted Cranberry Sauce
Fresh Baked Rolls

Dessert:
Derby Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Chess Bars

Drink:
Wine
Glühwein


So, I clearly won't be able to give you all the recipes (you'll have to wait a few years for the release of my cookbook, hah!). However, the suggestions featured in bold will be written out below, and the linked recipes are already on the blog!

To tackle this day, it is smart to plan which recipes you can make ahead and which recipes you must make day-of. Desserts can all be made the day or night before Thanksgiving, and that frees up your oven. Much of the food can be prepped the day before, like chopping and grouping ingredients together by recipe. If you can set out your mise en place ahead of time, your assembly will be much much easier to handle.

So, for every recipe you can measure out the spices and reserve them in bowls with labels, chop up all the onion you need and put it in a bag in the refrigerator, then measure out what you need from there. Same thing goes for your carrots, celery, etc. Float your chopped carrots and celery in water though, so they don't try out. I've done this before and it makes the Thanksgiving flow much easier to handle, and the kitchen is cleaner throughout the day. Plus, you are more relaxed ahead of time, so you are less likely to miss ingredients in a mad rush.

Herbed Buttered Turkey
Turkey
Butter, softened
Aromatics (rosemary, thyme, sage)
Root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, potatoes)
Onion
Garlic
White wine
Turkey Stock
Sea salt

I have been fortunate enough to never have a dry turkey on my Thanksgiving table, and I give my thanks to this wonderful recipe (and the patience to wait for the turkey to soak up all its glorious juices). I buy my turkey fresh, not frozen, every year. Many people chose to brine their bird to seal in the moisture, but I have neither the patience nor space for that, so I use this herbed butter rub to prepare my bird.

Spanish Turkey: Photo Credit: Levent Neyse
Preheat the oven to 425º

First you need to wash and dry your entire bird inside and out. Reserve the "nasty bits" including the neck for your gravy or for turkey stock. 

Mix together about a stick of softened butter and your choice of aromatics. I think an herbes de Provence mix would be nice, and I use a mixture of rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and black pepper. Season to taste.

Then you slather that turkey in the butter. Separate the skin from the breast and liberally distribute the butter under the skin to protect the precious white meat (this is where most people experience dry meat).  Coat the rest of the bird, wings, legs, bottom, everything in the herbed butter. If you sprung for fresh sprigs of your herbs, throw them in the cavity of the bird so you can get flavor from the inside out. Also rub some of that butter in the inside cavity. Bonus!

Put the turkey on a roasting rack and distribute the onion, garlic, root vegetables, 1 C wine and 1 C turkey stock in the roasting pan. SO. MUCH. FLAVOR!

Follow Tom's turkey ritual by following the link above. You do lower the temperature after the first 20 minutes or so and make a foil tent, so don't freak out--it's still low and slow. I am cooking a 14 lb bird, so it will probably take 3.5-4 hours. A meat thermometer is indispensable in this case--especially if you want the Norman Rockwell bird and not something that's been hacked into 1000 times.

Roasted Potatoes and Apples
Red potatoes
Granny Smith Apples
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh black pepper
Thyme

This was a magnificently easy recipe, whipped up with whatever I had laying around the house before my next shopping trip. I had red potatoes and green apples and I saw the beautiful and festive color combination, then I tried to imagine the tastes together in my head: red potatoes with their wonderful texture and complementary flavor, roasted green apples evolving from tart to deep sweetness, and the opportunity to marry those flavors in the oven...yes please!

Preheat your oven to 400º

I probably cooked up 5-6 red potatoes about the size of my fist and one granny smith apple. This ratio worked out because the green apple was able to make a pleasant surprise without overwhelming the red potatoes. Every other bite I would run into a sweet, tart roasted green apple delicately kissed with olive oil and thyme and it was so lovely. The trick here is to cut the potatoes smaller than the apples so that everything cooks about the same--the apple, due to the sugars, will roast quicker and become soft before the potatoes, so give it a chance to compete!

