Category Archives: eggplant

Ratatouille

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I was a fan of ratatouille long before the Pixar movie about the French culinary inclined rat made this classic vegetable dish a common household word. Bursting with fresh vegetables ratatouille is hearty enough to be served on its own as a stew yet tastes equally good when served alongside grilled meat. Ratatouille is the perfect way to use your fresh vegetables when your garden or farm share is out of control (I’m looking at you zucchini) but I also find it incredibly comforting during cold winter months. This recipes comes from Epicurious but I think of it more as a method than an exact formula. If I have plenty of eggplant or zucchini on hand I will use more of that; sometimes I will use a single variety of bell pepper while other times I will add a rainbow of them. It all depends upon what I have on hand and what looks good. Regardless of what formula or combination you use, you just can’t go wrong. And as tasty as this dish is when it is first cooked, it tastes even better when reheat the next day.

RATATOUILLE

2 1/2 lb tomatoes

8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

4 assorted bell peppers,cut into 1-inch pieces

4 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick pieces

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • Set a large pot filled with water over high heat.
  • Cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and when your water boils, blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute.
  • Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.
  • Coarsely chop the tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot along with the garlic, parsley, basil and 1/3 cup oil.
  • Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
  • While sauce is simmering, toss the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Transfer the onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook the bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the peppers with a slotted spoon to bowl with onions.
  • Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook the zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.
  • While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil to the skillet and cook the eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to12 minutes.
  • Add the vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour.
  • Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8-10

 

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Moussaka

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Layered with ground lamb and eggplant, moussaka is a classic Greek comfort food. Moussaka is to Greece what lasagna is to Italy. The best meals I’ve eaten in Greece have included moussaka. It is probably my favorite dish to order when dining in a Greek restaurant and I often use it as a gauge as to whether the place has good food; if their moussaka is good chances are their other food is good as well. But moussaka is easy to make at home so there isn’t any need to wait to dine in a Greek restaurant to enjoy it.

This recipe, from Williams Sonoma, lives up to those versions I’ve enjoyed in Greece. For me, the secret to a good moussaka is a tasty béchamel sauce and this version, with just a touch of grated nutmeg, doesn’t disappoint. I enjoy the taste of lamb and am fortunate to have ready access to it. If you prefer, or can’t find lamb, you can substitute ground beef or another ground meat. The dish won’t be quite as authentic but it will taste good just the same.

MOUSSAKA

2 medium eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices

7 tablespoon olive oil, divided plus additional for brushing

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 cups whole milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

  • Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.
  • Brush the slices on both sides with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil and then season with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper.
  • Roast until the eggplant is tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets as necessary to ensure even cooking.
  • While the eggplant is roasting, set a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter.
  • Add the flour, bay leaf and nutmeg and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.

    Season with the remaining salt and pepper.

  • Let the sauce cool for 15 minutes, then remove and discard the bay leaf.
  • Whisk in the egg and 2 tablespoons of the cheese.
  • Set the béchamel sauce aside.
  • Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 3-1/2 quart Dutch oven set over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Add the ground lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Drain off the excess fat.
  • Add the garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper if needed, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the meat sauce to the bowl with the onion.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
  • Lightly brush the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven with olive oil.
  • Place a single layer of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the pot.
  • Spread one-fourth of the meat sauce on top.
  • Repeat with 4 more layers of eggplant and 3 more layers of meat sauce, ending with the eggplant.
  • Pour the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Transfer the pot to the oven and bake until the moussaka is browned and bubbly on top, about 40 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven.
  • Let the moussaka rest for 20 minutes before serving.

    Serves 6

Minestrone Soup

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Nothing satisfies on a cold day more than soup. Most weekends I will make a big pot of whatever strikes my fancy. I allow it to simmer on low all afternoon then we enjoy it with crusty bread for a Sunday night dinner. There are always leftovers which is perfect since soup tastes better the next day. I have yet to find a soup that I didn’t like but this minestrone is a soup that I absolutely love.

