August 31, 2017 Moussaka for a Crowd

For the past 20+ years I have made this version of moussaka every summer when we have an abundance of eggplants. It can be made in one large (very large) dish to serve a crowd. I spread it out into three casserole dishes, one for now, two for the freezer. It doesn’t fit the category of quick and easy but it can be done in steps over the course of two days. First, slice the eggplant and while you are baking it, make the meat sauce. Refrigerate these two components overnight. The next day, prepare the bechamel sauce, grate the Parmesan, assemble the casseroles and bake. A traditional moussaka is made with ground lamb, but if you don’t like lamb, or your supermarket doesn’t carry it, substitute lean ground beef or turkey. Like many hearty casseroles, it tastes even better the next day. Serve it with, you guessed it, a Greek salad.

Eggplants in all shapes and sizes.
I take most of the skin off the eggplant , leaving narrow strips.
Line up slices on a foil lined baking sheet for baking.
The rich meat sauce with red wine and fragrant cinnamon.

 

Eggplant Moussaka

Serves 15 to 18

Ingredients

  • 5 lb eggplant, strips of skin removed, cut crosswise into ½” slices
  • 6 T olive oil, divided
  • 2 ½ lb ground lamb, turkey or beef
  • 5 large onions, chopped fine
  • ½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 2-6 ounce cans tomato paste
  • 3 c dry red wine
  • 1 ½ T cinnamon
  • 1 T salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ c dry bread crumbs
  • 1 ½ c freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
  • ½ c all-purpose flour
  • 6 c milk (low-fat is fine)
  • 2 T freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-15 oz container ricotta cheese
The components for the creamy bechamel sauce.

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. On baking sheets covered with oiled aluminum foil arrange the eggplant slices in one layer, brush them lightly with 4 T of the oil and bake them, covered with foil in batches in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.
  2. While the eggplant is baking, in a large heavy skillet cook the ground meat over medium heat , stirring and breaking up the lumps, until it is no longer pink. With a slotted spoon transfer it to paper towels to drain, discard the fat remaining in the skillet.
  3. In the skillet cook the onions in the remaining 2 T oil over medium high heat, stirring until softened, stir in the meat, the parsley, the tomato paste, the wine, the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for about twenty minutes or until thickened slightly.
  4. Sprinkle 2 T of the bread crumbs over the bottom of an oiled roasting pan, 16 by 10 by 2 ½ inches, arrange one layer of the eggplant slices next. Spread one third of the meat mixture on top of the eggplant and sprinkle it with one third of the Parmesan and one third of the remaining bread crumbs.
  5. Layer the remaining eggplant slices, meat mixture, Parmesan, and bread crumbs in the same manner, starting with the eggplant and ending with the bread crumbs.
  6. For the topping: In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over moderately low heat, and the flour, and cook the roux, whisking for 3 minutes. Add the milk in a stream, whisking, and whisk in the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking, and simmer it, stirring until it is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly and whisk in the eggs and ricotta.
  7. Pour the topping evenly over the moussaka and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
First a layer of fine bread crumbs.
Then a layer of cooked eggplant.
Meat sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Repeat layers and top with the creamy bechamel.
And it comes out like this.
Delicious!

 

August 21, 2017 Stir Fried Shrimp with Eggplant and Cashews

It’s a great time of year to try out some new eggplant recipes. Whether from the farmers market, your local CSA or your own garden, freshly harvested eggplants are at their best. Our garden has produced an amazing array of colorful eggplants this summer. Bright fuchsia Asian Bride, slender dark violet Farmer’s Long, pure white Charming, beautifully variegated Listada de Gandia, all the varieties we have harvested this year have thin skin and minimal seeds.

During the eggplant season I have time to revisit the classics, eggplant Parmesan, caponata, moussaka and to look for new ways to serve this versatile vegetable that’s actually a fruit, but I digress. Stir fry recipes are quick and relatively easy, so why not shrimp and eggplant? Cook’s Illustrated magazine tests recipes countless times to understand how they work and in turn, offer the best version. So I knew I could try their recipe for stir fried shrimp with garlic, eggplant and cashews with confidence.

In perfecting this recipe they discovered several things that make this recipe stand out.

Soaking the shrimp for 30 minutes in salt, oil and aromatics yields a deeply flavored and tender finished product. The salt enters the flesh, allowing the shrimp to stay juicy. The oil picks up the flavor of the aromatics, in this case garlic, and distributes it over the shrimp. They also address the issue of the typical home stove that lacks the high heat of restaurant burners. This problem is solved by cooking the components of the dish in batches and trading in the wok for a skillet to ensure maximum surface area for even cooking.