Mix the olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and thyme together and pour it over the chopped potatoes and apples in a roasting pan. Now get your clean hands in there! Your hands are the best mixer ever, no wooden spoon can compete (unless you're turning hot things in the oven), and this way you can make sure that every piece is covered with the olive oil mixture. Your hands are waterproof, so just wash them afterwards--if you do this with salad dressing too, you'll never go back!

Roast away in the oven and turn every 10-15 minutes until they reach your desired golden happiness. Great accompaniment to the Thanksgiving spoils!

Braised Red Cabbage
1 Head red cabbage
4-5 Garlic cloves, crushed
Olive oil
White wine -or- Apple cider vinegar 
Sea salt
Garnish: fresh chives

This recipe can be made ahead of time and reheated, but it will not take up room in your oven on Thanksgiving, so you can choose what to make of it. It is a delicious alternative to cranberry sauce next to the turkey for those looking for something less sweet, but still with that incredible color!

Chop the head of cabbage into two and remove the core. Then you simply slice off thin strips of the cabbage until you've cut it all up. Then crush your garlic cloves and you're ready to go! Easy prep, easy cook.

In a large pot, heat about 2 T of olive oil until it is shimmering and add your cabbage. Toss and turn that cabbage until it is well coated and has a chance for every piece to get some heat. Throw in the garlic and stir with the cabbage until you smell those warmed cloves release their fragrance. By this time you might have a few pieces sticking to the bottom...never fear it is time to add the wine or apple cider vinegar! About a 1/4 cup will do, if you need more then just add more, there really isn't a measurement. Now listen to that hiss...and scrape up the brown bits at the bottom--they add such a wonderful flavor to the entire dish. At this point you can stir well and put a top on it, checking periodically if the liquid has dried up and tossing the cabbage up a bit. The top will help cook everything through, and deal with the quantity of cabbage because a full head can be a big deal.

Braising means slow cooking, so you can cook as long as you want to. Keep tasting the cabbage until it reaches the desired braise, sweetness, and color you are aiming to achieve. Serve with a garnish of fresh chives.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole
  • 1 lb fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut in half
  • 3 T Olive oil
  • 1 Onion, sliced as thin as you can manage
  • 1 lb Mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1/2 C White wine
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 Whole cloves
  • 2 C Half and half
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2T Flour

I love love love The Splendid Table, and this recipe has changed me forever on Green Bean Casseroles. I am the one who strategically places herself next to the green bean casserole on Thanksgiving in order to sneak bites directly out of the casserole dish. That's love. What Lynne has done with this recipe is add some real surprises like flavoring with bay leaf, clove, and nutmeg...and it seriously changes the dynamic from wonderful to mind-blowing! My only suggestion would be to make a roux and stir it into the cream of mushroom as a thickener. If you follow the link above, she actually gives you another recipe for Cream of Mushroom soup, and perhaps that will come out thicker. Either way, the flavor is so phenomenal that I could sacrifice the gloopy soup for that delightful cream sauce. 

As you can see, the ingredients do not include French's French Fried Onions, and you may scoff, but I think I've moved on from that point in my life. These thinly sliced onions crisped up in olive oil add the perfect flavor to this dish. I'm aiming for as much non-processed food as possible, and I found that my beloved Green Bean Casserole was the first to be revamped! Couldn't be happier that I chose to do that!

Your first step is to blanche the green beans in boiling salted water for a little under 5 minutes. They will bloom into a bright green color and swell a little bit. At this point, drain the beans and set aside in a colander.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Wait until the olive oil is shimmering and then add the onions, they will sizzle and start to caramelize after about 3 minutes if you sliced them thin enough. Cook them to your desired shade of golden awesomeness without burning them, strain and remove them from the oil and lay them on paper towels or cheesecloth. Reserve. 

Preheat your oven to 375º at this point.

