Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bucatini With Sausage, Tomato and Roasted Eggplant

Chris and I were recently away for the week and my mom came to stay with the girls.  Upon our return, I was craving Chinese food and the girls were craving anything but Chinese food. Although my mom made them some of their favorite dishes, they were in a bit of withdrawal from having only Chinese.  And while we were gone, I was not able to get my daily Asian food fix.  My mom was nice enough to have made us a Chinese meal the night we returned and since then, we've had a few solid requests from the girls including fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and tonight's pasta.  This is a variation on many of the red sauce pastas I've made in the past, and although Stella asked for her's to leave the eggplant aside, I'm going to sneak it in there and see what happens.

12 oz mild Italian sausage
2 pounds Roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 small or 1 large eggplant
1 cup olive oil, approximately
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
handful of fresh basil leaves, torn (about 1/4 cup packed whole leaves)
freshly ground pepper to taste
freshly grated parmesan to finish
1 1/2 pounds dried bucatini pasta

First roast the eggplant.  Slice the eggplant into 1/2" thick rounds.  Warm about 1/3 cup of the olive oil and brush the eggplant on both sides.  I used the oil I had saved from when I roasted tomatoes a couple weeks ago.  Heating the oil a bit makes it thinner and easier to brush the eggplant.  Lightly salt and pepper.
Roast the eggplant at 400f for about 15 minutes, flipping once.  Finish by putting them under the broiler for a minute or so to brown.
Let cool slightly and roughly chop.  Set aside.

Seed the tomatoes by cutting them half cross-wise and squeezing out the seeds.  Chop the tomatoes.
Heat a large wide pan over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Brown the sausage, then turn heat down to medium and add the garlic cloves until fragrant.  
Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil and once it's heated, add the tomatoes.
Turn the heat back up to medium high and saute the tomatoes until softened.  Add the salt and sugar and then let cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Add the eggplant and cook until just heated and then stir in the mascarpone and balsamic and finish with adding the basil.
If you want to start the sauce in advance, you can cook it up to the point of the tomatoes and wait to add the eggplant and mascarpone when you reheat the sauce to serve.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the pasta according to package instructions.
I made a large pot of sauce so that I could have enough pasta for leftovers and school lunches.  Depending on how much sauce you like on your pasta, we like lots!, this could make up to 8 servings.  
Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan or parmigiano reggiano.
The eggplant is a good twist and I am a lover of eggplant.  The girls did not notice a big difference in taste, so it's a good way to get in another vegetable into the pasta.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy New Year Fortune Cookies

Chinese New Year is around the corner. Sunday, February 10 will begin the year of the snake.  My family will be ringing in the new year with our traditional Chinese feast on Saturday and I thought a fortune cookie treat filled with a gold dollar would be a fun party favor for each plate.  The recipe for the cookies is quite simple, the actual shaping of the cookie required a tool I did not have and I think I've suffered some first degree burns as a result.

For the cookie batter:
4 large egg whites
1 cup fine sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup flour

In a large bowl, using a standing mixer or hand mixer, beat the egg whites and sugar together for about a minute on medium high speed.  Add the cream, butter, extracts and salt and beat until just combined.  Add the flour and beat until batter is smooth.
Make your fortunes, cutting each into a thin strip of paper.
Heat oven to 400f on convection bake.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  I used four 9x12" baking sheets.  Bake 2 cookies per baking sheet.  You can use just one, two or three pans depending on how fast you want to work through these.  Stagger the baking to allow you time to shape the cookies between each batch of two cookies.  In other words, place the first pan in, let bake for a few minutes, then put the next pan in, etc.
Place 1-2 tablespoons of batter on the baking sheet.  Depending on how large you want the cookies, use more batter for a bigger cookie.  I put a dollar coin in each, so mine were a little larger than the average cookie you get at a restaurant.
Use the back of a spoon, or I found it easiest to use a small offset frosting spreader, to work the batter out into a thin round, about 5-6" in diameter.  Make 2 rounds per baking sheet.
Bake for about 8 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.
Remove from the oven and immediately place your fortune on the top half of each round.
Now here's where I needed additional equipment.  I should have had some thin white gloves  or something that would allow me to handle the hot cookies, but instead, I burned the tips of my fingers and in some cases, failed to make a good looking fortune cookie because I just could not stand the burning pain.  
To shape the cookie, fold the round over to make a half moon and pinch the top with your pointer finder and thumb.  Then use your index finger of your other hand to bend the cookie in the middle and fold the two ends in with your thumb and pointer finger.   
You must do this quickly because once the cookie cools a bit, it will be too hard to mold. 
If you are putting in a coin like I did, slide the coin in before the cookie hardens.  You will have to hold the cookie in shape until it is cool enough that it will not lose its shape.
I made these three days in advance.  I'm hoping they will keep well stored in an airtight tin.
Happy New Year!