Eggplant Crockpot Pasta Sauce

served with Parmesan and basil

ingeredients

The last 10 minutes of San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers Market are filled with vendors shouting “$1 a bag!” which is how I ended up lugging home 2 bags of eggplant and a huge bag of tomatoes home on the Bart train!

We’re in the middle of one of those rare but scorching Bay Area heat spells, so I decided to use my Crockpot to cook the eggplant and veggies instead of roasting them in the oven. Although not as toothsome as roasting, they came out tasty and ready to mix with penne or rigatoni pasta.

chopped vegetables

Ingredients:
A very large bag of tomatoes. It’s fine if they’re a little soft, and that’s what you’re going to get with bargain bag tomatoes anyway.
5 long Italian eggplants and 4 small globe eggplants
1 ½ small onions, (or one large onion)
2 bell peppers (or a bag of frozen sliced bell peppers).
5 large mushrooms
6 spicy chicken Italian sausages (you can use sweet if that’s too spicy for you)
8 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
Parmesan rind
4 bay leaves,
Sprig of rosemary
1 Tb oregano
1 ½ tsp salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 Tb of olive oil
1 Tb red wine
1 Tb of sugar

Add after cooking sauce:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 fresh bunch of basil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 pound of penne or rigatoni pasta

Chop the vegetables and sausage and add the other ingredients in the first list to the Crockpot. I went to the trouble of dipping the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling them, but it’s not really necessary to do that.

in the crock pot

Cooked sauce in the Crockpot

I started the sauce after work and let it cook all night. (You can also start yours in the morning and cook it all day.) I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough liquid to cook it properly, but in the morning I realized that the vegetables had released plenty of liquid. I removed the Parmesan rind, which had given up its flavor to the sauce.

I added a can of chopped artichoke hearts. I chopped half the bunch of fresh basil I had bought at the farmers market and stirred it in with the freshly grated Parmesan. I let it sit in the fridge until dinner time so the flavors would develop.

At dinnertime, I boiled 2/3 of a pound box rigatoni pasta  and mixed it together with the sauce. I chopped up the rest of the fresh basil and sprinkled it on top with more Parmesan. This made 9 meals. Yay for leftovers!

layered with Parmesan

layered sauce with Parmesan

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Lemon-Rosemary blossom Tart Pastry

blossoming rosemary

baked pastry

This delicately-scented pastry is ideal for making fruit tarts.  Make it when rosemary is in bloom and it will compliment the taste of fresh strawberries. It tastes like lemon butter shortbread cookies. Have ingredients as cold as possible. This recipe makes pastry to fit a 10” removable bottom tart pan.

lemon zest and rosemary flowers

Ingredients:

Ingredients:
8 rosemary blossoms
Zest of one large lemon (yellow part of peel only)
¼ cup sugar
1½ tsp cold lemon juice (Meyer lemon is best)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, frozen for at least 30 minutes
¼ tsp salt
1 cube = 8 Tb cold butter

1 egg yolk
ice water

Directions:

Prepare ice water: Add ice to approximately ¼ cup cold water and let sit until water is ice cold.

Make dough in food processor:
Pulse sugar, lemon zest and rosemary blossoms in food processor. Add flour and salt and pulse briefly to mix.
Cut butter into 8 tablespoon-size slices and add to ingredients. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

dough in processor before forming

Juice 1/2 a  lemon and measure 1½ tsp lemon juice. Mix lemon juice, egg yolk and 2 ½ Tb ice water in a small bowl or cup,  pour into processor and pulse a few times. Don’t over-mix the dough or it will toughen. Dough should be soft and malleable.

dough disk on tart pan

Pour the dough into a large bowl and form a ball and flatten into a disk. Place it in the center of the tart pan.

push dough into edges of tart pan

Press the dough into the sides of the pan so it gets that pretty fluted look. Be careful not to stretch the dough, or it will shrink when it bakes. Pat the dough with the flat part of your palm in the center so it’s even. Press on the rim of the edges to trim the excess dough. Reserve a little extra dough in case you need to repair the shell.

