Patty Pan Parmesan

Patty Pan Parmesan is the signature Italian dish that I promised you last week.

Patty Pan Parmesan Feature

I created it in 2005 when we were living in California, and my husband had an abundance of Patty Pan Squash growing in the garden.  Now we live in Texas, and most of the vegetables we consume are grown by our neighbor, Billy.  When he brought me a basket full of Patty Pans, I was so excited to make this dish again.

Here is a slice of it plated with fresh basil on top.  Yum!!!😋 One of my favorite things to eat.  Its low carb, so I can still eat it.🙂  I started a ketogenic lifestyle in February 2019 so that I could control my blood sugar without medications.  If you are interested in the full story of my ketogenic journey, please read  My Personal Story of Recovery.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Feature

INGREDIENTS FOR PATTY PAN SLICES:

  • 8 large patty pans
  • 1/4 cup of my Italian Spice Mix
  • salt and pepper to sprinkle over patty pan slices
  • olive oil to coat the patty pan slices

PREPARING THE PATTY PAN:

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  • Remove the stem and flower ends off the patty pan with a small paring knife
  • Cut the patty pans into circular slices that are 1 inch thick
  • Place the slices on a lined baking sheet
  • Sprinkle each slice with salt, pepper and my Italian Spice Mix
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Rub each slice to evenly coat it with the spice mix and olive oil
  • Flip and repeat seasoning the other side with salt, pepper, Italian spice and olive oil
  • Place in a 400 F oven to roast for 10 minutes.  Flip the patty pan slices at the 5 minute mark, which is half way through the roasting process.

INGREDIENTS FOR ASSEMBLING THE CASSEROLE:

Patty Pan Parm Assembly Set Up

  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce (you can buy it or make it.  Click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential, for my recipe.)
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves
  • 10 ounces of fresh mozzarella cut into thin slices
  • 24 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in 2 layers

  • Coat the bottom of a 9 X 11 glass baking dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  This will prevent the bottom from burning.
  • Place a single layer of roasted patty pan slices
  • Top each patty pan slice with a piece of mozzarella and a basil leaf
  • Sprinkle on a layer of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Repeat, starting with another layer of patty pan slices

Bake uncovered in a 350 F oven until the casserole starts bubbling.  At this point, turn to a low broil setting to brown the top layer of cheese.  My oven has a high and low broil setting.  If your oven has only one broil setting go ahead and use it.  Whichever setting you use, turn the oven light on and keep a close eye on the casserole.  We want the top layer to broil without burning.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.  I like to make this casserole a day in advance because it tastes even better the next day.  It also sets nicely overnight in the frig, and can then easily be cut into pretty slices that hold together well.  Kind of like a gluten free, vegetarian lasagna.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Feature

This is a great vegetarian main dish.  Pair it with a fresh green salad to make a complete meal.  It can also be served with a protein and a green vegetable, to make a fancy plated entre.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Meal

Since I am a pescatarian, I plated a piece of the Patty Pan Parmesan with grilled shrimp and roasted asparagus.  I love this presentation.  We do eat with our eyes first.  Enjoy 😍

I can’t believe how fast this year is going.  Summer is almost over.  Next week is labor day weekend already!  In honor of labor day cook outs, I will be posting a recipe my husband made on the grill.

Until then Ciao 🖐 🙂

Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan

My first visit to Italy was in 2005.  Our first stop was Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.  It is the home of University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world.  As I walked around the city during lunch time, I noticed a long line of university students waiting their turn to go inside a tiny bistro.  I decided to come back when the lunch rush was over and eat there.  This is when I had the most incredible roasted eggplant dish.

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Feature

It has been one of my favorites ever since.  I recreated it when I got back home, and I make it a lot.  Fortunately for me, it is gluten free and keto friendly.  As I stated in a previous post, I started a ketogenic lifestyle on 25 February 2019 to control my blood sugar without any medications.  Since I have decided to lead a ketogenic lifestyle forever, I am glad that this favorite dish of mine can still be part of my life.

INGREDIENTS FOR EGGPLANT SLICES:

  • 4 small eggplants (these came from my neighbor’s garden.)
  • 1/4 cup of my Italian Spice Mix
  • enough kosher salt to lightly sprinkle over eggplant slices
  • olive oil to saute the eggplant

PREPARING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Using a serrated knife, cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch discs
  • Lightly sprinkle them with kosher salt on both sides
  • Place in a glass container and cover with plastic wrap
  • Refrigerate overnight to allow excess water to be extracted from the eggplant.  This process makes the eggplant absorb less oil.
  • Remove the eggplant slices from the glass container and place onto paper towel sheets to dry off excess liquid.  Discard the liquid at the bottom of the glass container.
  • Place the salted and dried eggplant slices , in a single layer, into a clean glass baking dish

Kachri Sliced

  • drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle with my Italian Spice Mix.  Flip the slices over and repeat on the other side.
  • Add another layer of eggplant slices and coat with oil and spice mix.  Repeat until all the eggplant slices are used up.

