Eggplant Tomato Stacks

IMG_2011I think I made it all the way to adulthood with an intense dislike for eggplant. To me, eggplant was a bitter, slimy, vegetable that was typically served fried and greasy in some version of eggplant Parmesan. I’m not sure when my eggplant revelation came about, but eggplant is now one of my favorite summer vegetables. I love it grilled, roasted with garlic and especially baked in this wonderful, healthy re-make of eggplant Parmesan.

Here is the secret to great tasting eggplant–buy it fresh from your local farmer’s market. The longer eggplant sits, the more bitter it can become. Also, eggplant picked for grocery stores is often picked under-ripe, before it’s true sweetness is developed.

This recipe makes the most of fresh, local eggplant, tomato and basil–all in abundance in North Carolina during the summer. We used local mozzarella from Hillsborough Cheese Company, so only the Parmesan Reggiano, olive oil and salt were store-bought. We used some of our yummy Roasted Tomato Sauce, which is my favorite discovery from last summer (well, maybe it’s a tie with Mae Farm Bacon Onion Marmalade).

Think of this recipe as lasagna with eggplant replacing the noodles. This is no greasy, fried, chain restaurant dish–it is flavorful, nourishing and rich in antioxidants and fiber. And your house will smell A-MAZ-ING while it is baking. Tom commented several times that it is hard to believe this is a meatless dish. If you substitute vegan cheese, it would be a completely vegan dish. Like it’s lasagna cousin, this freezes and reheats well, making super tasty leftovers. Healthy, local and delicious. Win-win-win. Yum-yum-yum!

Eggplant Tomato Stacks (makes 6 servings)

  • 3 medium eggplant (we used several baby eggplant and one medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quart Roasted Tomato Sauce (or 1 jar from the store)
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated (you can use part-skim to reduce the fat)
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Wash eggplant and slice into 1/4″ or so slices. Put slices on the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Roast eggplant slices for about 12 minutes–until they are fork tender.
  5. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add one layer of the eggplant. Top with 1/3 of the tomato sauce, a sprinkling of basil leaves, 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese on top.
  6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and golden brown on top.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Aubergine and Lavender Pasta

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Lavender. In pasta. You heard me! This pasta features some fresh, local vegetables and a locally produced pasta sauce with lavender. Game on, fellow foodies.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Neal “Nello” McTighe, owner of Raleigh-based Nello’s Sauce (a post about Nello’s is coming up later this week!). You know, we don’t purchase much in the way of processed or prepared foods, but I was very interested in talking to the folks at Nello’s about starting a small, local business. And, I like food, right?

During a recent blogy interview, Neal introduced me to Nello’s newest creation, their Provencal Pomodoro Sauce. Yes, Provencal–as in Provence, France–home of lovely fields of lavender! The amazing ingredient in this particular sauce is organic lavender. Now, I’ve had lavender in pound cake and cookies and in Herbes de Provence, but it never occurred to me to use it in a tomato sauce. Nope. Not even once. Shame on me, right?

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Since we have loads and loads of fresh, ripe eggplant at our farmer’s markets right now, I decided to take this sauce out for a spin with a roasted eggplant, chicken and artichoke heart pasta, created on the fly using what I found at the market. I used some locally produced fresh mozzarella, which melted oh so deliciously into the sauce. This recipe is a keeper, for sure. It was definitely on the hearty end of the food spectrum, although it is very modest in calories and super low in fat. You could easily skip the chicken, increase the eggplant and Voila! Meatless Monday!

I should disclose that the sauce was given to me, although without expectation that I would blog about it. Although it was a gift, I would not blog about it if it weren’t exceptional–I have too many pieces to write as it is, so I’m not going to write about something that isn’t good. Ain’t no blogger got time for that.

A note about the sauce. If you have picky eaters and are worried about lavender in the pasta sauce, here is my suggestion–don’t tell them.The lavender in the sauce adds a lovely, floral flavor that doesn’t overwhelm you (you won’t feel like you are eating potpourri), and your family probably won’t be able to place the wonderful flavor. It is really a winning combination!

Nello’s Sauce is available at central NC Whole Foods stores or HERE. Neal is running a contest this week for recipes using his sauce–you can find information on the Nello’s website HERE.