As with all stir fry dishes, everything should be ready and portioned out when you start the recipe. Soak the shrimp in the seasoned brine. Whisk the sauce together next. My personal trick here is when you are making a sauce with both wet and dry ingredients I measure out the dry ingredients first since they will not stick to the measuring spoon, like soy sauce does.

The components of the dish are cooked in batches. First, the eggplant and scallion greens are cooked until lightly browned and transferred to a bowl. Next in are the aromatics, thinly sliced garlic and scallions. Cook until browned, don’t burn that garlic! To the aromatics, add in the shrimp. The shrimp are cooked to a light pink on both sides, then the sauce is added to the pan. Raise the heat to high to thicken the sauce and finish cooking the shrimp. The eggplant is returned to the skillet and tossed, ready to absorb the flavors of the sauce.

I made some changes to the original recipe. I used one tablespoon of sugar instead of two in the sauce, the oyster sauce adds its own sweetness. I also used more eggplant than called for since it cooks down considerably.  Serve with white or brown rice, this is a dish that is quick to execute and quite delicious.

A recent harvest of all the varieties of eggplant we are growing.

Stir Fried Shrimp with Eggplant and Cashews

adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Serves 4

  • 6 medium garlic cloves, 1 minced or pressed through garlic press, 5 thinly sliced 
  • 1 pound extra-large (21-25) shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed 
  • 3 T vegetable oil 
  • ½ t table salt 
  • 2 T soy sauce (I use low-sodium Tamari)
  • 2 T oyster sauce 
  • 2 T dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
  • 1 T sugar 
  • 1  T toasted sesame oil
  • 1 T white vinegar (I use rice vinegar)
  • 1/8 t red pepper flakes 
  • 2 t cornstarch 
  • 6 large scallions, greens cut into 1-inch pieces and whites sliced thin 
  • ½ c cashews, unsalted 
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound), cut into 3/4-inch dice 

Directions

  1. Combine minced garlic with shrimp, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and salt in a medium bowl. Let shrimp marinate at room temperature 30 minutes.  Depending on your particular brown rice (regular, instant, etc.) start your rice as appropriate.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk soy sauce, oyster sauce, sherry, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and cornstarch in small bowl. Combine sliced garlic with scallion whites and cashews in another small bowl.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet or a wok over high heat until just smoking. Add eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, 3 to 6 minutes. Add scallion greens and continue to cook until scallion greens begin to brown and eggplant is fully tender, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer vegetables to medium bowl.
  3. Heat remaining tablespoon oil to now-empty skillet/wok. Add cashew mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until shrimp are light pink on both sides, 1 to 1½ minutes. Whisk soy sauce mixture to recombine and add to skillet/wok.  Return to high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and shrimp are cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Return vegetables to skillet, toss to combine, and serve.

August 31, 2016 Miso Glazed Eggplant (Nasu Dengaku)

DSC_7877aMiso glazed eggplant or nasu dengaku is a classic Japanese dish and sushi bar favorite. It’s an quick and easy preparation this time of year when eggplants are at their peak. Our garden has produced an amazing array of eggplants this summer. From fuchsia to dark purple, beautifully variegated lavender and white to pure white, they have loved our weeks of 90 degree plus temperatures and abundant rain. What we consider to be Asian eggplants are the long slim tapered varieties. Actually, Asian eggplants whether Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Indian can be round or pear shaped, pure white or lime green and as small as an egg. In this dish the creamy flesh of the eggplant is the blank canvas for the umami rich flavors of a sweet, salty and savory glaze.
This recipe is quick and easy, but there are a few special ingredients you may not have on hand. Toasted sesame oil, mirin and miso are usually available at most large supermarkets. If you don’t want to buy a bottle of sake just for the two tablespoons in the recipe, substitute dry sherry. The eggplant is sliced down the middle lengthwise and the flesh is salted for a few minutes to draw out any excess moisture. While you are waiting on the eggplants, preheat your oven and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Keep the parchment in place with a little non stick spray in the four corners. Lightly brush the baking sheet with toasted sesame oil. This will prevent the eggplant from sticking and adds a rich nutty flavor to the dish.
Blot the excess moisture from the eggplants and place cut side down on the baking sheet. While the eggplants are roasting, prepare the glaze. Combine mirin and sake in a very small saucepan, bring to a boil for twenty seconds, then stir in miso and sugar over low heat. Off heat stir in the additional sesame oil. The eggplants are done in about 15 minutes when the skin collapses and the flesh becomes soft Remove the eggplants from the oven and carefully turn them over, cut side up. Adjust the oven rack to it’s highest position and turn on the broiler.Brush the eggplants with the miso glaze and place under the broiler for about 1 minute, be sure to watch carefully! Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot or at room temperature.