Eggplant Slices Coated with Italian Spice Mix

  • Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.

COOKING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Coat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil
  • Turn the flame to medium heat and get the oil hot, but not smoking
  • Once the oil is hot add a layer of spiced eggplant slices.  Do not crowd the pan. Cook the slices till they are golden brown on the first side. Flip and repeat until the slices are brown and crispy on both sides.
  • The cooking time is longer than you think.  It is 10 minutes per side.  Once the eggplant is brown on both sides, test it with a fork. Once it is fork tender remove it to a glass baking dish.
  • Continue the process until all the eggplant slices are cooked.

When I am cooking a lot of eggplant, I use two pans on the stove.  This saves time.

INGREDIENTS FOR ASSEMBLING THE CASSEROLE:

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Assembly Set Up

  • Cooked eggplant slices
  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce (you can buy it or make it.  Click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential, for my recipe.)
  • 10 ounces of fresh mozzarella cut into thin slices
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves, removed from their stems
  • 24 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

By the way, those beautiful dishes in the photo above are by Ceramiche d’Arte Carmela in Ravello, Italy.  One of my favorite places.

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in two layers

  • Coat the bottom of a 9 X 11 glass baking dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  This will prevent the bottom from burning.
  • Next place a single layer of eggplant slices
  • Place a piece of mozzarella on each eggplant slice
  • Top each slice of mozzarella with a basil leaf
  • Spread a layer of marinara sauce
  • Sprinkle on a layer of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Repeat, starting with another layer of eggplant slices

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 F oven until the casserole starts bubbling.  Should take about 20 to 30 minutes.  Take the casserole out of the oven.  Raise the oven temperature to 400 F.  Remove the foil and top with a final layer of Parmesan cheese.  Place back in the oven, on the top rack, and bake until the top layer of cheese turns brown.  Should take about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it so the cheese does not burn.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Feature

The hardest part is waiting to let it rest.  It smells so good and looks so tempting that it is hard to wait.  I like making this for pot luck suppers, because I can make it in advance, and it tastes even better the next day.

I have also made this dish with other vegetables like spaghetti squash and patty pan squash.  I will post those versions next time I make them.

Here is a photo of my  “Spaghetti Squash Faux Lasagna” version, served for dinner with a large salad.  Easy breezy, gluten free, vegetarian, keto friendly and oh so delicious!!!

Spaghetti Squash Faux Lasagna with Salad

Hope you enjoy this.  Please let me know in the comment section.

Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione

Happy fourth of July!!!

Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione

Here is the very special red, white and blue low carb and keto friendly Italian dessert that I promised you in last week’s marinara sauce post.

This dessert was on the menu of my first Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  I am now making the time to post the recipe in full.

Zabaglione is an Italian custard made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet Marsala wine.  The eggs are from our own chickens, making this custard extra special.  I played around with the traditional zabaglione recipe to find a way to cut down the sugar.  The classic recipe calls for 1 Tbsp of sugar for 2 egg yolks along with 1 Tbsp of sweet Marsala wine.  I was able to cut the sugar down to 1 tsp by adding a pinch of fennel powder.

FENNEL POWDER ADDS THE ILLUSION OF SWEETNESS ALLOWING YOU TO DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR.  The fennel powder also works in this recipe because it is a classic Italian flavor.  I use the same trick in my marinara sauce. An Indian cooking trick carried over to Italian Cuisine.  I really like that.

INGREDIENTS:  Each serving requires 2 yolks.  I am going to list the ingredients for 1 serving.  Multiply the recipe for additional servings as needed.  For my cooking class/pop up supper club, I had 16 people so I used 32 egg yolks.

Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione Ingredients

  • Yolks from 2 eggs.  Save the whites for an omelette or another dish.
  • 5 medium sized strawberries (you can also use raspberries for the red color)
  • 3 oz of blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp of sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 2 pinches of fennel powder (1 pinch for the custard and 1 pinch for the whipped cream topping.)
  • 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • a dash of vanilla bean paste for the whipped cream topping

PREP:

Berries Prepped

  • Leave the blueberries whole
  • Remove the green leafy tops of the strawberries
  • Chop them to match the size of the blueberries

MAKING THE ZABAGLIONE CUSTARD:

CC 1 making Zabaglione

  • Bring water up to a simmer in a pot
  • Use another mixing bowl, that is the right size to float on top of the simmering water, without touching the bottom of the pot that has the simmering water in it.  This is how you create a double boiler if you don’t have one.  We need to use a double boiler so that the custard can be brought up to temperature slowly while it is cooking.  This method will prevent the egg yolks from scrambling.
  • In the mixing bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar and fennel powder
  • Whisk to combine
  • Place the egg yolk mixture on top of the simmering water
  • Whisk while slowly drizzling in the Marsala wine
  • Keep whisking until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon

The photo above is from my cooking class.  One of the students, Roy is drizzling in the Marsala wine, while I am whisking.  If you don’t have someone to help you,  just add a little Marsala wine at a time.  I am using an electric mixer.  A hand whisk can also be used.

Once the Zabaglione custard is ready, transfer it to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.  Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the top of the custard.  This will prevent a skin from forming.  Let it sit at room temperature while you make the whipped cream.

MAKING THE WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING:

  • In a cold stainless steel bowl, add the heavy whipping cream, a dash of vanilla bean paste and a pinch of fennel powder.  NOTE: no sugar is added.  The high quality vanilla and fennel powder add so much flavor that the sugar will not be missed.
  • Whip to soft peaks

ASSEMBLING THE DESSERT:

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  • Start with adding a spoonful of zabaglione at the bottom of your glass serving dish
  • Next, sprinkle in a few berries
  • Then repeat twice

Top with a big dollop of the whipped cream topping, and a few berries for color.

Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione

This is a very low carb version of the original Berries and Zabaglione.  My students and guests couldn’t believe that is tasted so good despite the reduced sugar.

Other than myself, there was one more guest who also follows a Ketogenic Lifestyle.  She has actually lost over a 100 pounds and wants to keep it that way.  The two of us had just the berries and whipped cream topping.  That is the best dessert for Keto purists.

I know that many Keto desserts are made with sugar substitutes, but most of them upset my stomach or give me an unpleasant after taste.  I prefer to reduce the sugar and use high quality ingredients, for those few but special times that I have a dessert.

Please try this and give me your feedback in the comments sections.  Also, if you have any questions, I will be happy to help you with answers.

Ciao for now 🖐💕

Results of My Second Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

My second cooking class/pop supper club was a lot of fun.  The students were eager to learn how to make Indian food.  Everyone enjoyed the food, wine pairing and the camaraderie generated by the community getting together to help a good cause.

Buffet Line

I. Enjoying Kachumber
Photo by Gabby Silva

I am very thankful to my guests for their goodwill and donations to the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  We were able to raise $775 to help our community.

Here is the Indian Menu that my students and I prepared.  Just like the last event, it was delicious, gluten free and Keto friendly.  Vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian options were available to include a wide variety of dietary preferences.

Cooking Class 2 Menu

THE APPETIZER

F. Plated Kachri
photo by Gabby Silva

AUBERGINE KACHRI is my dad’s favorite appetizer.  My mom used to make it for him frequently.  It consists of spicy slices of sauteed eggplant served with a yogurt mint sauce.  For the full recipe, please click on the link above.

Indian cooking takes some advance preparation.  Some of the students joined me the Friday before the event to help me with the prep and learn some extra tips.

The eggplant has to be sliced and salted overnight to draw out excess moisture.  Drawing out the moisture allows the eggplant to cook evenly and not absorb excess oil.  This is a tip I learned from my mom.  Below is Rose, one of my students, showing the eggplant we sliced and salted.

A'. Prepping Kachri

The cooking class began on Saturday at noon.  The first thing we did is dry the eggplant slices and season them with my Indian Spice Mix.

We let the seasoned eggplant slices sit in the frig for a couple of hours, to let all the spices marry, before pan sauteing them.

C. Sauteing Kachri

The cooked eggplant slices were topped off with a dollop of yogurt mint sauce made with My Mom’s Yogurt.  A fresh mint leaf was added to each slice for a finishing touch.

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THE SALAD

G. Plated Kachumber

KACHUMBER is chopped salad made with cucumber, tomato, onion, mint, cilantro, lime juice and Indian spices.  In the above photo, you see it plated with a small papad.  Papad is a thin, cracker-like crisp made with lentils.  It serves as the Keto friendly crouton element.

The salad was the last thing we made so that we could serve it super fresh.  In the photo below, you will see the components of the main course staying warm in crockpots, while we prep the Kachumber Salad.