It is more of a method rather than an exact recipe; I will use whatever vegetables I have on hand or whatever looked good at the market that morning. I like to be heavy handed with the vegetables and go lighter on the pasta and beans but you could easily add more of the later if that is to your liking. Not only is this soup vegetarian but it is also low in sodium. Rather than using a pre-made broth, I simply add water as the soup base and allow the cooking vegetables to flavor the broth. The results? A rich, tasty and satisfying soup that everyone will love. Serve it with crusty French bread and dinner is served.

MINESTRONE SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 leek, quartered and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 small zucchini, diced

1 small eggplant, diced

1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 26-ounce can tomatoes, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 cup small pasta (shells or elbow macaroni works well)

1 large handful fresh basil, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Grated parmesan cheese, to serve

  • Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot set over medium high heat.
  • When the oil shimmers, add the onion, leek, celery and carrots and stirring occasionally, cook until soft but not brown, 4-5 minutes.
  • Add in the zucchini, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, beans and canned tomatoes. Stir well.
  • Add enough water to the pot to cover the vegetables by 1 inch.
  • Bring the soup to a simmer then reduce the heat and cook uncovered until the vegetables are soft, 35-45 minutes.
  • Add in the oregano and thyme and season with salt and pepper.
  • At this point you can proceed to the next step or cover the pot, turn the temperature to the lowest setting and allow to sit until you are ready to proceed.
  • Return the temperature to medium-high.
  • Once the soup is boiling again, add the pasta, stir well and cook until the pasta is al dente, approximately 6-8 minutes.
  • Stir in the basil, adjust the seasonings and serve, topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

 

 

 

Turkey Cutlets w/ Red Pepper Cream

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When we were working at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania, we were fortunate enough to have an on site cafeteria that provided a variety of lunch options at reasonable prices. The food wasn’t always great but it was convenient and after eating there enough you quickly learned which dishes were better than others. The cooks loved to serve overcooked meats “enscalope” as they called it and we learned that this essentially meant meat covered in some sort of cream sauce. A favorite of Glenn’s was chicken filets covered in a pepper cream sauce. He took to ordering it so frequently, even when it wasn’t on the menu, that the kitchen staff began calling it “the Glenn”.

We’ve since left Albania but when my husband mentioned “the Glenn” I decided to recreate the dish here in Belgium. In an attempt to make my dish taste as authentic as possible, I used avjar as my red pepper base. Avjar is to the Balkans what ketchup is to Americans; it is essentially slathered on everything, eaten as a dip, condiment for meats or spread on sandwiches. The ingredients vary by region but the one I am most familiar with includes roasted red peppers and eggplant. It is actually quite easy to make but if you don’t want to make your own, you can find it in the ethic food section of your grocery store. I also substituted turkey breasts for the chicken but you could also use boneless pork chops or even a firm white fish.

Turkey Cutlets w/ Red Pepper Cream

4 thin turkey cutlets

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 cup red onion, minced

1 1/2 cups avjar

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons mascarpone

  • Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat.
  • Season the turkey cutlets on both sides with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  • Place the turkey in the skillet and cook until it is lightly browned, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the meat over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the remaining oil to the skillet. When the oil is shimmering, reduce the heat to medium and add the onions. Saute until fragrant and lightly brown, 3-4 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the avjar. Stirring constantly cook until the sauce is heated through.
  • Stir in the cream and mascarpone and heat until the cheese has melted and the mixture is hot.
  • Return the turkey to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Serve the cutlets with the sauce on top.

Serves 4

Balsamic Brushed Grilled Vegetables

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If you are anything like my family, you probably grill on a regular basis during the summer months. (We actually grill year around). After all, who wants to heat up the kitchen when the weather is already so hot? And with gardens and markets overflowing with vegetables right about now, grilled vegetables are the perfect accompaniment to any of the proteins you might be grilling. I love the slightly charred flavor that comes with grilled vegetables.

