The Best Eggplant Parmesan | Close-Up of Melty Browned Cheese, Fresh Basil Leaves, and Eggplant

The Best Eggplant Parmesan

There’s nothing quite like a big tray of steaming Eggplant Parmesan on a cold winter’s night: gooey, stringy mozzarella and parmesan with crispy browned pockets; soft, substantive, eggplant; bright, garlicky tomato sauce. The whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Best Eggplant Parmesan | Close-Up of Melty Browned Cheese, Fresh Basil Leaves, and Eggplant

Then again, it is of crucial importance that each individual element in the dish is of highest quality. This is a mantra I take from Californian cuisine, where fresh ingredients are prepared in the simplest of ways, so that their natural flavors shine through. Eggplant Parmesan, of course, is not the simplest, with the eggplant first fried and the tomato sauce prepared before being layered with cheese and baked. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that it benefits from using the best ingredients.

Ingredients: Eggplant, Olive Oil, Canned Tomatoes

Pick eggplants that are heavy for their size. Use real Parmigiano-Reggiano. Get the best tomatoes, or, if tomatoes are not in season, use high-quality whole canned tomatoes rather than diced ones. I was lucky enough to recently travel to Italy, where I picked up several kilos of 3-year aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. You know it’s the good stuff when it has little white flecks. Not mold, these are in fact amino acid clusters, which provide crunch and are a sign of a well-aged cheese.

Parmigiano-Reggiano Close-Up showing rind, white amino acid cluster flecks

I also picked up fresh eggplants and basil from the shuk, or market. In Tel Aviv alone, a fairly small city, there are three shuks, selling all manner of produce, spices, halva, kanafahbourekas, and, at the largest, kitchen supplies, beach blankets, and touristy tchotchkes — including these hipster Ben Gurion coasters.

(If you visit Israel, you absolutely must stock up on spices at a shuk.)

The First Layer of the Best Eggplant Parmesan, with green basil, white mozzarella, red tomato sauce, and purple eggplant peeking out from beneath
Layer One of the Best Eggplant Parmesan

Israel has some of the best olive oil in the world, and although mine comes from the supermarket, it is certified by the Israeli olive oil board.

So, why is this absolutely the Best Eggplant Parmesan?

The Best Eggplant Parmesan | Close-Up of Melty Browned Cheese, Fresh Basil Leaves, and Eggplant

For one, it omits breadcrumbs. I find breadcrumbs — as in the traditional American-style Eggplant Parmesan — detract from the marriage of the three main flavors. This recipe is for a more Italian-style (although I by no means claim to be authentic) Eggplant Parmesan. Incidentally, two regions of southern Italy, Campania and Sicily, claim the dish as their own; in Italian, it is Melanzane alla Parmigiana.

Second, it fries, rather than bakes the eggplant. I saved you all the step and tested eggplant both ways. Baked is good if you’re watching your fat intake. For flavor, fried is 100% the way to go.

Third, the eggplant is pre-soaked in salt water. While conventional wisdom says to pre-salt your eggplant to draw out bitterness, in recent years many chefs and recipe developers have said this step is unnecessary. But my test revealed it is, in fact, necessary for the best texture and taste. I tested fried eggplant three ways — no pre-soak, 30-minute pre-soak, and 75-minute pre-soak. The 75-minute ones were the best, the 30-minute ones decent, and the ones without a pre-soak mediocre. We’re not making the quickest Eggplant Parmesan here, we’re making the Best Eggplant Parmesan. So pre-soak your eggplant! If you’re short on time, you can cut the pre-soak time down, but I recommend a minimum of 45 minutes. Do it while you’re making the sauce.

Eggplant Pre-Soaking Test
See, I really did test soaking the eggplant!
The Best Eggplant Parmesan - full-scale image
The Finished Product!

