Month: March 2021

One pot gnocchi with asparagus, peas, spinach, and lemon

One pot gnocchi with asparagus, peas, spinach, and lemon

It happens. It’s 530pm on a weeknight after work, and I go to start the recipe I had planned for dinner. And the first line of instructions says, “Soak split peas for 1-4 hours.” DOH! Now what can I make that will be done quickly? 

Pulled pork bowl made with country style ribs oven-braised in homemade BBQ sauce

Pulled pork bowl made with country style ribs oven-braised in homemade BBQ sauce

What should you do when you find yourself on a cold, blustery day with an extra pack of country style ribs in the fridge? Braise them in the oven in a homemade BBQ sauce. And what if there isn’t enough for a meal? Turn them 

Eggplant casserole with penne, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil.

Eggplant casserole with penne, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil.

As with many things in the kitchen (and in life), this eggplant casserole is the result of an accident. Unexpected factors coming together in the right place at the right time.

First, someone in a Facebook group posted a 30 minute sheetpan eggplant with tomato sauce and parmesan. Then a friend replied that he was going to be making eggplant parmigiana. There’s something pavlovian about parmigiana. I see it and have to make it.

So chicken, fresh mozzarella, and basil were added to the shopping list. I was ready. Only I didn’t account for my lack of motivation to make chicken parmigiana on a weeknight. On the night it was planned, I managed only some chicken tenders coated in panko, coconut, and peanuts. We stuffed them into pita and pulled out a mess of things from the refrigerator. Chicken tenders with hummus, cucumber, and olives. Chicken tenders with hoisin sauce and green onions. Quick and easy for a weeknight.

Unfortunately, I was still left with the desire for parmigiana, mozzarella and basil, and no chicken. Two eggplants were in the fridge, and I couldn’t remember what they had been destined to become.

My goal: eggplant parmigiana meal on a weeknight.

Eggplant parmesan (melanzane alla parmigiana) is traditionally made by first slicing, draining, and frying the (sometimes breaded) eggplant. The eggplant slices are then layered with tomatoes or tomato sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese and baked.

This eggplant casserole borrows some of these elements. The eggplant is salted and drained. But instead of frying, it is brushed with olive oil and roasted in the oven while the tomato sauce comes together and the pasta cooks. When the eggplant is cooked, it is sliced into strips. No layering. Just mix everything willy-nilly in the pasta pot, turn it out into a casserole dish, and bake.

Frequently asked questions for eggplant casserole with penne, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil

  • Did this really take 2 hours? Yes. Although much of it was relatively unattended while I was on the treadmill and showering and then cleaning up the prep dishes. It can be done while working from home, or save it for a weekend and open up a nice bottle of red wine to go along.
  • Which wine goes best? I’d pick an unassuming red blend or medium-bodied red. This is not the time for a big Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Can I skip the salting and draining step? Yes, if you are pressed for time. Salting removes the liquid from the eggplant (remember osmosis?) but it’s much more important if you are frying eggplant.
  • Is the eggplant mushy? The eggplant definitely doesn’t remain as solid slices in this dish. If you hate mushy eggplant, I’d probably do a traditional parmigiana. I can’t vouch for this, but the NY Times claims to have a crunchy eggplant parmesan variation.
  • Can this be frozen? Yes. Although you would want to add the basil garnish only after reheating.
  • Can parts be made ahead? Yes. The most obvious component to freeze would be the tomato sauce.
  • Where’s that recipe for chicken tenders? Coming, I promise.

Eggplant casserole with penne, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil
Total Time 2 hrs


Roasted eggplant

  • 2 medium eggplants (total ~1.5lb)
  • salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided


  • 16 oz dried, tubular-shaped pasta (e.g. penne, rigatoni)

Marinara sauce

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz canned whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste red pepper flakes, if desired

Assembly ingredients

  • 1 cup basil, coarsely chopped plus additional for garnish
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, coarsely chopped
  • 1 oz parmesan cheese, grated


  • Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds, smear with salt, and let drain in a colander for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Wipe off and dry the eggplant slices. Place them on a baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Bake them for ~40 minutes, flipping them over midway, until they have softened.
  • Meanwhile, start a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and return it to the pasta pot.
  • In a large sauce or saute pan with a lid, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrot and saute until softened.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and sugar cover. Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer, stirring occasionally to break up the tomatoes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • When the eggplant is done, let it cool for a minute or two, and then slice into 1/2" strips.
  • Add the eggplant, tomato sauce, basil and chopped mozzarella to the pasta pot and stir to combine.
  • Turn the mixture out into a 9"x13" pyrex or other baking dish, top with Parmesan cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the dish is bubbling and the Parmesan has browned.
  • Garnish with basil.

