Posts Tagged eggplant

Not Your Average Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1There are about a million recipes (might be a slight exaggeration, frankly) for this dish online and, in my younger years, I’m sure that I used one of them. Since then, I’ve played with it and have changed it.

I added pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, but if you prefer meatless, then it’s fine to leave it out. It will not ruin the dish. This is normally a side dish, but I’ve actually served it as a main course over rice.

It can be served sprinkled with Reggiano Parmesan. It can also be served with a couple of dollops of Mascarpone cheese. The sweetness of the cheese goes nicely with the spicy complex of the dish. Give it a try.

Ingredients

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz chopped pancetta

1/4 cup minced garlic

1 medium Vidalia onion, rough chopped

1 medium zucchini, rough chopped

1 medium yellow (summer) squash, rough chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into cubes*

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz can)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Reggiano parmesan or Mascarpone Cheese for serving

Directions

Heat up the evoo in a deep skillet and add the pancetta. Cook over medium heat until the pancetta crisps, moving it around the pan so that it cooks evenly. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Add the minced garlic to the oil, and cook until slightly brown and the oil is infused. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Next, add the onions, peppers, zucchini and summer squash. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the thyme and oregano and mix well. Cook for about another 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, wine, tomatoes and eggplant. Simmer uncovered for abut 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is a bit reduced. Add the pancetta, stir, and simmer for about another minute or two. Do a spice check here. Give it a taste. The pancetta is salty, so you may not need salt. The choice is yours. Add pepper, however, for sure.

Remove from the heat and serve with either the parmesan or Mascarpone.

*I “trim” my eggplant, which means cutting off the edges. I never peel my eggplant. But the choice is yours. It works either way.

 

 

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Eggplant Roll-ups Italiano

Eggplant roll-upsI remember when I was a kid, the thought of eating eggplant grossed me out. Man, was I DUMB. I can assure you that, once I was older and on my own, doing my own cooking and experimenting with flavors, things changed dramatically on this front.

Like stuffed mushrooms, there is almost nothing you can’t do with eggplant. However, I am starting off with this particular recipe because I made this just this past weekend for an event at my house. People simply could not get enough of these.

Ingredients

3 medium-large eggplants

1 medium Vidalia onion, minced

1 cup flavored breadcrumbs

8 oz prosciutto, sliced thin, cut in to very thin strips

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz thick-shredded Mozarella cheese

1 tsp fresh chopped thyme

1 tsp fresh chopped sage

1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary

1 tsp crushed red pepper

6-8 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

3 tbsp coarse salt

Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Several fresh parsley leaves (for garnishing)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Do not peel the eggplant! Cut it lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Salt with the 3 tbsp coarse ground salt and place it in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. Then, wash them well with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

To prepare the pine nuts, prepare them by chopping coarsely. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Place on a baking sheet and toast for about 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees.

Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to a large skilled and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes (until wilted). Add the breadcrumbs and stir continuously until they are browned. This will take about another 10 minutes.

Place the mixture in a large bowl with the toasted, chopped pine nuts, the proscuitto, herbs, garlic, crushed red pepper, Parmesan and Mozarella cheeses. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush both sides of the eggplant with the remaining olive oil and place them on a oiled baking sheet. Bake on the top shelf of an oven until lightly golden on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and pile them on top of each other to steam for about 5 minutes. This will make them easy to roll.

Divide the filling evenly among the eggplant slices. Place the filling on the wide end of the eggplant and roll them up. Place them on an oiled baking sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake the rolled eggplant appetizers for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden. Remove them from the oven and place them on a serving platter. Garnish with fresh parsley leaves. These are delicious right out of the oven, or after they have cooled for about ten minutes.

Cook’s Note: These can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. When you’re ready to bake the final product, remove them from the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature before placing them on an oiled baking sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1Before we begin, let’s establish that we’re not talking about the Disney movie here. There are a million variations on this particular theme. Make mine a million and one. This French concoction can be a side dish, or it can be a main dish (with rice pilaf), or it can be an appetizer. Pick your poison. Everything that is used in this recipe is roughly chopped…not too big, and not too small. Leave the skin on everything except the red (or Bermuda) onion. I use cilantro here, but you can also use parsley if you’d like. My problem is that I’m not a great lover of parsley, with the exception of specific recipes. I think cilantro (often referred to as Mexican parsley) is a much more interesting taste.

Another basic staple in my house is Balsamic Drizzle or, as some call it, Balsamic Cream. I like to drizzle some on mine but this is entirely optional.