Prepare the cream of mushroom by reheating the olive oil over high heat, and adding the quartered mushrooms. The quartered mushrooms are incredible in the final product--even non-mushroom lovers have commented on how great the taste and mouthfeel are! Brown the mushrooms in the skillet. What will happen is the mushrooms will release their water and start cooking in their juices, when the juices evaporate and redistribute, the mushrooms should be brown enough. Then it is time to add the bay leaf, cloves, salt and pepper, then deglaze with wine, scraping up the bottom of the skillet. 

If you are making a roux, do so while the wine is reducing. Heat a skillet with a bit of olive oil over high heat and add 2T of flour, then cook until your desired color, which will be pretty light for this dish. Add the roux at the end as a thickener. 

Allow the wine to reduce almost completely and then pour in the half and half. Heat on medium heat now until the half and half thickens. Go fishing for the bay leaf and clove and remove them, then season with salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. You can add your roux now and thicken up the soup. Throw in the green beans and get everything mixed up. Then turn into a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes in the oven. Then put the onions on top and cook another 3-5 minutes until warmed.

NOM NOM!!!!!!

Glühwein
4-5 Bottles red wine (quality is negligible)
3/4 C sugar (see why it's negligible?)
Peel of 1-2 Oranges
2 Cinnamon sticks
5 Whole cloves
1 t Ground ginger
Optional: additional spirits like bourbon, rum, cognac, vodka, etc.

I fell in love with Glühwein when I lived in Austria. This drink is typically served at the Weihnachtsmarkts or Christmas Markets--and yes, they are as magical as they sound. Because I associate this warm drink with a happy holiday, lifelong friends, and soaking up the culture of the "Old World", it has become a staple to my holiday season. So here is the recipe I brought back with me, along with many happy memories.

In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients together and heat until the sugar has dissolved. This is the perfect time to serve the Glühwein, but you can keep it heated over low heat or even in a crock pot--open for self service. If you are adding additional spirits to give this mulled wine a little kick, stir it in while the Glühwein is heating. Serve in festive mugs and I can guarantee merry-making will ensue.

Turkey napkin: folded at my home workstation :)