Aubergine and Lavender Pasta (makes 6-8 servings)

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (raw) cut into small cubes (about 1/2″)
  • 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
  • 3 smallish aubergine eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 10-12 frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted (do not use marinaded artichoke hearts)
  • 1 jar Nello’s Provencal Pomodoro Sauce
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves
  • 10 ounces thin spaghetti noodles
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese, to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put a stock pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
  3. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the cubed, raw chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, pinch of salt, pepper and the Herbes de Provence. Toss well and add to one rimmed baking sheet. Put in the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes.
  5. In another bowl, combine cubed eggplant and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and toss well to coat the eggplant. Add to the second baking sheet and roast eggplant for 30 minutes or until soft (I added the second baking sheet about 10 minutes after the chicken, so they finished at the same time).
  6. In a 12″ skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions until they are soft and begin to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Don’t let them burn. Add the garlic and artichoke hearts and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the pasta sauce and reduce heat to medium low.
  7. Put the pasta in the boiling, salted pasta water and cook according to directions.
  8. While pasta is cooking, add the cooked chicken and eggplant to the sauce. Stir well. Cut up the basil leaves and add to the sauce.
  9. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water to thicken the sauce, if necessary.
  10. Add the drained, cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Turn the heat off, and use tongs to combine the pasta and sauce.
  11. Serve the hot pasta with chunks of fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, if you like (and I do!).
  12. Serve immediately.

Healthy, Baked Eggplant Parmesan

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I think I made it all the way to adulthood with an intense dislike for eggplant. To me it was a bitter, slimy, vegetable that was typically served fried and greasy in some version of eggplant Parmesan. I’m not sure when my eggplant revelation came about, but eggplant is now one of my favorite summer vegetables. I love it grilled, roasted with garlic and especially baked in this wonderful healthy re-make of eggplant Parmesan.

This recipe makes the most of fresh, local eggplant, tomato and basil. We have local mozzarella thanks to Hillsborough Cheese Company, so only the Parmesan Reggiano, olive oil and salt were store-bought. We used some of our yummy Roasted Tomato Sauce, which is my favorite discovery from last summer (well, maybe it’s a tie with Mae Farm Bacon Onion Marmalade).

Think of this recipe as lasagna with eggplant replacing the noodles. This is no greasy, fried, chain restaurant dish–it is flavorful, nourishing and rich in antioxidants and fiber. And your house will smell A-MAZ-ING while it is baking. Tom commented several times that it is hard to believe this is a meatless dish. If you substitute vegan cheese, it would be a completely vegan dish. Like it’s lasagna cousin, this freezes and reheats well, making super tasty leftovers. Healthy, local and delicious. Win-win-win. Yum-yum-yum!

Healthy, Baked Eggplant Parmesan (makes 6 servings)

  • 3 medium eggplant (we used several baby eggplant and one medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quart Roasted Tomato Sauce (or 1 jar from the store)
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated (you can use part-skim to reduce the fat)
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Wash eggplant and slice into 1/4″ or so slices. Put slices on the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Roast eggplant slices for about 12 minutes–until they are fork tender.
  5. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add one layer of the eggplant. Top with 1/3 of the tomato sauce, a sprinkling of basil leaves, 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese on top.
  6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and golden brown on top.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Week 25 Budget and Menu

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My treat from the market–fresh strawberry agua fresca from Bo Ku!

The blackberries are here! The blackberries are here! I am so glad to see blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches and melons all making their market appearances this week!!! And corn. Yum. This is the time of year I just eat myself into oblivion.

This week’s budget takes advantage of some wonderful produce that is available, as well as some lovely, locally made pimento cheese ravioli! I hope to be posting the recipes for the fish, spicy blackberry sauce and eggplant this week, so watch for them!

Our budget this week is over by $11.71, but we are out of some key staples like organic cane sugar, kosher salt and olive oil, so we are stocking up this week. Thank goodness for Trader Joes!

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Budget [$111.71]

  • The Produce Box (grape tomatoes, eggplant, ORGANIC: blackberries, blueberries, chard, yellow potatoes, string beans, beets): $39.50
  • Melina’s Pasta (pimento cheese ravioli): $6.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (mozzarella): $6.00
  • Mae Farm (brats): $8.00
  • Locals Seafood (red drum fillets): $18.00
  • Trader Joes (prosciutto, frozen fruit, yogurt, butter, Parmesan cheese, organic cane sugar, salt, olive oil, Ezekiel bread): $34.21

Menu

  • Wednesday–Leftover pasta with cauliflower sauce
  • Thursday–Working late
  • Friday–Roasted beet salad with goat cheese
  • Saturday–Fish with cherry tomatoes, green beans, potatoes
  • Sunday–Healthy eggplant “lasagna”
  • Monday–Grilled brats with blackberry ketchup, roasted potatoes
  • Tuesday–Pimento cheese ravioli with crispy prosciutto and pecans
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