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Skillet Eggplant Lasagna
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How do you cook 4 vegetarian dinners per week and have none of them ever include tofu?  This skillet eggplant lasagna is one of my answers, my friends.  Last fall we made the decision to eat less meat for a variety of reasons (health, cost, carbon footprint) and to my surprise when I took a critical look at our menus from the past few weeks recently, I realized that more than half of our dinners have been vegetarian each week.  And I think what shocks me the most is that Kyle is no longer asking where the meat is in his meals!

We’ve been eating lots of quinoa and incorporating more beans as protein substitutes and boosting our vegetable intake by eating meals centered on portobello mushrooms and eggplant.  So it hasn’t been a diet of salads and I couldn’t be happier.  This recipe is one that I adapted to a veggie version by simply swapping out the ground beef, a traditional ingredient in lasagna, for eggplant.  Since eggplant can be a tricky vegetable to work with due to its high water content, I took the method from this eggplant pasta recipe (which we also loved) and used it for this recipe.  It added a little extra to the overall cooking time but the method works great since sauteing cubed raw eggplant can take forever and oftentimes results in a mushy mass.

And while I wouldn’t categorize this a healthy vegetarian recipe (what lasagna recipe is healthy?), plain and simple, it’s awesome.  Using broken-up noodles gives you the chance forgo all the laying that happens with a traditional lasagna and you’re using just one pot and few dishes so clean-up isn’t a disaster.  The fact that it’s loaded with mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses certainly doesn’t hurt either.  It’s a warm and hearty meal for the chilly and rainy fall days we’ve been having recently but I can certainly see this meal happening throughout the winter as well.

Eggplant Caponata
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Eggplant Caponata

The eggplant harvest continues here.  We picked a couple more before the hurricane/tropical storm hit last weekend and the plants with smaller eggplant survived the storm, thankfully.  Today, I’m highlighting this eggplant caponata and I truly believe it’s a dish that every cook should have in his/her repertoire.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, caponata is a traditional Sicilian stew (entrée, side, or appetizer/antipasti) usually made with eggplant, celery, capers, and a tomato-based sauce but [according to Wikipedia] other add-ins such as red peppers, pine nuts, raisins, olives, carrots, octopus, and lobster are also widely accepted.

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In this recipe, the eggplant is sautéed down to a soft and almost spreadable texture which makes the caponata a gorgeous addition to some crusty bread (which we had for dinner twice this past week).  I also considered serving this over pasta and also on it’s own with a small salad on the side, and I think it would make an excellent complement to a meaty fish like halibut or swordfish.  For lunch this week, I put the caponata on a toasted hard roll with some provolone (also twice this week – the recipe makes a lot of caponata!) and it made for a terrific sandwich.  All in all, Kyle and I both fell in love with this recipe and I’m contemplating if I should make it again for an upcoming party next weekend.  The caponata is warm and earthy with a deep flavor of fresh tomato sauce and it’s these simple flavors that make it so easy to fall in love with.  It’s a recipe that I’ll be able to make all year round (wouldn’t this be great by a fire in the middle of winter?), since eggplants are always available in the grocery stores these days, but will most definitely look forward to each August when my garden is overloaded with eggplants.

Eggplant Caponata

Ingredients

    For the simple tomato sauce:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (reserve all of the juice) and chopped
  • Large pinch (about 1/2 tsp) Kosher salt
  • For the caponata:
  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups simple tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. To make the sauce: In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and when it starts to sizzle, immediately stir in the tomatoes, all of the reserved juice, and the salt.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  3. To make the caponata: Place eggplant in two large colanders and sprinkle about 2 tbsp salt over all of the eggplant. Toss to evenly distribute the salt. Allow the eggplant to drain for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Once the eggplant has drained, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add enough eggplant to cover the bottom of the pot in one layer and sauté until golden on all sides. Continue cooking the eggplant in batches until all of it has browned, adding more olive oil with each batch or as needed. Once all of the eggplant has cooked, remove it from the pot and keep warm on the side.
  5. In the same pot, warm 1 tbsp olive oil and sauté celery for 5 minutes. Add in the onions and cook the onions and celery until they are translucent and soft, about 7-10 minutes, adding a little more oil if needed. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the tomato sauce; cook for 7 minutes. Stir in the eggplant and celery and add the capers, anchovy paste, vinegar, and sugar. Cook for 10-15 more minutes until the mixture is a thick stew-like consistency. Check for flavor, adding more salt, vinegar, or sugar as needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Source

source: adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/09/eggplant-caponata/

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
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We are in eggplant overload!  In the past 2 weeks, our little garden has yielded 7 gorgeous eggplant and by this weekend, we should have another 3 or 4 ready to harvest.  It’s insane and I hope you’re ready for some fantastic eggplant recipes in the next couple of weeks!  I think the Epsom salt we used this year has been working its magic.