And that, dear friends, is my guide to a Happy Thanksgiving! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send me a comment. Also, check out my planning and decorating suggestions:
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“The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things…” (thank you Lewis Carroll) of turkeys and stuffing and cranberry sauce, of pies and napkin rings!
Thanksgiving is the kickoff to the greatest time of the year, in my humble opinion–although I have a feeling I’m not alone. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I absolutely love planning Thanksgiving: from menu selections to compiling recipes and grocery lists, from decorations to pulling off that epic meal. I cannot wait to have my home full of friends and family.
I do have a few Thanksgivings under my belt, serving small crowds from 10 to 21 hungry guests, and enjoying every minute of it. So in the pursuit of happy holidays, I do have a few recommendations, and especially some advice for Thanksgiving in our fair city. The first part of Louisville Lady Gourmet’s Thanksgiving special will give a guideline to shopping and decorations as well as organizing a so-called game plan for the big day.
The Turkey
If you’re going for a vegetarian or vegan, pescatarian or turkey-alternative thanksgiving, I’ll point you in the direction of Rainbow Blossom, Fresh Market (awesome fish selection), and Kingsley Meats respectively.
For the rest of you, let’s get down to logistics: you should buy a turkey that weighs about a pound and a half per person attending your meal. Sure, nobody is going to eat a pound and a half of meat along with all of those sides, but you are paying for the bones as well. If you have an emergency cancellation, no worries, leftovers are a celebration in and of itself (I’ve only managed that one year…).
As for where to purchase your turkey, I highly recommend a fresh Heritage bird or an Amish bird. These turkeys taste legitimately richer, they aren’t injected with saline solutions or chemicals for preservation’s sake, and preparing a healthy bird is a true way to celebrate our harvest–respecting everything that comes to our tables. Two of my prime recommendations for fresh turkeys are available right in Louisville: Grasshoppers CSA and Kingsley Meats.
Grasshoppers is currently taking orders for local farm-raised, organic Thanksgiving turkeys 14-25 lbs at $4.25/lb to be picked up on Nov. 19th or 20th between 10AM-6PM. I love the Grasshoppers CSA people; they are truly doing something great for our city–and now for our holidays. They also offer accompanying Thanksgiving sides, produce, and tested recipes, available for order.
Kingsley Meats is where I have personally bought my turkey for my Thanksgivings in Louisville, and they offer Amish turkeys based on whatever size you request. The Kingsley Meats people are always pleasant to do business with, and I was able to schedule my pick up time (very helpful for Thanksgiving madness). They run $3.69/lb and you can order in person at their 2701 Taylorsville Rd. location or order by phone like I did at 502.459.7585.
**Note, if you are getting a fresh bird, try to make your pick up within a day or two of Thanksgiving day. This gives you enough time to brine the bird if that’s the way you go and keeps the bird in the safe zone for refrigeration.
If you’re not into cooking the turkey (say what?!?!), I recently heard that our local Mark’s Feed Store is selling 12-14lb smoked turkeys for $29.99. They also have sides available. Orders for the turkeys have to be in by Sunday the Nov. 18, and they can be picked up before Thanksgiving (they’re closed on Thanksgiving day). This offer runs all the way through the season until Christmas Eve (also due the Sunday before).
Recipes
Now that the bird is arranged for, I suggest you make a list of recipes that you are going to use on Thanksgiving. Try something new, gather some traditional recipes, or dig in those food memories and call up a family member who would love to pass on a Thanksgiving favorite. This is the best part of preparation, and it is what gets the ball rolling for the rest of your planning. Break the recipes up into make-ahead and day-of preparation…the more you can prepare ahead of time the better, but consider refrigeration space.
The Grocery List
Next, you need to build your grocery list from your recipe collection. Include measurements so that you buy enough, and don’t forget that ingredients often repeat in other recipes. Break your shopping into two trips if you need to: first trip you can go to the farmer’s market or the local grocery to buy ingredients for dishes you can make ahead of time, and the second trip will be for the rest of your ingredients and whatever you forgot (you will forget something, no matter how much you plan). This is a good point to decide who your kitchen wingman/wingwoman will be, because you’ll need to call on them for prep assistance/damage control/emergency grocery runs.
Festive Decorations
Food is the first priority of course, but there are other important aspects of the holiday celebration including decorations and how you will plan the meal. Centerpieces or cornucopias are traditional, but I think some smaller details like candles and flower arrangements can make a great ambiance. Going to the local florist can be a great way to get this started. I love getting ideas from someone who knows what they’re doing, and you can choose something unique. I use Pinotti’s Florist on Bardstown Road by the Twig and Leaf.
You need to decide how you want to serve your meal, if you want to serve in courses, family style, or buffet style (or plan a pot-luck…I’ve never done it, but it does require some organization and commitment from your guests)–all have pros and cons. I think serving in courses is a good pace for the host because everything can come out hot, and it gives the turkey time to rest while the guests can start with a salad and terrine or soup. It really depends on the number of people and how you want to plan the meal.
Also, you should consider place settings. Setting a festive table will make everyone feel like it’s a special occasion. A simple way to accomplish this is by folding your napkin in a turkey shape (yes, I’m that nerdy), or finding autumnal napkin rings. Also you can set the table with all of the silverware necessary to plow through the meal–it will be easier on you and make for a nice presentation.
My final idea is to have a Thanksgiving tablecloth runner or wall tapestry where your guests can write down something they’re thankful for. My family did this and every year we could look at what we were thankful for–it’s nice perspective to remind ourselves who and what is important in our lives.
I think that’s enough to chew on for this part of the Thanksgiving special. I’ll be back later this week with some menu suggestions, recipes, and an outline for having a really Happy Thanksgiving! Can you feel my enthusiasm yet?

