Spicy Baby Eggplants and Pasta

This post is a slightly altered version of one I shared  two years ago for my friend Diane, queen of eggplants!  We share garden space at our church garden.  She really knows how to grow eggplants, dozens on a single plant every year.

Let me share my favorite method for dealing with those small eggplants you find yourself with when the first big frost hits your garden.  I pick them the night before no matter how small and this is how we use them in the best way possible.  Grocery stores usually have them in the fall if you are not a gardener.

I originally created this for the slow cooker using a base recipe from a friend’s Italian mom but this latest version was made on the stove top.  I really love being able to turn on my crock pot and walk away for four hours.  Still, sometimes you need dinner in an hour so here is the latest and quickest version.  It is perfect with gluten free ziti or spaghetti.

If you don’t have baby eggplants I think you could use smaller eggplants cut into halves.  This picture isn’t that pretty; a collapsed and well cooked eggplant is kinda ugly but you gotta love that cheese on top; good quality freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  I served it with penne as usual for the first time I enjoyed a plate of this spicy treat and with spaghetti squash tonight which was surprisingly good.  Hadn’t had that in many years.  Two of them were gifted to me last month; finally made half of one.  Nuked it in microwave for 15 minutes; cut, remove seeds; cut down on big plate, add a bit of water for steam effect.

forgotten-kisses-and-spicy-eggplant-002

Spicy Baby Eggplants

Ingredients

7-10 small eggplants from tiny up to about six inches long

1-2 ounces hard Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp EVOL

1 32 oz can crushed tomato

1 large carrot in rounds

½ tsp smoked paprika

¼  tsp. red pepper flakes

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. sea salt

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup oil cured black olives

1-2 tbsp. capers

Directions:

Cut the Parmesan cheese into tiny wedges.  Trim off the top cap of the eggplants.  Cut 3-4 slashes in the side of each eggplant going in the direction from the cap to the bottom. Put a wedge of cheese into each deep slash.  I only put 1-slashes in tiny eggplants, 3 in bigger ones and 4 in the largest eggplants.  Heat 1-2 tbsp. EVOL in a large heavy sauce pot.  Add the onions and saute a couple minutes.  Add the minced garlic, stir for a minute.  Then add in the tomato sauce and carrot rounds.  Heat up and add the eggplants and the herbs/spices. Heat to a bubble and add the olives, and capers.  Cover and cook on low for 40 minutes stirring every few minutes to keep the sauce from sticking to the pot’s bottom.  Cook until the eggplants can be easily pierced with a long fork.

Cook gluten free ziti, enough for how many people you are serving, and drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Put it back in the now empty pot and add the eggplant mixture.  Cook a minute stirring it all around the pot.  This allows the ziti to soak up some of the sauce and get a great authentic flavor.

Serve in a low wide soup bowl as is or add a good grating of Parmesan cheese on top.  If you have some gluten free rolls or freshly baked gf bread – heaven!

Notes: I used olives with pits but if you can find them pitted; great! If you are an olive hater, leave them out but they really add to the flavor.  Or cook the dish with them and remove before eating; get that earthy salty flavor but it is more subtle without the actual olives on your plate.  Add more salt if you leave them out. If you like things really spicy double the red pepper flakes.  I found it just about right for me with a quarter teaspoon. Spaghetti squash works well in place of pasta.

Advertisements

Eggplant Potato Moussaka: Opa!

It being fall, the garden is winding down but there are still eggplants to pick in my garden.  Kinda tired of the usual stuff I make with eggplants so I did some research and came up with moussaka, a Greek eggplant casserole.  I made it once long ago and remembered it as tasty. This recipe is from food network and is by Emeril Lagasse, he of the “Bam” exclamation.  It is a fair amount of work; took me about 90 minutes to put it together, 45 minutes to bake and another 50 minutes of resting time before you can cut into it.  Gotta say it was worth the effort. Everyone who ate it were crazy about the flavors.mousakka-014

My alterations: I used a mixture of ground pork and ground lamb (recipe is 50/50 ground beef and ground lamb) and subbed in white wine for red as that was all I had.  Ditto in my subbing of a red onion for the yellow onion and chopped fresh tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes.  Sometimes I am unwilling to make a second run to the grocery store to spend $ for something if I can sub in a different but similar ingredient.  To make it gf I used white rice flour; it was okay; next time I am trying brown rice flour or a flour blend to see if it sticks tighter and browns better. Worked but not sure white rice was the best flour choice.  I used brown rice flour in the sauce but I am guessing any gf flour will work.  The cheese I used was fresh grated Parmesan; three choices are provided.  Never heard of Kefalotiri and I am allergic to Romano.  Plus: that’s what I had in the cheese drawer.

