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

Marinated Eggplant

marinated eggplant dishThis delicious Italian-style eggplant is marinated in olive oil, Meyer lemon and a touch of balsamic, with garlic and oregano. It makes an excellent side-dish for Italian food.

Make the dish a day before serving and marinate overnight in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.

eggplants3 medium or 4 small globe eggplants

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 leek

1/4 cup plus 2 Tb garlic infused olive oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

12-oz jar Italian-style roasted red bell peppers

1 cloves garlic, minced fine

1 Tb balsamic vinegar

several grinds black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp dried oregano

2 slices Meyer lemon (from blossom end)

Finely grated peel of Meyer lemon

Juice of Meyer lemon

chopped eggplant with leeksCut the eggplants at different angles into 2 inches pieces. Each piece should have skin on it. Put them on a rack above a rimmed baking pan, such as a jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the eggplant. Let it sit for 30 minutes. You will see it sweat. This improves the texture of the eggplant and is supposed to make it less bitter.

While eggplant is sweating, heat the oven to 350º F. Cut the white part of the leek length-wise and then into 1 ” pieces. Soak in a salad-spinner, then rise thoroughly. Spin until dry. Grease a roasting pan with 2 TB garlic infused olive oil and add leeks.

After eggplant sweats for 30 minutes, briefly rinse the pieces in the basket of the salad spinner, then spin, and pat dry with a paper towel. Add to the leeks in the roasting pan. Pour in the rest of the garlic oil and toss so that all the eggplant is coated with oil. Bake for 25 minutes at 350º F. Turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven until it is cool, about an hour. The eggplant and leeks should be very tender. Transfer to a deep casserole dish. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Cut two thin slices of lemon from the blossom end (opposite the stem end), then cut each in half and set aside. Finely grate the peel of the rest of the lemon, then juice it. Add peel and juice to the eggplant.

Pour the jar of roasted peppers into the eggplant, then fish out the peppers and slice them in half cross-wise, then into strips length-wise and stir into eggplant. Place the lemon slices on top.

Let the eggplant sit at room temperature. Adjust seasonings. Refrigerate for about 24 hours, then let sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

Eggplant Parmesan – Aubergine Parmigiana

???????????????????????????????Our Roman airbnb houseguest, Cinzia, kindly demonstrated her traditional Italian version of Eggplant Parmesan, called Aubergine Parmigiana in Italian. I enjoyed making it with her and it was delicious, but a bit heavy due to the fact that she deep-fried the eggplant. I lightened her recipe by baking the eggplant slices with olive oil spray instead.

I use Cinzia’s recipe for Fantastically Fresh Tomato Sauce, which she made for this Aubergine Parmigiana. It makes about a cup of sauce.

DSC03129                                                                                     Cinzia

Serves 4:

???????????????????????????????Ingredients: (We bought the meat from Genova Deli in Oakland)

1 large globe eggplant

kosher salt

olive oil spray

1 tsp olive oil

2 slices of Mortadella salami. (it looks like bologna, but is much better)

5 slices of Salami Milano

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large ball (4 oz) of fresh mozzarella cheese

???????????????????????????????Cut ends off eggplant and peel it.

???????????????????????????????Use a large knife to slice eggplant thinly: about 1/2 inch thick.

???????????????????????????????Place slices in a colander or salad spinner basket and sprinkle with kosher salt. Layer more slices on top, sprinkling with more salt. Let sit while you make the sauce and grate the cheese, etc, for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw the bitterness from the eggplant and drops of moisture will appear on the surface.

???????????????????????????????Rinse the salt off of the eggplant and pat dry with a paper towel. Spray a couple of baking sheets with olive oil spray. Cut the larger eggplant slices in half. Place the eggplant slices on the sheet. Spray them with olive oil spray , then turn and spray the other side.

Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes until soft, but not dried out.

Assembly:

???????????????????????????????Spray sides and bottom of a flat casserole pan with olive oil spray, then pour about 1 tsp of oil  on the bottom, add a bit of the tomato sauce and spread it on the bottom.

DSC03205Place about 1/2 the eggplant slices in the pan and cover them with half the tomato sauce. Cut up the fresh mozzarella and place the pieces evenly on top of the eggplant.

DSC03206Cut the sliced meat into wedges and place on top of the mozzarella. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of the meat.

???????????????????????????????Cover the meat and cheese with the rest of the eggplant slices. Spread the rest of the sauce over them. Sprinkle evenly with the rest of the Parmesan cheese.

DSC03208Bake at 350′ for 30-40 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Mangia!

Fantastically Fresh Tomato Sauce

DSC03130This is truly the best tomato sauce I have ever tasted. The recipe comes from our Roman airbnb house guest, Cinzia. She made it simply with fresh tomatoes, sliced onion, olive oil and a few basil leaves. I added a bit of garlic, bay leaf and fresh oregano. We used Phat Beet’s farmer’s market tomatoes along with some dry farmed tomatoes from Monterey Market here in Berkeley. But it would be good even with grocery store tomatoes.