The happiest of holidays to you and your gathering of friends and family. It's sure to be delicious!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Inside the Kitchen: Kentucky Blackberry Cobbler

Happy Friday everyone! Today's edition of Inside the Kitchen (my food column for Insider Louisville) is available now. This recipe is a traditional from the Kentucky region, and is a great way to warm up and take advantage of those glorious blackberries (usually picked fresh and frozen).

I like to serve it with warmed cream during the cooler months, but seeing as that we're back in 70º weather this weekend, fresh whipped cream (sugar unnecessary) is a great accompaniment!

Take a look at this link:
Inside the Kitchen: Kentucky Blackberry Cobbler


There is an episode in my pick-your-own past that I remember quite vividly, and it involves those Kentucky sapphires commonly known as blackberries. This is a fond memory and a very important building block to my relationship with food– you can’t get any closer to the ground than hand-selecting your food straight off the bush.
Even though the day in the fields ended up a bit traumatic because I received my first bee sting, I was treated inside the farmhouse almost immediately, and we were soon back home with our spoils. All in all, it was a champion for great homegrown foods. With such a surplus, we sprinkled the berries with sugar and froze them in big bags…from which little lady gourmet hands snuck frozen treats every fifteen minutes.
Many of us have the same experience with pick-your-own at Huber’s Farm, at the very least by picking our own pumpkins from time to time. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons that Louisvillians are so taken by our food traditions. We appreciate the energy that goes into the food, from both mother nature and the farmer, and that connection encourages us to treat food as the precious commodity it is. Thus, we have at our fingertips a long history of great food, combining the influences of our overseas ancestors, a rich Southern tradition, a Midwestern sense of harvest bounty, and a population that nurtures their recipes as one in the family.
I recently had a new neighbor move in from the New England area, so I took it upon myself to make a little “Welcome to Louisville” treat. A quick stroll through the store told me that blackberries were going to be my main ingredient! Luckily one of our Kentucky treasures is the traditional Blackberry Cobbler, so off I went to whip up this classic dessert, perfect for cooler weather.
Blackberry Cobbler is a very easy recipe, the only catch is that it takes about 45-55 minutes in the oven to go through the bubbling, caramelizing, browning process (now that doesn’t sound too bad, does it?). The cobbler batter is a wonderful base that I could eat directly with a spoon if I didn’t have the promise of blackberry heaven in my immediate future. It is akin to biscuits, and doesn’t have sugar in the batter itself…that comes with the blackberries to create a nice glazed crust on top. For warmer weather, you can serve the cobbler with warmed cream (which I chose), or with fresh whipped cream–whatever makes you happy.
Kentucky Blackberry Cobbler
Traditional Recipe

2 1/2 C Fresh blackberries, washed
1 C Sugar
1 C Flour
2 t Baking powder
1/2 t Salt
1 C Milk
1 Stick of unsalted butter, melted
First you should take care of the blackberry and sugar mixture because it needs to sit for a while. Stir together just the berries and sugar in a large bowl and let it sit out for 25-30 minutes. This will coax out the juices of the blackberries so that they can be sweetened up by the sugar, and we can taste the full spectrum of the fruit–this process is called macerating.
After about 20 minutes, you should turn on the oven to about 375º and start preparing your batter.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and milk with a wooden spoon. Next, stir in the melted butter and hand-mix it until the ingredients are well incorporated and you have few clumps.
Pick out a clean baking dish– a smaller one will do– pour in the batter and smooth it out. You can choose to line it with parchment paper or not, but don’t grease the pan (there is enough butter in there already!). Finally, pour the macerated blackberries on top with all the sugar included and evenly distribute it over the batter.
The pan of happiness
Bake this promising pan of happiness in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how golden you prefer it to be. Let it set up for a good 15 minutes so it will hold its shape. It will be bubbling like crazy and quite hot, so be careful!
This hour goes a little like this: you can hear it bubbling through the vent behind the stove, you can smell the buttery dough caramelizing with the sugar, and you can see the dotted crown of blackberries creating that quintessential golden cobbler crust. It is a marvel to have in your oven, let me tell you!
Serve warm or room temperature with warmed cream or fresh whipped cream. You can store this at room temperature with foil over it for 2-3 days, probably longer in the fridge…but it never lasts that long for me!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Homemade Crispy Crunch Crackers! And a Welcome to Thanksgiving Planning!

