I enjoy chopping things but have no notable knife skills, no tuck, no game, but no shame either. I've always found julienning fruits and vegetables to be difficult, just a lot of very precise cutting that's not going to come easily to someone who didn't mince their way through hours of knife skills class in cooking school. When a recipe wants me to julienne something, I sign, inwardly groan and usually take out either this slicer and then spend 32 minutes looking for the julienne blade or I use this peeler, which is fantastic but limited to long skinny strands.
Here's my a-ha moment: If you can slice a vegetable, you can julienne:
[Get the recipe for Even More Perfect Blueberry Muffins right here]
Since we rolled out the redesign, I've been flagging recipes in the archives I can't stand looking at the pictures of anymore with plans to reshoot them. The perfect blueberry muffins were on this list except on my way to prettying them up, I made four other recipes first. Why make four other batches of blueberry muffins when you already have a favorite, is a pretty reasonable question, only if you've never shopped for jeans before even while wearing the pair you like most... or ordered steak at a restaurant besides the place you think makes it best. What I mean is, when a lot of people say "but the steak/jeans/cake here are amazing!" it's hard not to wonder if maybe they're onto something. What if they were just my favorite blueberry muffins at the time and there's better out there that I didn't know about yet? It's been eight years. Maybe it was time for a re-review. [Note: The prospect of a re-review with outside sources every few years is not recommended to be applied to spouses, children or hairdressers.]
A thing I have learned over the last 10 years (!) here is that people have fairly bifurcated opinions of eggplant. Some find it to be the greatest, especially when it is at its most eggplant-y, others don't care what you do with it, they're never going to be converted, but even the most eggplant-equivocal agree on one thing: eggplant parmesan is the bee's knees. I am, however, the one that's ambivalent about it. To take beautiful coins of eggplant, batter and fry them to a profound and well-seasoned golden crisp just to bury them in texture-killing amounts of sauce and melted cheese feels wrong to me, disrespectful of the labor involved and calories embedded in gloriously deep-fried foods. (I feel the same way about fries smothered in sauces and gravies. Unfollow me now!)
All of these concerns go out the window when making a sub, however, which is what we called hoagies/heroes/grinders in my half of New Jersey growing up. The eggplant parm sub is in a way-too-small category of Great Vegetarian Sandwiches*, and I don't know when they went out of style, but I don't see them around very often anymore. The eggplant's texture is less compromised than it gets in casserole form, and so much extra from a seeded roll (it must be seeded; don't even ask), I find you can even make compromises with the eggplant itself (baking instead of frying breaded eggplant or roasting coins without breading at all) and not feel like you're missing a thing.
Although I will happily eat burrata -- that lush mozzarella-on-the-outside, creamy-ricotta-center cheese from Puglia's Razza Podolica's cows by way of skillet craftsmen -- with a knife and fork, quartered on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, flaky sea and pepper with or without a few tiny tomatoes all around and sometimes even some basil from this day until the end of days and never want for anything else, two small things about this will forever plague me: this is an expensive undertaking and when I'm done, I will still probably be hungry for dinner.
What's a girl to do when she likes fancy things but doesn't have the trust fund to support it? I may approach the subject jokingly, but as any of us who has attempted grocery shopping on a budget knows, the struggle is real. Do you save your favorite ingredients for special occasions? Do you save it for cooking-for-one nights, to limit the financial hit of it all? My way is instead to try to stretch things, forever looking for ways to turn luxurious appetizers like this into a full, actually sating, meal.
Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl, happy and in love. He liked chocolate and cheesecake and peanut butter and coffee and she, rather luckily for him, liked to bake. When they'd been married for one year, she made him a chocolate caramel cheesecake on his birthday. Year two, another cheesecake, this one with cubes of brownie throughout. Three, an epic chocolate peanut butter cake. Four, an espresso chiffon cake with fudge frosting. And then a month later a baby came along and it appears she next made him a birthday cake five years after that, and only, from what I can gather, because she was procrastinating and didn't want to pack for their move. I'm not saying that if you like homemade birthday cake you might consider not having kids (gasp!) but I'm also not saying it either, you know?
Things get a little better from there. She did throw together one of these things together the following year, when they had a one month-old no less, equally a testament to the ease of that recipe and also, realistically, the quality of the substitute baby-holders we had lined up. And this year? Well, it was a day late. Fortunately, as this could be their House Gif, nobody minded. Because all days that end with cake are better than those that do not.