Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Fiddleheads

print recipe card posted in Food, Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

You may have seen these in the produce section of the grocery store and thought “NO WAY”! Well guess what? They’re delicious! These fiddlehead ferns are also very nutritious.

What ever you do, don’t just pop one in your mouth raw. They need to get cooked first! Once cooked, you can then eat them hot or cold, alone, or in soups, salads, or stews. Fiddleheads are only available in the springtime and have a very short season. So grab them when you see them and startcooking!

Step 1. Cleaning the Fiddleheads

Fill a bowl with cold water and submerge the fiddleheads.

(I stuck them in a colander first and then put the whole colander in the bowl of water.) With your hand, swish the fiddleheads to remove any bits of dirt.

Lift the fiddleheads out of the sink and let them drain.

With a paring knife trim off the end.

Step 2. Boiling the Fiddleheads

DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Even though I am going to sauté (fry) the fiddleheads in garlic and olive oil they still need to get boiled first. This not only cooks them but it also removes any bitterness.

Put the fiddleheads in a pot and cover them completely with cold water.

As they come to a boil they will float to the surface.

Boil them for 6-8 minutes. The water ends up looking quite dirty!

Step 3. Sautéing the Fiddleheads

Drain the fiddleheads in a colander.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium- high and add one clove of crushed garlic

…. and the fiddleheads.

Sauté for approximately 1 minute.

Add some fresh cracked black pepper…

…a sprinkle of salt…

…and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Stir is all together..

…and the fiddleheads are ready!

Enjoy!

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Tuna Salad Sandwich

print recipe card posted in Lunch by Kathy Maister
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The ever popular tuna salad sandwich is a standard on almost every sandwich shop menu. Clearly making your own tuna salad is a much more economical option than continuing to support your local deli!

Buying Canned Tuna

One 6-to-7 oz. can of tuna will give you two good-sized sandwiches. One 6-to-7 oz. can of tuna can cost anywhere from approximately 89 cents to a high of about $3.00 depending on where you shop and the type you buy. Cans that say albacore tend to be more expensive than the ones that just say tuna.

When buying tuna, you are going to have to do some taste-testing to find your favorite tuna. The first thing to decide is do you want it packed in oil or water. Some people say there aren’t that many calories in oil-packed tuna, and they think oil adds to the taste. Others don’t like the taste of oily tuna fish, so they choose water packed tuna. Not all tuna from a can has the same texture. You may want to try different types and brands to find the one you like the best.

When I made my Salad Nicoise I splurged and bought imported tuna in a jar (shown below with some capers). The chunky imported tuna, packed in olive oil, was expensive ($7) but worth every bite.

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Plus the imported tuna looked fantastic in my Salad Nicoise! For tuna salad sandwiches, stick to the less expensive tuna from the can.

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Salad Nicoise

Making Tuna Salad

To make 2 tuna salad sandwiches you will need:

  • 1-6-7 ounce can of tuna
  • 1/4 cup of celery
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Bread

Both the oil and the water packed tuna need to be drained. The safest way is to do this is to put the tuna in a colander.

A second way of draining the tuna is after opening the can, press the lid into the can, so that all the water or oil drains out. You can do this right into the sink. (Be careful of the sharp edges on the lid of the can!)

Using a fork put the tuna in a small mixing bowl. Then break apart the tuna with the fork.

Wash one stalk of celery. Trim off the ends and cut it into thirds. Then cut each third into strips.

Line up the strips and start dicing the celery into 1/8 inch bits. (Dice means to cut into tiny pieces. It is smaller than “chop” and larger than “mince”.) Add the celery to the tuna.

Measure out slightly less than 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and add it to the tuna. The amount of celery and mayonnaise is totally adjustable to your taste. Mix everything together. Taste it and you decide if you want to add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Lay two slices of bread on the cutting board. Put 1/2 of the tuna on one slice of bread and maybe even some lettuce if you have some in the refrigerator.

Put the second slice of bread on top.

Using a bread knife (one with a jagged or serrated edge) slice the sandwich in half using a sawing motion. Try adding potato chips and dill pickles on the side. They taste great with tuna salad!

Many different types of bread go well with tuna. Pita pockets are a fun alternative to slices of bread. To fill the pocket first cut the pita round in half.

You could then just stuff the pita with the tuna. I like to put the tuna on a lettuce leaf.

Then slide the tuna filled leaf of lettuce right into the bread.

It comes out picture perfect every time!

Enjoy!