Plain grilled vegetables are nice but when brushed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar they are extra special. You can use any vegetables but the combination of peppers, eggplant, onions and mushrooms are my favorite. If you have a grill basket you can place the vegetables in them before cooking but I find it just as easy to place them directly on the grill. So pick your protein and pick your vegetables and fire up your grill tonight.

BALSAMIC BRUSHED GRILLED VEGETABLES

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch wedges

1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch wedges

1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch wedges

1 purple eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch rings

1 large red onion, cut into 1/4 inch rings

1 large Portobello mushroom cap, sliced

  • Oil and pre-heat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Combine the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Place the vegetables on a large platter and brush on both sides with the oil and vinegar mixture.
  • Place the vegetables on the grill and cook for 5-10 minutes, turning the vegetables over and brushing  with the oil and vinegar every 2-3 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending upon your personal preferences.

The vegetables can be served hot, at room temperature or cold.

Serves 4

Mediterranean Trout

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Fish doesn’t need to be intimidating to cook.  In fact, it is surprisingly easy and since it cooks quickly makes for a fast dinner.  Fish filets are nice but if you want to really impress your guests serve them a whole fish.  You can either serve a large one for the table or an individual fish for each guest.  Your fish monger can clean them for you making preparation even easier.

Think of the combination of vegetables I’ve used as a method rather than an exact recipe using and substituting whatever vegetables you like or have on hand.  If you don’t have capers substitute black olives or use both.  I like oregano but you can also use thyme, basil or a combination of all three.  Experiment with different combinations until you find a winning one for your family.  It really is that easy.

I served this with buttered baby red potatoes but mashed potatoes, orzo, or Israeli couscous would also be good.

MEDITERRANEAN TROUT

4 whole trout, cleaned, scaled, rinsed, and patted dry

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 large eggplant, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, divided

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Juice of 1 lemon plus 8 lemon slices

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Coat four pieces of tin foil with spray and place a trout in the center of each foil piece and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Thinly slice two of the garlic cloves and distribute the garlic slices and 8 slices of lemon evenly inside the four fish.  Generously season the outside of the fish with salt and pepper.
  • Place the tomatoes, eggplant, green and red peppers, zucchini, fennel, and onion in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Mince the remaining two garlic cloves and add them to the vegetables along with the capers, lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, and oregano.  Toss well to combine all of the ingredients.
  • Evenly divide the vegetables over the top of each fish.
  • Tightly wrap each fish with the foil to create packets.  Be sure to seal the edges so that the juices don’t escape.
  • Place the pan in the oven and bake the fish for 35-40 minutes.  Take care when opening the packets since hot steam will escape.

Serves:4

Curried Eggplant & Tofu

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Curry is the ultimate in Asian comfort food.  To me, it warms me both inside and out.  You can put just about anything into your curry; whether you use meats, tofu, or any of a combination of vegetables, you really can’t go wrong.  Eggplant adds a bit of bulk to an otherwise light dish making it a filling dinner choice.  If you aren’t a fan of tofu you can substitute an equal amount of meat, chicken, pork, or shrimp.  To make the dish completely vegetarian, use vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth.  Serve it over basmati rice and dinner is ready.

CURRIED EGGPLANT & TOFU

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions

4 tablespoons yellow curry paste

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce (omit for a vegetarian version)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 cups purple eggplant, cut into bite sized pieces

1 pound firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces

1 cup diced tomatoes

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper to taste

Cilantro and limes for garnish (optional)

  • Heat the peanut oil in a wok set over high heat.  When the oil shimmers add the red onion and curry paste and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, and lemon zest.  Add to the wok and bring to a boil.
  • Add the eggplant to the wok and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the tofu and tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
  • Stir in the lime juice.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately over basmati rice.

Serves 4

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