A recent harvest of all the varieties of eggplant we are growing.
A recent harvest of all the varieties of eggplant we are growing.

Miso Glazed Eggplant

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of Japanese eggplants
  • Kosher salt 
  • 1 t sesame oil, plus additional for the baking sheet
  • 1 T mirin
  • 1 T sake
  • 2 T white or yellow miso
  • 1 T sugar or honey
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and cut off the stem and calyx. Using the tip of a paring knife, cut an incision down the middle of each half, making sure not to cut through the skin, but cutting down to it. Salt the eggplant lightly and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and brush it with sesame oil.
  2. Blot the eggplants with paper towels and place, cut side down, on the baking sheets. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is beginning to shrivel and the flesh is soft. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the eggplants over, and preheat the broiler.
  3. To make the glaze, combine the mirin and sake in the smallest saucepan you have and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 20 seconds, taking care not to boil off  too much of the liquid, then turn the heat to low and stir in the miso and the sugar. Whisk over medium-low heat without letting the mixture boil, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sesame oil.
  4. Brush the eggplants with all of the miso glaze. Place under the broiler, about 2 inches from the heat, and broil for about 1 minute, until the glaze begins to bubble and looks shiny. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool if desired or serve hot. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
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Scoring and salting the eggplants.
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Ingredients needed for the glaze.

 

Place the eggplants cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Place the eggplants cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Use your smallest saucepan to make the glaze.
Use your smallest saucepan to make the glaze.
Once the eggplant is soft turn it cut side up. apply the glaze and put the tray under the broiler.
Once the eggplant is soft, turn it cut side up. apply the glaze and put the tray under the broiler.

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August 13, 2016 Oven Roasted Ratatouille

DSC_7741aI love recipes that use the bounty of the garden in a single dish and ratatouille accomplishes that in a very delicious way.  In case you didn’t know, ratatouille (rat-uhtoo-ee), is a summer vegetable stew that had it’s origins in the Provencal city of Nice in southern France. Traditionally, each ingredient, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion, garlic and tomatoes, is cooked separately on the stove top and tossed together at the very end. So it’s really a sauté that is presented as a stew.

In this version the vegetables are tossed in olive oil and roasted in the oven, eliminating the time cooking over a hot stove. Our red and yellow bell pepper harvest is the earliest I can remember. They must like the hot temperatures and abundant rainfall this year. The orange Valencia peppers are not far behind. I prefer using Chinese or Japanese eggplants for their thin skin and milder flavor. I substituted shallots for onions since our harvest was so plentiful this year. The garlic was also from the garden, a first for us.

Cut the vegetables in similar size so they will get done at the same time. The smaller the cut, the less time it will take to cook.  Lightly toss the vegetables with about a half cup of a good quality olive oil.  Spread them out evenly over two large baking sheets. Rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back half way through the cooking time. Roasting allows the vegetables to retain their shape and they take on a delicious toasted flavor. Move the cooked vegetables to a large serving bowl and tossed with a basil chiffonade. Chiffonade, translates “made of rags” from the French (of course!).  It is a technique for cutting herbs and vegetables into long thin strips, in this case, basil.

Ratatouille can be used in many ways, a side dish, a topping for bruschetta, chicken or fish.  We used it as the topping for an impromptu flatbread pizza. It can be served hot or cold and is even better the next day, if it lasts that long.

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This season is the earliest we have had ripe bell peppers. I guess they really like the hot and rainy weather.
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Ingredients for the ratatouille, I substituted shallots for onions since Joe just harvested his crop.

 

Oven Roasted Ratatouille

Serves four (or two very generously)

Ingredients

  • 2 small onions (about 5 oz. each), cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
  • 2 bell peppers, red, yellow or orange, cored, seeded and cut into ¼-inch lengthwise strips
  • Japanese eggplant, about 1 lb, cut crosswise ½ inch thick rounds, then sliced in quarters
  • 1 lb small to medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into ½ inch thick rounds
  • 10 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ c extra virgin olive oil, and more as needed
  • 1 t chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1½ lbs medium tomatoes (about 4), cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • ¼ c basil cut into a chiffonade
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Toss the ingredients in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper.
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Transfer the vegetables to two large baking sheets.

