Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Skinny Eggplant Parmesan

The finished product - easy, skinny and delicious!
I really love eggplant parmesan.  I love chicken parmesan, too.  But the classic versions call for deep frying the eggplant or chicken in oil.  Many recipes call for lots of grated parmesan.  No wonder it's delicious!  But my version is pretty tasty, too.  But it's not deep fried in oil - my recipe calls for no oil at all.  And instead of tons of parmesan there's just a little bit - along with lower fat goat cheese. 

Step one:  dry your eggplant
The problem with eggplant is that it contains a lot of water.  Unless you take steps to draw out the water, your finished product is going to be soggy.  I chop my eggplant into half moons a few hours before cooking.  I dry them as best I can with paper towels.  Then I cover them in coarse sea salt, wrap them in towels and place a heavy object on top, like a large can of tomatoes, to really squeeze out as much moisture as possible.  I let them sit in paper towels in a colander for a few hours. 
Weighty subject - a large can of San Marzano
Tomotoes helps squeeze out extra moisture
Before drying the eggplant, I partially peel them.  This is personal preference: you can take all the skin off, leave it all on, or peel ribbons so you have half and half as I did.  Your eggplant looks striped when you're done. I peel about a half inch, leave a half inch, then peel a half inch or so until I'm done.

Grill in batches
Once the eggplant has dried I grill them in batches.  If you don't have a George Foreman grill you can just saute them in a frying pan using a non-stick spray. (The George Foreman grill has a non-stick surface so you don't need oil, and you're not supposed to use non-stick cooking spray on them.)  Cook them until they start to brown.   

Layer in casserole dish
You can make your own marinara or buy it in a jar - just make sure it's a good marinara.  I bought a tomato basil marinara at Trader Joe's and it was AWFUL and ruined the dish.  That's what I get for using a $2.99 jar of spaghetti sauce!  I prefer to make my own, but when I'm in a hurry or feeling lazy, I like Citarella's Spicy Arrabiata sauce.  Mario Batali's Cherry Tomato Marinara is also very good.  For this version I simply used chopped San Marzano tomatoes from a can - the same can I used to weigh down the paper towels and eggplant!  Talk about multi-tasking!

Grilled cherry tomatoes on top
What makes my recipe "skinny" - besides the fact that I don't deep fry the eggplant - is that, for the most part, I use goat cheese in the layering.  I make sure the goat cheese is a room temperature, and I dollop spoonfuls among the layers.  A little goat cheese goes a long way.  I use about 5 teaspoons throughout the casserole.  This translates to 102 calories, 75 from fat.

Ready for the oven!
As a final touch I grill cherry tomatoes that have been cut in half and add to the top layer of the eggplant mixture.  I don't put the cherry tomatoes throughout as it will make it soggy.  About 20 minutes before it's done I grate parmesan cheese on top, increase the oven temperature, and cook until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. 

Et viola!
This is a dish that gets better with age.  In fact, I usually cook it on a Sunday afternoon and have it for dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights.  I had no food in the refridgerator during Hurricane Sandy but fortunately had made this eggplant dish on the prior weekend.  I had it for dinner for several nights while I waited for the grocery stores in my neighborhood to re-open and re-stock.
1 - 2 medium to large eggplants
Approximately 2 cups homemade marinara or a good store-bought in a jar
5 teaspoons goat cheese
3/4 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
3 teaspoons parmesan, grated
Coarse sea salt to taste
Prepare eggplant - I peel 1/2 inch ribbons off, leaving the rest of the skin intact
Slice into rings, then half-moons
Dry with paper towels as best you can
Sprinkle sea salt over the eggplant, wrap in paper towels and place in colander
Put something heavy on top - like a can of tomatoes
Let sit for a few hours
Wipe off excess sea salt from the eggplant
Pour some of the marinara in the casserole dish
Arrange eggplant slices
Dot with the goat cheese (leave the goat cheese on the kitchen counter for the afternoon so it's soft and easy to spread)
Continue until eggplant and goat cheese are used up
Lightly grill or saute tomatoes - they'll cook in the casserole so only grill for a minute or so - don't overcook!
Place in pre-heated 350 degree oven for one hour
Grate the parmesan over the top - increase heat to 450 degrees
Cook until hte parmesan melts and starts to brown - only a few minutes
Let rest and enjoy!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Skinny Soft Shell Crabs - Get Them Before the Season Ends!

The simpler the better
Marinate in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sriracha
and Teryaki Sauce with sesame seeds
Where does the time go?  It seems like it was just Memorial Day, and here we are on October 1st and the summer has come and gone.  One of the last summertime treats that are still available are soft shell crabs.  But you better hurry - they will disappear from your fish monger's shelves any day now.