"The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things..." (an excerpt from one of my all-time favorite verses) Of turkeys, and stuffing, and cranberry sauce, of pies and napkin rings!

It is finally time to shove off into the beautiful seas of Thanksgiving planning! I am so very excited about everything: the shopping, the planning, the grocery list, the table layout, the hors d'oeuvres and aperitifs, the courses, the desserts, the laughter and happiness that I always associate with this time of year. Although my hair will be sticking out every which way from running around and getting in and out of the oven, I'll be exhausted from 2-3 days of straight cooking, and I might be driven to insanity to get everything to the table in a timely manner--I still can't tell you a time of year I am more alive. Can you tell I thrived in the restaurant environment?

I am also happy to have my sidekick for most of the Thanksgivings I have hosted, my darling roommate. If you have a kitchen helper/someone to share the load, this holiday will go wonderfully. I must admit, I am not the easiest person to share the kitchen with because I love to do everything myself--anytime you are watching someone prep food, you always think you can do it faster, even if they are going at it samurai-style. It's just human nature. My sous chef and I work perfectly together, knowing each other's needs without saying them, and taking care to warn of sharp objects/hot pans "comin' at ya". Also, she is the baker and I am the cook, so she can worry about the sweet and bread aspect (lots of prep the night before to free up the oven), and I can take care of the turkey, sides and drinks. Perfection.

However, never fear if you are on your own--I did it last year when I hosted Thanksgiving for my family in Spain. The challenge of finding American ingredients abroad, getting English measurements, and serving a hungry family of 10 was exhilarating! They even found a turkey for me in November in their village... the most beautiful and delicious turkey ever! I know, you can see my eyes twinkling just by thinking of the great memories this holiday has made!

Well, this multi-part Thanksgiving extravaganza is going to start with some simplicity just to get you off your feet. In chronological order, we'll start with the hors d'oeuvres. Your appetizers need to be very light...we're talking about the biggest meal of the year here! But, in order to save your sanity as the host, you need to have some munchables to buy some time for the grand meal to come together. Plus, apps are nice to set out next to some punch or your drink selection-- so when people walk in they can take care of themselves, and you can give a quick peck on the cheek to greet them and return your food-covered hands to preparing greatness.

Let's talk about some possibilities: You should get your hands on some nice quality nuts and toast them up. This would be a great time to roast those chestnuts up and serve them warm in the shell (like they do in Europe in those newspaper cones...tears...), or hazlenuts, almonds, pecans, etc. You can also choose to candy the nuts and serve those as well--I put the candied nuts on the Thanksgiving table to serve on top of salads and the potato dishes, for you can't indulge enough on this holiday.

Also a cheese plate would be useful. Many of the cheese shops have a basket of the "nubs" or the parts of the cheese left over when they've portioned the rest--these are gold my friends...buy all kinds and your guests can try different varieties. Try to keep the name though, for some reason people don't like to try what they don't know the name of...weird, right?

Alternatively you have a smorgasbord of options with your basic pastry dough: wrap asparagus with it, bake it with salami, put roasted butternut squash in a pastry cup (break out the muffin tin), press parmesan cheese in it-cut it into strips and bake cheese straws...really, the possibilities are endless and this is a great way to dress up anything you have kickin' around in the fridge.

