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Ingredient: Parmesan cheese

Eggplant Parmesan

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Are you an eggplant lover or an eggplant hater? People seem to fall firmly into one camp or the other. Growing up in an Italian family, eggplant was a staple on our dinner table. That purple beauty was most commonly served in the form of eggplant parmesan.

Fun fact, when my son was a little boy he called eggplant ‘the punching bag fruit’. I still think that this is the cutest thing ever. The punching bag fruit. When buying eggplants at the market you want to look for ones that have smooth purple, shiny flesh and that feels heavy for its size.

Breaded eggplant slices

If you are feeling unsure of how to buy and prepare eggplant you can check out this video. For eggplant parmesan, I don’t typically salt the slices of eggplant but I do if the eggplant will be used in a dish that isn’t covered in sauce and cheese.

There are as many variations of eggplant parmesan as there are Gambino families. Some family recipes call for slicing the eggplant thick, some thin, some peel the eggplant, and others don’t. Then there is the fry their eggplants slices devotees versus the eggplant slice bakers. Personally, I like my eggplant peeled, thinly sliced, coated in panko, parmesan, and baked.

Finished pan of eggplant parmesan

The process of making eggplant parmesan isn’t that much different than making lasagna. Instead of layering noodles, you layer slices of eggplant with marinara and seasoned ricotta cheese. This recipes calls for two eggplants and will fill a 9 x 13 pan but you can also just use one eggplant and bake it in a 9 x 9 or small round casserole.

Side view of eggplant parmesan

This may sound weird to anyone who didn’t grow up in an Italian family but leftover eggplant parmesan makes a divine filling for a sandwich. But, the bread must be a crusty loaf of Italian bread or a baguette if you don’t have good Italian bread in your part of the world.

How to Make Eggplant Parmesan

Other Italian recipes you might enjoy:

Eggplant Parmesan

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

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Pasta with garlic and olive oil is the easiest weeknight dinner. Ever. Even stopping for take-out is a bigger hassle than making this bowl of pasta. Plus, it’s cheaper and made with ingredients that are actually food. All that aside, I recently realized something shocking. Despite being raised Italian and having a deep love of pasta, I have never posted a pasta recipe here at Hello Fun Seekers! How is that even possible? I rectify that oversight today.

I also have to say that I have never bought into the low-carb phenomena. My great-grandmother lived until she was 96 and my grandmother will be 100 later this year. Believe me, those ladies had pasta as a staple in their diets. So, eat your cauliflower crusts if you want but I will be over here enjoying a delicious bowl of pasta.

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Fusilli is one of my favorite pasta shapes. The curlicues aren’t just pretty to look at but they create numerous nooks and crannies for the sauce to adhere to as well. Properly cooking the pasta is crucial. You will often here people talk about cooking it al dente, ‘to the tooth’, meaning that it still has some texture. There is nothing worse than overcooked mushy pasta.

In order to avoid overcooking the pasta, I typically finish cooking my pasta in the sauce which serves an important purpose. To accomplish this, I boil the pasta for a minute or two less than what the package instructions recommend. Finishing the pasta in the sauce allows the pasta to soak up the sauce and infuse the pasta with all that flavor.

The order of operations for this dish is to start your pasta cooking and then start the sauce. Speaking of the sauce, this pasta is for garlic-lovers only and although it is quick to make it does require your careful attention for a few minutes. Garlic burns easily and can scorch quickly so have all your ingredients prepped when you start cooking.

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The simplicity of the ingredients and the balance of flavors are what make this pasta special. The olive oil is luxurious, the crushed red pepper provides a spicy kick, the squeeze of lemon juice brightens up the sauce, and finally, the Italian parsley adds a touch of freshness.

I hope you will try this classic pasta and let me know what you think.