Here today . . .
In the past, I always prepared my soft shell crabs by dredging them through flour, egg white and panko and frying them in hot extra virgin olive oil.  While delicious, that method can obscure the taste of these little gems.  Mark Bittman published an article in the New York Times with many variations of soft shell crab recipes.  But he said "less is more" and he's right. 
Step one: dry off with paper towels
I started by drying off the crabs in paper towels.  Next, I marinate them in teryaki sauce with sesame seeds, shriracha and extra virgin olive oil.  I just put them in the plastic bag they came in, put in the ingredients and let stand on the counter for about an hour. 

I served with grilled baby eggplant
I cook them on my George Foreman grill at 400 degrees for two - three minutes each side with the door open - I used the grill as a griddle.  If you don't have an electric grill just cook on the stovetop over medium heat in a non-stick pan with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. 

Et voila! Spicy soft shell crabs
on a bed of baby grilled eggplant
Soft shell crabs were really pricey this year.  They consistently cost $7.99 per crab all season long.  I can recall past seasons when they were between $3.99 - $4.99 each.  To keep costs down I just bought one and served on a big bed of grilled baby eggplant.  But it's worth the splurge - and I don't think I'll ever cook them using flour/egg white/panko again.  You really taste their delicious flavor this way.  You could even just cook them in oil if you're a purist!  Definitely with soft shell crabs, less is more.
1 - 2 soft shell crabs person (depending upon your budget!)
1 tbspn extra virgin olive oil
1 tbspn teryaki sauce with sesame seeds (or just plain old soy sauce)
1 tbspn sriracha


Marinate crabs in evoo, sriracha and teryaki sauce for about an hour on the counter
Pre-heat electric grill at 400 degrees (or pre-heat a skillet over medium heat)
Grill the crabs for 2 - 3 minutes on each side (not closing cover of grill)
If using an electric grill, close the cover for the final 30 seconds
Serve and enjoy!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grilled Poor Man's Lobster

Grilled monkfish with baby eggplant

Monkfish is a very dense, moist fish.  Up till now, I've steamed it and done a sweet and sour take on it with ingredients like apricot jam and Asian sour figs or have gone more Mediterranean by roasting it with sun dried tomatoes, lemon and basil.  Both excellent options, but I recently heard about grilling it - and the results are delicious!
Who'd have thunk?
Monkfish is called the "poor man's lobster" because it has the consistency of a lobster tail but is much less expensive.  Citarella's sells it for $14.99 a pound.  So we're talking $7.50 per serving.  I never considered grilling it because it's very thick in addition to being moist.  But if you get your fish monger to butterfly the fillet you solve the problem of it being too thick to grill.

Step 1: Dry with paper towels

You can tackle the moistness issue by drying the fish off with paper towels, then covering it with coarse sea salt, wrapping it in more paper towels, and letting it dry out for a few hours in the fridge.

Step 2: Cover with coarse sea salt
and wrap in paper towels.  Let stand for a few hours.
Don't worry about all that salt.  It's there to draw the moisture from the fillet.  When you are ready to start grilling shake off the salt and wipe off any residual salt with paper towels. 
Step 3: Marinate in garlic, lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil

Hopefully you buy your paper towels at Costco because this recipe uses a lot of them!  But it's worth the investment.  Never have I had monkfish that really tasted like lobster tail. 

After you marinate toss on a sizzling hot grill
Next is the marinade.  I use chopped fresh garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.  I use the oil mainly so the monkfish won't stick to the grill.

Love that char!
I use my George Foreman grill for this recipe but if you don't have one, a cast iron skillet will do the trick (but put on your list of things to do: buy an electric grill).  If you have an actual outdoor charcoal or gas grill, fire the baby up. Grill for 2 - 3 minutes on each side.  Note for electric grill users: I don't put the top down and cook both sides at once.  I grill each side on its own and put the cover down at the end for about 30 seconds.  It's very easy to overcook this dish so be careful and err on the side of undercooking.  You can always toss it back on the grill if you have to - but once it's overcooked, that's it.  

Poor man's lobster

Et voila!

I serve the grilled monkfish with grilled baby eggplant - a match made in heaven!  Grilled asparagus would go nicely, too.   So even if you aren't a poor man, check this dish out!
1/2 lb monkfish per person - have the fish monger butterfly 
2 tbspns coarse sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 tspn lemon zest (zest the lemon before cutting and juicing) 
Salt & pepper to taste
Dry monkfish with paper towels
Cover fillet with the coarse sea salt
Wrap in paper towels and transfer to fridge for 4 - 6 hours
Remove fish from paper towels and shake off the sea salt
Remove any excess salt with paper towels
Marinate for at least 30 minutes
Grill for 2 - 3  minutes per side depending on thickness
Serve and enjoy!