Without further ado, here’s the recipe:


Best Eggplant Parmesan

dairy serves 4-6

3 medium-to-large eggplants, sliced into 1/2-inch thick circles

1 cup kosher salt

Peanut oil, or other neutral oil with a high smoking point (for frying)

2 tbsp olive oil

25 g unsalted butter (about 2 tbsp)

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp dried oregano

2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

350 g low-moisture mozzarella (about 3/4 pounds, or 12 oz), torn by hand into small pieces, about 3-by-1 cm (1-by-1/2 in)

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Torn fresh basil leaves, from about 5 sprigs

Prep Eggplants

Fill two large bowls with cold water. Add 1/2 cup salt to each bowl and mix until dissolved. Add half of eggplant slices to each bowl. Leave for 75 minutes, stirring eggplants around occasionally. (You can do 45 minutes if short on time.)

Make tomato sauce

Add 1 tbsp olive oil and all the butter to a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. When butter is melted, add onions. Cook until onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes, stirring often. Clear a space in the center of skillet and add remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Allow to heat for 30 seconds, then add minced garlic and oregano. Cook in oil until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Then stir garlic and oregano into cooked onions. Add tomatoes to skillet, breaking them up with your hands into small pieces. Add leftover juice from one of the cans. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Fry the Eggplants

Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees C (375 F).

When the 75 minutes are up, drain the eggplants, rinse with cold water, then drain again. Dry with paper towels.

Set up a frying station: cast-iron skillet, bottle of oil (you will go through a lot!), large plate or platter with layer of paper towel over it, paper towel role nearby. Add oil into skillet until about 1-inch deep. Turn heat to medium-high.

When oil is shimmering, add eggplant slices. Fry until golden brown on bottom side, about 5 minutes, then flip and fry until golden brown on other side, about 3 minutes. Check eggplant frequently to ensure they are not burning, turning heat down slightly if they seem to be burning easily. When an eggplant slice is finished, remove it to the paper-towel-covered platter, then blot with another piece of paper towel. Add more oil if the level gets too low (it probably will). Continue until you have fried all the eggplant slices.

Assembly

Place a layer of eggplant slices on the bottom of a 30-by-25 cm baking dish (12-by-10 inch), or one of similar size. Top with thin layer of tomato sauce, then about 1/4 of the torn mozzarella. Add some of the basil leaves on top. Then arrange another layer of eggplant on top, continuing the process until you run out of ingredients, finishing with a thin layer of tomato sauce and mozzarella (no basil on the top layer). On top of this final layer of mozzarella, sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Bake until bubbling and cheese on top is browned, 20-30 minutes. Scatter fresh basil leaves on top. Let rest 10 minutes, then serve.

Oven-Baked Chicken Wings Two Ways: Lemony Greek Chicken Wings & Peanut Thai Chicken Wings

It is possible to have perfectly crispy chicken wings without frying them. And I’m here to show you how! These wings are crispy, easy, and delicious. Best of all, no need to fuss with a huge vat of boiling hot oil.

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Although Israelis love chicken, chicken wings are probably the least desired part of the bird. In fact, I’ve seen more Israelis eating chicken hearts than wings! Perhaps this is because historically in Jewish cuisine, wings were a part of the bird reserved for poor people, in a class with giblets and necks. But I’m just speculating. If anyone knows more about this cultural food phenomenon, please share in the comments!

Fortunately for wing-loving Americans like myself, this Israeli distaste for wings is reflected in the prices. You can get wings for 12 shekels a kilo, or for my American readers, about $1.50 a pound. Wings offer almost endless opportunities for customization, and at these prices, why not experiment?

So yalla! Experiment it is.

Happily, both my wing experiments turned out great.

Oven-Baked Chicken Wings with Thai Peanut Sauce | Foodie Tel Aviv

The Peanut Thai Chicken Wings are total winners. Creamy and complex, the sauce could also be used as a dip for carrots or celery, a dressing for a cabbage slaw, or a glaze for tofu. Plus, the sauce itself is parve, making these wings kosher. Note that the recipe makes a bit more sauce than you’ll need for 8 wings. The sauce was inspired by a recipe for Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce from Food Network.

But the Lemony Greek Chicken Wings may be even better! The lemon serves as a bright note that contrasts beautifully with the fatty, meaty wings. Rosemary and garlic round out the simple sauce, which comes together in just 5 minutes.

