Eggplant Parmesan

My wife brought home an eggplant from the farmer’s market a few days ago and asked I make a meal without meat this week. I was in the mood for pasta anyway so here is what I did.

While making dinner the night before, I took the eggplant sliced it about ¼ of an inch thick, sprinkled some table salt on both sides and laid the circles on a wire rack over a sheet pan, covered it and placed it in the fridge overnight. The reason for doing this is to “sweat” the bitter juices out of the eggplant. I feel this really helps the flavor of the eggplant come through better and be less bitter.

The next day I took the eggplant out of the fridge, quickly rinsed the salt off the circles, dipped them in flour, then egg wash and then in seasoned bread crumbs.

I fried them in a large non stick pan with a little olive oil over medium heat. Set those aside on a wire rack to cool.

Now let’s build the stack. Start with some of your tomato sauce on the bottom of a pan that can go in the oven. That’s so it doesn’t stick to the pan. Then place an eggplant disk on top of the sauce. Top that, in my case with some left over pesto sauce and some tomato sauce and on top of that, some mozzarella cheese. Repeat 3 or 4 more times. Make sure not to put the cheese on the top layer just yet.

Set the oven to 325F. Place the eggplant stack in the oven for about 20-25 minutes to cook while you are boiling the pasta to go with the meal. After the stack is thoroughly heated, pull it out and top with some more of the mozzarella cheese and leave it in the oven until the cheese is nice and melted.

Pour yourself a nice glass of Italian red wine, sit down and eat your Italian feast.

Eggplant Parm



Baked Hake Loins

We were at Costco and my wife was in the mood for white fish for dinner. Her being from the North East area I though some Hake fillets would be a good choice because they are like Cod.

So a simple preparation was called for, so here we go!

Simply rinsed off the loins, brushed them with melted butter, dusted them with plenty of Old Bay seasoning and then covered them with some Italian bread crumbs.

old bay hake

Popped them in our convection oven set at 350 degrees for about 14 minutes or just until the fish flakes apart when poked with a fork.

Served them with some black rice and sautéed broccoli.

baked hake w/ black rice

A little taste of New England really easy and really good. . . Enjoy ~

Arroz con Pollo

In English, chicken & rice, another good cold weather meal that makes the house smell so good and is relatively easy to make. So here we go.

I started with bone in chicken thighs that I generously salted and peppered and cooked skin side down first in a heavy pot until golden brown and then took them out and set them aside on a plate for a few minutes.

salt pepper chicken browned

While the chicken was cooking, I cut up 2 medium onions, 1 of each green and yellow peppers into medium-sized pieces. Once the chicken was out of the pot, leave the fat that has collected in the bottom. Add to it the onions and peppers plus two tablespoons of each tomato paste and chopped garlic and cook for about two minutes. At this time I added 2 cups of brown rice instead of the usual white.

cut up veges

cooking veges

added rice to veges

Now for the secret ingredient, I had some saffron in the cabinet so I threw in a very health pinch of it. You don’t have to but it just gives the dish an indescribable flavor coupled with the brown rice.

Now that everything is coated and stirred around with the oil from the bottom of the pot add your 5 cups of chicken broth and bring the pot to a boil. After it boils reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken back to the pot and put the lid on. Now the hard part, you have to wait about 40 minutes or so until the rice cooks. For the brown rice it takes almost an hour. Taste the rice to make sure it is done. Also you will see the chicken resting on a bed of rice in the pot. By then the chicken is cooked all the way through.

chicken in pot


Here are few shots of the juicy chicken on top of a bed of rice with all the soft and flavorful vegetables mixed in. Go pour yourself another glass of wine and dig into the goodness.

arroz con pollo 1

arroz con pollo 2


Shrimp Bruschetta

We were having some people over and I was grilling dinner by the pool so I thought some shrimp bruschetta would be a light start to the meal that goes very well with some white wine.
Before the guests came I had already cooked the shrimp in some water, flavored with lemon juice, peppercorns and white wine,  shocked them in some ice water and cut them in half the log way.
I had some pesto and some roasted red peppers left over from making dinner a few nights ago so I used them also.
I had picked up a nice baguette from the bakery sliced it, brushed on a little olive oil and toasted them on the grill. Spread a little pesto on the bread, laid some of the roasted peppers on top, topped that with the shrimp halves laid out nicely. Then topped the shrimp with a piece of the roasted red pepper again and some chopped basil for garnish. Finished everything with a light sprinkle of good extra virgin olive oil and some coarse salt & pepper.
I have to admit they didn’t last long and they were really good.
shrimp bruscetta
~ Enjoy ~

Enhance Boxed Stuffing

My in-laws were coming over for dinner last weekend and my father in-law mentioned a while ago that he likes stuffing. I saw that I had a box of dried bread chunks buried in the cupboard, for hurricane season, and I figured why not, even though it really doesn’t go with BBQ chicken I was making. So here is how I did it.

