Eggplant Lasagne

The Last of the Eggplant

We have eggplants coming in out back - time to use up the last of last years' harvest.

At the end of the season, I took the last few eggplants and sliced them into cutlets, breaded them, and froze them. They were perfect for quick meals.

There was one package left.

Victor decided he was going to do an eggplant dish with gnocchi, but found some ricotta he had made and frozen, so he ended up making an eggplant lasagne - the gnocchi will wait for another day.

Eggplant Lasagne

He took a bit of his homemade sauce and placed it in the dish. Then went a couple of eggplant cutlets and ricotta. On top of that went Italian long hot peppers we had cooked in the 'fridge, a bit of cheese, more eggplant, ricotta, sauce, cheese.

Into a 350°F oven for 35 minutes.

It was the perfect dinner - full of flavor, filling, and juuuuust spicy enough. the Italian Long Hot peppers from Gentile's have been really inconsistent in their heat. This mixture proved to be perfect as a filling.

Eggplant Lasagne

I really wanted to lick my plate, but I didn't eat it all. Tomorrow is our weigh-in and year-end assessment.

I need to look svelte.

Eggplant and Gnocchi

Gnocchi and Eggplant

Victor was rummaging through the freezer yesterday and came upon a packet of breaded and fried eggplant he had cooked up in August. The cutlets were from eggplants in our garden - at a time when looking at eggplant was starting to get a bit rough. Even with a bad growing season, we had a lot of eggplant.

Fast-forward a few months and that eggplant is looking mighty fine - and tasting even better!

It's rather interesting how one can tire of a food after a while, and then, a short time later, relish in it! And I most definite relished in it, tonight!

The eggplant was perfection! Fork-tender mouthfuls of ricotta, oregano, and homemade sauce. And then there was the gnocchi! Light as a feather.

The basic for the gnocchi is a baked potato that has been riced, flour, an egg, a pinch of salt, and a bit of grated parmesan cheese. He doesn’t have exact measurements because every potato is slightly different. You mix the egg, potato, and a handful of flour together and then add the cheese and slowly add flour until the dough feels right. Vague, I know, but every batch is just a bit different. When you’ve made it a few times, you learn the feel - and it will be perfect for you, as well!

Because the eggplant was already fried, all Victor needed to do was make a ricotta filling - ricotta, quattro formaggio, garlic powder, parmesan, salt, and pepper. He layered it between two cutlets, topped it with sauce, and then baked, covered, for about 35 minutes.

It really was the perfect meal.

Victor made enough gnocchi for two meals - the rest went into the freezer and I'll vacuum-pack them later when they're solid. The  Mucca Rigagnocchi Gnocchi Rolling Machine from Fante’s in South Philly really makes the gnocchi-making a breeze. While it was never actually difficult to use the rolling board or the times of a fork, the roller really makes every one perfect.

There's one more package of gnocchi in the freezer. We'll see how long it takes us to break into it!





The End of Week Eight

We've made it through eight weeks. That's like half of Boot Camp. I went into Boot Camp right around this time in 1971 - 47 years ago. I don't remember it being this tough, however. I'm sure that it has nothing to do with selective memory and the very simple fact that I was a mere 19 years old at the time. Invincible youth and all that... The ensuing 47 years have been a roller coaster of being bad and being good - more bad than good. I'm paying for it, today.

The gym is getting easier and harder. It surprises me how something that looks as if it should be fairly easy ends up killing me, while I'm able to get through things that I'm sure should kill me. Our Trainer has gotten to know us really well and is pushing more and more. Today, I took 2 aspirin when I got home. Ouch.

Weight-wise, we're both down a pound this week. Yeah... just a single pound. I'm going to attribute it to the fat turning into rippling, bulging, masculine muscle. I'm sure it's not portion size creeping up, or anything. But a pound in the loss column is a pound in the loss column. I'll take it! And we'll start paying closer attention to portions...

Tonight was pasta - weighed - in a sauce of ground pork, leeks, eggplant, mushrooms, and tomatoes. It was a throw-together, not a recipe, so it started growing in the skillet. I took half of it and froze it for another day. Once upon a time, I would have just cooked more pasta. Baby steps...