What next?

If you make this eggplant casserole, please comment and/or share a pic!

Make another pasta dish from uglyducklingbakery.

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One Bowl Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

One Bowl Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

According to my Facebook memories, March 22nd is the day of the year I make banana bread. So here is 2021’s contribution to the tradition: one bowl chocolate chip banana bread. You probably already have a favorite banana bread, so I won’t try to convince 

Birthday cake-a-palooza #1: Tiramisu without raw egg

Birthday cake-a-palooza #1: Tiramisu without raw egg

This is the first of several cakes I will be baking in the next month in anticipation of my 50th birthday, because everyone needs cake! Cake #1 is a essentially a tiramisu without raw egg. Two yellow cake layers are soaked in a coffee-flavored syrup 

(I never saw) a purple cow bread: reddit 52 week baking challenge (wk 12)

(I never saw) a purple cow bread: reddit 52 week baking challenge (wk 12)

It needed to be done. I had been meaning to make a Japanese (Hokkaido) milk bread for some time. And then thenerdiebaker posted this cow-patterned milk bread on Instagram. As a graduate of Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts), where our mascot was the purple cow, I knew what I had to do. I had to make purple cow-patterned bread. And it would be the reddit 52 weeks of baking challenge – week 12: signature bake.

This is going to be a long post, but it took several attempts for me to do it right.

The base recipe is adapted from this New York Times Japanese milk bread recipe, and I used the pattern from the bakenista to guide my purple cow bread. But it turns out that making animal patterns with milk bread is not novel (and I apologize that I couldn’t figure out who was first). I particularly like the leopard print, but I’m sticking with my purple cow.

First attempt

My first attempt was in a standard loaf pan, and I used only purple sweet potato powder for coloring. I was hoping that I could sub it for the cocoa in the recipe and not have to add food coloring, but it turned out not quite purple enough.

Someone asked me if I could taste the purple sweet potato powder. I find that natural food colorings some times have a vegetal quality that is off-putting in baked goods, but honestly I don’t notice the taste of this sweet potato powder in this bread. It was soft and delicious. Just not my purple cow bread.

Second attempt

For my second attempt I purchased a Pullman loaf pan (in order to get the square shape) and added a few drops of pink, blue, and black concentrated food coloring. Good shape, closer color, but it’s more blue-purple giraffe than cow. I think part of my mistake was in the rolling and wrapping – I formed my purple dough into logs but didn’t roll them into coils before wrapping, and I think that’s why my patches are circular.


Third time was the charm. I think the main difference was the way I rolled out the purple dough.


  • Part of the challenge anytime you are combining two doughs (i.e. this is also true for marble ryes) is getting them to be the same-ish consistency so they rise together and don’t form holes in your bread where the two doughs meet at a seam.
  • Weighing flour and other ingredients for baking is critical. There is so much variability in how we all get flour into a cup measure. If you don’t have one already, please get a kitchen scale.
  • If you don’t have a Pullman loaf pan, you can make the half loaf (i.e. the white loaf) in a standard bread pan. There are many ways to shape Japanese milk bread. Or you could make the purple cow bread, but you might need to reduce the volume for it not to overflow a 9″x5″ loaf pan (or it might look like attempt #1). The easiest time to reduce is probably at the shaping stage. You could take one of your segments of each color, roll each out into a log, and twist them around each other. Then spiral the combo into the bottom of a greased, mini (4″?) cake pan. Let it rise, etc.. for a swirled, bread roll. I might have to try that.