 

Directions

  1. Place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Heat to 400°F. If using convection heat, 375°F.
  2.  In a large bowl, toss the onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, and 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt and a grind of pepper. Spread the vegetables evenly over two large 12 x 16 sheet pans. Don’t spread the vegetables too thin or they may burn (they shrink a lot as they cook).
  3. Roast, stirring the vegetables a few times and swapping the positions of the pans once, until the vegetables are slightly collapsed or shriveled, starting to brown, and very tender, about 35 minutes for my oven. It could take 10 minutes longer if you are not using convection heat.
  4. Scrape all the vegetables and any juices into a serving bowl. Toss with the basil, taste for seasoning, and serve.

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Ratatouille makes a great pizza topping.
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How could I resist posting a picture of Remy, the star of the movie Ratatouille  who presides over my kitchen from his perch above.

September 23, 2015 End of Summer Eggplant Soup

DSC_4242aEven though the temperatures are still in the eighties, fall is rapidly approaching and  it’s time to say goodbye to our summer vegetables. What better way to use them now and enjoy them later than in an end of summer eggplant soup. Another good reason to have soup on hand was the stomach virus that Joe and I suffered through last week. Nothing tastes better when you are on the road to recovery is a nutritious soothing soup.

I am still picking eggplants, peppers and tomatoes, but not in the same quantities as a few weeks ago. The days are getting shorter and even though the days are warm, the nights are definitely cooler. After an afternoon pick yesterday I came back with quite a nice variety of eggplants, several peppers and a few tomatoes.   This is the type of recipe you could make differently every time, depending on what is still there for the picking. I wanted to make this as easy as possible so I decided to roast the vegetable first before combining them in a soup. Carrying over on the easy concept, I lined the baking trays with parchment to make clean up a snap. I cut the eggplants in half and lightly brushed the cut edge with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  On the second large baking sheet I added several tomatoes, peppers, an onion and some unpeeled garlic cloves, brushed everything with olive oil, and sprinkled on kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

I decided on a 375°F oven, the temperature we use when oven roasting vegetables. I checked the tray with the tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onion first, they were done in about 12-15 minutes, getting a nice toasty brown. The eggplants took a little longer, they are done when the skins start to collapse. Once cooled, it’s easy to separate the flesh from the skin. Squeeze the garlic from the skins and roughly chop the onion. I pureed the vegetables in the food processor in batches. Because some of my eggplants were seedy I put the puree through a food mill with a medium disc. Pour the finished puree into a stockpot. I added ground cumin, coriander, salt, freshly ground black pepper and a touch of cayenne. Add chicken or vegetable stock to thin out the consistency. Make some to enjoy now and freeze some for the cold winter months.

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Late summer harvest of eggplants.
Late summer harvest of eggplants.

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Place vegetables on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Place vegetables on a parchment lined baking sheet.

 

The skin easily peels off the peppers and tomatoes. Roughly chop the onion.
The skin easily peels off the peppers and tomatoes. Roughly chop the onion.
Eggplants are ready when they start to collapse. The flesh separates from the skins.
Eggplants are ready when they start to collapse. The flesh separates from the skins.

 

End of Summer Eggplant Soup
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 ½lb eggplant, any type, halved lengthwise
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers, or any combination, halved and cored
  • 3-4 tomatoes, halved and cored
  • 1 small onion peeled and halved
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly
  • ½t ground cumin
  • ½t ground coriander
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Basil leaves as garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line two large baking pans with parchment paper.  Brush cut side of eggplant with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange cut side down in one layer on baking sheet. On the second sheet,  arrange tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, and onions, cut side down, in a single layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake vegetables until eggplant and bell peppers have a slight char on their skins. Check at 15 minutes, as garlic may need to come out earlier so that it doesn’t burn. Let cool until ready to handle. Remove skins as much as possible.
  3. Working in batches, pulse vegetables in a food processor, you can either roughly chop or take them down to a puree. If necessary, put the mix through a food mill.  Transfer vegetables to a large stockpot and add broth and spices. Cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. Serve garnished with basil leaves

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March 10, 2015 Imam Bayildi Revisited

DSC_1861aImam Bayildi translates “the priest fainted”. Was it because the dish was so delicious or was it a reaction of this frugal priest  to the copious amount of expensive olive oil his bride used to make this dish? This is my second interpretation of this popular Turkish dish, one of a group of vegetarian recipes referred to as zeytinyagli or olive oil foods, served cold.  This recipe cuts down considerably in the amount of olive oil traditionally used in the original dish but definitely not on the flavor.