I read some of the comments people made on the recipe; I’m thinking about roasting my eggplant slices if I am in a hurry. I used less oil than the recipe and some of my oil was canola as I was running out of olive oil; couldn’t tell the difference in the final product. I might add a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg next time too, and there will be a next time as this tastes amazing.  PS: I used a mixture of whole milk and 1 percent for the béchamel sauce.

This recipe is too involved to put in my post; here is a link to the recipe.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/eggplant-and-potato-moussaka-recipe.html

mousakka-015

Have fun making it; a great recipe for 2-3 folks to work on together.  Super entrée choice for a family gathering.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti Eggplant Turrets (Towers of Yumminess)

Spaghetti is an American classic.  I don’t make it enough, especially since going gluten free.  That may change since I started to read Mario Batali’s newest cookbook “America Farm to Table”.  I cooked up a storm this past weekend making his eggplant and angel hair turrets.  What’s a turret?  A tower of yumminess!farm to table cookbook

Having a surfeit of eggplants I was diving into all my eggplant recipes to determine the best way to utilize my crop of purple beauties. This one is a winner.

We devoured it by candlelight on my back porch the other Saturday night, bees wax candles to be exact.  I thought for a moment that my man was going to lick his dinner plate! It was rewarding to see him so enraptured by my cooking.

 2014-10-26 pasta tower 003

I made a few changes so this is an adaptation of the recipe.  I advise reading it through twice so you don’t screw it up! I used less red pepper flakes than the original recipe; up it to a tsp. if you dare!  Yes, it uses instant potato flakes and they work fantastically to coat the eggplant.    I used my own tomato sauce I had made the night before from the last of my fresh tomatoes.  This recipe serves 4.

2014-10-26 pasta tower 004

Eggplant and Pasta Turrets

4 tbsp. EOL

2 large eggs

1 cup instant mashed potato flakes

1 large eggplant or 2 medium ones

½ cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 oil packed anchovy fillets plus 1 tbsp. of the packing oil

1 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed by hand plus all the can juice or your own homemade tomato sauce, unseasoned

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1  12 oz package gf spaghetti

½-2/3 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese

Fresh basil leaves

Eggplant: Place the eggs in a wide shallow bowl, beat well.  Put the potato flakes into a second shallow bowl or a wax paper covered plate.  Slice the eggplant into 1/3 inch slices.  Dip into the eggs, let excess drip off and dredge in the potato flakes.

Heat a large Teflon pan, add 2 tbsp EVOL.  Let heat to medium hot, add the eggplant slices, cook 2-3 minutes a side.  Place cooked eggplants on a paper towel lined plate.  Do a second batch of slices.  I put my cooked slices on a small baking sheet and put them into a 350 oven which I then turned off.  They stayed hot and I felt a tad more sure that they were fully cooked.

Make the sauce: heat the remaining EVOL in a large pot, add the onion, sauté until slightly softened; 2 minutes, add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, mashed up anchovy fillets, oil of fillets and the tomatoes.  Cook, stirring often; 12-15 minutes.

Pasta: Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling salted water. Drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Save a cup of the pot water to thin the pasta.

Use the eggplant fry pan (wipe out the brown bits of crust) and ladle in 2-3 big scoops of the sauce and the pasta.  Cook one minute, turn off the stove and add the cheese, stir well.

Construction of the turrets:

Place a big spoonful of sauce on each plate.  Top with an eggplant slice (I used my biggest slices for the bottom layer) and then top with a big twirl of the pasta mixture.  Top with another eggplant slice and then another pasta twirl.  Do this again.  Top with a dab of the red sauce.  You can also top it with some hot pepper jelly which is a surprisingly good addition!  I did sprinkle our towers with a few torn basil leaves.

Dive in!  And check out this cookbook; chock a block full of great relatively healthy recipes. This was one of the more complex ones; most seem fairly straight forward and sound darn delicious.

Originally published in my blog October 2014.  I made this the other weekend and decided I just had to share it again.  Do use the red pepper jelly if you have any; it is amazing!

Monk Fish with Ratatouille…Early Fall on a Plate

My mom sometimes made fish for dinner and one of her favorites was monkfish, sometimes called poor man’s lobster. If you google monkfish it is one big ugly black fish. Luckily it tastes pretty good and is a change of pace from the fish I seem to be in a rut of choosing. I can’t remember how my mom made it but I saw this recipe on epicurious and decided to try it with some fresh veggies straight from the garden as a treat for her.  We both love ratatouille so what could be better?