Makes 2 cups sauce:

8 ripe medium tomatoes

1 Tb olive oil

1/3 medium onion, sliced. We used a purple onion.

½ tsp kosher salt to taste

3 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

5 leaves of fresh oregano

10 small leaves basil (or 4 large leaves, cut up)

???????????????????????????????Fill a medium pot half-way with water and bring to a boil. Wash the tomatoes and de-stem them using a paring knife, then plop them into the boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes, and then drain in a colander to cool a few minutes.

???????????????????????????????While cooking the tomatoes, slice the onion.

???????????????????????????????

While tomatoes are cooling, pour oil into the same pot, heat a minute, and then add sliced onion and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until onion softens. Mince the garlic and stir in.

DSC03134Put tomatoes in a food processor with a steel blade, and pulse until the tomatoes become liquefied.

DSC03139Stir tomatoes into onions. Let sauce cook for a few minutes, and then add bay leaf and fresh basil and oregano. If you are using large basil leaves, tear them up first. Cover pot and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

???????????????????????????????

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs, Dates and Roasted Asparagus

I just discovered prosciutto di Parma, the Italian dry-cured ham and I can now not only spell it but also pronounce it: pro-SHOO-toe. This ham is cured with sea salt instead of nitrite, which gives it a delicious fruity flavor.

I buy it in paper-thin slices and trim the excess fat, and then slice it in half crosswise. I wrap it around halved figs, dates and Walnut Oil Roasted Asparagus for easy yet exquisite hors d’oeuvres.

Prosciutto-wrapped dates make a salty-sweet treat. Halve the dates and discard the pits.

I roasted the asparagus ahead of time, but serve it warm out of the oven if you desire.

Capering about the Kitchen with Chicken Piccata

serving chicken picattaMy son Francisco and I first made this on Mother’s Day when he was a teenager. It’s one of his favorite dishes.

ingredients for chicken piccataIngredients: Makes 6 cutlets

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Several grinds black pepper

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup (4 Tb) olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup

2 medium or 1 1/2 large lemons to make ½  cup fresh lemon juice plus  lemon slices

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 large shallot, diced

1 tablespoon capers, drained

4 Tb butter (1/2 cube), divided

cutting chickenPrepare chicken cutlets. They will fry better if cut in half width-wise and pounded flat. With your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut each breast as if to butterfly it (although in this case, there’s only only butterfly wing).

Place a cut breast half between two pieces of plastic wrap, then place in a clean plastic bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag, then fold it over.

smashing chickenPound the cutlet several times with a heavy iron skillet so that it is about ½ inch flat. It’s a good way to get out your frustrations after a hard day. Repeat for all the cutlets. Rinse the chicken and dry it with a paper towel. Mix flour, salt and pepper on a plate. Dredge one cutlet at a time in the flour until it’s coated. Pat it gently until it’s just lightly coated with  flour.

frying cutletsHeat 2 Tb oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in 1 Tb of butter. As soon as the butter melts, add 2 chicken cutlets, making sure they do not touch each other. Saute for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Turn chicken around while cooking so that they brown evenly on both right and left sides. When chicken is golden brown, place it on a plate and cover it with a large lid or an inverted plate to keep warm. Add another Tb of oil and 1 Tb of butter to the pan before adding the next batch.

saute garlic n leeksWhen all the chicken is fried, add garlic and shallots to the pan and stir a few minutes until they are  fragrant.

whisk saucePour in chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Using a metal spatula, scrape the pan to loosen browned bits. Whisk while cooking for  5 minutes. Cut middle slices from lemon for garnish, then squeeze the juice and stir in sauce with capers and a tablespoon of butter. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Return chicken to the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes, turning several times to absorb the sauce. The sauce will be thick.

Serve chicken with sauce and garnish with lemon slices.

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Meyer Lemon and Italian Herbs

This is quick and easy. The chicken is fragrant and juicy. A good way to use those chicken breasts on sale. Use roasted bones and skin for Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup  ; perfect to make broth for Minestrone Soup on a rainy day.

5 bone-in chicken breasts with skin attached
Olive oil, about 3 Tb
5  garlic cloves, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tb fresh thyme, minced
About 1 Tb each dried oregano and thyme
About 1 tsp chili flakes
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves
2 lemons: ½  sliced and 1 ½  juiced and zest grated
 

Preheat oven to 450′

Oil a large roasting pan

Salt underside of breasts. Place breasts in pan, skin side up

Stuff garlic, rosemary, fresh thyme and a lemon slice under each breast skin

Sprinkle dried herbs, chili flakes, salt and pepper over breasts

Sprinkle olive oil over breasts

Roast in 450’ oven for 50 minutes

Squeeze lemon juice over cooked chicken. Garnish with fresh basil and Meyer lemon zest.