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Ratatouille

I have prepared and eaten Ratatouille many times. Of course, why not, because I like eggplant . . . a lot. Usually my ratatouille is a delicious, but rather unappetizing-looking, mess. This recipe is something completely different. Not only is it delicious, it’s beautiful!

I used the recipe https://realfoodnuts.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/ratatouille-casserole/ at Real Food Nuts, with a few modifications. It was so tasty that I tried it again so I could take pictures and show you how I did it. This is what happens when you don’t have a round casserole dish and you’re married to a wine-maker. Recipes morph.

Here goes . . .

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Slice two small eggplants (each one is about 7” long) crosswise into ¼” slices. I had bought a package of these small eggplants at Costco the other day, there were five of them in the bag.

Set the slices on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Turn the slices over and salt the other side. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes.

Set the slices on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Turn the slices over and salt the other side. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes. (I’m only picturing part of them. You will have  more.)

In the meantime, saute onion and garlic in olive oil. When translucent, stir in a 6-oz. can tomato paste, ¾ cup red wine, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Set aside. Rub a 9” square baking dish with olive oil. Empty the red sauce into the baking dish and smooth it evenly across the bottom.

In the meantime, saute onion and garlic in olive oil. When translucent, stir in a 6-oz. can tomato paste, ¾ cup red wine, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Rub a 9” square baking dish with olive oil. Empty the red sauce into the baking dish and smooth it evenly across the bottom.

Slice summer squash (yellow obviously is what I used, but zucchini would work just the same) into ¼” slices crosswise. I had a bag of sweet mini-peppers from Costco and I used what was left of those, a dozen should do it. I was a little shy on the peppers, but it turned out fine. I cut the tops off and made sure there weren’t any seeds, then sliced each pepper in half lengthwise.

Slice summer squash (yellow obviously is what I used, but zucchini would work just the same) into ¼” slices crosswise. I had a bag of sweet mini-peppers from Costco and I used what was left of those, a dozen should do it. I was a little shy on the peppers, but it turned out fine. I cut the tops off and made sure there weren’t any seeds, then sliced each pepper in half lengthwise. Of course, the usual thing to use would be sliced bell pepper. Use whatever you have.

Blot the eggplants with paper towels and put them, with the squash and peppers, into a bowl. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil and stir around with your hands so that all the vegis are coated.

Blot the eggplants with paper towels and put them, with the squash and peppers, into a bowl. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil and stir around with your hands so that all the vegis are coated.

Alternate rows of vegetables onto the sauce as pictured.

Alternate rows of vegetables onto the sauce as pictured.

I started with the peppers upright, but when I realized I’d be short at the end, I turned the remaining ones sideways. I filled in some of the gaps with the smaller slices of squash. Sprinkle the top with olive oil, salt, pepper, and sliced fresh basil.

I started with the peppers upright, but when I realized I’d be short at the end, I turned the remaining ones sideways. I filled in some of the gaps with the smaller slices of squash. Sprinkle the top with olive oil, salt, pepper, and sliced fresh basil.

Cover with parchment paper, tucked into the inside, and bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

Cover with parchment paper, tucked into the inside, and bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

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Voila, so beautiful!

Voila, so beautiful!

And delicious!

Ingredients:

Eggplant (2 small, about 7”)

Summer squash (2 small, about 7”)

Mini sweet peppers (12)

½ onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

¾ cup red wine (or water)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

P1040693This is an easy and interesting dish to prepare, plus it is delicious! Its combination of spices lends itself well to wild game, but any type of ground meat would probably do. I have consistently failed to buy enough eggplant to make this properly, but it works out well enough. Some day I will look at the eggplants in the grocery and tell myself I need more, not less. Another addition you might consider is a layer of thinly sliced sauteed potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. I think you would want to have a baking dish with very high sides.

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Cut 3 eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Score the skin with a knife. Sprinkle each slice with salt and let drain onto paper towels for thirty minutes. Note: I had one very large eggplant — it wasn’t enough as you will see below.

In 1 Tbsp. butter saute 1-lb. ground meat (moose or elk are great!), 2 chopped onions, and 1 minced garlic clove.