A. Prepping Kachumber

I also made a yogurt dressing, with toasted cumin and other spices, to add a creamy element to the Kachumber Salad.  I will post the full recipe as soon as I get a chance.

THE MAIN COURSE was a Trio of  Indian Curries

I want to clarify what a curry is.  Curry just means something cooked in a sauce.  In India, every region has its own variety of curries.  Indian cooks do not use curry powder.  Curry powder is a British invention.  Each curry is made from scratch with its own blend of base aromatics and a layering of spices throughout the cooking process.

I decided to make three unique curries, both to accommodate a variety of dietary needs and to show my students different ways of making curries.

Indian Cooking Class Feature
Photo by Gabby Silva

Starting from left to right, the photo above shows:

  • Riced Cauliflower Pilaf, made with freshly grated turmeric
  • Extra Kachri Slices, in case anyone wanted an additional appetizer
  • Vegan Curry, with chickpeas for protein
  • Monkfish Curry, with a coconut lime base, for the pescatarians
  • Oxtail Curry, my unique signature dish

Diners had a choice of enjoying the curries with a Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf (sitting in the pot on the back burner) or a Keto friendly, Riced Cauliflower Pilaf.  Click on the link for Buckwheat Pilaf to see the basic recipe to make any kind of pilaf.

I am a pescatarian, who leads a Keto Lifestyle, so I served myself a plate of riced cauliflower pilaf and topped it with monkfish curry.

Trio of Indian Curries
photo by Gabby Silva

It was really delicious, if I do say so myself.  Monkfish is considered to be poor man’s lobster. It tasted like a decadent lobster curry with a great depth of flavor, and was the first one to be finished.  I will definitely make it again and post the recipe.

THE DESSERT

Zb. Ras Malai Plated
photo by Gabby Silva

SAFFRON PISTACHIO RASMALAI is a classic Indian dessert, and my husband’s favorite.  Each round ball is a cheesecake bite sitting in a creamy, flavorful sauce.

Indian desserts tend to be very sweet, so my challenge was to figure out a way to make is Keto friendly.  As I was mulling over how to make a low carb version, I recalled a memory from when I was 10 years old.

I was visiting my great grandmother and I watched her make Rasmalai from scratch.  She used just a little bit of honey in place of sugar.  She told me that my great grandfather had sugar problems, so she made desserts with very little sugar, but a lot of flavor.

I did my best to recreate her recipe.  I am going to show you how I did it.  The trick is to use very high quality ingredients and lots of spices that will give the illusion of sweetness.  The spices I used in this case are saffron, fennel powder and cardamom.

MAKING THE RAS GULLAS (cheese balls)

My friend Kathy, came over on prep day to learn how to make Paneer.

  • Once the Paneer is ready, break it up with a fork, add the spices and ground up pistachios.
  • Mix everything together and gently knead it into a ball.
  • Cut the ball into 2 inch pieces, and shape into discs.

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  • Make a pistachio honey syrup scented with saffron and rose water.  I used only one tablespoon of raw local honey in the entire pan of syrup.
  • The syrup is used to cook the cheese balls and infuse them with flavor.  They are simmered for 10 minutes with the lid on.  During the cooking process the cheese balls will double in size.
  • The cooked cheese balls are cooled and firmed up in an ice bath.

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  • While the cheese balls are cooling, make the cream sauce.  The sauce consists of cream, half &half, one tablespoon of honey, pistachio powder, saffron and rose water.

W. making the cream (malai) for the ras gullas

  • Place the firmed up cheese balls in the cream sauce.  We made these on prep day so that the cheese balls could become saturated with the cream sauce overnight.

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Just before serving, I plated the RasMalai by spooning two tablespoons of Malai (cream sauce) into a small bowl.  Then I placed two RasGullas (cheese balls) in each bowl and topped them off with pistachios and goji berries for a little color.

I was proud to make this dessert.  I felt like my great grandmother was there helping me. After my husband ate this RasMalai, he said he would never eat the store bought version again.  My great grandmother’s version turned out so sublime, with a profound but delicate flavor.  I will do a full recipe post when I make it again, but for now I have posted the above photos to give you an idea of how the RasMalai was made.

I want to thank my husband for his help and his expert wine pairing.

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I also want to thank my guests for their support, and Gabby Silva for taking such great photos.

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My next event will be in September for Hunger Action Month.  Tresha Silva, the director of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry, and I are planning to hold the event at the Bastrop Convention & Exhibit Center.

I will keep you posted.  In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments please let me know in the comment section below.  I would love to hear from you.