As you can see that is a whole stick of butter along with two tablespoons of salt and pepper, a white onion diced, five stalks of celery diced and a few carrots diced up also. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften.


Add two cups of chicken stock to the pan along with two tablespoons of Bell’s seasoning. Now take the mixture and pour it over the bread chunks, mix gently and you will notice it will be a little wet, this is fine because we are going to cook it tomorrow afternoon.


Let it cool on the counter top for about an hour, cover it with foil and put it in the fridge for later. When it comes time to cook it, place it in a 300F oven for about forty minutes to an hour or until it reaches 145F in the center of the pan.

You will have moist fluffy delicious stuffing to accompany your meal.

Enjoy ~

Herb Crusted Scallops

Rinse under cold water and pick the muscles off the scallops, season with salt and pepper

Take bread crumbs and add to them some Italian seasoning, fresh chopped basil, marjoram, parsley. Dip the scallops into the mixture covering just the tops and bottoms and set aside.

seasoning for scallops

seasoned scallops

In a large sauté pan heated to medium high add some good oil and cook a few of the scallops a few at a time for maybe a minute or two then carefully flip them over. You are looking for a nice sear and good color; however you don’t want to cook them all the way through.

scallops cooking

When done transfer to a plate and slide them into the fridge for about ten minutes, to stop the cooking process, while you make the sauce.

As for the sauce, wipe out the pan, add a tablespoon of oil and add 1/4 of a diced sweet onion. Sauté for about 7-8 minutes. While the pan is on medium-high heat deglaze with about 1/2 cup of your favorite white wine, let it reduce for another minute or two. Add the juice of a fresh lemon. Finish the sauce by adding 1/4 cup of heavy cream, bring to a boil then lower the heat to low.

Take the scallops out of the fridge and place into the hot sauce just until they heat through; be careful not to cook them too much, you don’t want to overcook them, they will get hard and rubbery.

scallops in sauce cooking

To be fancy, plate some rice down the center of a plate, place the scallops on top and then spoon some sauce over the rice. Serve right away and enjoy.

scallops on rice

fancy pic finished plat


Tomato Paste Trick

We all have faced this dilemma, need two teaspoons of tomato paste now what do you with the rest of the can? Here is what I do to save the rest and have it portioned for the next time.

canned tomato paste

Spread out some plastic wrap over the counter, as you can see in the picture I cut the regular sheet of plastic wrap in half, and then portion out the remaining amount of tomato paste in one teaspoon “drops” on the wrap.  As you can see in the picture, space them apart by about two inches.

portioned tomato paste

Fold the plastic wrap around the tomato paste and press the air out between each drop.  Then roll them up as in the video below:

Here is a side shot of the roll.

folded tomato paste

Place in the freezer until frozen solid.

frozen tomato paste

Now here is what to do with those one tablespoon portions:

  • Keep them in the freezer up to a year.
  • Just cut off how much you need and use in the recipe you are making.

Now that they are so handy, come up with more uses for tomato paste in your own creations.

Hope this helps you in the future.  Enjoy ~

Smoked Pork

Take a 7 pound pork shoulder or also known as Boston butt, score the top fat in a checkerboard fashion and rub some of your favorite rub, or the one below, all over the meat.  Wrap up very well with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator for 24 hours. This will allow the rub to penetrate deeply into the meat to give it good flavor when it comes time to cook it.

The rub for this meat: 1 cup of each white and brown sugar; 3/4 cup of paprika; 1/2 cup of each chili powder, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, 1/4 cup of ground cumin, granulated onion. Mix together and store in an air tight container.

seasoned pork

Set the smoker up for 225F and as a rule of thumb, it ends up being 2 hours per pound for this temp. If you need it done faster turn up smoker to 275F for about 1.5 hours per pound.

I also recommend having a digital meat thermometer with probe and cable, place it in the meat before starting to smoke it so you can track the internal temperature of the meat.