I made a few small changes and cut the ingredient amounts in half for just two (my mom and I).  I was blown away by the rich flavors of the roasted ratatouille and the delicate but meaty monk fish fillet.  I think its nick name is due to the texture which does remind me of lobster, sort of.  It isn’t the most popular of fish (insert salmon her!) but this dish might change your mind and make the list of top ten fish recipes for your family. We ate every bite of the fish and those incredible veggies. I almost forgot to mention; this entree is ridiculously easy to make and is naturally gluten free.  Perfect!

The amounts are flexible; if you love eggplant it could be a bit more and if you have yellow squash instead of zuke that is perfect. I used that skinny Japanese eggplant but any regular eggplant cut in strips and then cubes would be perfect. The original recipe used canned marinara sauce but I chose to use some tomato paste from a tube and the fresh plum tomatoes. I was concerned about having a runny sauce but if you want more liquid add some sauce to thin things down.

I carefully transferred the dish to a glass oven pan and baked it just long enough to get the pan hot before putting on the lid and heading over to where my mom lives.  You don’t have to take that step but this is an easy meal to transport which makes my life a bit easier.

My starch was fire roasted russet potatoes but I am thinking this would be awesome with either gf noodles, gf pasta or rice pilaf.

ratatoille 002

I just sprinkled dried basil on top of the veggies. Will stir and add fish before roasting some more. You can add more wine if necessary.

ratatoille 003

Capers are on top, in my lidded glass oven dish.

ratatoille 004

About to dig in…yes…that’s a paper plate. I am at my mom’s assisted living room……easy clean up. This is just a blog. Not the food network, lol.

Monkfish with Ratatouille

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes (1.5 cups)

1 cup sliced zucchini

1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, cut into thin segments from top to bottom

2 teaspoon olive oil, divided

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 to 4 tbsp. dry white wine (or red if you prefer)

1 large clove garlic chopped coarsely

2 tbsp. tomato paste.

3 big plum tomatoes cut into chunks

2 monkfish fillets (about 5-6 ounces each)

1 tsp dried basil or 1.5 tbsp. fresh

1 tablespoon drained capers

PREPARATION

Heat oven to 425°F.

Coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Place eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and onion on the sheet and drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss a bit…I used a pancake turner to do that operation. Then spread the vegetables out over the pan so they are in a thin layer and roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with white wine, garlic and tomatoes. Cover loosely with foil and roast 5-10 minutes more. Remove pan from oven. Stir in basil. Lay fish fillets in the middle of the veggies; push them aside first to make a cleared space; drizzle with remaining teaspoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Cook about 10-12 minutes.  Sprinkle with capers and fresh basil if you have some.

I served this with grilled potatoes but if you are low carbing leave off the starch and you won’t be disappointed by the results.

Spicy Baby Eggplant and Pasta Stew

This post is for my friend Diane, the queen of eggplants!  We have been friends for a couple of years and share garden space at the church garden.  She really knows how to grow eggplants, dozens on a single plant both years!

baby eggplants

This recipe is for dealing with those small eggplants you find yourself with when the frost strikes and all delicate plants die in the frosty fall air.  I pick them no matter how small and this is how we use them!  Yes, the eggplant recipe fest continues!

This stew is very suitable for the slow cooker although you could do it on the stove top, I used to cook them in a big pot and watch over it until the eggplants are tender but I really love being able to put it all in my crock pot and walk away for four hours.  No worries on burnt bottom of the pot syndrome when you use the slow cooker.

If you don’t have baby eggplants I think you could use Japanese eggplants cut into workable lengths.

I used to make it rather bland but I really enjoy this spicy version!

Spicy Baby Eggplants and Pasta Stew

Ingredients

7-12 small eggplants from tiny up to about six inches long

1-2 ounces hard parmesan cheese

1 32 oz can of tomato sauce

½ cup baby carrots

1 medium carrot diced

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less to your personal taste)

½ tsp. sea salt

1 large garlic clove, smashed

½ cup oil cured black olives

1-2 tbsp. capers

Directions:

Cut the Parmesan cheese into tiny wedges.  Trim off the top cap of the eggplant.  Cut 3-4 slashes in the side of each eggplant going in the direction from the cap to the bottom.

Put a wedge of cheese into each deep slash.  I only put 2 slashes in tiny eggplants, 3 in bigger ones and 4 in the largest eggplants.  Put the eggplants into your slow cooker. Top with the chopped onion and carrots.  I cut my carrots in half as they were kinda large. Top with the herbs/spices. Pour the tomato sauce over it all. I used a quart of homemade tomato sauce out of my freezer. If you use a can of plain tomato sauce you might want to add 1 tsp. dried basil and same amount of oregano.  Top with the garlic, olives, and capers.  Cover and cook in your slow cooker on high for 4 hours.