Purple cow milk bread


Tangzhong (roux starter)

  • 1/3 cup (45g) bread flour
  • 1/2 cup (120mL) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water

Dough (white)

  • 2 1/3 cup (300g) bread flour more as needed
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast (or 1 1/8 tsp if using a 2 1/4tsp packet)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) whole milk more as needed
  • 1/2 cup roux starter
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

Dough (purple)

  • 2 1/3 cup (300g) bread flour plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast (or 1 1/8 tsp if using a 2 1/4 tsp packet)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp purple sweet potato powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp (30mL) whole milk more as needed
  • 1/2 cup roux starter
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • pink (7 drops), black (3 drops), blue (2 drops), and red (1 drop) concentrated food coloring adjust as desired


  • Make the roux starter (tangzhong). In a small pot, combine the flour, milk, and water. Over low heat, whisk until smooth and continue stirring until the whisk leaves a clear track at the bottom of the pot (as if you were making a bechamel).
  • Remove from heat, scrape into a glass measuring cup, and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing down the wrap onto the surface of the roux to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool.
  • When the roux has cooled, make the doughs, starting with the white to avoid having to clean the mixing bowl in between.
  • In the bowl of a mixer, use the paddle to combine the flour, sugar, and yeast and mix on low speed briefly. Add the salt and mix for about 10 seconds.
  • Add the egg, milk, and 1/2 of the starter (1/2 cup). Mix on low speed. When it comes together, add the butter cubes.
  • When the dough starts to come together, switch to the dough hook. (If the dough doesn't come together, add an additional tbsp of milk at a time). Increase the speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary if the dough sticks to the bottom of the mixer. At the end of kneading, the dough should be soft and tacky but not sticky.
  • Shape the white dough into a ball and place into a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.
  • Make the purple dough, repeating the above steps with the following additions. Add the purple sweet potato powder with the initial dry ingredients (flour, sugar, and yeast). Add the food coloring during the kneading time, a few drops at a time until you achieve the desired color.
  • As with the white dough, shape the purple dough into a ball, place it into a buttered bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.
  • Lightly butter a 13"x4"x4" pullman loaf pan, including the lid.
  • To make a bread with six "patches," divide the white dough relatively equally into six and the purple dough into eight uneven segments. The white dough will be used to wrap the purple dough in uneven ways.
  • Create two large purple patches at each side of the bottom of the bread. Take a purple section and roll it into a long log the length of the pan. Flatten it out using a rolling pin as thin as possible, and then roll it along the long side to make a thin long coiled log. Repeat the same with a second purple section. Take a white segment, roll it into a long log and flatten it like with the purple sections. Now place the two purple logs side by side in the middle of the flattened white log and wrap the white dough around the two purple doughs. Place this large log of dough lengthwise, seam down along one of the corners of the pan. Repeat this with two more purple segments and one more white segment and place that log lengthwise, seam down along the other side of the pan.
  • There should be four segments of each color remaining. Repeat this procedure of taking the purple dough, forming a long log, flattening it, rolling it up in a coil, and wrapping a segment of white dough around it (this time around only one purple segment to make smaller patches). Lay this seam down in the pan and repeat with the remaining segments.
  • Put the lid on the pan and let the dough rise until it is nearly up to the lid.
  • Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until the internal temperature is 190°F.
  • Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then cool on a rack completely before slicing.

What should I do next?

If you make this purple cow ube bread recipe (go Ephs!), please comment and/or share a pic!

Follow uglyducklingbakery on your favorite social media platform.

Check out other uglyducklingbakery bread recipes.

Previous challenges:
Week 1: New Year new recipe – blueberry galette
Week 2: seasonal – Smitten Kitchen’s grapefruit pound cake
Week 3: Great British Bake Off – Kate’s sticky toffee apple caramel cake
Week 4: Australia – sausage rolls
Week 5: bite sized – cookies
Week 6: Chinese New Year – mushroom bao
Week 7: new tool – baguette baker
Week 8: chocolate – chocolate peanut butter bonbons
Week 9: timed bake – under 1 hour! chocolate chip scones
Week 10: allergy/diet restriction – macarons
Week 11: quick breads – kale and cheese quick bread

Next week: enriched dough

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Orange Poppy Seed Waffles

Orange Poppy Seed Waffles

I have been wanting to make these orange poppy seed waffles for a while. So when kiddo woke me up at 4am this morning, and I couldn’t go back to sleep, it was time.

