Monday, January 19, 2009

NOW STOP THAT! Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta Gypsy

NOW STOP THAT!  Don't you dare miss this meal because you think you don't like eggplant!  I thought I hated eggplant, and I definitely hated spinach the way it was served to me as a child (with vinegar - yuk!)  But the Italian cooking shows always rave about eggplant.  Then last summer I saw such a beautiful little eggplant at the store - all shiny purple and calling out "Buy me! Buy me!".  So I did.  I took it home and challenged Michael to find the correct way to cook it so it wouldn't be bitter.  Wow!  He does love a challenge!  What a success this is, and we'd had it several times since then.  Please give it a try!

Eggplant Parmesan (serves 4 large servings)
1 to 1-1/2 lb eggplant
1 egg
1 c matzo meal (or cracker crumbs or dried bread crumbs)
1/2 c total Parmesan, divided
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz), heated w 1/2 T Italian seasoning and 1/2 T dried basil
4 oz mozzarella cheese
1 T olive oil

To remove the bitterness, wash and slice the eggplant into 1/2" slices.  Salt the slices generously on both sides and lay them out in a colander.  Let it sit where it can drain for 30-60 minutes. Blot the salty brine off with a paper towel. Bye bye bitter!

Meanwhile beat the egg with 1 T water, pour it out onto a small plate.  Put the matzo meal and 1/4 c of the parmesan on another medium plate, mixed together.  Heat the tomato mix as listed in the ingredients. Spray a frypan and a 9x9" glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Once the eggplant is blotted, heat 1 t. olive oil in the frypan.  Dip each eggplant slice in the egg mix, the cheese/crumb mixture, put in the frypan in a single layer.  Cook until golden, flip, cook until golden on both sides.  As you continue these, start the finished eggplant slices in a layer in the 9x9" baking dish.  Top each layer with 2 T Parmesan cheese and half of the tomato sauce mix and half of the mozzarella .  Michael usually gets 2 layers.  Make sure you end with mozzarella on the top.  Bake about 30 minutes.

Pasta Gypsy (serves 2)
A note about the ingredients.  Michael modifies this a lot depending on what is available seasonally, or on sale, or on hand.  You can modify too.  I love it with artichokes, as it was served in a Philadelphia restaurant.  We've used cherry tomatoes, various pastas, various olives, fresh basil when available.  Don't miss out on the truffle infused oil, black or white, as it adds a wonderful flavor.  It's expensive, but you use so little a small bottle will last you a long time.

4 oz mostaccioli or penne pasta
3 portobello mini caps (mushrooms), chopped into bite size pieces
handful or 2 of fresh spinach (what we had left), washed
1 clove garlic, pressed in a garlic press (or minced)
1 T parmesan cheese
1 t olive oil
8 olives
1/2 t truffle infused oil*, divided
1/4 c carrot water (see previous entries) or broth
1/2 t dried basil

Cook pasta per package directions, drain.  Saute the mushrooms, garlic, and olive oil in a frypan that has been sprayed with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt.  Add the cooked pasta, carrot water, basil, and the parmesan cheese.  Add the spinach last and cook until just wilted and most or all of the water has evaporated.  Place on plate and top with olives and drizzle 1/4 t truffle oil on each serving.

*truffle oil: can be purchased in gourmet cooking stores.  We buy ours from Earthy Delights.

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