This is another recipe from Ana Sortum, chef at Oleana restaurant in Cambridge Massachusetts.  This recipe is similar to the first one I made in some of the steps.The eggplants are sprinkled with salt and brushed with olive oil and baked until the flesh is soft.  In the first recipe the flesh is scooped out and mixed in with the other ingredients, in the second the other ingredients are combined and pressed into the cooked eggplant, I liked that method. Onions, garlic, tomatoes, oregano and parsley are found in both recipes. Finely diced cauliflower, star ingredient of the moment, is a unique component for Imam Bayildi and adds a different texture and flavor to this dish that I liked. The second recipe also uses green bell pepper, an ingredient that I am not a big fan of. Green peppers are less expensive but not quite as nutritious as their red, yellow and orange counterparts. As a gardener, I have just considered them to be peppers that someone wasn’t patient enough to let ripen.  I am now coming around to seeing green bell peppers as a unique ingredient. In this dish they add an interesting  slightly bitter edge to the sweetness of the onion and the creaminess of the eggplant.

This is the first time I have ever grated tomatoes for a recipe. Choose ripe firm tomatoes and grate them over a shallow bowl with the largest holes of your box grater. Keep your hand flat and grate until the tomato flesh is scraped away from the skin. Discard the skin and you are left with tomato pulp that can be used in a variety of dishes. I am sure this is a technique I will use again.

Aleppo pepper is one of my favorite ingredient discoveries of the last several years. It is dark red, flaky and somewhat oily in texture. It takes it name from the ancient city of Aleppo in northern Syria, just east of the Turkish/Syrian border.  The flavor profile is rich, sweet and fruity with hints of cumin. The heat profile is moderate, just a bit hotter than paprika. As a result of the conflict in Syria, what now is sold as Aleppo is actually an identical pepper plant, Maras, that is grown in Turkey.

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Imam Bayildi

Serves 8 as a side dish or 4 as an entrée

Ingredients

  •  4 small eggplants, about 1/2lb each
  • 10Tolive oil divided,  4T for brushing eggplants, 3T for sautéing, 3T for drizzling over finished dish.
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2lb tomatoes, halved
  • 2c diced sweet onion
  • 1c diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2c finely diced cauliflower
  • 1T finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2c chopped Italian parsley, more for garnishing the finished dish.
  • 1t finely chopped fresh oregano or 1/2t dried
  • Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4c crumbled feta, more for garnish

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  2. Halve the eggplants lengthwise and place cut side up on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season the cut sides generously with kosher salt and brush with the first 4T of olive oil. Flip the halves over and bake cut side down until soft, about 30-35 minutes. Set aside until cooled.
  3. While the eggplant bakes, grate the cut sides of the tomato on the large holes of a box grater. It is easiest to put the grater in a bowl. Discard the skins. Drain the pulp in a fine meshed sieve until most of the liquid has drained through, about 20 minutes.
  4. Heat 3T of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper, cauliflower and garlic, cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables have softened somewhat, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the tomato pulp, parsley and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the feta.
  5. Use a spatula to flip over the eggplant halves. With a slotted spoon, divide the filling among the eggplant, using the spoon to gently push the filling into the flesh.
  6. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and bake until hot, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with more crumbled feta and parsley and serve.

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October 2, 2014 Imam Bayildi

DSC_9143aImam bayildi translates roughly,”the priest fainted”. But why, was it because the eggplant dish was so delicious, did he eat too much at one sitting or was he just in shock at the amount of expensive olive oil used to make it?

One account in Turkish lore tells the story of an imam or priest, well known for his love of good food. One day the Imam announced his engagement to the daughter of a wealthy olive oil merchant. Part of her dowry included huge casks of olive oil, the size of a man, twelve in all. After the couple were married, the new bride proved to be an amazing cook. One dish in particular, eggplant cooked in olive oil, proved to be the imam’s favorite. In fact he requested the exact same dish twelve nights in a row. But the thirteenth night his favorite dish was missing from his evening meal. When asked why she didn’t make it, she told him the enormous supply from her dowry was used up. The news so shocked him that…..the priest fainted.

No matter what the story, Imam bayildi is a very well known Turkish meze, not really an appetizer but comparable to the small plate tapas dishes of Spain. Traditionally the dish is an eggplant cut down the middle, stuffed with garlic, onion, tomatoes and aromatic spices and simmered in olive oil to cover.