Cover entire crust with the parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.

About 15 min before taking the pastry out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 375◦

Remove the pastry from the fridge and fill with ceramic pie weights. (You can substitute beans). and trim the excess parchment with scissors so it won’t burn.  Cover the edges with a pie protector or foil strips. Bake on the middle rack for 10 minutes.

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pricked pastry

Take the pan out and remove the parchment paper and pie weights. Prick the entire bottom of the pastry with a fork.  Cover edges with the pie protector again. Return the pastry to the oven for about 15 minutes until it is golden brown. Let it cool completely on a rack before filling.

baked pastry

Gluten-free Cornbread

???????????????????????????????To make gluten-free cornbread, I substituted masa harina, the corn flour used to make tortillas or tamales, for wheat flour in my cornbread recipe. The result was a fluffy textured cornbread which had a taste of tortillas. I added a bit more salt. You can put rosemary in it if you like.

Ingredients:

masa harinamasa harina

1 cup 1% milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup masa harina

¼ cup ground flax-seed

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (about a one-inch sprig) optional

3/4  tsp salt

1 Tb sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 cup olive oil

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 425’

Add vinegar to milk and let it curdle while you mix the other ingredients.

Sift baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients and rosemary if using, and mix well.

Mix eggs with milk in a separate bowl, then stir in applesauce and oil until well mixed. Pour into dry ingredients. Mix with a large spoon only until ingredients are combined.

Spray an 8 inch square pan with olive oil spray. Pour in batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Delicious out of the pan, or use for making Low-fat cornbread sage stuffing with chestnuts and apples.

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Rosemary-Parmesan Popovers

DSC03254These Rosemary-scented cheesy popovers are an easy way to start a weekend morning.  I make the batter the night before and just pop them in the oven when I first get up. By the time I shower and make the coffee, they are hot and ready. They also make a tasty accompaniment to soup.

The recipe was inspired by Chronicle writer Marlene Sorosky Gray’s article on popovers on http://www.sfgate.com/recipes/article/Baker-s-quest-What-makes-perfect-popovers-4601293.phpThis is a take-off on her pepper-jack and chive popovers.  I used only Parmesan cheese and added fresh rosemary from my garden.

The lightest popovers use only white flour, but I really like whole wheat flour. I’ve tried varying combinations of whole-wheat pastry flour and white all-purpose flour. Using all whole-wheat yields a bread-like version, so the happy medium is to use 1/3 whole-wheat pastry flour.

Makes 12 popovers

1 ½ cups hot milk. I use 1%, but you can use non fat or whole milk. (But don’t use lactose-free or other milk substitutes; they won’t work.)

3 large eggs

1 cup white all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour or finely ground whole-wheat flour

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

1 ½ Tb melted butter

¼ cup plus 1 Tb freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp finely minced fresh rosemary

2 Tb minced fresh chives

non-stick pan spray

Heat the milk for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a saucepan until hot but not boiling.

DSC03252adding minced fresh rosemary to batter

Using a mixer, whisk, blender or food processor, beat eggs well. Pour in milk while beating until foamy. Add the flours and salt, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add butter, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and herbs, and mix again. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, and preferably overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375’. Place a non-stick muffin pan into the oven for 3 minutes. Remove the pan and spray with non-stick pan spray.

DSC03253Pour in the batter until holders are ¾ full. Sprinkle 1 Tb freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of batter.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until tops are puffed up and browned. If popovers are baking unevenly, rotate the pan the last 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

DSC03255

Kasha Varnishkes with fresh herbs, mushrooms and peas

???????????????????????????????Kasha Varnishkes is a traditional Russian-Jewish dish of kasha and farfelle (buckwheat groats and bow tie pasta). I dressed up my mom’s recipe with fresh herbs, mushrooms and freshly shelled peas.

toasting kasha

toasting kasha

Did you know that buckwheat is gluten-free because it is a fruit? Kasha is the roasted buckwheat seed (groat). Buckwheat has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure, and cholesterol, is low-glycemic, and is a good source of protein and magnesium.