The fillet in the center actually looks like lobster tail

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Heirloom Tomato Salad!

Nice and simple!

As we approach the one month mark with no gas in my building I've been branching out on recipes that don't require a stovetop or oven.  I'm lucky that this happened in the summer because there delicious alternatives that require no cooking at all.  Topping the list is heirloom tomatoes.

Colorful deliciousness

My friends Bobby and Holly have a house in upstate NY.  They have a few acres of property - more than enough to have a garden.  This year they had a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes and they were nice enough to give me a bagful of heirloom tomatoes, but Japanese eggplant and zucchini as well.  The New York Times published an article today about the crop of heirloom tomatoes this season.  The oppressive heat we've suffered through this summer and the relatively small amount of rain are the perfect conditions for growing tomatoes.

Heirloom tomato with fresh chopped garlic

 Today for lunch I chopped one of the tomatoes into eights.  I diced a fresh bulb of garlic from the Farmer's Market.  I drizzled extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top and I was good to go!

You can also serve with arugula and basil

Even if the gas were working I'd still opt for a delicious tomato salad served at room temperature.  Though there should be an abundant supply, it's still a short season.  Head to your Farmer's Market and take advantage while you can! 


1 medium heirloom tomato cut into rings or into eighths
1/2 clove of garlic minced
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil
1 tspn balsamic or champagne vinegar (optional)


Place tomato on plate
Sprinkle minced garlic
drizzle with oil and vinegar
Season with sea salt and pepper


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gas Leak!

Man the hatches!

About three weeks ago upon coming home from work and waiting for the elevator, I noticed a sign.  It said that our building had a gas leak and that for the time being there is no hot water, no gas for the stoves and ovens, no working dryers in the laundry room because they are also powered by gas.

The Cottage has free wine

The Chinese restaurant called The Cottage on the ground floor of my building, aka "room service" was closed for about a week. My friends who visit from outside of NYC love going to The Cottage because they serve free wine.  It comes from a box.  It gives you a headache the next day.  But it's free! 

A thing of the past?

The hot water was out for about 5 days.  I didn't mind this so much as I shower every day at the gym.  Washing dishes was the worst part of that.  The dryers in the laundry room were the next to be fixed. But I am told by people who have been through this, that it can take months to find the source of the gas leak and repair it.  Granted, I'm grateful our building didn't blow up, but months without a stove sounds a bit daunting.  

George Foreman grill to the rescue!

You may have read my recent posting that I got a Groupon offer for a George Foreman grill and took advantage of it.  Thank goodness.  While my neighbors are paying a fortune on delivery, I've been grilling up a storm over the past weeks.  While I can't wait to vary my meals by roasting asparagus in an actual oven and cooking pasta on the stovetop instead of a hot plate, I've got to say I can still cook a variety of things on the grill quickly, and cleanup is very easy. 

Monkfish on the grill!

So stay tuned for some summer grilling recipes.  If you don't have an indoor grill most of the dishes can be made using a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.  That is, unless your building has a gas leak too!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fish 'N Chips!


Having grown up just outside Cape Cod in a seashore town called Scituate, deep fried fish 'n chips were a mainstay of my diet as a child.  It was served every Friday at the school cafeteria.  I think my mother thought it too pedestrian to serve at home.  But as an adult I have my own version that tastes great but doesn't involve deep frying.

Mise en Place: get everything ready
to go before you start cooking

I make my fish 'n chips by drying a piece of cod in paper towels, dredging them through flour, dipping in egg whites and the dredging through panko with Herbs de Provence.  Meanwhile, get a nonstick skillet nice and hot - then add extra virgin olive oil, and if you're feeling really decadent you can add a pat of butter.

Ready for the skillet

For the "chips" part of the equation, in place of french fries I substitute roasted string beans.  When I took these photos I had plain old string beans and garlic.  But if you like a crunch with your fish and chips you can scatter string beans on a sheet pan, douse with extra virgin olive oil (less is more), salt and pepper and put in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 10 - 15 minutes.  You have to keep an eye on them because they can burn quickly.  Toss them about half way through so all the sides get roasted.

Cod is the fish of choice for Fish 'N Chips

Anne Burrell has an interesting take on chips.  She cooks kale in a warm oven for about 20 minutes with just a little oil and salt and pepper.  You get the crunch without the calories!