Finally you can take this time to break out those preserves and jams that you made at the end of summer. This is a celebration of the harvest so take out your tomato jam, green tomato chutney, refrigerator jams (plum, peach, apple, whatever), apple butter, pumpkin butter, and display them in those nice rammekins you never use or the berry bowls you never knew were berry bowls, and set them with your cute little serving spoons or knives on a table with some sliced fruits and vegetables, or just a mountain of crackers...

What? Crackers!? Can I make those homemade too? I really like the idea of a homemade Thanksgiving with everything from scratch! Why, so do I my intelligent friend, and yes, yes you can make incredible crackers in your own home oven. Dozens of them...right here...so take a look!

Homemade Crispy Crunch Crackers
3 C Flour 
(you can half and half with semolina and all-purpose)
1/3 C Extra-virgin olive oil
1 t Sea salt
1 C Warm water
Optional: Spices, sesame seeds, other toppings

Easiest thing in the world. Whisk the salt and flour together, you could probably sift this if you are into that, but it isn't necessary. Make a well in the middle and pour in both the water and the olive oil. If you want to use your electric mixer to knead, this is a time to use the dough hook and knead for about 5-7 minutes. You can do so by hand just as well, and the dough is so soft and luxurious and warm it is an absolutely pleasure to smoosh around for a while. 

You're looking for a soft dough that has a bit of stick left to it. When you've reached that point, separate it into 12 similar-sized pieces. Roll the pieces into balls, brush with a little more olive oil and let sit covered in plastic wrap on a plate for 30-60 minutes...depending on the temperature in your kitchen. The hotter it is the less it has to wait, but no less than half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450º and prepare two baking sheets either with parchment paper, flour dusting, or cornmeal.

Then you roll out the balls as thin as you can manage and cut them into the shapes you want. I have a handy-dandy pastry roll slicer for that. I just cut them into rectangles, but get fancy if you want. You can also make those comically large crackers that they have in the gourmet section--hey, less work! 


I thought they were finished at about 10 minutes, but you really have to keep an eye on them. You want them golden but not burnt, and a difference in two minutes could mean the difference between a decent cracker and charcoal.

*If you are going to season these, you can press your seasonings in before you bake them. Alternatively, you can put the seasoning in the dough when you're kneading for more even distribution. I chose to press my seasonings on top and I made three different varieties: sesame seed (I had some gorgeous black and white sesame seeds), thyme and sea salt, and sea salt with fresh ground black pepper. This recipe yielded 100 crackers for me, so you have the freedom to experiment!
Thyme & Sea salt, Sea salt & Pepper, and Sesame crackers served with chipotle hummus, green tomato chutney, and cornichons

Enjoy and start thinking about what you want to serve with them! I'll pass on some more tips and a full menu in the coming days! 

Happy Thanksgiving Prep my friends!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Inside the Kitchen with Louisville Lady Gourmet! Eggplant Lasagna with Saffron

Hello dear food-lovers! Today marks the day of my first original article for the Inside the Kitchen column with the Insider Louisville publication.

I currently write two columns for them, the first being Juice which is a health food column released on Tuesdays, and the second is Inside the Kitchen with the Louisville Lady Gourmet, which will feature both ambitious and delicious recipes as well as my comments on the food culture of Louisville.

So, on Tuesday or Friday you will receive a link to my Insider Louisville Column!

Today's Inside the Kitchen post is about an irresistible Eggplant Lasagna (sans pasta) with Saffron. Layers include roasted eggplants, tomato sauce, saffron risotto, and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.