My goal in making this recipe was to cut back on the copious amount of olive oil but still make a flavorful dish. Rather than cook the eggplant whole in olive oil, I cut the eggplants in half, brushed the cut side with olive oil and baked it until the flesh was easy to scoop out. I combined the chopped eggplant with sauteed onion, garlic and tomato and currants. The addition of the aromatic spices, cinnamon and allspice will make your kitchen smell heavenly. I could also see the addition of feta cheese, pine nuts, even ground beef or the more traditional lamb. Serve warm or at room temperature along with a green salad for a delicious luncheon entree.

Imam Bayildi or Baked Stuffed Eggplant to Make a Priest Faint

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4 medium eggplants
  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, very thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4c chopped tomatoes
  • 5T chopped flat leafed parsley
  • 1/2t dried oregano
  • 1/4c currants
  • 1/4t ground allspice
  • 1/4t ground cinnamon
  • 2T fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Cut several lengthwise slits in the eggplant halves. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake, cut side down for about 1/2hr, until the flesh is soft and easy to scoop out. Keep oven on at same temperature.
  2. While eggplant is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Cook the onions over low heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 20 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 4 tablespoons of the parsley and the oregano and simmer until almost dry, about another 5 minutes. Add the currants, allspice and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set this mixture aside.
  3. Scoop out the eggplant flesh with a spoon, leaving the skin and 1/4 inch of the lining intact. Finely chop the pulp and add it to the onion and tomato mixture. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the eggplant shells in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Fill them with the tomato onion mixture. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice. Cover and bake the eggplants for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Serve warm or cool at room temperature.
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Ingredients, ready to go!
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Cut the eggplants in half, brush with olive oil and place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. This variety is an “Italian pink” called Dancer.

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The shells are now filled with the eggplant, onion, tomato and aromatic spice mixture and baked.

September 25, 2014 Eggplant Involtini

DSC_9067aWith lots of caponata, grilled eggplant, ratatouille, and a double batch of eggplant parmesan under my belt, I was looking for another way to enjoy the bounty of our eggplants this season. It came in the July/August issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine, eggplant involtini.

After all these years (30+) I still look forward pouring over the latest issues of the cooking magazines I subscribe to. Since the magazines are a little in advance of what is ready to harvest from the garden, I put a yellow sticky note on the seasonal recipes I would like to try. Eggplant involtini was in the July/August issue that arrived in June when our eggplants didn’t even have their first flowers, so I have been waiting several months to try this recipe.

Involtini are neat little bundles of stuffed meat, fish or vegetables. Fillings can be as varied as your imagination. Eggplant works especially well as a wrapper for involtini. Use your largest, broadest eggplants to make the planks. Lop off the stem and hold the eggplant upright. With a very sharp knife, make approximately 1/2″ thick planks. For the first and last pieces you will need to trim off the rounded outer edge. I found that a vegetable peeler handled the problem nicely.

Instead of frying, which is called for in many involtini recipes, the slices are brushed lightly on both sides with olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper and baked. This makes the slices pliable enough to roll without falling apart.

Once the slices have cooled a bit, fill with the fatter edge closest to you and roll up. Ricotta, though it doesn’t have much flavor of it’s own is a good binder for the more flavorful ingredients, pecorino romano and basil. The addition of fresh lemon juice brightens the flavors. A generous tablespoon of filling is enough for each slice. The original recipe called for some bread crumbs in the filling to bind it a little, I didn’t include this step and thought my filling held up nicely.

While you are cooking the eggplant there’s time to make a very basic sauce. Canned whole tomatoes, garlic, oregano, kosher salt and pepper are all you need. I always use my whole roasted tomatoes from the garden that I freeze for months without tomatoes. We had a bumper crop this year so I will be making a lot of chili, lasagna, stuffed peppers over the winter months. As for the canned varieties, in a taste test done by Cooks Illustrated, Muir Glen Organic Whole Tomatoes was the winner. Muir Glen is about a dollar more per can than the more familiar runner up, Hunts.

The involtini rolls, are added to the thickened sauce and brought to a simmer. Once the sauce is warmed, additional cheese is sprinkled on top. The rolls are browned and the cheese is melted in the broiler. Finish off with a sprinkle of basil, mini basil leaves worked well here.

Not the quickest or easiest preparation, but both the rolls and the sauce can be made in advance and assembled right before serving. An impressive dish good enough for company.