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The trick to any oven-baked chicken wings is dusting them with baking powder, then resting them, uncovered, on an oven rack in the refrigerator for a few hours. Both the baking powder and the fridge help to dry out the wings, ensuring they will be as crispy as conventionally-fried chicken wings. Kenji of Serious Eats explains the science behind this method if you want to delve in deeper. As I last took a science class junior year of high school, I will leave this one to the experts. I will say that you shouldn’t fuss if you can’t leave the wings in the fridge overnight, as Kenji recommends. Two hours is sufficient to form a perfectly crackly crust.

You want to bake the wings dry (no marinade and no sauce) to ensure you get that deep-fried texture: blistered skin, tender meat, and a satisfying crunch.

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While the wings are baking, make your chosen sauce.

For the Peanut Thai Chicken Wings, saute chopped onion and chili in peanut oil until softened and browning. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the curry paste, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Cook for one minute, then add peanut butter, chicken broth, and dried ginger. Taste and add Sriracha. I used 1 tsp, but you should do more if you like it super spicy. Let cool a bit and then blend the Thai peanut sauce. (If you don’t have a blender, skip this step. The flavor won’t be affected, but you won’t get a smooth texture). Stir the finished oven-baked wings with the peanut sauce, then add chopped cilantro. The cilantro provides the perfect fresh zing of citrus flavor to break up the rich and creamy peanut sauce.

For the Lemony Greek Chicken Wings, chop rosemary, mince garlic, and zest and juice a lemon. Then, heat high-quality olive oil in a non-stick pan over low heat and add all ingredients except the lemon juice. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is pale golden brown. Add in the lemon juice and stir rapidly to combine. Then pour the sauce over the finished wings. Finally, eat! Dig your teeth into crackly crunchy crispy skin, then feel it give way to delectable moist meat. Meanwhile, your taste buds are struck by the zesty, earthy sauce. And if, like us, you’re tired and eating way too late, you might just let out a satisfied moan.

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Oven-Baked Chicken Wings Two Ways: Lemony Greek Chicken Wings & Peanut Thai Chicken Wings

meat | serves 4 as a snack, or 2 for dinner

For the Wings:

8 chicken wings (about 700 grams, or 1.5 pounds)

1 tbsp baking powder

For the Lemony Greek Sauce:

1/2 cup high-quality extra-virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary

zest from 1/2 lemon

3 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste

For the Peanut Thai Sauce:

2 tbsp peanut oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 small chili / hot red pepper

5 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tbsp red curry paste (I used Mae Ploy brand)

1 + 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tsp ground ginger

Sriracha to taste (I used 1 tsp)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Oven-Baked Chicken Wings

Cover a low-sided baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a wire rack over the tray and then place the wings on the wire rack so that they are evenly spaced and not touching. Dust the wings with baking powder. Put the tray with the wings in your refrigerator, uncovered, for at least two hours, and up to 24 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius (450 degrees Fahrenheit) for ten minutes. Put the rack with the wings in the upper-middle of your oven. Put the tray with aluminum foil in the lower-middle of the oven. This tray will catch the fat drippings, making clean-up easier.

Bake for 20 minutes, then take the rack out and turn over each wing. Then bake for another 15-25 minutes, until browned. Take wings out to cool.

Lemony Greek Sauce

Place a non-stick skillet over low heat and pour in 1/2 the olive oil. After oil is heated, add garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest. Stir constantly until garlic just begins to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Take skillet off heat and whisk in remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice if needed.

Thai Peanut Sauce

Put a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, and coat with the peanut oil. When oil is shimmering, add chopped onion and chili. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft and just beginning to brown. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Turn heat to low. Stir in the curry paste, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then add peanut butter, chicken broth, and dried ginger. Stir. Add Sriracha to taste. Place aside to cool.

Pour sauce into blender and blend until smooth. (You can skip this step if you don’t have a blender.)

Assembly

Pour 1/2 of the sauce over the finished oven-baked wings and stir to coat. Add more sauce if needed. For the Thai Peanut Chicken Wings, sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Extra-Crispy Gingersnaps (Pepparkakor)

Extra-Crispy Gingersnaps (Pepparkakor)

Very excited to share with you all (aka my mom, hi Mom!) my first food post, for gingersnaps, or in Swedish, pepparkakor. These are extra-crispy and extra-spicy, just as gingersnaps should be.