And just because I'm jonesin' for some good bread, I'm going to bake some sourdough tomorrow. I've been working on the starter and the leaven for the past 10 days! One of those loaves will end up in the freezer, as well.

I still plan on losing two pounds next week!

And... here's Blanche keeping me company in the kitchen while I'm cooking.


Life is definitely good!

Eggplant and Shallots

Eggplant and Shallots

The eggplants are still coming in and I've been looking for more and different ways to cook them. Every time I turn around, there's another one or two ready to eat - and the neighbors are starting to avoid me. We have breaded cutlets in the freezer, we have caponata in jars downstairs. I hit the NY Times a few weeks ago and did an eggplant search. Lots of recipes - and far too many of them are mere variations of the same thing. I did see one that looked somewhat promising - a dish with eggplant and shallots with a chicken breast on top - so, armed with an eggplant and lots of shallots, I went to work.

The evolution of a recipe...

The recipe was fairly straightforward - saute large hunks of shallots, add cubed eggplant, ginger, and cilantro. Chicken breast rubbed with ginger and grilled...

The first change was the cilantro. Victor is of the taste like soap contingent, so we tend to avoid it, when possible. I picked fresh herbs from the garden - parsley, basil, oregano, and mint. Those flavors sound more Italian-ish, so I marinated the chicken in red wine, garlic, and olive oil.

At the point in the recipe where I was to add the ginger, I reached for a bottle of pistachio liqueur and added a handful of roasted pistachios. And when it was all done, Victor mentioned getting some balsamic - the good stuff - and drizzling it on top.

The end result was pretty darn good - and reasonably different from where I started.

That, of course, is half the fun of cooking.

Grilled Chicken with Eggplant and Shallots

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 6 large shallots, peeled
  • 8 oz chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup pistachio liqueur
  • 1/3 cup roasted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup minced mixed herbs - parsley, oregano, mint, basil...
  • S&P, to taste

1 hour before cooking, marinate chicken in 1/2 cup red wine, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tbsp olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside. Prepare a hot grill and cook when eggplant mixture is halfway done.

Peel shallots and leave whole of small, cut in half lengthwise, if large. Saute in olive oil for about 10 minutes - until nicely softened. Add cubed eggplant and mix well. Lower heat to medium, cover pan, and cook until eggplant is softened and cooked through - about 15 minutes - stirring occasionally.

When eggplant is almost fully cooked, remove cover and stir in pistachio liqueur and pistachios. Add fresh herbs and S&P, to taste.

Continue cooking until liqueur has evaporated and eggplant and shallots are tender.

Drizzle with good-quality balsamic vinegar.

This really did come out good and the eggplant and shallots are a perfect side dish on their own - without the chicken breast. As we ate, we thought of other additions, such as raisins or chopped apricots, maybe dried figs. It's definitely something that can be played with time and time, again!

I have a new favorite eggplant dish!



The End of Week Six

And there's more good news coming from the boys in Gym Class - we're both down 12 pounds in 6 weeks! We're maintaining a 2-pound per week weight loss - and still eating like Kings! We are pretty psyched!

It is definitely not a walk in the park, though. Our trainer is pushing. And pushing. I was on some damned arm machine this morning and in the middle of my second rep of twenty, my arms just stopped working. I could not push that goddamned thing, again. He was singing encouragement and even assisting, but I had reached the end. On the other hand, I had done more this time - with more weight - than I had the last time I was chained to the implement of torture. Baby steps.

And the baby steps are starting to show in small, subtle ways... It's a little easier bringing the laundry up and down the stairs. Victor spent a few hours gardening, yesterday, and wasn't winded and feeling like crap, afterwards. I walked back from the garage after dropping the car off for its annual inspection and wasn't winded, at all. We're both moving easier.

I wish I had been doing this 20 years ago, but, better late than never, right?!? Right.

Aches and pains, aside, we're feeling pretty good about this. 6 weeks down, 46 weeks to go for this chapter. Totally doable.

