Monday, April 25, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan in a Skillet.

I am on holiday in southern Texas, so in order to stay up to date with meatless Monday I'm going to reprint  an article from last August. Enjoy......

I have eggplant from the garden,  and some recently canned tomato sauce.This is a different take on the classic baked Eggplant Parmesan. Using only one skillet, it is a quick summer meal. This recipe skips the normal salting and draining of the eggplant. If you have it this is a great place to let your canned tomato sauce shine.

1 ½ pounds eggplant, unpeeled, sliced into rounds
3 eggs beaten
1½ cup season breadcrumbs
4-6 tbs olive oil
1 pint tomato sauce (more if you like it saucy, but this was plenty saucy)
½ tsp salt
2 tsp Italian seasoning (or just mixed dried oregano and basil 50/50)
Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
4-6 plum tomatoes, chopped I used golden ones - they are what I have and I like the color contrast
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan

Add beaten eggs to shallow bowl, dip eggplant into eggs.
Coat egg washed eggplant with breadcrumbs
In small bowl mix Italian seasoning, salt, pepper flakes, and tomatoes.
Heat 2 tsp olive oil in skillet over medium heat.
Add breaded eggplant to pan, sauté until brown, turn and brown other side.

Transfer browned eggplant to plate, continue until all the eggplant is browned. As you can see I used two types of eggplant, globe and Japanese. I don't think it matters much.

Wipe out skillet, add 2/3 cup marinara sauce to skillet.

Arrange half the eggplant slice in a layer in the skillet.

Spoon half of tomato & herb mixture over eggplant.

Sprinkle half the cheese on top and add 2/3 cup sauce.

Repeat layering eggplant, tomato, cheese and sauce.

Cover skillet and simmer until tender – about 20 minutes.

It looks about the same but it the cheese is melted.

Supper is ready! It was better than I expected. A bit wet but the eggplant was tender and the flavor quite good. The nice thing is you could do this on a side burner on a grill outside and not heat up the house oven.

Until next time Eat Well & Keep Digging!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Primavera

Spaghetti squash is a wonderful vegetable, it keeps well, kids will eat it, and it is versatile. A colleague gave me a squash late last week that he had harvested in September. I saved it for tonight.

Primavera means spring, so I thought we'd have a little fun, a play on Pasta Primavera using the squash instead of noodles.

You can use any fresh vegetables you have on hand. Vegetables that can retain some crispness when cooked are best.

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 carrot cut into match sticks
1/2 onion, cut in half and sliced
1-2 cups cauliflower florets
1/2  cup greenbeans
2-3 cloves garlic sliced
sweet peppers sliced
2 Tbs olive oil divided
salt and pepper

Stab the squash 4 -5 times carefully, place on a plate and microwave for 10-12 minutes on high. Alternatively you could oven roast it for an hour, or steam it. I choose the microwave because it is fast.


Heat pan over medium high heat, add 1 tbs olive oil and garlic. Cook and stir until fragrant.

Add the other vegetables, longer cooking ones first, in this case I added the carrots and cauliflower, and a generous pinch of salt.

Add a splash of water if needed to gently steam / saute them until tender crisp. Turn heat down to low.

When squash is done, let it rest for about 5 minutes, then using an oven mitt (it will still be very hot) to hold it, cut squash lengthwise.

Scoop out the seeds, - you can let them cool and roast them just like pumpkin seeds if you choose. Use a fork and scrape out the flesh. It comes out in strands that give it its name.

Turn the heat under the pan back up, add the remaining oil  and squash;

Toss to coat and mix with the other vegetables. Cook for a few minutes until squash is tender crisp. Again, if needed, add a splash of water to steam / saute the vegetables. Check seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Plate squash and other vegetable. Finish with some fresh grated cheese, I used the Pecorino Romano that I have on hand. Parmesan would work just fine.

Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging.

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Creamy white beans and Chorizo

It's cold and rainy today, a good day for a hearty hot dinner.  Beans are a staple in the pantry and I like white beans that can be cooked long to the point of being creamy. Spanish chorizo is also one of my favorites, its color and flavor unmatched. Let's combine the two, creamy base note beans, and sharp sausage for a satisfying dinner.

I cook the beans almost like risotto, slowly adding stock as needed to keep the beans loose but not soupy.

The vegetable mixture is completely flexible, use what you want. here is what I did,

Soaked white beans (I'm using great northern beans)
4 cups Chicken stock
1 tsb olive oil plus extra for drizzling
1/2 tsp salt
1 carrot finely diced
2 clove garlic minced
1/4 cup onion minced
1/2 tsp dried herbs I used (herbs de provence)
3 oz spanish chorizo diced
Salt & pepper to taste

Add olive oil to sauce pot over medum high heat

Add diced carrots and salt, stir and cook about 3 minutes, reduce heat to medium,

Add onions, stir and cook another 5 minutes,

Add garlic, stir and cook 1 minute.

Add the soaked and drained beans and stir.

Add enough stock to just cover, bring to boil then reduce heat to medium low,

Put a lid on it, but leave it cracked, simmer for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the dried herbs.

Add stock as needed to just keep the beans covered. When beans are tender - mash about a third of them and stir back into the rest of the beans.


Add diced chorizo to a small sauce pan over medium high heat until a slight crust starts to form. Drain excess fat.

Spoon beans into bowl, top with about 1/2 the sausage, drizzle with olive oil.

Creamy beans, crunchy salty spicy sausage. Life is good.

Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Meatless Monday - Cauliflower Steaks and Bulgar Pilaf

I saw a recipe for Cauliflower steaks last week in the newspaper, I'd never heard of such a thing, but a little poking around on the Internet shows I must really be behind the times. There are many recipes for this, read a few and make it your own, that's what I did.

3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil divided
1 medium Cauliflower
Pinch of kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Grated Pecorino Romano
1 cup bulgar wheat
Red pepper - diced
Onion diced/sliced
3 cloves garlic sliced

Preheat the oven to 250F degrees.

Place bulgar in a bowl, cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate.

Add 1 tsp EVOO to a pan over medium high heat.

Add the vegetables and saute until tender crisp.

Drain the bulgar well and add to the vegetable mixture.

Toss together, and turn heat as low as it goes, while preparing the cauliflower give the pilaf a stir now and then.

Cut two 3/4" steaks from the center of a head of cauliflower including the stem. Trim off any leaves or nasty bits. Reserve the rest for another use.

In a skillet, heat up 1 1/2 tsp oil over medium-high heat.

Lightly brush on side of cauliflower with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add the cauliflower steaks, seasoned side down, while first side is cooking, repeat the oil, salt and pepper on the unseasoned side.

Press it down with your spatula to get a good sear.

Turn and sear the other side.

Remove from heat and place on a baking sheet.

Top with grated Pecorino Romano  put in oven and bake for 9 minutes.

After 9 minutes turn oven from bake to broil and broil until cheese is bubbling.

While cauliflower is finishing up, increase pilaf heat to medium and toss again.

Plate and serve!

Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Korean BBQ Sliders

I loved the Korean BBQ ribs I made a while back, the sauce is fantastic.

I also recently was reading an article about the many variations of shaved beef, a way to extend cuts of meat to many more servings.

What if I combine the two? What about sliders - little savory two-bite treats?

The grocery store had beef two for one sale.  Two bottom round roasts later, and I was ready to give it a try.

I put the beef in the freezer to firm it up. Meanwhile I whipped up another batch of the BBQ Sauce. This is going to be a stapble for me I know it, but since I haven't got it memorized, here is the recipe again.

Marinade Ingredients:
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped
4-1/2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon sesame seeds

Make the marinade:
Whisk together the soy sauce and sugar in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved.
Stir in the black pepper, garlic, green onions, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Set aside

Remove the beef from the freezer, it need not be frozen solid, just very firm. Trim the fat.

Slice very thin against the grain, I used my meat slicer, it does a much better job than I could with a knife.

Marinate the beef in the BBQ sauce for minimum 2 hours or overnight.

Grill on hot outdoor grill for 2-4 minutes, it will not take long, the beef is so thin.

Mound some up on small dinner rolls, these are topped (left to right) with candied jalapenos, quick Kimchi, and grilled green onions respectively.

These are fantastic! Savory, sweet, the crunchy toppings. Definately party food!

Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chicken Liver Pate

I love pate, preferably duck liver, but I also like chicken liver pate. There is a party Saturday and I wanted to practice. This recipe is adapted from Food Network.

1 lb fresh chicken livers, cleaned
1 cup milk
1 stick cold  unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs capers drained
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup brandy or cognac

Soak  the livers in milk for 2 hours, drain well.

Over medium high heat in a heavy skillet, melt half the butter. Add the onions  and cook stirring about 3 minutes.

Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds.

Add chicken livers, the capers, bayleaves, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook  until livers are browned on outside, but still pink on inside.  (Funny instructions, how are you supposed to tell  without cutting them open?)  Anyway that's about 5 minutes.

Add the cognac and cook  until most of the liquid is gone and the livers are tender.

Remove from heat and let cool slightly, throw away the bay leaves.

Puree the  the liver mixture in a food processor, add the remaining butter and pulse to blend.  It's not very pretty.

Check seasonings and pack into ramekins, cover in plastic and refrigerate 5-6 hours.

Serve with small toast rounds, good mustard, cornichons, and capers. It is delicious liver spread. I'll make this for sure for the party!

Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Monday, April 4, 2011

Meatless Monday - Summer/Winter vegetable stuffed shells

Last summer we put up both pumpkin puree (frozen) and a nice tomato eggplant relish. It came to the dear wife to combine them both.

She made this last fall but didn't document how, so we set out  to document the process today. The sweet vegetables, and the savory creamed spinach topping are a satisfying combination. This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated until ready. You could probably freeze it too, but I haven't tried that.

2 cups pumpkin  or squashe puree
2 cups tomato eggplant relish, recipe here
25 large pasta shells
2 bags spinach
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic minced
3 tbs butter divided
2 tbs flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350F

In a food processor, puree the eggplant relish.

Combine with the vegetable puree with the pumpkin.

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse.
Stuff shells with vegetable mixture, place in 9x13 oven proof pan. Spray first wth cooking spray or lightly grease.

Make the creamed spinach.

Over medium high heat, melt  1 tbs butter, add onions an garlic.

When onions are translucent, add spinach and cook until soft.

Transfer cooked spinach to food processor and pulse until chopped.

Melt 2 tbs butter over medium high heat, add the flour.

Cook, stirring for 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup milk - and whisk until mixture boils and thickens.

Add spinach and stir to combine.

Add another cup of milk, stir until thick.

Check seasoning - salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over stuffed shells.

Sprinkle with parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until parmesan is golden brown.

Until next time Eat Well and Keep Digging!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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