2914-10-31 007

Cook gluten free ziti, enough for how many people you are serving, and drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Put it back in the now empty pot and add the eggplant mixture out of your crock pot.  Cook a minute stirring it all around the pot.  This allows the ziti to soak up some of the sauce and get a great authentic flavor.

2914-10-31 009

Serve in a low wide soup bowl with a good grating of Parmesan cheese on top.  If you have some gluten free rolls or fresh bread – heaven with this stew!

I like this stew leftover for lunch served over a microwaved baked potato. I use a knife to coarsely chop up the baby eggplants before heating them and pouring over the hot potato.

Note I used olives with pits but if you can find them pitted, all the better! If you are an olive hater, leave them out but they really add to the flavor.  Add more salt if you leave them out.

Eggplant and Pasta Turrets Eggplant Fest Continues!

Spaghetti is an American classic.  I don’t make it often enough, especially since going gluten free.  That may change since I started to read Mario Batali’s newest cookbook “America Farm to Table”.  I cooked up a storm this past weekend making his eggplant and angel hair turrets.  What’s a turret?  A tower of yumminess!

farm to table cookbook

Having a surfeit of eggplants I was diving into all my eggplant recipes to determine the best way to utilize my crop of purple beauties. This one is a winner!

eggplants

We devoured it by candlelight on my back porch Saturday night, bees wax candles to be exact.  I thought for a moment that my man was going to lick his dinner plate! It was rewarding to see him so enraptured by my cooking.  I served it with a side of Italian sausage but it does stand alone as a complete entree.  We had a greens and tomato salad to complete this wonderful meal.

2014-10-26 pasta tower 003

I took this picture by candlelight!

I made a few changes so this is an adaptation of the recipe.  I advise reading it through twice so you don’t screw it up! I used less red pepper flakes than the original recipe; up it to a tsp. if you dare!  Yes, it uses instant potato flakes and they work fantastically to coat the eggplant slices.  Don’t be squeamish about the anchovies; they totally disappear into this spicy but lush sauce that coats the pasta and provides a base for the tower.   I used tomato sauce I had made the night before from the last fresh tomatoes as the base to build this extra spicy sauce which can hold its own with the eggplant headliner.  This recipe serves 4.

Eggplant and Pasta Turrets

4 tbsp. EVOL (Extra virgin olive oil)

2 large eggs

1 cup instant mashed potato flakes

1 large eggplant or 2 medium ones

½ cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 oil packed anchovy fillets plus 1 tbsp. of the packing oil

1 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed by hand plus all the can juice or your own homemade tomato sauce, unseasoned

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1  12 oz package gf spaghetti

½ cup shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese

Fresh basil leaves

Eggplant: Place the eggs in a wide shallow bowl, beat well.  Put the potato flakes into a second shallow bowl or a wax paper covered plate.  Slice the eggplant into 1/3 inch slices.  Dip into the eggs, let excess drip off and dredge in the potato flakes.

Heat a large Teflon pan, add 2 tbsp EVOL.  Let heat to medium hot, add the eggplant slices, cook 2-3 minutes a side.  Place cooked eggplants on a paper towel lined plate.  Do a second batch of slices.  I put my cooked slices on a small baking sheet and put them into a 350 oven which I then turned off.  They stayed hot and I felt a tad more sure that they were fully cooked.

Make the sauce: heat the remaining EVOL in a large pot, add the onion, sauté until slightly softened; 2 minutes, add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, mashed up anchovy fillets, oil of fillets and the tomatoes.  Cook, stirring often; 12-15 minutes.

Pasta: Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling salted water, I used Barilla by the way.  Drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Save a cup of the pot water to thin the pasta.

Use the eggplant fry pan (wipe out the brown bits of crust) and ladle in 2-3 big scoops of the sauce and the pasta.  Cook one minute, turn off the stove and add the cheese, stir well.

2014-10-26 pasta tower 004

Construction of the turrets:

Place a big spoonful of sauce on each plate.  Top with an eggplant slice (I used my biggest slices for the bottom layer) and then top with a big twirl of the pasta mixture.  Top with another eggplant slice and then another pasta twirl.  Do this again.  Top with a dab of the red sauce.  You can also top it with some red pepper jelly but I didn’t go there!  I did sprinkle our towers with a few torn basil leaves. My towers were a tad sloppy Saturday but I made another one for Sunday lunch and that time I got the right amount of pasta between the eggplants and it looked amazing!

Dive in to this wild but yummy dish!  And check out this new cookbook; chock a block full of great relatively healthy recipes. This was one of the more complex ones; most seem fairly straight forward and sound darn delicious.