Also totally doable was tonight's dinner. I marinated a couple of steaks in red wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and a pinch of S&P. Onto the grill. Pretty simple. They were two 6 oz sirloin steaks I cut in half - poor man's tournedos - and we actually each only ate one! It seems we're actually learning to stop eating before we're gorged!

The fun dish was leftover eggplant stuffing from last night. It went into a skillet, got nice and hot, and then I fried a couple of eggs and dropped them on top. Yes, it was a bit of protein overkill, but I felt like celebrating - and ice cream is currently not on the weekly shopping list!

We'll each have a session at the treadmill this weekend, and on Monday - Week Seven begins.

This is going pretty quickly!

stuffed eggplant

Stuffed Eggplant

The eggplants are coming in fast and furious. It's amazing what less rain and more sun will do for a garden! I brought in two this morning - with a lot more out there - and Victor volunteered to make stuffed eggplant for dinner!

I will pretty much never argue when he says he'll cook dinner - I am no fool! (at least in this instance...)

He took the smaller of the two - yes, that's a small eggplant - and created a great clean-out-the-refrigerator stuffing:

  • ground beef
  • mushrooms
  • broccoli
  • shallots
  • bread crumbs
  • tomato sauce
  • hot pepper
  • zucchini
  • parmesan cheese
  • garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • the eggplant inards

He cooked everything, seasoned it to perfection, stuffed the eggplant, and popped it - covered - into a 350°F/180°C oven for about 35 minutes. He uncovered it, added more cheese to the top, and placed it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown and finish off.

The end result was nothing short of perfection! And to make it even better, there's leftover stuffing that will be reworked into tomorrow's dinner!

My stomach is smiling!

And to make it all even better, better, he took the larger eggplant and made Little Grandma's Eggplant Appetizer!

eggplant appetizer

We're set in the food department for a while! It really does not suck to be us!


Eggplant Three Ways

The eggplants are coming in fast and furious. That means the brain has to get working - I can only eat so much caponata. Coming up with ideas for food is fun - and making several of those ideas is even more fun!

Idea the first is frying up cutlets.

Idea the second is a tomato and eggplant sauce - using tomatoes from the yard.

Idea the third is a pork and eggplant meatball.

The end result was Idea the second and Idea the third becoming dinner. Idea the first was portioned and frozen.

I put two eggplants into the oven at 350°F/180°C for about 90 minutes. The other one I peeled and sliced.

The cutlets:

Nothing unusual, here... flour, egg, breadcrumbs, fry.

Eggplant Cutlets

I added Penzey's Tuscan Sunset spice blend to the bread crumbs. It's an Italian herb blend that works well in place of the more traditional Italian Seasoning.

Into the skillet...

Eggplant Cutlets

Onto a sheet pan, and then into the freezer. When they were solid, I portion-packed them and back to the freezer they went.

Next, we have the Tomato and Eggplant Sauce...

A very basic sauce. Into the blender went chopped tomatoes - unpeeled - along with garlic and one lone hot pepper. Into the pot went olive oil and chopped onion, and then the tomato puree - along with a cup of red wine - Sangiovese, if anyone's keeping track.

Next went the roasted eggplant that I scraped out of its shell. Salt, pepper, more of the Penzey's Tuscan Sunset... and the soaking liquid from assorted dried mushrooms I used in the meatballs. I then let it simmer and thicken. The single pepper really knocked it up a notch! Just enough spice to be interesting! It came out pretty good.

Eggplant Tomato Sauce

And then the Pork and Eggplant Meatballs...

These came out really good. They are more eggplant than pork - not a traditional meatball - but they have a great flavor! The texture is a lot lighter than a traditional meatball and the flavor is outstanding!

Pork and Eggplant Meatballs

Pork and Eggplant Meatballs

  • 1 eggplant, roasted
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 oz assorted dried muchrooms
  • 3 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • parsley
  • mint
  • oregano
  • 2 oz freshly grated Locatelli/pecorino
  • salt and pepper

Rehydrate mushrooms. Set aside.

Puree eggplant, onion, garlic, and fresh herbs in food processor. Add mushrooms and process.

In large bowl, mix ground pork with eggplant mixture. Add breadcrumbs and mix well. Add grated cheese. Add eggs, salt, and pepper, and mix well.