In 1 Tbsp. butter, saute 1-lb. ground meat (moose or elk are great!), 2 chopped onions, and 1 minced garlic clove.

Once the meat is browned, stir in 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. herbs de Provence or herbs fines, and 2 Tbsp. dried parsley. Add 8-oz. tomato sauce and 1/2 cup red wine (or beef broth). Simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool. Stir in one beaten egg.

Once the meat is browned, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then stir in 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. herbs de Provence or herbs fines, and 2 Tbsp. dried parsley. Add 8-oz. tomato sauce and 1/2 cup red wine (or beef broth). Simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool. Stir in one beaten egg.

Pat eggplant slices with paper towel to remove moisture and fry slices in olive oil until mostly cooked through.

Pat eggplant slices with paper towel to remove moisture and fry slices in olive oil until mostly cooked through.

Make a bechamel sauce by melting 1/2 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stirring in 6 Tbsp. flour. Continue stirring until flour-butter mixture bubbles for awhile. Stir in 4 cups milk. Keep over medium heat, stirring frequently until it's thick and bubbly. Add salt and white pepper to taste. When ready to assemble, place one layer of eggplant in the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish. Cover the eggplant with all of the meat mixture. Sprinkle meat mixture with 1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese. Cover that layer with remaining eggplant slices. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Make a white sauce by melting 1/2 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stirring in 6 Tbsp. flour. Continue stirring until flour-butter mixture bubbles for awhile. Stir in 4 cups milk. Keep stirring frequently over medium heat until it’s thick and bubbly. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Remove from heat. When ready to assemble, place one layer of eggplant in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Cover the eggplant with all of the meat mixture. Sprinkle meat mixture with 1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese. Cover that layer with remaining eggplant slices. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Gently pour bechamel sauce over the entire dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Yummy!

Gently pour white sauce over the entire dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Yummy!

I wish I was a better photographer for this surely is a wonderful dish.

I wish I was a better photographer for this surely is a wonderful dish.

Moussaka Recipe

3 eggplants, sliced lengthwise 1/2″, score the skin

Salt

1 Tbsp. butter

1-lb. ground meat (moose or elk or beef or . . .)

Salt & pepper to taste

2 onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. herbs de Provence or herbs fines

2 Tbsp. dried parsley

8-oz. tomato sauce

1/2 cup red wine (or substitute beef broth)

1 egg, beaten

Olive oil

1/2 cup butter

6 Tbsp. flour

4 cups milk

Salt & white pepper

1-1/2 cups grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Lay the slices of eggplant on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the ground meat, salt and pepper to taste, onions, and garlic. After the meat is browned, sprinkle in the cinnamon, nutmeg, fines herbs and parsley. Pour in the tomato sauce and wine, and mix well. Simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, and then stir in beaten egg.
  3. Pat eggplant slices with paper towel to remove moisture and fry slices in olive oil until mostly cooked through.
  4. Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth. Lower heat; gradually pour in the milk, stirring frequently until it thickens. Season with salt, and white pepper.
  5. Arrange a layer of eggplant in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover eggplant with all of the meat mixture, and then sprinkle 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese over the meat. Cover with remaining eggplant, and sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Pour the white sauce over the top, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.

Eggplant Parmesan

I know, I know, it’s another Parmesan recipe. And mine are all pretty much the same. I’m including this one because of the eggplant. It’s an easy dish. There is no salting and draining. You can reduce the ingredient amounts and use a smaller baking dish in order to serve fewer people. It’s simple to make adjustments.

Beat three eggs with 3-4 Tbsp. of water in a flat-bottomed pan, like the pie plate pictured here.

Scoop flour (about a cup) into a flat-bottomed pan like the pie plate pictured here.

Slice two medium eggplants lengthwise into apx. 1/4″ slices. (I used one large eggplant.)

Coat a griddle or large skillet with olive oil and heat on medium high.

Dredge a slice of eggplant through the flour, coating each side of eggplant.

Immerse eggplant slice in egg mixture.

Make sure each side of eggplant is covered with egg mixture.

Move the eggplant slice to the hot griddle.

Turn over once browned. Continue browning eggplant slices, adding olive oil as needed.

Once browned and softened, remove the eggplant slices to a paper-towel-lined plate. Stack the slices in layers on paper towels (to absorb extra oil). Let cool.

