Sunday, August 16, 2009

Italian Dinner in Chester

I spent the weekend in Chester with my darling friend Shannon and her family, soaking up sun, eating, and drinking wine. And catching up too, I'm sure we did that at some point. To thank them for having me (and feeding me, and pitching a tent-suite for me in the back yard because I am horribly, horribly allergic to their darling cat Murphy, even though I love him big time), I made an Italian dinner, inspired by the squash blossoms I saw in Shannon's gorgeous garden.
I managed to stay South Beach about 60% of the time, and ate fried things and burgers and delicious chocolate-banana milkshakes and s'mores the rest of the time. Whoops.
We had chicken Friday night, so we decided to go with an eggplant parmigiana and Giada's squash blossoms. I knew I had a recipe in my cookbooks at home, but as I was about five hours away from them, I had to rely on the interwebs.
It turned out wonderfully, and while it was a little bit time intensive, it was super easy. The kids ate it up, as did the husband, and of course, us girls. This will definitely be made again.

Sauce - Shannon had a premade garlic/tomato one (Shan, if you read this and remember, comment on it!)

1/2 small onion, sliced, chopped, whatevered

1/4 tsp minced garlic, preferably fresh

1/4 c. olive oil

8 oz. fresh mushrooms


lowfat mozzarella


Spray 2 cookie sheets with olive oil (or Pam). Slice an eggplant into 1/2" slices. Now, spray the tops. At 350-degrees, bake for about 30 minutes, or until browned. Turn after about 15 minutes.

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Add tomato sauce and mushrooms. Stir well. Simmer for 30 min, stirring occasionally.

Layer in a baking dish: 1 c. sauce (or more), eggplant, and then on each slice of eggplant - shredded/sliced mozzarella, sauce, eggplant, mozzarella, sauce, and top with mozzarella and a little Parmesan.

Bake at 350-degrees about 30 min. or until cheese is hot and bubbly.

And because Giada's recipe is hard for me to find, I'm going to repost that here as well.

Fried Squash Blossoms
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sparkling water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/3 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons heavy cream - I've used whole milk (AND nonfat milk) and it's been fine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves - this last time we used lemon basil and OMG - use lemon basil
1 green onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
8 zucchini blossoms* see Cook's Note
Vegetable oil, for frying
Serving Suggestion: serve with your favorite marinara sauce or vinaigrette
Cook's Note: Zucchini blossoms can be found at farmer's markets and specialty grocery stores.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, water and salt until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream (or milk), basil, and green onion. Mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons filling into each blossom. We used this handy dandy little gizmo from the pampered chef and it could not have been easier. The kids, Shannon and I then licked the entire contraption clean which helps with cleanup. Close the blossoms and gently twist the petals to seal.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 1 minute.) Dip the stuffed zucchini blossoms in the batter and allow any excess batter to drip off. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Allow the cooked blossoms to drain on paper towels.

Season with salt and serve with your favorite marinara sauce or vinaigrette. If you're having this with the eggplant, you can use some of that sauce.

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