Use a scoop to make meatballs and roll with dampened hands to smooth.

Bake at 425°F/220°C for about 20 minutes. Place under broiler for a few minutes to brown more, if desired.

And then it was time to put dinner together. I looked on the bucatini package and it stated that a portion was 2 ounces. Two Ounces. Really?!? C'mon. A half-box is barely enough for two. Four people is a whole box with another one sitting there just in case. But... I broke out my trusty scale and weighed out two portions.

Seriously. That's supposed to be enough for two people. I shook my head in disbelief and decided I was going to cook exactly 2 portions just to prove how ludicrous that portion size is.

It appears it's not really that ludicrous. Having three meatballs definitely helped, but 2 ounces of pasta with a good sauce can satisfy. It didn't stuff me by any stretch of the imagination, but part of this whole routine is not to eat until you're stuffed - and I'm not clamoring for more, either!

So... I learned another thing, today. If I keep it up, one day I might actually be smart. Or, at least, thinner.







It seems that most cultures have a flatbread of sorts. I thought the Italian versions were pizza and focaccia - and then I learned about piadina. Piadina hails from the north of Italy - Emilia-Romagna - more or less between Florence and Venice. It is a simple bread of flour, water, lard, and often a bit of dairy - from milk to yogurt to sour cream - and dates from the 1300s. I used sour cream today, because that's what I had in the 'fridge.

Right out of the skillet, it is soft and feathery-light. I have no idea what it's like after it has set for an hour - we didn't let it sit for 10 minutes!

I had seen a sandwich on La Cucina Italiana made with piadina and thin slices of fried eggplant and even thinner slices of swordfish. My first thought was to fry up an eggplant, but then I thought of using Little Gram's Eggplant Appetizer that I made, yesterday, along with some lettuce and hot peppers from the yard.

It worked. Really worked!


I cut the recipe in half because I only wanted two.


adapted from Milk Street

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup lard, room temperature


In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process 5 seconds. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds. With the processor running, add the yogurt and then the water. Process until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.

Roll each dough ball into a 10-inch round. Poke the surfaces all over with a fork.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip and cook for 30 seconds.

Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

This is another really quick and easy bread that really surpassed all expectations! I pretty much figured it would be good - but I had no idea how good it was going to be! The eggplant and the peppers really made for a spicy and flavorful sandwich - something I can see us having, again.





Fava Beans and Eggplant

I made a bean salad the other day with dried beans I had picked up down at Reading Terminal Market. Real simple  - soak beans overnight, cook, drain, make stuff. I also had some dried fava beans that were a gift, so I decided to soak those as well - and make something with them.

Fava Beans - or broad beans as they were once known - have what amounts to two shells - the outer pod that holds x-amount of beans - and a covering over each bean. The covering is edible. It's just not very good. It's tough and totally detracts from the silky bean within. With fresh beans, it's rather easy to just pop the bean out of the covering. With dried favas, it's not. They have to be soaked and then cooked - and then the second covering comes off - making for a mushy bean.

I made my bean salad with the good beans and set the fava-mush aside.

Today, I decided that I would make a refried bean of sorts - and then I looked over to the three eggplants in the basket. An idea came to mind - a roasted eggplant and fava bean refried bean of sorts!

I took a medium eggplant and put it whole on the grill outside and let it cook for about 45 minutes. I let it cool, put all of the innards into the food processor along with the fava-mush and gave it a whirl. Next, I added some olive tapenade, roasted garlic, fresh herbs form the garden, Grains of Paradise, salt and pepper, and processed it until smooth. It then went into a skillet to heat through and thicken just a bit.

In another skillet, I added some cut up sausage - one roasted red pepper and one broccoli rabe and provolone - and then added escarole, garlic, red pepper flakes, and some S&P. I cooked it all down and added a splash of white wine.

The eggplant and favas had a bit of a muddy color, but the flavor was outstanding! It was rich and creamy without being rich and creamy - lots of fiber and protein and potassium.

It came out really good!


Ratatouille From The Garden

We have achieved vegetables!

Not a whole lot, but the zucchini and eggplant are looking good. Well... the eggplant is. The zucchini has some issues - I had to get rid of half of the plant - but it's still producing as only a squash plant can!

