When you Start Thinking About Lunch at 10am . . .

For once I was grateful that my son dislikes (well, hates!) eggplant. I got all the leftovers to myself today at lunch-time (yes it may have been an early-ish lunch).

 

I made my first Eggplant Parmesan of the summer last night. I didn’t start cooking until 6:05pm and we had dinner at 7pm and the last half hour of that the dish was in the oven. So it can be done on a weeknight!

If you like eggplant but no one else in your family days, still make it. Leftovers are so good! And you may even convert a few doubters. . .

 

Weeknight Eggplant Parmesan

 

First of all I don’t salt and drain eggplant. I used to but don’t think it made a big difference especially with nice fresh eggplant. In this preparation it also doesn’t seem to need lots of oil and cooks up perfectly in just a tablespoon of oil. The dish is so flavorful and not at all heavy like some versions I’ve eaten (and enjoyed!) over the years.

 

Serves 4-6

 

2 large globe eggplants, sliced into ¼ – 1/3 –inch slices lengthwise or into rounds

Olive oil

Salt

3 generous cups tomato sauce (recipe below, or your favorite version) heated up

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped basil

2 cups (or more) grated Parmesan or aged Asiago (less expensive & still delicious alternative)

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

 

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the largest skillet you have over medium-high heat. Add eggplant slices in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Cook for a few minutes and when the underside is nicely browning in places, flip and cook for a few more minutes until the slices are tender (but not falling apart) and browned. Remove from pan, add another tablespoon oil and repeat with remaining slices.

 

Heat up the tomato sauce with the minced garlic and basil, or just stir in cold if you’re in a hurry and you made the sauce earlier. Spread just a little tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 13” baking dish (or something similar), cover with a layer of eggplant and spread a thin layer of sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with Parmesan. Repeat until you’ve used up all your ingredients, ending with either eggplant and cheese or sauce and cheese.

 

Bake for 25 minutes or so until everything is bubbling and the cheese is browning on top. You can run it under the broiler for a few minutes if you want more color. Serve hot or warm.

 

Simplest Tomato Sauce

 

Tomatoes, olive oil, salt. That’s it. When the tomatoes are good it’s honestly all you need. And I make sauce with slicer and heirloom tomatoes, not just sauce types, all the time. It takes a little longer to cook down because they’re so juicy but with a little patience and high heat it’s pretty quick too.

 

Olive oil

2 lb +/- fresh tomatoes, diced (I don’t usually bother pealing and seeding them)

Salt

A little butter, to finish (optional)

 

Coat the bottom of a wide skillet with olive oil. Heat over high heat until shimmering. Add tomatoes and a few pinches salt. Stir well, turn down to medium high and simmer, stirring often, until sauce thickens to your liking. Taste, adjust seasoning with salt and a tablespoon or two of butter, especially if the sauce is quite acidic.  Butter is THE perfecter of tomato sauce. Serve over spaghetti with Parmesan and fresh basil.

Radicchio & Mizuna Risotto

SLP CW Treviso CW

A handful of rice per person, a smaller pot than you might think, and yes, more stirring than I typically do. . . these are a few of the tips I learned when cooking with long-time friend and Chef Cathy Whims (Nostrana, Oven & Shaker, Hamlet) this week.

SLP CW chopping radicchio mizuna

I thought it would be fun to cook with a pro whom I admire. I wanted to see what we might create together or what my pantry’s contents would inspire in someone else. This risotto, among other things, was the result of a delightfully relaxed afternoon in my kitchen. Thank you Cathy for sharing your time and love of vegetables with all of us!

And thank you Shawn Linehan for documenting it all! All photos by Shawn Linehan Photography.

This and the other dishes we cooked will be posted on the Seasonal Recipe Collection. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

SLP CW KD picking thyme

Radicchio &  Mizuna Risotto

Cathy uses one handful of rice per person, plus a handful if you want leftovers. My 9-year-old devoured the leftovers when he got home from school.

We used a chicory called Arch Cape from Ayers Creek Farm. It is a variety they have been cultivating and adapting to their growing conditions here in the Willamette Valley so they renamed it this year and let go of the original name Radicchio Treviso. Any chicory would work in this preparation.

Serves 4, plus leftovers

1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
1 good-sized head Arch Cape or Radicchio Treviso, trimmed and washed (or other chicory, see headnote) and finely chopped, divided
1/2 bunch mizuna, trimmed washed and finely chopped, divided
5 handfuls risotto rice, arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano
1/2 cup dry white wine
6-7 cups water or vegetable broth or veggie bouillon broth
1-2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup grated Asiago Stella (an aged Asiago) or Parmesan, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water or vegetable broth to a simmer in a small saucepan.