Extra-Crispy Gingersnaps (Pepparkakor)

It’s finally gotten cold (by Israeli standards) here in Tel Aviv, and in the winter spirit I’ve been making good use of ingredients like ginger and pumpkin and preparations like soups and stews. I decided it was time to revisit these gingersnaps, which I last made about six months ago. The recipe is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, but I’ve upped the cinnamon, added nutmeg, and subbed molasses for date syrup (silan), which is easier to find here. I also find date syrup more complex, less bitter, and more caramel-y than traditional molasses, which is made from sugarcane. All wins in my book! However, if you cannot find date syrup, you can use an equal amount of molasses.

also good

These cookies have the texture of the hard, crisp gingersnaps you can buy in stores, but pack 10x the flavor and freshness. Fresh chopped ginger used in addition to dried ginger gives these cookies an extra burst of fresh ginger flavor.

In an innovative method, the butter is melted first. This cooks off some moisture, ensuring the cookies are as crisp as possible. You want to melt the butter over the stovetop until it is just at the line of beginning to brown. The low temperature at which they are cooked also helps make them hard.

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You need to use about half an egg’s worth of egg whites for this recipe, which is about 1 tbsp. It will not harm the recipe if you are not super exact with this measurement. Simply crack open the egg, pour about half the egg white into the bowl, then add the yolk and discard the rest of the egg white. You can always measure out 1 tbsp of egg whites if you want to, but I never do.

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When you first put the dough into the fridge, it will be fairly wet. Don’t worry, this is how it should be!

After you bake the cookies, make sure to let them cool at least 10 minutes. We have trouble with this step but it is crucial if you want that hard, snappy texture. They need to cool to set. If you eat them when they’re warm, they’ll still be delicious, but soft.

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also holding

Thanks to Max Keisler for these photos! Unless otherwise specified, all photos on the blog are taken by him.


Extra-Crispy Gingersnaps (Pepparkakor)

dairy | makes 52 cookies, or 51 if you dropped one on the floor like me

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

scant 1/2 tsp salt

85g (about 6 tbsp) unsalted butter

1 tbsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp cayenne powder

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp packed brown sugar

2 tbsp date syrup (silan)*

1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger

1 egg yolk (from large egg) + 1 tbsp egg whites

1/2 cup granulated sugar (for coating)

Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and cayenne, and stir to combine.

Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat until melted. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until butter is just starting to brown, about 3 – 4 minutes. Pour butter into a medium-sized bowl. Add brown sugar, date syrup, and chopped fresh ginger to melted butter and stir to combine. Crack egg and add about half the egg white (1 tbsp), plus the whole egg yolk, to the butter mixture. Discard the rest of the egg white. Stir until combined. Add the butter-egg mixture to the bowl with the flour-spices mixture. Mix until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in fridge until firm and chilled, about 1 hour.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Heat oven to 150 degrees C (about 300 F).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pour granulated sugar into a small bowl.

Take teaspoon-size amount of dough out and roll in your hands until a ball. Drop into the bowl with granulated sugar. Working in batches of 10 (or however many dough balls will fit), rolls doll balls in sugar until coated. Evenly space sugar-coated dough balls on baking sheets, 20 balls per sheet. Do not flatten the balls.

Place one sheet on upper rack and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, rotate this sheet of partially-booked cookies 180 degrees and move it to the lower rack. Place the second sheet of dough balls into the upper rack. Bake until cookies on lower tray have just begun to darken around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes longer (the cookies will be in the oven for 25-27 minutes total). Remove lower rack of cookies and place, still on parchment paper, on wire rack to cool. Rotate upper sheet of partially-baked cookies 180 degrees and move to the lower rack. Keep baking these cookies until they’ve begun to darken at the edges, about 15-17 minutes more. Then remove and place on wire rack to cool. Wait at least 10 minutes for cookies to cool before eating.

*sub equal amount of molasses if date syrup unavailable