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In all honesty, I’ve been wanting to share this recipe with you since last summer after having made it numerous times in the past year, but I could never get my photography world to align with the eggplant parm gods (basically, all of my earlier photos of this recipe have sucked).  In short, this is the perfect eggplant parmesan recipe where crispy edges of the baked eggplant peak through light layers of a simple homemade tomato sauce and irresistible melted mozzarella cheese.  The breaded eggplant is baked in similar fashion to these baked oven fries and while we all know that making eggplant parm tends to be a little labor-intensive on the front end, how could you go wrong with the oven doing all the hard work instead of your standing over a pan of hot oil in an already too-hot kitchen in the middle of summer?

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The last time we made this recipe, we ended up baking way too many eggplant rounds so we froze the extra cooled rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet then tossed them in a freezer bag for the next time a craving arises.  Alternatively, I feel like the baked rounds by themselves could lend themselves to a myriad of other eggplant dishes like sandwiches or panini with fresh veggies and garlic aioli, eggplant stacks with roasted red peppers and goat cheese, eggplant slices topped with a poached egg for breakfast or a light lunch…you get the idea.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

This is not a quick eggplant parmesan recipe but it is worth the wait and work in every way possible. You can absolutely use your own sauce, either homemade or jarred, but if you're up for it, try this 15-minute recipe - it's truly excellent.

Ingredients

    For the Eggplant:
  • 2 medium eggplant (about 2 lbs) cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 oz)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • For the Tomato Sauce:
  • 2 cans (14 ½ oz each) diced tomatoes (or pureed or crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • For Baking:
  • 8 oz whole or part-skim mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 oz)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions

  1. To make the eggplant: In a large bowl, toss half of the eggplant slices and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt; transfer salted eggplant to colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and salt. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on a triple layer of paper towels; cover with a triple layer of paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.
  2. While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-thirds of the oven, place rimmed baking sheets on both racks, and heat oven to 425° F.
  3. In a pie plate or shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Set breaded slices on wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
  5. Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 tablespoons oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of breaded eggplant on each sheet in single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.
  6. To make the sauce: While eggplant bakes, process the diced tomatoes in a food processor or blender until almost smooth (if using pureed or crushed tomatoes, skip this step).
  7. Heat olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season to taste.
  8. To assemble and bake: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with ½ cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella.
  9. Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately.

Source

source: adapted from The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, as seen on Ezra Pound Cake

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/08/baked-eggplant-parmesan/

Roasted Eggplant and Fontina Pizza
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One of my favorite pizza toppings happens to be eggplant but it isn’t roasted.  It’s fried just like it would be for eggplant parm. And it’s damn good on a pizza with some ooey gooey mozzarella.  So I knew when I came across this recipe that it would be a winner.  It helps that there’s some fontina here too.  Mmm…fontina…

Nothing about this recipe disappointed us.  And it won’t disappoint you either.  I used up some homemade whole wheat pita (which you’ll get to see if I venture to make them again) and pulled out some homemade tomato sauce from the freezer.  The pizzas were a cinch to throw together on a busy weeknight after having roasted the eggplant over the weekend. Top the pita, bake, and serve.  It doesn’t get much easier than that!

The original recipe calls for the toppings to be baked on a halved pita but you could definitely use pizza dough. If you’re thinking, “Huh? Pizza on a pita? No thank you ma’am,” think again!  These pita pizzas were some of the tastiest little pizzas we’ve had in ages.  Heck, they beat out some of the pizza we get from local places here! And seriously, how could you go wrong with roasted eggplant and fontina? Together. On a pizza.  You just can’t. You can bet we’ll be making this recipe again as the eggplant in our garden hits its stride in the next couple of weeks.  What about you?