Did you know that even though farfelle is called bow tie pasta, it is named for farfella, which means butterfly in Italian!

Ingredients:

1 large pot of salted water

8 oz farfelle (bow-tie pasta)

1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)

1 egg

1 Tb olive oil

1 small onion

1 ½ cups mushroom

1 tsp minced rosemary

¼ tsp minced thyme

¼ tsp dill weed

2 1/4 cups Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version. If you want to use prepared broth, salt the kasha to taste.

½ – 1 tsp salt to taste, depending on saltiness of the broth.

A few shakes or grinds of black pepper

1 bay leaf

1 tsp lemon juice

2 cups shelled English peas (you can substitute frozen peas)

1 Tb chopped Italian parsley

Directions:

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling

Heat broth to boiling in a heavy, medium saucepan.

While you are heating the liquids, prepare the kasha:

Sauté onion in olive oil over low heat about 10 minutes until soft,

While the onion is cooking, mix kasha with a beaten egg in a bowl until the kasha is coated. Toast kasha in a dry non-stick frying pan, stirring with a wooden spoon until the grains separate.

Toast kasha in a dry non-stick frying pan, stirring with a wooden spoon until the grains separate.

???????????????????????????????Add mushrooms to onions, cover and cook another 3 minutes until mushrooms begin to soften. Stir in herbs and cook another minute, then add the toasted kasha.

Pour kasha mixture into hot broth; add bay leaf, lemon juice and pepper.  Salt it to taste. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 12 minutes until most liquid is absorbed. Stir in fresh peas in the last 7 minutes. If you choose to use frozen peas, stir them in at the last 4 minutes.

While kasha is cooking, cook pasta for 10 minutes in salted water. Drain and Stir into cooked kasha. Extra broth from the kasha will act as gravy. Stir in chopped parsley.

Vegetable Broth

vegetable brothPerfect to make for the vegetarian cousins for my Seder’s matzo ball soup, or great as a base for Minestrone soup, mushroom barley soup, kale and white bean soup, borscht,  or other veggie soups. It smells fantastic while cooking.

vegetables3 medium leeks

1 bunch celery, outer stalks and leafy tops

1 onion

4 cloves of garlic

3 carrots

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 Tb thyme (fresh or dried, depending on the season)

1 tsp each dried dill weed, oregano,

4 bay leaves

1 – 2 Tb salt

several grinds black pepper

Boil 6 cups of water in a large pot.

soaking leeksDiscard root end off of leeks. Slit leeks down the middle several times, then chop crosswise. Place them in a salad spinner and fill it with water. Let soak while chopping other vegetables. Then lift basket and discard dirty water. Repeat 2 more times, rubbing leeks to loosen dirt, then rinse thoroughly.

Rinse onion, trim top and tail, then cut into large chunks, including the skin for its lovely golden color. Peel the bitter skin from carrots and chop roughly. (I sometimes use dried but edible baby carrots instead). Pull outer stalks from celery and discard the dirty bottoms. Rinse well and chop roughly. Cut leafy tops from the inner stalks and rinse and chop roughly. Smash garlic in a molcajete or mortar and pestle to remove shell, and chop.

cooking brothAdd all vegetables and seasonings to boiling water and let boil for ½ hour. Transfer to a crock pot and let cook all day or night, depending on when you begin.

Strain broth through a sieve and adjust salt. The broth freezes well, so put in several containers for future use.

2 Spinach & Vegetable Quiches

What do I do when I buy a huge bag of spinach leaves on sale for only $1.87?
First I make a lot of spinach salads including Raspberry Pecan Salad, then spinach over easySpanakopita, Lebanese Spinach Pies, and throw it in Linguine with Prawns, and then I make spinach quiche. 
Since there’s so much spinach, I made a few quiches and experimented with the ingredients. I used 6 cups of spinach per quiche, and added half the spinach at a time so it would fit in the pan. It wilts quickly so you can add the rest after a couple of minutes. Of course you can make these quiches with frozen spinach. I won’t tell anyone.
 