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How to Make Eggplant Parmesan

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister
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Eggplant Parmesan is a tasty and popular dish found on menus everywhere. Making your own Eggplant Parmesan involves several steps, but it is so worth the effort!

Curiously enough, the eggplant is actually a fruit and not a vegetable. Even though it looks robust, the eggplant is fairly delicate.

Buy one that weighs about 8 ounces, and be sure to use it within a day or two of purchase. As it ages, it gets bitter and the skin gets tough.

Making Eggplant Parmesan is very similar to making Chicken Cutlets except – of course – that we are using eggplant instead of chicken.

There are six steps involved in making Eggplant Parmesan:

  1. Sweating the eggplant
  2. Shredding the cheese
  3. Preparing the coating for breading
  4. Breading the eggplant
  5. Frying the eggplant
  6. Assembling and baking the Eggplant parmesan

1. “Sweating” the Eggplant:

“Sweating” an eggplant means to get out any bitterness that may have developed by making it sweat.

Start by slicing an 8-ounce eggplant in slightly larger than ¼-inch thick slices.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, over all of the slices of eggplant, being sure to salt both sides. Set the salted, sliced eggplant into a colander and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

By then the eggplant should begin to sweat. (Notice the little droplets of moisture being extracted by the salt from the surface of the eggplant.)

Remove the eggplant from the colander, and place the slices on a paper towel. With a second paper towel, blot off all the excess moisture which has formed.

2. Shredding the Cheese:

While the eggplant is resting, get the cheeses grated. The (1/4 cup of) Parmesan should be finely grated.

And the (8 ounces of) mozzarella needs to get shredded.

3. Preparing the Coating fro Breading:

There are many different types of bread crumbs available at the grocery store, or you can make your own. The post script on the bottom of this page will explain which ones work best for this recipe.

Put the flour, egg, and bread crumbs into three separate flat, rimmed dishes.

Add 1 teaspoon of water to the egg and with a fork, beat the egg and water together.

If you set everything up in a row it will be easier to do this next step. Be sure to get a plate out for the breaded eggplant.

4. Breading the Eggplant

Put one slice of eggplant into the flour and coat both side with the flour.

A huge time saver is to put the flour in a plastic bag instead of just dipping it one-by-one in the rimmed dish.

The 10 slices of eggplant can all go into the bag at once. Gently shake the bag so that all the slices are coated with a fine dusting of flour.

Now, one-by-one, shake off the excess flour and place the slice of eggplant in the beaten egg.

Turn it over so that both sides get coated with the egg.

Now put the slice into the crumbs….

…and turn that over too.

Press some of the crumbs into the eggplant making sure it is completely coated. This is where an extra pair of hands would be great!

5. Frying the Eggplant:

Once the eggplant is all breaded, preheat your frying pan on medium high heat. Add 3 Tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil to the pan and let it get hot.

When you add the eggplant to the pan you should hear a serious sizzle! If you don’t, then the pan is not hot enough. Remove that one slice and let the pan heat up some more. Do not over crowd the pan.

Once the eggplant is golden brown, flip them and fry the other side. It will take about 4-5 minutes in total to brown both sides. FLIP THEM ONLY ONCE!

Place the eggplant on a plate that has been lined with a paper towel.

Before frying the second batch, clean the pan out with a paper towel and a pair of tongs.

Add the remaining 3 Tablespoons of oil to the pan and…

…fry the remaining eggplant.

6. Assembling the Eggplant Parmesan:

This recipe requires 12 ounces of spaghetti sauce. You can make your own or buy a jar of your favorite sauce.

Spread the sauce in a baking dish…

…large enough to hold the eggplant in a single layer. (A little bit of overlapping is fine.)

Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese….

…and the parmesan cheese.

Bake the Eggplant Parmesan in a preheated 425º F ( = 220º C = gas mark 7- hot) oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden and the sauce is bubbly.

Dinner’s ready!

P.S.

I tried several different types of breading for this recipe.

In the photo above, the bottom left shows an attempt to fry the eggplant without first “breading” it. Unbreaded eggplant is like a sponge. It will get very “greasy” done this way.

The top right was breaded with just egg and then flour. The texture, taste and appearance were all wrong on that one as well.

The remaining two were perfect! The bottom right (my favorite) was done with flour, egg and “panko” bread crumbs which made a very crunchy coating. The top left was made with flour, egg, and dry breadcrumbs which made a tasty and very traditional coating on the eggplant.

“Italian” rather than plain-flavor panko or dry crumbs add a nice flavor to the final dish.

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