Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vegetable Delights

From time-to-time I dapple in vegetarianism, but alas I love a perfectly grilled steak and am always pulled back to meat-eating ways. Surprisingly though, it is my love of veggies that has introduced me to some of the most flavorful meals I've ever eaten. These are two of my recent flavorful finds.

Eggplant Parmesan

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce:

1 Tbsp olive oil
½ large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 roasted red pepper, peeled, seeded & chopped
4 medium tomatoes peeled, seeded & chopped
2 Tbsp freshly chopped basil leaves
1 Tbsp freshly chopped oregano leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Honey, to taste

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the red peppers and cook for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Return the mixture back to the pot, add the basil and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes longer and season with honey, if needed.


1 1/2 C dried breadcrumbs (made from dried day-old bread, or commercial)
Butter, for greasing the dish
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1Tbsp water
2 to 3 small eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch-thick round slices
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Vegetable oil, for frying
Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
1 C grated mozzarella (not fresh)
1/4 C grated fresh parmesan
Fresh basil leaves, torn

To dry out the bread crumbs:
Preheat the oven to 300 degree F.
Evenly spread the bread crumbs on a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, turn the oven off and let the bread crumbs sit in the oven for 30 minutes or until just dry.

Raise the temperature of the oven up to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish and set aside.

Place the bread crumbs into a large shallow bowl. Add the herbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In another medium shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and 1Tbsp of water together.

Season each eggplant slice on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, tapping off excess, then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the bread crumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the egg plant to a plate. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Heat 1/2-inch of oil in a cast iron skill or saute pan over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 385 degrees F. Working in small batches, fry a few of the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with some of the Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce and arrange 1/2 of the eggplant over the sauce. Cover the eggplant with some of the sauce, grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese and some of the basil. Repeat to make 2 layers ending with the sauce. Top with the fresh mozzarella and remaining parmesan and bake until hot and just beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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