I made the crust using pie crust and the same custard for Broccoli and Veggie
 
Quiche
First make the custard. You can use this custard for either quiche.
 Custard:
Whisk together until well blended:
3/4 cup warm milk (heat in microwave in a glass measuring cup)
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
a few shakes pepper
For each quiche, I used 6 cups fresh spinach. Here are two variations:
 quiche w slice out
Spinach Quiche with mushrooms, bacon and red bell pepper: (This can be made without bacon and still satisfy!)
2 tsp olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
3 large white mushrooms, sliced
2 pieces crumbled bacon (discard fat)
2 one-inch sprigs finely minced rosemary
1 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese
1 egg for painting crust
 
Preheat oven to 425◦Sauté red onion and red bell pepper in olive oil until they soften. Add sliced mushrooms and rosemary. When mushrooms are soft, transfer vegetables to a bowl.

Add 6 cups spinach to the pan, cooking over low heat until spinach wilts. Transfer to a colander and press the water from the spinach. When spinach is cool enough to handles, pick it up and squeeze all the water out of the spinach. Mix it with the bacon and the other vegetables.

Cover the pie crust with parchment or foil and weigh it down with pie weights or beans on top. Blind bake crust for 15 minutes at 425◦

Remove from oven and paint an beaten egg on the bottom of the crust to prevent sogginess. Add leftover egg to custard. Bake for another 5 minutes to set the egg and brown the sides of the crust.

Lower oven temperature to 375◦

IMG_3922

Place the pie crust on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the Jarlsberg cheese on bottom of pie crust, reserving a few tablespoons.

IMG_3927-1

Put the vegetable mixture on top. Pour the custard over it until it’s about 1/2 inch below the top of the crust. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Pour custard over vegetables. Sprinkle with reserved Jarlsberg cheese. Cover with a pie shield to protect crust from burning.

IMG_3928

Bake for 40 min in 375◦ oven until top begins to brown and an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool before eating.

IMG_3930
 
 
Spinach Quiche with Rainbow Roasted Vegetables and feta
 quiche in tart pan
You can make this in a pie pan or a tart pan.
 6 cups fresh spinach or 1 cup frozen spinach
I cup Rainbow Roasted Vegetables, chopped
3 Tb crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese. (You can substitute Swiss cheese, but I like the nutty taste of Jarlsberg)
1 egg for painting crust
Custard:
Whisk together until well blended:
1 cup warm milk
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
a pinch of white pepper
 Preheat oven to 375◦
Wilt spinach and remove with a slotted spoon, squeezing out liquid, and place in a medium bowl. If using frozen spinach, microwave with a little drizzle of water, then drain in a sieve, squeezing all the liquid out. This is important if you don’t want a waterlogged quiche!
Stir in roasted vegetables and crumbled feta cheese.
 pie crust with parchment and pie weights
Place parchment paper or foil on top of the crust and cover with ceramic pie weights or beans to prevent the crust from puffing up.  Blind bake the crust for 15 minutes at 425. 
Remove the pie weights and parchment.
Paint an egg on the bottom of the crust to prevent sogginess. Add leftover egg to custard.
egg baked on crust
Bake again for 5 minutes to set the egg.
Let cool on a rack for a few minutes.
 Sprinkle most of the Jarlsberg cheese on bottom of pie crust, reserving a few tablespoons.

Add spinach,vegetable and feta mixture

Pour custard  over vegetables.Sprinkle reserved Jarlsberg cheese on top.Cover the edges of the pan with a pie sheld to prevent the edges from getting burned.Bake for 30 min in 375◦ oven until top begins to brown and an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before eating.quiche slice