For the "Fish"

1/2 lb cod for each serving
3/4 cup flour
1 egg white
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 tbspn herbs du provence
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lemon, sliced
1 tbspn extra virgin or conola oil
1 pad butter (optional)


Place the flour, egg white and panko in 3 separate dishes
Mix the herbs du provence and salt & pepper in the flour
Dry each cod filet with paper towels
Dredge through flour, shake off excess
Dip in the egg white
Dredge in panko mixture making sure it's well covered
Meanwhile, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat
Add a tbspn of oil in the pan - and butter if you're using it, swirl around
Place cod in the pan - cooking for 2 - 3 minutes each side until golden brown
Squirt with lemon juice

For the "Chips"

1 head kale, washed and thorougly dried
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive or canola oil
sea salt to taste


Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees
Remove teh ribs frm the kale and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
Lay on baking sheet and toss with oil and salt
Bake until crisp, turning halfway through, about 20 minutes
(pictures to follow!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

George Foreman Grill

New take on the old fashioned tuna sandwich

I received an offer from Groupon for a George Foreman grill for $54 including shipping.  I've often heard people raving about their GF Grills so I decided to take the plunge.  The first thing I cooked?  Well, a tuna sandwich of course!

Brioche roll gets a grilling

This sandwich combines cold and warm ingredients which worked out nicely.  First I grilled a brioche roll.  I only toasted the inside until I got the grill marks - it took less than a minute - you have to keep your eye on it as it can burn fast.

Grilled cherry tomatoes

Next I grilled sliced cherry tomatoes.  This really intensified the flavor of the tomatoes.  I also think it's important to use a really high quality tuna.  I buy Cento tuna packed in oil.  Cento was named the best canned tuna by Food & Wine Magazine.   I used to buy Bumble Bee and only packed in water.  But I noticed each can I bought had increasingly mushy tuna.  I bought it packed in water to save on calories and fat.  But, olive oil is considered a "good" fat and the flavor of the oil with the Cento brand is exquisite.  I just put the tuna with the oil in a small bowl, add about a tablespoon of champagne vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cento is a bit more expensive -  a small can is $1.89 but it's worth the extra pennies.

Et viola!

I assembled the sandwich with salad greens, the tuna mixture, the grilled tomatoes and banana peppers - which are sweet and mild.  I buy them in a jar.  They add a nice kick to the sandwich. 

I'll be posting more traditional meals to cook on a grill.  But if you have one of these you should give the tuna sandwich a try - it's really delicious and takes no time at all to prepare.


1 three ounce can of Cento tuna (Genova is also a good brand)
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tbspn champagne vinegar
1 tspn anchovy oil (optional)
1/8 cup banana peppers
1/4 cup salad greens or arugula
Salt & pepper to taste


Cut the roll in half length-wise (don't cut it entirely in half - leave room so the roll holds together
Mix the tuna with the oil from the can with the champagne vinegar.  Just gently mix with a fork until blended - try not to mince the tuna.  Add the anchovy oil; salt and pepper to taste.
You may need to add extra virgin olive oil to the tuna - each can has differing amounts of oil
Grill the roll on the inside only till the grill marks appear - less than a minute
Remove roll from the grill
Add the tomatoes to the grill and cook until charred - about 3 minutes - keep an eye on them
Remove tomatoes from grill
Assemble the sandwich and enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Make Mine a Double: Wheatgrass Shots!

The magic elixir - wheatgrass shots

There was a commotion in the hallwayoutside my office the other week.  One of my colleagues tasted his first shot of wheatgrass.  Putting it mildly, he didn't like it.  I was intrigued and Googeled wheatgrass.  My research showed that wheatgrass is one of the most potently healthy substances on earth.  It contains over 90 minerals, including potassium, calcium and magnesium.  It contains essential enzymes:  protease (assists in protein digestion), cytochrome oxidase (say that three times fast!) which is a powerful anti-oxident, amylaste which facilitates digestion, lipase which is a fat splitting enzyme, and other enzymes that strengthen the heart muscle and slow cellular aging.

My double shot at Juice Generation

I ventured out to Westerly Market that day to try a shot.  It didn't taste that bad at all.  Plus they give you a slice of orange or lemon as a chaser - like when you suck on a slice of lime after doing a shot of Tequila.  Since then I've learned that it's best to take your wheatgrass shots on an empty stomach.  I did this on my second try and a few minutes later literally felt like I was buzzing.  I've also read it's good to swirl it around in your mouth to help with absorbtion and it's good for the gums and to wait an hour before eating.  I stop by a juice shop after the gym on the way to work in the morning.  I've had a strenuous workout, plus I've taken long sauna and steam baths and a swim - I think my body is ready to absorb the wonders of the wheatgrass at this point of my day. 