I use the whole eggplant, even with the peel on it. It doesn’t matter. As you can see, my slices are not uniform either. It really doesn’t matter.

In the meantime, while the eggplant slices are cooking, fry about a pound of Italian sausage. If you’re serving vegetarians you may skip this step.

Once the sausage is browned, add a jar of pasta sauce (about 24 ounces). I rinse the jar with red wine. Simmer until it is very thick.

Slice about a pound of mozzarella cheese. I like to use fresh mozzarella and this was only 12 ounces, but it was quite enough. I’ve also used shredded Mozzarella, it all works.

In a 9 x 13″ greased baking dish, layer 1/2 of the eggplant slices to cover the bottom of the dish. Like I said earlier, if you want to use a smaller eggplant and less of the other ingredients you could use a 9 x 9″ pan or smaller. This is really not fussy.

Layer 1/2 of the pasta sauce and 1/2 of the Mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with a bit of grated or shredded Parmesan cheese.

Layer the remaining eggplant slices on top.

Finish up with the remaining sauce and Mozzarella. Sprinkle the top with about 1/2 cup of grated or shredded Parmesan.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Serves about 6 people.

I served this with shrimp salad and garlic bread. Delicious!

This is a dish I make frequently. It is so simple.

You will need olive oil, one eggplant, bread crumbs, and seasoning. That’s it!

Slice an eggplant crosswise into 1″ slices. Drizzle olive oil into a 9X13″ pan. I start with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Dip each eggplant slice into olive oil so that each side of the slice is coated. You will need to add more olive oil as you go through the slices. As you’re done coating a slice, just slide it to one edge of the pan. When finished, both your pan and your eggplant should be coated with olive oil. Lay the eggplant out in a single layer (I have done this by offset stacking and it works, too, just not as pretty). Now, sprinkle the top of each slice with bread crumbs. Sprinkle the bread crumbs with seasoned salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and parsley (whatever floats your boat). Drizzle a little more olive oil over the top, not much. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes. You can stick a fork in one slice and it should feel quite tender.

These are meant to be eaten at room temperature so can be baked ahead of time, but they taste okay while hot. They tend to lose quite a bit of firmness in the refrigerator, but still taste okay. Usually, we don’t have any left to put in the refrigerator. My favorite way to eat these is to snatch them from the pan with my fingers about half hour after baking and pop them into my mouth. I can go through quite a few of them that way. I dislike sharing, I guess. Last thing: sometimes you can buy really small eggplant and I have prepared them the same way as this, only slicing in half lengthwise and sprinkling bread crumbs, etc. on each half.

This is the dish just before the last drizzle of olive oil

Here's how it should look right before you place it into the oven.

Out of the oven

Finished product

We invited dinner guests who had given up meat for Lent, so we enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches, broccoli cheese soupclassic salad and cranberry cake.  We had provolone tomato sandwiches and fried egg cheddar sandwiches. What I want to tell you about is the Eggplant Provolone Sandwich. I’ve become such a huge fan of eggplant. You will see more recipes in the coming weeks. I discovered that a lot of that salting and draining, and whatever it is that they do to eggplant before actually cooking with it, is often a huge waste of time. What I’ve described below works for me and tastes sweet and delicious.

Because I used a round loaf of sourdough bread, I sliced the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2″ slices. They fit nicely onto the bread that way. You could slice them into rounds if that’s what will fit your bread better. Slice the skin of each piece of eggplant every inch or so. [I did not want anyone to bite into their sandwich and pull out the entire eggplant piece because they couldn’t break the skin with their teeth.] Dip an eggplant slice into flour and then into an egg wash (2 eggs mixed with 2 Tbsp. water) and fry in olive oil on medium until well browned and cooked through. You will have to add more olive oil as you go through the batches. The eggplant should be tender when stuck with a fork. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble the sandwich, place sliced provolone cheese on bread slice, followed by eggplant, then provolone, then top bread slice, then butter. Place buttered side down on hot griddle, then butter top. Watch the bottom so it doesn’t burn. Provolone melts quite easily, so this should go quickly. Turn over to brown the other side. Remove from heat, cut in half, serve.