Eggplant Involtini

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants, shorter wider eggplants are best (1 1/2 pounds each), if skin is thick, peel, I did not peel mine
  • 6T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4t dried oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 28oz canned whole peeled tomatoes drained with juice reserved, chopped coarse-I used my garden roasted tomatoes
  • 1c  whole-milk or part skim ricotta cheese
  • 3/4c hard Italian grating cheese like Gran Padano or Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4c plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or torn mini basil
  • 1T fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Slice each eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks (you should have 12 planks). Trim rounded surface from each end piece so it lies flat. I found that using a vegetable peeler made this easier. Adjust 1 oven rack to lower-middle position and second rack 8 inches from broiler element. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and spray generously with vegetable oil spray.
  3. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on prepared sheets. Lightly brush 1 side of eggplant slices with oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Turn slices over and repeat brushing and seasoning.
  4. Bake until tender and lightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. This process took about 10 minutes less in my convection oven.  Let cool for 5 minutes. Using thin spatula, flip each slice over. Heat broiler.
  5. While the eggplant is cooking, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch broiler-safe skillet, over medium-low heat until just shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.
  7. Stir together ricotta, 1/2 cup cheese, 1/4 cup basil, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl.
  8. With widest ends of eggplant slices facing you, evenly distribute ricotta mixture on bottom third of each slice. Gently roll up each eggplant slice and place seam side down in tomato sauce.
  9. Bring sauce to simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until eggplant is well browned and cheese is heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Pecorino and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil and serve.
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The variety I used for this dish was Clara, a pure white Italian style eggplant.
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Eggplant slices are brushed with olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper.
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After baking the slices are soft enough to roll but don’t fall apart.
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I used roughly torn mini basil in my filling.
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The very simple filling made of ricotta cheese, Pecorino Romano, fresh lemon juice and mini basil.
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The eggplant slices are easy to roll up. Place them seam side down in the warmed sauce.

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September 10, 2014 Grilled Asian Eggplant Salad

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It’s a great time of year to try out some new eggplant recipes. Whether from the farmers market, your local CSA or your own garden, freshly harvested eggplants are at their best. Our garden has produced an amazing array of eggplants this summer. Bright fuchsia Dancer, slender dark violet Orient Express, pure white Clara, beautifully variegated Nubia, all the varieties we have harvested this year have thin skin and minimal seeds.
What we most often consider to be Asian eggplants are the long slim tapered varieties.   Actually Asian eggplants, whether Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Indian can be round or pear shaped, pure white or lime green and as small as an egg as well as the dark purple we are most familiar with.
In this Thai-style recipe for a yam or salad, eggplant slices are brushed with oil and grilled. If the weather is inclement or you just don’t have the time to fire up the grill they can be cooked indoors on a ridged grill pan.

Save the seasoning until after the grilling the eggplant. It’s then the creamy flesh will soak up the flavor of the ginger and soy, transforming the once raw bitter slices to something delicious.
Though not necessarily typical of this type of salad, I served the grilled eggplant slices on salad greens. Our lettuces have made their late summer return to the garden and I tossed some assorted greens with a few sweet cherry tomatoes, basil and mint. I used the small spicy leaves of Thai basil and Vietnamese mint that doesn’t overpower the salad. An Asian style vinaigrette combining the traditional combination of hot, sour salty and sweet dresses the greens and enhances the flavor of the grilled eggplant.

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Beautiful dark purple Orient Express eggplant.

Grilled Asian Eggplant Salad

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 c peanut or canola oil
  • 3 T finely minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 T fish sauce
  • 2 t granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 Thai bird chiles, minced, or 1-1/2 to 2 serrano chiles, seeded, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1-1/2 T soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 lb. long, slender Asian eggplants, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 4-5 c baby lettuce leaves
  • 10 to 12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
  • 1 c  packed fresh basil leaves, Thai, if you have it
  • 1/4 c packed fresh mint leaves, I used Vietnamese mint (very mild)

Directions

  1. Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire.  Alternately heat a grill pan over medium high heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk 3 Tbs. of the oil with the lime juice, 2 Tbs. of the shallot, the fish sauce, 1 tsp. of the sugar, and the chiles. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. In another small bowl, combine 2 tsp. water with the ginger, soy sauce, the remaining 1 Tbs. shallot, and 1 tsp. sugar.
  4. Arrange the eggplant halves on a rimmed baking sheet, brush both sides with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant, covered, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Alternately grill the eggplant in a grill pan, 3-5 minutes on each side until tender.
  5. Combine the lettuces, tomatoes, basil, and mint in a large bowl. Re whisk the lime dressing and toss just enough into the salad to lightly coat the greens. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the salad to a platter and arrange the eggplant over the salad. Spoon the ginger mixture over the eggplant, and serve immediately.

