radiatori with eggplant in meaty tomato sauce

When I’m entertaining, I tend to go completely overboard, with a ridiculously complicated menu and every component of every dish made from scratch. When I’m cooking for myself, I scale it back considerably – I make one-pot meals from sale items and pantry staples. On Sunday afternoons, I make a big pot of something, the something I’m going to eat for lunch all week. This past Sunday, my mom joined me for dinner to watch the Emmy Awards (a week late). We only got about halfway through the red carpet stuff, so no spoilers, please.

This week’s Sunday dinner/lunch is an old favorite of mine. It’s a simplified stovetop casserole version of moussaka. When I’m feeling hot buttered fancy, I’ll make a traditional layered moussaka, with lamb and topped with béchamel, la la la. But for lunches, it’s ground beef, a jar of spaghetti sauce, pasta, seasoning, and vegetables, mixed up messy together and dumped in a bowl, sometimes topped with parmesan cheese. I served this on Sunday in my nice dishes, which are gigantic, so the portions were way too big. Mom and I finished our bowlfuls, but were too full to finish dessert, the caramel apple crisp I made that afternoon.

I started with a butt-ugly eggplant. I bought it over a week before I cooked it, and it didn’t age well in the fridge. It cooked up great, but it looked horrible, full of dents and creases, and the stem was brown and withered. I attempted every angle, but there was no pretty picture of the eggplant.

I hear it on the Food Network all the time that I’m supposed to gently wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel to clean off the dirt. And I did that – I did! For years, I followed the Kitchen Rule of Mushrooms: do not clean mushrooms in water. They will absorb the water like a sponge, and that will ruin their texture and keep them from browning properly.

Well, I was in a big, fat rush on Sunday to get dinner ready (Mom was in the living room watching “Live from the Red Carpet” and calling me in from the kitchen now and again to gasp at something glorious or hideous), so I threw caution to the wind and briefly rinsed the mushrooms in a strainer under cold water, instead of brushing off the grit with a towel. And they turned out just fine. Great, in fact. They were meaty and earthy, and everything mushrooms should be. From now on, I will save my time and rinse the mushrooms. I don’t care what Ina Garten says.

(I totally care what Ina Garten says.)

Recipe after the fold

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Caramel Apple Crisp

My schoolgirl days are long passed, but I still imagine that I live on an academic calendar. When autumn arrives, I feel like buying notebooks and pencils, and starting something new. So welcome to my start-of-the-school-year autumn project, Galley Kitchen. I’ll be sharing my own recipes, trying others’ recipes, and learning to take decent food photos.

The weather in Minnesota has just begun to cool off, and the summer humidity is lifting. The air is crisp, the skies are blue and clear, and the Minnesota State Fair is finally ending. I live a few blocks from the Fair, and for 10 days each year it’s the bane of my existence. The annual neighborhood takeover of cars and pedestrians makes me want to use angry emoticons.

For my inaugural food blog post, I’m stepping entirely out of character and making something simple: a commercial recipe that I’ve made before. In honor of autumn’s impending arrival, I’m making Caramel Apple Crisp, recipe courtesy of Kraft. (Don’t judge.) They’re very sweet and gooey, with a crispy oatmeal crust and topping.

The butter I left out on the dining room table to soften had some suspicious imprints in it, so I got another stick from the fridge and melted it in the microwave. If I was just cooking for myself, I’d probably go ahead and use butter that my cat had licked, but this is a dish to share.

After I added the melted butter to the brown sugar I combined all the ingredients in the crust/topping, and squished it all together with my hands, until it was soft and crumbly.

I’m a little slow at the peeling and chopping, so I tossed the apple chunks in lemon juice as I  chopped them to keep them from turning brown.

If Greg decides to go to the State Fair today, I’m going to be his Park-and-Ride to the fairgrounds. I’ll wrap up some apple crisp for him to snack on with Dusty in the middle of the night.

Recipe after the fold

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