I started mine morning at 6 am with a mixture of apple wood and cherry wood chips that I soaked overnight. Went about my day cleaned the pool, went out shopping, needed potatoes to make potato salad to go with dinner, had lunch, hung out with my lovely wife, cut the grass, tended to the garden and then cooled off in the pool later that afternoon with a beer.

About 7:30 pm the meat thermometer started to ring. I set it to 195F. I open the door and what a beautiful sight and smells came racing out of the smoker! To make sure that it was truly cooked and soft I use the famous Stick a fork in it Method. Stab the meat with a fork and spin it around, if it spins freely then you really done because all meat has different thickness and densities. If the fork didn’t spin freely, it would go back in maybe for another half an hour or so until it would.

cooking pork

Now take the meat inside and cover it with aluminum foil for 1/2 hour to let the meat rest and the juices to absorb back into the meat.

cooked pork

After it rests take the bone out and with two forks shred the meat apart, but be careful it will be very hot!

pork pulled

Toast up some buns on the grill, get the potato salad out of the fridge along with your favorite BBQ sauce sit back and enjoy what you have smelt all day along with a beautiful sun set by the pool.

finished pulled pork plate


Spicy Shrimp and Polenta

My wife and I were discussing how much she likes grits for breakfast and I asked her if she ever has had polenta.  She said no, so I suggested that I make her some for dinner.  Dinner? As she looked at me funny, I said I bet you will like it, it would be my take on Southern shrimp and grits.  So this is what I did.

Start out with good polenta.  Make it to the directions on the package substituting one cup of water for one cup of heavy cream, add one stick of butter. Stir together. Add salt and pepper to taste.


cooking polenta

Pour off about half of the mixture into a buttered shallow pan if you have one. We are going to save that for another day. We will use this over the weekend for breakfast. Let it cool completely then cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Back to dinner now.

polenta in a pan

Take the shrimp you are having for dinner and marinate them in some olive oil, and whatever spices you like to make them spicy say some crushed red peppers, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper.

seasoned shrimp

With the rest of the polenta in the pot add about 2 cups of cheddar cheese and mix in until its smooth, if necessary loosen the mixture a little with some more heavy cream. You are looking for a consistency of very thick applesauce. Put the bowl off to the side over very low heat and cook the shrimp.

cooked shrimp

Heat a non stick pan to medium high, add the shrimp, and cook a few minutes a side just until done. Scoop some of the hot cheesy polenta into a bowl and top with the spicy shrimp. Serve with a nice cool glass of your favorite white wine. As for my wife she now likes polenta just as much as grits.

plated shrimp


Rolled Stuffed Burgers

The inspiration for this meal came from two things: One, the Super Bowl and Two, the Atlantic Bakery Co.’s Onion Sub Rolls. You will see them later in the background of one of the pictures. We are lucky enough to have a great bakery right down the road from us that sells wholesale to the public!

As you can see in the first picture, I have covered the counter and the rolling-pin with plastic wrap and placed two 8 oz burgers on it.

burger patties

The second picture not only shows the rolls I mentioned earlier, but one of the burgers rolled out a little longer than the buns. You want them to be about ½ inch in thickness when you are done.

rolled meat

In the third picture you can see the burger seasoned with salt & pepper and strips of pepper jack cheese cut into strips and laid across the bottom of the flattened burger.

burger w/ cheese

Now here comes the tricky part, using the plastic wrap as a third hand and starting from the cheese side, you want to roll up the burger into sausage like looking thing as seen in this picture.

rolled burger

Now in the fifth picture you will want to heat a large non stick pan to medium with some butter in it to toast the buns in preparation for the meat tubes of cheesy goodness that will shortly follow.  After taking the rolls out put the burgers in the pan and let them cook a few minutes on one side. Then carefully roll the beef over on its other side and let cook there for a few minutes. Keep rolling and cooking for about 8 minutes or so. Once you see the cheese start melting out one of the ends you would be close to a medium burger.

searing burger tube

Put the burger tube on your toasted bun and dress it the way you like.  Personally I just like ketchup on my cheese burgers.

burger w/ ketchup on bun

In the last picture you can see the bun, the meat-cooked medium and the cheese in the middle oozing out of the center. Serve them with some garden veggie straws that come from Costco or potato chips.

finished burger tube

Hope you like my new way of making burgers.  Enjoy ~