Set 'em up, Joe

Even if the taste doesn't agree with you, it's worth taking the plunge.  There are many reports that say wheatgrass helps blood flow, digestion and general detoxification of the body.  It's excellent for the liver.  It's also high in chlorophyll, which not only helps you have fresh breath but has been linked to lower rates of colon cancer.  Wikipedia says that fifteen pounds of wheatgrass is equal in overall nutritional value to 350 pounds of ordinary vegetables or 1 serving of wheatgrass is the equivalent of 23 servings of vegetables.

Wheatgrass before being juiced

Jumba Juice has the best prices for wheatgrass shots.  My double shot comes out to $3.54.  The only problem with Jumba Juice is that their employees work at two speeds:  Slow and Slower.  They also run out of wheatgrass.  Juice Generation is quick and efficient and charges $4 plus change for a double - they only problem is they're near my apartment and aren't open when I pass at 6 AM so I only go there on the weekends.  Westerly Market charges over $5 for a double shot, but I think their quality is unsurpassed.
Wheatgrass going through the juicer

You can take wheatgrass supplements but they're expensive and you have to take a lot of them.  A wheatgrass juicer is prohibitively expensive so for now I'll go to the Juice Bars for my daily fix.  I've been taking it daily for 3 weeks.  I notice I look healthier and my skin looks clearer and I feel more vibrant.  I don't know if it's the placebo effect and I don't care: it makes me feel wonderful!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hubbell's dinner

Now that's what I'm talking about!

Has my blog gone to the dogs?  My first posting of the second year is about my dog Hubbell's dinner.  He's a wonderful dog but he's really finicky and getting him to eat his food was becoming a battle of the wills.  I bought all of the best dog foods - human grade, top brands, you name it, but it was to no avail.  Even if I mixed in some chicken or salmon, he would pick out the "people" food and leave the rest on his plate.  I practically stood on my head to get him to eat.

Mixed vegetables, whole wheat couscous and cheddar cheese

Then there were reports of one of the brands I used being contaminated with salmonella and several dogs becoming ill.  Luckily, the cans I had were not part of the bad lot - though I returned them to the store anyway. Finally, I happened to catch a segment entitled "Cooking for your Dog" on the CBS Morning News one Saturday. This was my eureka moment. 

I always thought dog food contained vital ingredients for a dog's health.  And while I'm sure that's true, there's no reason why you can't just give your dog healthy food and attain that same goal.  I decided to try mixed vegetables, whole wheat tri-colored couscous, a protein such as chicken or beef and cheese.  Some dogs are allergic to wheat so before trying this you should check with your vet (though if your dog is allergic to wheat you probably know that already).

Simple to prepare

I boil the mixed vegetables for a few minutes and when they're done I turn off the heat, add the couscous and cover with a lid and let it stand.  The couscous cooks in a few minutes.  I make a supply to last a few days and store it in the fridge in Tupperware. 

A lovely bouquet! 

Hubbell won't eat the same thing every day, so I use the couscous and veggie mixture as the base and add things from the prepared foods counter at the market.  I'll mix in chicken breast, deli roast beef (I don't even eat red meat but buy it for Hubbs), and his favorite - roast turkey.  The market actually roasts turkey and sells it alongside the Boarshead.  It's much better and Hubbell loves it (what's not to love??).  I'll buy their prepared brown rice and vegetables and pasta with veggies to vary his meals.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Never feed your dog onions, garlic or salt.  It can be very harmful.  We all know chocolate is toxic to dogs, but until I did research I had no idea that the list of harmful ingredients goes beyond chocolate.

After dinner watching TV with a few of his stuffed animal friends!

So, Hubbell and I have finally reached détente.  He actually seems happier and I'm certainly relieved that getting him fed isn't like going through an act of Congress. 


1/2 cup of frozen mixed vegetables
1/4 - 1/2 cup instant whole wheat tri-colored couscous
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn chopped cheddar cheese


Heat a pot of salted water
When it comes to a boil add the frozen mixed vegetables
Cook according to instructions - approximately 5 minutes
Turn off heat
Add the couscous
Cover the pot and let sit for 5 minutes
Serving size is a few tablespoons - store the remainder in the fridge in tupperware
Mix in protein such as chopped grilled chicken or roasted turkey
Cover with chopped cheddar cheese (or whatever you have on hand)