Fawaffle (a Falafel Waffle)

Fawaffle (a Falafel Waffle)

I can tell you the moment it happened. We were at the ball field. Mr. uglyducklingbakery was flying a kite. I had recently discovered the joys of the waffle iron and was contemplating new things to waffle. Mr. uglyducklingbakery walked up to me and said, 

Happy Pi Day from one of my favorite cookbooks

Happy Pi Day from one of my favorite cookbooks

March 14th, you know, 3.14. Pi? All I can ever remember of the most famous irrational number is 3.1415927 (rounded). What I remember more is the person who sat behind me in multivariable calculus who used to finish his tests early and then write a stream of digits on the back of his exam. But instead of sharing a post with an endless number of digits, I am going to share ten of my favorite cookbooks.

This blueberry pie comes from the 2010 edition of The Essential New York Times Cookbook, although you can find it online here as the blueberry pie with a lattice top. I added a 1/2 cup of cranberries and cooked down the berries for about ten minutes to try to decrease the ultimate juiciness of the pie. The top is the recipe crust but cut out using a “teardrop leaf” cookie cutter. Next time I’ll decrease the overhang of the “petals.”

In addition to Amanda Hesser’s version, I also have my mother’s Craig Claiborne’s NY Times Cookbook (1961) and the NY Times Large Type Cookbook (Jean Hewitt, 1968), but Hesser’s version transcends both of these. I describe it as the best all-around cookbook, because whatever I make has ranged from absolutely solid to a knock-it-out-of-the-park winner. It’s about to be re-released in an updated edition.

Don’t miss: the hot cheese olives (olive poppers); tomato soup (II); gratin of yams and chipotle cream; pizza with caramelized onions, figs, bacon, and blue cheese; Chinese-styled steamed sea bass (black cod); marinated flank steak with Asian slaw; sage biscuits; brown sugar shortbread; chocolate quakes; and lemon cake.

2) The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
I have the 2001-2019 version, but this great all-around cookbook gets updated every year with the new season, and mine already has nearly 1000 pages of recipes. The one thing to know about America’s Test Kitchen is that recipes get tested over and over again until they get it right. Sometimes this simplifies things if they decide that an extra step isn’t needed, and sometimes it means recipes get overly complicated.

Don’t miss: the Greek-style shrimp with tomatoes and feta (saganaki), skillet tamale pie, enchiladas verdes, scallion pancakes, Chinese barbecued pork, spicy Hoisin glaze for chicken, Southern shrimp burgers, fudgy triple chocolate brownies, Key lime bars, or the ultranutty pecan bars.

3) Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian from 1995-2005 and have a good collection of vegetarian cookbooks from that period. This is a great resource when you want to consider all the options for how to cook a particularly vegetable. It’s great for vegetable sides and mains, and it’s the one I go back to most frequently. It makes the list of my favorite cookbooks as the best all-around vegetarian cookbook. It has also been updated since my 1997 version was published.

Don’t miss: the springtime asparagus soup, latkes, lasagne with eggplant and chard, beet risotto with greens, goat cheese flan, or her topping for fruit crisps.

4) Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
If mr. uglyducklingbakery had his way, every meal would include the sumac sauce from Jerusalem. Jerusalem first won my heart because of the pictures and stories about the divided city, but I keep going back to it for the food that evokes memories of my childhood and the months I spent traveling in the region and working on a dive boat out of Eilat.

Don’t miss: the roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad (add feta and toasted pine nuts), falafel, mejadra (lentils and onions), stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts, kofta b’siniyah, and turkey and zucchini burgers (but really it’s about the sour cream and sumac sauce). Don’t forget the chocolate krantz cakes (aka chocolate babka)!

5) Made in India by Meera Sodha
I thought Indian cooking was too complicated until I borrowed this cookbook from the library and started cooking. It took no time to realize that I needed to add it to my collection. Meera Sodha brings her home to your home. Just be careful if you and your family don’t like things hot! I often have to cut the spice level back by half to a quarter if I want the kiddo to eat.

Don’t miss: the eggplant and cherry tomato curry; Gujarati potato curry; creamy chicken and fig curry; pistachio and yogurt chicken curry; cilantro chutney chicken; mum’s chicken curry; caramelized onion, coconut, and egg curry; chana dal with golden garlic tarka; chana masala; and roasted cauliflower with a cumin, turmeric, and lemon. Really, pick any curry. You won’t go wrong.

