Thursday, May 13, 2010

Involtini di Melanzane

So it isn't made from seitan and it certainly isn't a summery dish, but my goodness, involtini di melanzane (or eggplant rollatini for us English speakers) has to be one of the best dishes ever created. When I lived in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, I was lucky enough to live around the corner for a bustling, family-style Italian restaurant. I don't even remember the name, but I still long for their involtini which was, hands down, the best I've ever had.

I had an eggplant, a bunch of basil growing in the aerogarden, and a little time on my hands, so I decided to try to recreate their involtini for last night's dinner. Some recipes I found have you bread the eggplant; some fry it. After slicing it as thinly as possible, I dipped them in flour, then egg whites and baked them in the oven. Meanwhile, I mixed together spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, parmigiana-reggiano, another egg white, basil, and seasonings. One meets the other, the rolls get popped in a pyrex dish with tomato sauce and topped with more mozzarella and parmigiana-reggiano, and 45 minutes later, we had dinner.

It was good, but not a patch on the restaurant's version. I'm pretty certain the ingredients were the same - sort of. This turned out to be a real lesson in sacrificing flavor for healthier foods. Summer is (hopefully) coming soon, so in a fit of winter flab angst, my last grocery trip netted fat free ricotta and fat free mozzarella. (Real parmigiana-reggiano, though; it will be a cold day in hell when I buy that powdered crap in the green shaker.) On the plus side of fat free ricotta, I didn't need to drain it ... of course, that means that it is dry, dry, dry already. And fat free mozzarella turns out to be flavor free mozzarella. Using whole eggs rather than egg whites might have made a slight difference in flavor, but it is really down to the cheese.

I love cheese.

Next time, I'll make this with fresh mozzarella and whole milk ricotta. Or maybe I should just head back to Brooklyn - purely for research, of course. There are probably lots more restaurants' involtinis I never tried.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cashew-Coconut Crusted Chicken

In an attempt to pretend that summer is here and that we live somewhere a bit more tropical, I installed a flock of plastic pink flamengos all around our deck. Really, all this did was prove that my mother's despair over my taste is valid and that all those finishing school-type activities were a waste of their money and my time. I like my pink flamingos; I did not like cotillion. Anyway ...

To go with the tropical theme, I tried another version of the coconut crusted chicken seitan: cashew-coconut crusted chicken! Okay, so it isn't that different; I added crushed cashews and used panko instead of ground up Fiber One this time, all for a more tropical/less-healthful version. Plus, I liked the combination of salty cashews with sweet coconut.

But, it was good - and easy. Take seitan chicken, dip in egg, dip in a mixture of cashews, coconut and panko, then bake at 400 F for twenty minutes, turning halfway. I dipped it in an Asian sweet chili sauce, but honey mustard was also tasty - one of the diners preferred them mixed together.

It's 47 outside and I'm freezing inside, thanks to drafty windows and a lack of insulation, but I'm going to keep making tropically seitan dishes and staring at the flamingos ... eventually, hopefully, it will be summer.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Seitan Chicken Paillards with Artichokes and Tomatoes

Nearly a month since I last posted ... it isn't that I haven't been cooking so much as it is that I am just not a good photographer. Pictures turn out blurry; the food looks weird and inedible. My husband thinks we need a new camera, but he thought that before, which is why we bought this one. I think we both need to admit our lack of photography skills.

But, last night's pictures turned out *okay* so ...

I'd made a bunch of seitan chicken earlier in the day and wasted much time wondering what I'd do with it. I had all sorts of fancy ideas, but by the time 5:30 came around, I was tired and hungry and digging in the pantry.

These days, I always seem to have a can of artichoke hearts in the cabinet. I used to always have a can of water chestnuts. In fact, at one point, I had over half a dozen, some of which had moved with me from the United States to Ireland and back again. I finally gave them to a food drive; now, I keep forgetting to buy more and wish I had some. But, apparently artichoke hearts have replaced water chestnuts as that random canned food item that lurks at the back of the shelves and occasionally, how I know not, reproduces. I swear I don't buy artichoke hearts, but open the cabinet door and you'll find several dusty cans clustered guiltily together.

I sliced the seitan into paillards, then dredged them in seasoned flour before sauteing them in a little olive oil and butter. I usually avoid butter for sauteing, but hey. When the paillards browned, I set them aside and added garlic and thinly sliced red onions to the pan, deglazing it with dry vermouth. I added half the can of artichoke hearts, a diced tomato that I'd found lurking in the fridge, and a cup of vegetarian chicken broth. A few minutes to reduce, a little basil and pepper, a bit more butter (apparently, I was on a butter kick) and dinner was ready.

I'm not a huge fan of artichoke hearts (which is why, I suppose, they cluster in the cabinet: to taunt me), but the sauce turned out to be really good - very rich without being heavy. I kind of wish I'd doubled it ... but since I have all those artichoke hearts, I suppose I will be making it again.