Seared Eggplant Parmesan Slices and Moving On

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I am here to talk about eggplant, but what I really want to talk about is how the time is coming when I’ll be moving out of Murrayville once again and so I can’t take for granted small wonders like  playing board games of Jeopardy and Stratego with my delightful siblings, and smoking an occasional cigarette with my brother (I know–a bit hypocritical with all the emphasis on health here–so we keep it to a minimum) and sitting on the porch roof outside my bedroom window with Liz and dreaming up our futures.  Today I am grateful for new opportunities, and  for the months of catching up that I’ve been able to enjoy with the people I love most.

Sauteed Eggplant with Parmesan

1 eggplant, slices into orbs
1 can tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp walnut oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano

In a pot, combine tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic and spices. Cook over low heat until the pepper has softened and the onion has become translucent. Use and immersion blender to puree until the mixture has turned to a sauce. Heat the walnut oil in a frying pan and saute the eggplant slices until browned. Set on a plate, cover with the sauce, and top with the grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 2

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Cauliflower Crust Pizza

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This morning I was thinking about the home that I live in and all the hundreds of thousands of people involved in the production of this house and all the things I own.  There are walls and paint and furniture and appliances and clothes and books and lamps….and each of these things is composed of so many different materials from so many different places and factories.  In my ideal world, I would love to be able to answer the who, what, where, when and how of it all.  I would love to know all the workers who gave me what I have and know that they were treated justly and know their stories.  In today’s world, that is pretty much impossible.  All the same, I think these issues are particularly pertinent in regards to what we put into our bodies.  The who/how/what/where/when behind our own nourishment seems like something we should not have to work too hard to understand.

As a country, we’ve gotten so far past that point that it seems like people are really trying to swing the pendulum back to some semblance of normalcy.  There is more awareness about farmer’s markets and local organic farming.  There are more and more CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs springing up, and it seems people are becoming more aware of how food and health are intrinsically connected.  (Thank you Captain Obvious.) 

It is more time-consuming to live this way, but I would argue that it is entirely worth the time and energy.  Quality takes time, but the rewards far outweigh the costs.  This is a topic I could talk about for hours and days without growing weary of it…and if you happen to be a family member of mine, you know I can become annoyingly didactic on all matters food-related.  “Marie all I want is to enjoy my slice of pizza without you going all Sermon on the Mount on me!!”  Poor family.

So instead of bewailing the evils of processed foods (and its not like I’m a total food purist myself), I’ve been trying to focus on the joy of cooking instead.  Because it is a joy.  It’s a conversation with myself actually, in which I hear a whisper “Meet me in the kitchen.”  And then, “Try  a spicy stew of purple cabbage and hot sausage and sweet potatoes today…you’ll be surprised!”  And I mix and stir and inhale scents and flavors and I am surprised.

As I was by this delicious pizza.

Ingredients:

Crust

1 head cauliflower
1/3 cup goat cheese (If you don’t like the taste of goat cheese, you can use a cup of mozzarella instead)
1 free range egg
1 Tbsp dried oregano

Toppings:

Whatever you like!!

I used: homemade tomato sauce, spinach, eggplant, green pepper, onion, zucchini, and parmesan cheese.  I sauteed all the vegetables in olive oil except for the spinach. Afterwards, I threw on some leftover grilled chicken and it was a dreamboat of a meal.

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Preheat oven to 400° Place cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse until it becomes grainy. Steam until the cauliflower is soft, and drain thoroughly using a dishcloth. (Or just microwave it for about 8 minutes). Let it cool a little, and while it’s still warm, stir in the egg, goat cheese and oregano. Place a sheet of parchment paper over a pizza pan, and spread the crust over it. Bake it for 40 minutes. Remove and coat with your toppings of choice, and then broil in the oven for 5 minutes. Enjoy!!

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Winter Ratatouille

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I say winter ratatouille because of one key distinction between this dish and the alternative I might make in the summer.  I used canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes, and because of this, I also altered the technique for the layering of the vegetables.  If you know me well, you know that I love and respect tomatoes too much to disgrace their good name by buying a fresh tomato in the winter.  The winter offers tasteless mealy pale imitations that come from God knows where.  Don’t do it.

I began with Julia’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking simply because she throws each group of vegetables over some hot olive oil and sautes them slightly before putting them together in the stew, thereby calling forth the separate flavors of each before they are combined together.  I like that, and it certainly worked for me here. After that, I kind of did my own thing, not because I think I can do it better than Julia, but because my amateur self is still bad at following directions.

Disclaimer: I did not use parsley.  Can you call it ratatouille without the parsley? I’m not sure.  I didn’t have any, but to be fair I did use lots and lots of thyme in its place, and in my book you can never go wrong with thyme.  In fact, it might taste even better this way. I’ll try to remember to do a taste comparison at some point.