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November 17, 2013 Eggplant “Pizzas”

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Joe’s not so little greenhouse set out in the garden extended our growing season for some vegetables to the latest date ever. When he brought in the last of the peppers and eggplants on Sunday I knew I needed to find a special way to use them to commemorate the end of their growing season. The peppers, for the most part were transformed into one of his favorites, stuffed peppers and for the eggplant I turned to a recipe from Julia Child.

In her 1975 cookbook, From Julia Child’s Kitchen, among personal anecdotes  and recipes for Caesar Salad (yes, Mr. Caesar Cardini actually made this tableside for a young Julia and her family), consommés, stews and apple charlotte is this gem. Tranches d’aubergine a l’italienne might put off the average cook, but eggplant pizzas, now that’s something we can all relate to. The recipe made a second appearance as miniature eggplant pizzas in her 1989 work and one of my favorite go-to cookbooks, The Way to Cook.

The classic pear shaped variety of eggplant like Black Beauty works best here. I began by cutting the eggplants crosswise into 3/4 inch planks, the skin was relatively thin so I left it on.Then I salted the slices on both sides to extract excess liquid. This is a step I would skip in the summer when the eggplants are at their freshest and not very seedy. I let the eggplants sit for about a half hour and started my sauce.

The day before I defrosted two quart bags of my roasted tomatoes, a 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes or a store bought sauce can substitute here. Step one for me is to pour off the liquid that accumulates in the bag, a little lagniappe for the chef. It’s definitely not the prettiest, but it is the best tasting tomato juice you will ever try. I sautéed one finely chopped onion and two chopped cloves of garlic until softened but not brown, about five minutes. Then the tomatoes and the rest of the liquid are added to the pan, breaking up the larger chunks of tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. When the tomatoes have cooked down sufficiently, I put them through a food mill to strain out most of the seeds. This results in a smoother sauce.

The eggplant slices are patted dry and lightly brushed with olive oil. I baked the eggplant slices on a wire rack over a baking sheet so that both sides would cook evenly. As Julia says “not so long that the slices become mushy and lose their shape”. After twenty five minutes I removed the baking sheet from the oven and now set the oven to broil. I covered the slices with a generous coating of tomato sauce and sprinkled a combination of mozzarella and grated Parmesan. The “pizzas” are now returned to the oven until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Julia suggests these as part of a vegetarian combination or arranged around a main event, be it an omelet, a steak or a roast lamb.

Eggplant pizzas would make a good snack or a light lunch with a salad. A recipe that’s vegetarian, low carb and gluten free, as always “Our Lady of the Ladle“, Julia was ahead of her time.

 

Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2  large eggplants (about 1 lb. each)
  • 1T salt, for drawing water out of eggplant
  • 2T olive oil for brushing eggplant before roasting
  • 2 t Italian seasoning, for sprinkling on eggplant before roasting
  • 1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 c finely grated low-fat mozzarella

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can of plum tomatoes (or use 3 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 1/2 t Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 t dried oregano

Directions

  1. Cut eggplant into 3/4 inch thick slices. Place eggplant pieces on a double layer of paper towels and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Let the eggplant sit with the salt on it for about 30 minutes to draw out the liquid. (After the eggplant sits for 15 minutes, turn on the oven to 375°F.
  2. Make the tomato sauce while the eggplant sits. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic just until it becomes softened and fragrant.   Add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning and oregano.
  3. Then let the sauce simmer on low until it’s thickened. Break up tomatoes with a fork while the sauce cooks. (You can add water as needed. Let sauce simmer until ready to put on eggplant slices.)
  4. After 30 minutes, pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices lightly with olive oil and sprinkle tops with Italian seasoning. Place eggplant slices on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Roast the eggplant about 25 minutes, but “not so long that the slices become mushy and lose their shape” as Julia says.
  5. While the eggplant roasts, combine Parmesan with mozzarella. After 25 minutes or when eggplant pieces are done, remove eggplant from the oven and turn oven setting to broil. Spread a few tablespoons of sauce on the top of each eggplant slice, sprinkle with thin basil slices and top with cheese blend. Put pizzas under the broiler until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.
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We are still harvesting salad greens, spinach and arugula from the greenhouse.
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Cooking down the roasted tomatoes.
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Putting the cooked tomato sauce through a food mill makes a smoother sauce and eliminates most seeds.
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Doesn’t look like the stuff in a bottle, but it is the best tasting tomato juice you will find.
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Served with a simple salad of baby greens and radishes from the garden, eggplant pizzas make a delicious light lunch.