6) All About Braising by Molly Stevens
Winter isn’t over yet. Braising has to be one of my favorite hands-off ways to cook a meal, and Stevens’s recipes put together flavor combinations that are anything but dull. Make them in your slow cooker. Make them on your stove top. Make them in your oven. Just keep it low and slow.

Don’t miss: the creamy braised Brussels sprouts; Indian style cauliflower, peas, and potatoes; chicken fricassee with artichokes and mushrooms; steaks smothered in mushrooms and onions; short ribs braised in porter with maple-rosemary glaze; Caribbean pork shoulder; and the sausages & plums (or grapes) braised in red wine.

7) Dinner by Melissa Clark
This cookbook caught my attention because what I really need after a long day of work and a kiddo about to melt down is a meal that is ready in 30 minutes. Melissa Clark brings a variety of recipes to the table that are both delicious and can often be made quickly on a weeknight.

Don’t miss: the Vietnamese ginger chicken, ginger pork meatballs, Japanese omelet, fusilli & roasted cauliflower with capers, pasta carbonara torte, spicy pork noodles with ginger and baby bok choy, maple-roasted tofu with winter squash, sweet potato dahl, olive-oil braised chickpeas, sausage polenta with red cabbage and caraway, and the skillet brown-butter cornbread. omg the cornbread.

8) How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman
Mark Bittman does a bit of everything, and so does this general baking cookbook. What it lacks in pretty pictures it makes up for in lists of variations, ways to mix and match, and a figure with things to try so you can get your chocolate chip cookies and other drop cookies to be the cookie that is perfect for you.

(Some people like their cookies flat and crisp. Others like them chewy and soft. It’s what you like. So if someone tries to tell you that they have the “perfect chocolate chip cookie,” they’re just selling something. Run as fast as you can the other way/rant over.)

Don’t miss: that “Drop cookies your way” figure, fig Bittmans (aka fig newtons), baked apples, chocolate puddings (particularly the chocolate-peanut butter pudding), pita, flaky caramelized fennel and sausage tart, dulce de leche, and the chocolate-hazelnut spread (aka nutella).

9) The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
So many of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cookbooks could have made this list of my favorites cookbooks, but I’m including the Pie and Pastry Bible because it really changed how comfortable I felt baking pies. If you are afraid of pies because you think pie crust is challenging, you should try RLB’s flaky cream cheese pie crust. You won’t buy another store-bought pie crust again. If you are looking for a gift for a baker just starting to make pies, this is the one.

Don’t miss: this cookbook has too many out-of-the-park winners to list each of them. I reach for this cookbook for almost all of my pie crusts, fruit pies, chiffon pies, chocolate-peanut butter pie (ok, that one needed to be listed), quick puff pastry, traditional puff pastry, gougeres and other choux pastry, and scones.

10) The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
I have a few bread-focused cookbooks, but this one wins for me for being acccessible to beginner to master bread-bakers with great information and instructions for shaping. It doesn’t win the record for number of recipes – recipes start on page 105, but it includes a variety of styles that will make you happy regardless of the type of bread you love to eat.

Don’t miss: the three brioche recipes with their varying quantities of butter, casatiello, challah, cinnamon raisin walnut bread, kaiser rolls, marbled rye, Portuguese sweet bread, Vienna bread, and of course all of the sourdough.

Now I want to make all of these things.

Obviously there a lot of fabulous cookbooks that I didn’t include in the top ten list of my favorite cookbooks. Irma Rombauer, Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Diana Kennedy, Madhur Jaffrey and many others have filled my shelves with years worth of cooking. Each of them has a recipe or two that I go back to occasionally. You can tell me I’m wrong, and I should spend more time with any of them. April is unscheduled…

If you have or buy any of these cookbooks and make one of my suggestions, please comment and/or share a pic!
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Kale and cheese quick bread: reddit 52 week baking challenge (wk 11)

Kale and cheese quick bread: reddit 52 week baking challenge (wk 11)

This week, in the reddit 52 weeks of baking challenge, I predict that we will see a lot of banana breads. Why? Because it’s quick bread week, and everyone has been making banana bread this year. I was actually planning to make a banana bread