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant
2 large zucchinis
1 orange bell pepper (any bell pepper works; I chose orange for aesthetic purposes)
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 head garlic (you can douse it with olive oil, slice off the rough end of the head, and stick it in the oven at 400° for 10 minutes and then the cloves will slip right out of their casings)
7 tbsp olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 handful fresh thyme
1 tbsp salt

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(^^Hannah helped slice even with her Hulk arm. What a trooper.^^)

Preheat oven to 350.° Slice the vegetables into thin circles and separate them. Toss them with a light sprinkling of salt, basil and oregano. Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil on a stovetop. Taking one bowl at a time, lay the vegetables over the hot oil and brown them slightly on both sides. Add more oil to the pan as needed, and heat before sauteing. Use a deep baking dish (its actually a casserole dish but I hate the word “casserole”) and layer the vegetables into it, starting with the eggplant, the zucchini, the tomatoes, the peppers and then the onions. After the first layer, top with whole roasted garlic cloves. Slice them once or twice if they are very large. Remove the thyme leaves from half of the sprigs of thyme and sprinkle over the top. Repeat the entire process. Cover the dish and set in the oven for 40 minutes. Enjoy!
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(^^Before it’s been cooked^^)
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(^^Also good over salad^^)

Lentil Patties with Sesame Seared Eggplant and Cauliflower Pesto

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This hearty meal with a glorious nutritional profile is best reserved for a day when you have a voracious appetite.  There is something about those days.  It’s the feeling of hunger, the tantalizing smells wafting from the oven, the ticking of the clock as everything is preparing itself for your plate…and finally the moment when you can sit down and eat till you are satiated and content.  Hmm…sounds familiar.  I will be heading to the kitchen right now!

Ingredients

*If you wish to make this a vegan recipe, simply use the substitutes I posted and omit the parmesan cheese.  You will probably need to add some salt if you leave out the cheese.

Sesame Seared Eggplant

1 large eggplant, sliced
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 eggs/egg subsitutes
2 tbsp butter/coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425°  Combine parmesan cheese and sesame seeds in a small bowl.  Whisk eggs together in a separate bowl.  Melt butter in frying pan.  Submerge eggplant slices in egg and then in sesame parmesan mixture.  Fry on both sides until seeds are crusted onto the eggplant.  Lay the slices on a cooking tray and roast for 10 minutes.

Cauliflower Pesto

1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 large handful thyme sprigs
1 cup whole milk/ almond milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425° Cut the cauliflower, rub with olive oil, and lay on a cooking tray to roast in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to food processor.  Add the thyme, garlic, milk and cheese.  Blend until smooth.

Lentil Patties

1 cup lentils
1 cup brown rice
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp butter/ coconut oil
2 eggs/ egg substitutes

Cook the lentils and rice together with the broth in a pot on low for about an hour or until the moisture has absorbed.  Add the eggs and stir until everything has thickened.  Form into patties and brown with butter in a frying pan on both sides.

Place each patty on a slice of sesame seared eggplant and top with cauliflower pesto and some spinach leaves if desired. Top with a second slice of eggplant.  The roasted cauliflower pesto also makes a delicious dip or sandwich spread.  Just be sure not to leave out the thyme because in my opinion, it’s the key to the whole dish. Enjoy!

Serves 6 generously

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Tangy Clementine Root Salad

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The inspiration for this salad came to me in shifts.  It was partially based on what I had on hand, but then more and more flavors kept popping into my head and I must have run out to the store about three times before I was ready. Also, don’t let what looks like a clean kitchen in the pictures convince you that I was working in an orderly environment. My dad went to Johnson and Wales culinary school and was a chef in the US Navy for four years based out of Gaeta, Italy. Much of his creativity unleashes itself in our kitchen, and when there are two of us trying to put something together at the same time, a chaotic blur of pots and pans and dripping sauces and bubbling stovetops ensues. Today the cooking frenzy was exacerbated because I had music playing loudly on shuffle. We whisked and chopped and tasted and stirred to everything from Glenn Miller to Blue October. My mom, who needs everything neat and clean, is happiest when she evacuates the kitchen till its all over. Point being: its a miracle that my winter salad retained all the ingredients proper to it and didn’t accidentally borrow from everything flying into my dad’s pots. The final product was sweet and tangy and bursting with flavor. It is full of B vitamins and antioxidants and vitamin C, among others. Vitamin B is a real champion and you do not want to be deficient in that department. So enjoy this salad.

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Ingredients:

1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons
2 clementines
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 knuckle of ginger root, about 2 inches long
1 tsp kosher salt
3 beets with their greens in tact
1/2 fennel
1 large leek
1/2 large eggplant, sliced width-wise into circles
1 cup water
5 cups extra beet greens or lettuce of preference
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Preheat oven to 400° Combine honey, balsamic vinegar, the juice of two lemons, and sesame seeds into a bowl. Grate in  the ginger root, as well as the zest of one of the lemons. Set aside a third of the mixture in a separate bowl for the dressing. Add the olive oil into the other 2/3. Peel and quarter the beets. Place one of the beets in a pot on the stove with a cup of water over low heat. Slice the fennel and leeks, and set them in the sauce along with the 2 beets and the eggplant. Toss everything together until the vegetables are well coated, and lay them on a cooking tray in the oven. After 20 minutes, take them out and turn them over and set them back in for 25 more minutes. In the meantime, pour the rest of the sauce into a frying pan. Add the juice of one clementine, and peel the other clementine and add all the slices. Stir over low heat. Remove 1/4 of the water that the beet has been cooking in and add it to the pan. Add the salt and keep stirring on low for about 15 minutes. Rinse and chop the beet greens and other lettuce into a large bowl. When the vegetables are done, remove them from the oven, cut them into smaller pieces, and lay over the salad. Pour the dressing from the pan over everything. Garnish with sprigs of fennel and enjoy!

Serves 4 and can be easily multiplied by adding more veggies and doubling the sauce.

Save the extra boiled beet for later. (I suspect beets are a vegetable that people don’t feel neutral about; they are either loved or hated. I pity the people who hate them. They are delicious and oh so good for you!)
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