This is a project for sure. Everything cooks in stages initially, and it comes out best if cooked slowly. Cooking it for less time will leave you bigger and more distinct pieces of vegetables. Cooking it for up to 1.5 hours will result in a more blended silky stew. The beauty of this is that it can be served warm or room temperature. And leftovers? Nothing like it. Roll it up in a piece of lavash bread or throw it in a pita pocket, melt some Italian Fontina on it, and have yourself a great lunch. It can also be frozen.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 large red (or Bermuda) onion, roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped

2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms

6 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 medium-large eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes

3 zucchini, sliced and cut in half

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh basil, cut in strips

10 springs thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Balsamic Drizzle (for serving)

1/4 cup dry white wine (for deglazing the pan)

Directions

Prior to beginning this process, a word about deglazing the Dutch oven. During the cooking process a brown glaze will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep a 1/4 cup of dry white wine on hand for deglazing purposes. You do not want this brown glaze to burn and ruin the flavor of the dish. Add wine a little at a time as necessary and scrape off the bottom of the pan. Add the deglazing liquid to the bowl with the cooked vegetables.

The first thing you have to do is cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Eggplant traditionally retains a lot of water. Cut the eggplant first and place the pieces in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the vegetables. Prior to this becoming a blended dish, the vegetables will be cooked in stages. Therefore, you want to keep the raw vegetables in separate bowls.

Place 2 tsp of olive oil in a large Dutch oven (at least 5-1/2 quart) and warm over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt, and sauté until they are just beginning to turn brown. This will take about 10 minutes. Then, add the peppers and mushrooms and cook for about another 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and put this into a large, clean bowl.

Add another 2 tsp of oil to the Dutch oven and toss in the zucchini. Add another pinch of salt. Cook the zucchini until it begins to brown. This should again be about 5-7 minutes. Remove the zucchini and add it to the other vegetables.

Rinse the eggplant under cold water, and squeeze the pieces to remove as much moisture as possible. Add 2 more teaspoons of olive oil to the pan along with the eggplant. Cook until the eggplant becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove the eggplant and add it to the other vegetables.

Finally, add some more olive oil to the pan and sauté the garlic until it becomes slightly brown and fragrant. Then, add the tomatoes, thyme, cilantro, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Allow the tomato juice to bubble, and deglaze the pan as it does.

Add all of the cooked vegetables back into the Dutch oven. Stir to mix, and reduce the heat to low. Taste and adjust salt level, and add black pepper to taste. You can cook this for another 30 minutes or up to an hour and a half. Shorter cooking time will result in larger more distinct pieces of vegetables. Longer cooking times will result in a very nice melded stew. The choice is up to you.

Before taking the Ratatouille off the stove, remove the bay leaves and stir in the basil. Serve in bowls, adding a dash of olive oil to the top. You can also offer a drizzle of Balsamic cream as well as some finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

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Martin & Bill’s Eggplant Caponata

EggplantI don’t know about you, but when I buy this stuff in a jar, it looks like cat food. That’s not the plan here. You should be able to identify the various ingredients in this great appetizer. This dish mixes the best tastes of summer with crushed red pepper and basil, among other things as you will see.

This dish is great on rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or thinly sliced crusty bread.

The recipe calls for one large eggplant. If you use the Italian eggplant, they are generally a bit smaller so you’ll probably need two. The recipe also calls for pickled peppers. If you’re using pepperoncini or hot/sweet vinegar peppers, you should use about 3 or 4. If you’re using banana peppers, they are larger so you’ll probably need just two.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

1 medium or large red onion

6 garlic cloves

3-4 pickled peppers (Pepperoncini, hot or sweet vinegar peppers)

1 medium red pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced

3 tbsp capers

6-8 fresh basil leaves, trimmed and cut in strips

1 tbsp crushed red pepper (more if you choose)

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided

sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or thin-sliced crusty bread (for serving)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Roughly chop the pickled peppers and set aside for later.

Leaving the skin on, cut the eggplant into cubes. Roughly chop the onion, red pepper, and garlic. Put the ingredients into a bowl and add the crushed red pepper flakes and 3 tbsp of the olive oil, Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a baking sheet and scatter the lemon slices over the top. Place in the oven and cook for at least 25 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Then, transfer them to a food process and chop roughly. Don’t do this on an automatic setting. Do this more or less manually so that you don’t pureé the vegetables.

Transfer this back into a bowl, and add the capers, basil, pickled peppers and remaining 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. However, overnight results in a much better flavor.

Serve with rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or crusty bread. A nice red wine goes well with this.

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