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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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.

Tortellini Salad for 10 Hungry Dancers


As one of the parents bringing lunch for my daughter’s dance company rehearsal, I made this easy vegetarian tortellini salad today. I bought all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s (TJ). I used their frozen basil cubes because are superior to dried basil when it’s hard to find fresh basil in winter.

Ingredients:



1 pound fresh green beans

3 10-oz packages cheese tortellini

2 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, slice in quarters

1 12-oz jar TJ artichoke heart antipasto

2/3 cup dry toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan

red pepper flakes, several shakes to taste

1 lb green beans cut up. Cook with tortellini for 6 minutes

1 6-oz can sliced black olives

2 cubes each frozen minced garlic and basil (if fresh is available, use 2 tsp each, minced)

2 Tb fresh lemon juice (juice of 2 small lemons)

Trim ends and cut up fresh green beans into ½ inch pieces. Cook tortellini according to package directions: boil water, add 1 Tb salt and tortellini. Add green beans after tortellini has cooked for 2 minutes, then cook for 6 more minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

While tortellini is cooking, chop artichoke hearts and mix with pine nuts, olive slices, artichoke antipasto and parmesan in a bowl.

Drain pasta and green beans. Separate 2 cups of hot pasta and green beans and mix with frozen cubes of basil and garlic if using. (You can skip this step if using fresh basil and garlic; just add them in at the end.) Run cold water over the rest of the pasta and beans in a colander until cool. Combine tortellini and add artichoke mixture. Add a sprinkle of red chili pepper flakes and the lemon juice.


Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with 3 Cheeses and Fresh Herbs

2 portobellosThese giant, meaty mushrooms make a flavorful bed for fresh herbs and tomatoes, topped with sizzling cheeses. Nice on a bed of soft polenta accompanied by a dry white wine. And aren’t they beautiful!

I make these in my toaster oven.

portobello n polenta

 

gills too

gills and top

2 Portobello mushrooms

1 Tb extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit more to oil mushrooms and  pan

½ tsp minced fresh garlic

½ minced shallot

¼ tsp minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp fresh oregano and ¼ tsp dried oregano

1 tsp chopped fresh basil

a pinch of ground sage

1 medium tomato

a few shakes salt (to taste)

a shake red pepper flakes

several grinds black pepper

2 Tb grated Fontina cheese OR mozzarella cheese

1 tsp blue cheese

3 Tb grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp Panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp dry sherry (optional)

If serving with with polenta, start the polenta first, so it will be ready when the mushrooms are done. It usually takes about 45 minutes to cook on the stove. Heat 2 1/2 cups water to boiling, add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground sage. Mix 1/2 cup polenta thoroughly with 1/3 cup cold water. Stir it into the boiling water until smooth. Cook for 45 minutes over low heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so. You can add a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan and 1 tsp butter when it is done cooking.

Rinse mushrooms and wipe with wet paper towel. Slice the woody tip end off the stems and discard. Spread garlic olive oil on both sides of mushrooms and bake gill side up in 450’ oven (or toaster oven) for 10 minutes.

While mushrooms are baking, mince the garlic, shallot, and rosemary.  Sauté them in 1 Tb olive oil until cooked, about 5 minutes.

Let mushrooms cool, then dig out stems with a butter knife so there is an indentation in the mushroom. Pour the juice from the cooked mushroom into the pan. Chop the stems finely.

Stir the chopped stems and tomato into the garlic and shallots. Add the oregano, basil, sage, panko, dry sherry, salt and peppers.

ready for broiler

Rinse  tray and then smear with a with a bit of olive oil. Place mushrooms gill side up on it.

Mix the grated Fontina or mozzarella cheese, blue cheese, and 2 tablespoons of the grated Parmesan cheese into the filling mix. Spoon into stem indentation and spread mixture over the top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle each with 1/2 Tb of Parmesan cheese. Broil about 5 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

broiled mushrooms n cheese

 

Italian herb Eggplant with chicken and/or garbanzo beans

on pasta with grated parmesan

Italian herbs

Serves 4  time: about 40 minutes

Eggplant is the food of the gods, especially when roasted. I don’t add any oil to it.  Roast it whole for an hour in a  425′ oven, until soft. You can put in the same roasting pan while you are baking a whole chicken, and use it the next day or two. The time will vary with the size of the eggplant of course, but for this recipe I used a medium eggplant. My other favorite vegetable is artichokes. My family teases me that I put artichoke hearts in almost everything (ok not desserts). They add a subtle sweetness to the dish. I use the pale green zucchini which doesn’t have the bitterness of regular dark green zucchini. Small zucchini have a better taste.

For a vegetarian version, just omit the chicken. Vegans can omit the parmesan cheese as well.

ingredients

ingredients italian chicken

1 medium eggplant

1 Tb olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1 chicken breast (2 halves), chopped

1 sprig oregano, diced to make 1 Tb.

1 sprig rosemary, minced to make 1 tsp.

3 cloves garlic, minced, or 3 cubes frozen garlic*

1 cup fresh red bell pepper or frozen sliced bell peppers*

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped

10 mushrooms, chopped

15 oz. can garbanzo beans

1 tsp salt to taste

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tb red wine

1 tsp sugar

2 small pale green zucchini, chopped

1 bunch spinach, leaves only, chopped

14 oz. can artichoke hearts in water,* drained and sliced

3 sprig basil, diced to make 1 Tb

*(you can get these at Trader Joe’s)

Roast eggplant (prick it with a fork before putting in the roasting pan to prevent an explosion!) and let cool; then scoop out and chop.

Pick fresh herbs: 1 sprig each of oregano and rosemary, and 3 sprigs basil.

Sauté onion in 1 Tb olive oil for one minute, then add chicken breast.

Add garlic, chopped mushrooms and sliced bell peppers, eggplant, Roma tomatoes,  garbanzo beans, rosemary, oregano, and  salt. Add balsamic vinegar, wine and sugar. Cook for 10 minutes.

Add zucchini, and artichoke hearts . Cook for a few more minutes until zucchini and artichoke hearts are hot. Place spinach on top and cook covered a few minutes, until spinach is wilted. Mix in basil.

Serve over ½ lb  penne or spaghetti, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Italian chicken and veggies cooking in pan