Heat the butter and oil in a 3 – 4 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add 2/3 of the radicchio and mizuna and cook for a few more minutes. Then add the rice and cook, stirring frequently for another 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and stir well and cook until evaporated. Now add the hot water/broth, ladle by ladle once the rice has more or less absorbed the liquid, stirring almost constantly. If you’re using water (not broth) add several big pinches of salt at this stage. Continue cooking the rice in this manner until the kernels are tender on the outside with just a bit of firmness on the inside. You may not need all the broth/water. Stir in the remainder of the radicchio and mizuna and cook for an additional minute or two. Stir in most of the cheese and the butter. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed. Let risotto rest for a few minutes before serving, topped with the remaining cheese.

SLP CW meal wine

 

 

Fall Beauty: The Last of the Peppers and Tomatoes

tomatoes roasting in cast iron pan

It’s breathtaking, almost painfully beautiful in the Willamette Valley in Oregon right now. My mother and I, every fall on day’s like today, talk about this time of year in that–so-beautiful-it-hurts kind of way. The air is different. 75 degrees in late September does not feel like 75 degrees in early August. Colors are more intense and the light has shifted enough to feel almost wistful in its beauty.

Work is busy, school and sports schedules are all over the map and produce is abundant. Those intense colors reflect my general feeling this time of year. . .. immensely grateful for all I have and slightly on overdrive to preserve all that accumulated sunshine for the cooler months and take advantage of the waning summer produce on our plates every day.

I roast batches of tomatoes with salt and olive oil; sauce types, slicers, cherry types, all in the same pan because it works just fine. I may use some to dress a pasta dish or spread on sandwiches or stir into a soup or I may freeze the whole batch, in pint size containers, for less intense times.

I’ve also been making one of my favorite dishes from my time in Southern Italy (Calabria) 25 years ago. It’s nothing more than potatoes and sweet red peppers pan-friend.

Calabrian peppers potatoes II

The peppers are a sweet and smoky and the potatoes both creamy and crispy and plenty of sea salt keeps you eating this simple concoction beyond your better judgement.

Happy fall!

Calabrian-style Fried Peppers and Potatoes

Sweet, salty and a bit charred . . .This was one of my very favorite things to eat when I lived in Calabria (the toe of the Italian boot) 25 years ago. It doesn’t really get any simpler but you need to be brave with the heat and have good ventilation. And don’t skimp on the oil either.

Serves 3-4

3-4 sweet red peppers, washed, cored and seeded and cut into chunks about 1 ½ – 2 1/3 inches
3-4 medium firm fleshed yellow potatoes, well scrubbed (no need to peel) and cut into bite-sized chunks.
3 tablespoons olive oil (or a bit more if things dry out)
Sea salt

Heat the oil in the largest, heaviest skillet you have. When it’s hot but not smoking add the peppers and potatoes and toss well to coat with oil. Cook on high heat, stirring frequently until the both potatoes and peppers are tender and almost blackened around the edges. Season liberally with sea salt. Serve hot.

 

One Eggplant, Two Tomatoes, Handful of Basil, a Little Parmesan

eggplant tomato rounds plated

The CSA share comes every Tuesday evening which means Tuesday dinner is the use-up-last-week’s share night. Tonight that meant one lovely globe eggplant and two tomatoes. Time was short so I browned eggplant rounds in the cast iron pan, topped them with whole basil leaves, slices of tomato, salt and olive oil and broiled them until the tomatoes softened and started bubbling, then I topped them with grated Parmesan and passed them under the broiler for another minute or two.

It’s only a slight stretch to say that we got individual eggplant Parmesan rounds in a matter of 15 minutes. It’s a keeper in any case. I’m sure a mix of oregano and basil would be good too and of course a more typical preparation would have used thick slices of mozzarella but I loved this version.

Happy Summer!

P.S.  I just added my 600th recipe to my Seasonal Recipe Collection and am proud of what this resource has grown in to. Subscribe if you’d like to have access to all these recipes and tips and ideas to keep your table full of home-cooked goodness all year long.

eggplant tomato basil rounds

Serves 4

1 medium globe eggplant (save a few for garnish)
2-3 medium-large slicing tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices, on the equator
1 cup basil leaves
Salt
Olive oil
1/3 – 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Turn on the broiler

Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the rounds, sprinkled with salt over high heat until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes for the first a bit less for the second side. Put the browned rounds on a baking sheet.

Top each round with a few basil leaves, then a slice of tomato, a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of olive oil.  Set the pan under the broiler and broil until the tomatoes have softened and are bubbling a little. Remove from the oven and divide the Parmesan between all the rounds. Return to the broiler for another minute or two until melted and browning. Garnish with chopped basil and serve.