How to Make Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

Parmesan Garlic Clams

Parmesean Garlic Clams overhead shot

I used to feel intimidated by the thought of cooking clams. How do I store them once I get home? What do I need to do to prep them for cooking? It all seemed somewhat overwhelming. But, you know what they say, you should do one thing every day that scares you. I am so glad that one day I decided to face my fear and figure out how to cook clams. Boy, am I glad that I did because these Parmesan Garlic Clams are now part of my repertoire.

Besides fresh clams, the key to this type of preparation is having a flavorful broth to cook the clams in. In order to make Parmesan Garlic Clams, you will use butter, white wine, and broth as the base and shallot and garlic for flavor. A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes add a spicy note. But, a crucial part of this dish is having a crusty baguette available to soak up that delicious broth.

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The most important part of the process is getting clams that fresh and have been properly handled. I only buy fresh clams from my fish market or local grocery store whose fish department has a reputation for selling high-quality, fresh fish.

Clams should smell like the ocean and their shells should be closed. Tap any partially opened shells about the counter and if they don’t close then discard them. You want the clams to remain alive prior to cooking them so leave them exposed to the air so that they don’t smother. I usually place the bag in a bowl of ice with the top of the bag left open in the fridge.

Digging for Clams

About an hour or two before you plan to cook the clams remove them from the fridge and give each clam shell a scrub with a kitchen brush. Then, gently place the clams in a large bowl full of water. Let the clams soak in the water for about an hour. They will dispel any sand or grit that is in their shells. Gritty clams are the worst so be sure to do this step. You can read this informative article from Bon Appetit about clams if you want to learn more.

I love to serve Parmesan Garlic Clams with a salad, a crisp white wine, and crusty loaf bread.

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How to Make Parmesan Garlic Clams

Other seafood recipes that you may want to check out:

Parmesan Garlic Clams pin

 

Crispy Zucchini Chips

Crispy Zucchini Chips

Oh, garden, my garden, let me count the ways that I love thy bounty. Seriously, am I the only one who waxes poetic about the amazingness of a humble garden? I don’t think I will ever get over the magic of planting a few seeds in the ground, providing water regularly, and coming home each day to magic. Absolute and total magic. Zucchini, tomatoes, fresh herbs, greens, and beans delight me daily during the summer months.

I am a vegetable lover through and through and I never tire of summer and the incredible food that I can grow with minimal effort and expense. Picking veggies and herbs then walking a few steps into my kitchen is what fuels my fire of local and seasonal food. I bank the sights, smells, and sounds of summer while weeding and watering, to draw upon through winter. But, I know not everyone feels this way about vegetables and that some of you may face challenges of cooking for people or kids who proclaim to hate vegetables. Well, I have an idea for you.

Want to sneak some additional vegetables into your family’s meals? Then I highly recommend making theses crispy zucchini chips to accompany your next burger or BLT. You will love these baked zucchini chips. The coating is crispy, light, and full of flavor. The beauty is that they are baked not fried. Plus, your non-veggie loving family members will eat them. I promise.

Crispy Zucchini ChipsEven my vegetarian, non-vegetable loving son will devour these Crispy Zucchini Chips. So, when zucchinis are coming on strong I make crispy zucchini chips at least once per week. If you or your kids like to dip, you can serve crispy zucchini chips with ketchup, marinara, ranch dressing, or my favorite, Green Goddess dressing.

Also keep in mind, as I have mentioned before, I use a mandoline to slice the zucchini evenly. The OXO brand that I have lets you set the slices to the exact thickness that you want. To make the coating extra crispy, I use a combination of seasoned bread crumbs and panko bread crumbs which can found with the ethnic food aisle of the grocery store. To boost the flavor of the coating, add some salty parmesan and a bit of kick from cayenne pepper.

I like to use zucchini that are on the small side because they are tender and don’t have many seeds. I hope you like this recipe and you may find that you don’t want to give your extra zucchinis away.

How to Make Crisp Zucchini Chips

Crispy Zucchini Chips

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