I hope you enjoy: Inside the Kitchen Eggplant Lasagna with Saffron


I am enamored by food, and my insatiable appetite has brought me many adventures in cooking. Transforming fresh food into the gastronomic trinity of breakfast, lunch, and dinner is my only true addiction, and I thank our hometown for nurturing that set of skills.
As Louisvillians, we have such a wealth of resources to stretch our culinary muscles, from our public cornucopia farmers markets to our flourishing and exciting dining scene. We are constantly surrounded by good food and inspiring cooks, so let me give you a peek inside my kitchen to see what this Louisville Lady Gourmet is getting up to.
My favorite memories usually revolve around sharing food with dear friends. Nothing unites us more in merry conversation than a warm dish of nourishing food, am I right? Add a bottle of wine and the conversation gets a little louder and the laughter even more frequent.
The moment I can dish out seconds is when I know we’re sharing a great moment together. This dish did the trick with its warm tomato sauce nestled in melted, fresh mozzarella cheese and rounded off by the yielding bite of the roasted eggplant and the creamy saffron risotto. If you are a fan of saffron, here is your chance to see what it can do next to tomatoes, and it is pretty much what saffron can do to anything… turn it to culinary gold!
Eggplant Lasagna with Saffron
Adapted from Bon Appétit
2 Eggplants
1 Onion, minced
Olive oil
Butter
1 C Rice (arborio is preferred for risotto)
Pinch of saffron
1/4 C White wine
1 C Water
Salt
Black Pepper
Homemade Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
Garlic
Sage
Salt
Black Pepper
2 C Fresh mozzarella cut into cubes
1 C Grated parmesan



Some notes before we begin:
I recommend using a mandolin slicer for the eggplant, but a sharp knife will do. You just need thin, uniform slices.
Remember that risottos become fluffy and creamy through movement, so if you have some pan-tossing skills, this is a good time to exercise them (or begin practice– it’s so fun, don’t be scared to try it!).
The tomato sauce can be made with whole, peeled tomatoes or canned tomatoes; a food processor or an immersion blender is useful for making the sauce too.
The best way to approach this recipe is in three parts. Even though this is a lasagna sans pasta, it is still true to its layered form: Roasted eggplants, saffron risotto, homemade tomato sauce, and your cheeses. You won’t be disappointed.
To roast the eggplant, simply wash, slice, and distribute them on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil on both sides, just enough to roast evenly. Slide them in the oven at 400º for about 15 minutes until they are browned but not burnt. If some of them do happen to burn (those sneaky oven hot spots are a pain, aren’t they?), just get some greek yoghurt out and eat them as chips. See, all is not lost! Set the browned ones aside to cool for lasagna layering.
The saffron risotto is such a delight to make. Stirring and tossing the risotto until it is fluffy and changes to that golden hue may well induce philosophizing on how great life is.
We all know butter makes everything better, so heat about a tablespoon of butter and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Then add 3/4 of minced onion and let it dance around until soft and translucent. At this point add the rice and sauté until it turns opaque–right at the point before it starts toasting–then incorporate the saffron and add the white wine! This will deglaze the pan and take care of anything beginning to stick to the bottom. The wine should reduce down for about a minute, then you can add the water. Cover and cook the rice through for about 15 minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally, season with salt to taste.
The tomato sauce is my own experiment, and I have found that sage is magic in any tomato sauce, so that is my herb of choice. If you have another favorite, such as basil or oregano then go for it–again, this is your kitchen, do what makes you feel good. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, use crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce depending on how thick you desire your end product.
In a saucepan, sauté the remaining 1/4 of the minced onion and a couple cloves of minced garlic in olive oil. When that begins to smell fragrant, add the sage and fry that up as well–this releases the flavor of the herb. Then you add in your tomatoes, salt, and pepper and stir until combined. Simmer until it becomes the consistency you want, season and adjust to taste, and now you have a great tomato sauce!
Finally, you layer all of these ingredients together: bottom layer sauce, then saffron risotto, then mozzarella, then eggplant, and parmesan, then repeat until you run out of ingredients. I used a 9×13 glass baking pan and repeated the layers twice. Cook in a 400º oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly. Let it set for about 10 minutes before serving.
I served it in bowls, but if it sets up nicely you can try to plate it. In any case, seconds are truly irresistible.
Go forth and create, dear food-lovers, it was a pleasure to have you in my kitchen! Bon appétit!