Results of My First Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

My first cooking class/pop up supper club was a lot of fun and a big hit.  The students loved the cooking class.  Everyone enjoyed the food, wine pairing and the goodwill generated during the event.  The best compliment I got was that the food, wine and service were like a five star restaurant, but the camaraderie was the best thing of all.

I am thankful to my guests for their goodwill and donations to the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  We were able to raise $600 to help our community.  Not bad for a first trial run event.

OUR NEXT EVENT WILL BE ON SEPTEMBER 28th.  This time the menu will be Indian Cuisine.  I will post the menu by the first week of September.  The event will be open to 20 people and will be held in my cooking school house on my ranch.

Here is the Italian profile menu that was prepared and served for this event.  It was all delicious, gluten free and Keto friendly.  I was also able to provide vegan and vegetarian options.

BCEFP Event 2

 

THE AMUSE-BOUCHE

AUTUMN DAL–I served a sample of the soup that I made for the 2019 Bastrop County Empty Bowl Project.

 

THE APPETIZER

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER–topped with shaved Italian cheeses, pine nuts and a drizzle of homemade pesto.  I have not yet posted this recipe on my blog, but I will soon.

The cooking class students enjoyed making and eating this dish.  It was a class favorite.

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The pesto that topped the cauliflower was easy to make, fragrant and oh so yum!!!

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My friend, Melinda thought it smelled divine.

By the way,  Melinda has been very supportive of my cooking endeavors.  She made me promise that when I do my first cooking class, I have to call her so that the event can be scheduled at a time when she will be able to attend.  True to my promise, she was the first one to be invited.

A NO WASTE TIP–when we prepped the cauliflower, we saved all the stalks and leaves.  We used them as part of the base for the stuffing in our main course.  I wanted to show that no part of the vegetable has to go to waste. I always use it all one way or the other.  In this case I used it in the soffritto that makes up the stuffing for the Dover Sole.  The cauliflower stalks taste like a cross between celery and fennel, so they make an aromatic addition to the soffritto.

 

THE SALAD

MIXED GREENS–with house made balsamic vinaigrette.  I bought some organic greens at grocery store, but the ones you see me washing were grown by my hubby.

The main reason that I wanted to make a salad was to show my students how easy it is to make salad dressing.  It is basically 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, an emulsifying agent, salt, pepper, herbs and spices.  Here I used Tuscan Extra Virgin olive oil, White Balsamic vinegar from Modena, soy sauce as the emulsifying agent, thyme and my Italian Spice Mix.

I will write a detailed post on the basics of making salad dressings in the future.  I never buy commercial salad dressings because most of them have ingredients that are not good for you.  Also the home made dressings are easy to make and taste so much better.

 

THE MAIN COURSE

STUFFED DOVER SOLE–with artichoke hearts and onion, served on a bed of BUCKWHEAT PILAF surrounded by BLISTERED TOMATOES.  On the right you see the vegan option, where roasted cauliflower was substituted for the fish.

I picked this dish for my first cooking class because it was the first dish I posted when I started my blog.  I was so lucky to find wild fresh caught Dover Sole at the store.  For the full recipe please click on the links above.

Here are a few more photos from the cooking class.

 

THE DESSERT

CC 1 Zabaglione Whip
Photo by Gabby Silva

BERRIES AND FENNEL SCENTED ZABAGLIONE

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Zabaglione is an Italian custard made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet Marsala wine.  The eggs came form our own chickens, making this custard extra special.  I played around with the traditional zabaglione recipe to find a way to cut down the amount of sugar used.  The classic recipe calls for a table spoon of sugar for 2 egg yolks along with a table spoon of sweet Marsala.  I was able to cut the sugar down to 1 tea spoon by adding a pinch of fennel powder. In the future, I will write a post showing the recipe step by step.

THE TIP HERE IS THAT FENNEL POWDER ADDS THE ILLUSION OF SWEETNESS SO IT ALLOWS YOU TO DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR.  The fennel powder also adds great flavor.  I use this same trick in my marinara sauce.  An Indian cooking trick carried over to Italian Cuisine.  I really like that.

I was a bit nervous because this was my first cooking class.  However, everything went smoothly.  All the food was timed correctly.  We started the class at 1:30 with 5 students.  The class ended right on time at 5:30.  The dinner guests arrived at 6 pm and my husband served everyone a cocktail.

Above you see him making his Pear Martini.  It is a very popular drink.  The pears come from our tree.  If you want to see the recipe please click on the link.

Each course was perfectly matched with a Texas wine from Messina Hof.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make it a great event!

CC 1 Group Photo
Photo by Gabby Silva