The tomatoes are slow, the peppers are starting to come on strong... I'm sure everything will be in abundance just as we head north for a few days...

A nice-sized eggplant and several small zucchini definitely call for ratatouille - and a NY Times recipe suggested serving it over farro and topping it with an egg. Works for me!

Ratatouille is another one of those basic clean-out-the-refrigerator dishes. All recipes are pretty much the same - eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and tomatoes - with a few variations on herbs and spices. But it's still put it in a pot and make it hot. And then serve it hot or cold. I added an assortment of wild mushrooms and some baby broccoli because I wanted to use them up. Plus fresh basil and oregano we dried. When it was all done I added a splash of Sangiovese just to brighten it a bit.

I served it over wheat berries and topped it with a perfectly poached egg, a chiffonade of basil, and freshly-grated pecorino.

Not bad, at all.

And I even got the portions down right!


Eggplant Lasagne

He's done it, again. An Eggplant Lasagne that is just out of this world!

I don't even know where to begin.

I mean... just look at those layers of lusciousness. Homemade sauce, breaded and fried eggplant, ricotta, mozzarella, more sauce, fresh basil… layer upon layer of gooeyness, covered, baked, and then sliced into platefuls of gastronomic greatness!

Love it!

In fact, I love it so much I said I wanted it for dinner again, tomorrow night!

This, and a loaf of crusty bread, is what life is all about.


Baba Ghanoush

Yesterday's it's just allergies acting up turned into today's shit, I have a cold.  A doozy of a cold. I'll spare you the details of a non-stop running nose with a moustache and beard. Yes, a doozy of a cold.

I tried staying in bed but lying prone does not help the aforementioned issue. Against my protesting body's wishes, I got up.

We all know that I'm not a great patient. Victor has learned to just let me be. When I'm ready to be civil, I'm civil. So after a cup of coffee and a check of the email, I was bordering civility. We decided to head out to the garden and see if there was anything worth salvaging since we're pulling it all out tomorrow.

The tomatoes were pretty worthless, we had a dozen bell peppers, a big handful of tabasco peppers, a few jalapeños, and a dozen eggplants. Twelve more flippin' eggplants. I like eggplant. I like eggplant a lot. I just wasn't ready to see another dozen of them after the season we've had. I'm reasonably certain that had I felt better, seeing a dozen eggplants on a glorious sunny day would have made my culinary heart swell. Today, it was @#$%&  eggplants... 

But I also wasn't about to let them go to waste.

I knew that with this many eggplants, whatever I made had to be something that I could can. As I already have my caponata and other eggplant things downstairs, I needed something different. I hadn't made baba ghanoush in a while, so baba, it was.

The USDA does not recommend canning baba ghanoush because it's too thick and there are dangers of it not reaching temperature. I did find a site where a woman regularly cans hers at 10 lbs pressure for 45 minutes with no problems.

I decided to go for it.

The recipe is fairly basic, except I like some spice in mine so I added some tabasco peppers. I had to have Victor keep tasting it since the aforementioned cold was blocking my ability to taste properly.

Baba Ghanoush

  • 10 lbs eggplant
  • 1 full head garlic
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 8 tabasco peppers
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sumac
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • salt & pepper

Roast eggplants on grill until collapsing. Cool slightly and then place pulp in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes.

Process in batches with food processor, adding bits of the various ingredients as you go. Mix everything well and place in 8 oz jars.

Process at 10 lbs pressure for 45 minutes.

It came out just fine. A dozen 12 oz jars now await some chips...

Part of the fun of making these things is creating labels for them. I usually do a Google search for different antique labels and then manipulate them for my own use. They're old, public domain images that usually have no relation to what it is I change them to. Plus, I'm not selling anything, not making any money from any of this. It's all fun.

Sadly, I can't use a stick-on label on textured jars, so these have a label tied to them. I had thought of doing a round label on the metal lid, but decided I didn't want to cut out circles. Maybe I'll buy some round labels one of these days and see how they work...

In the meantime, though, the baba ghanoush came out great - even with my limited tasting ability.

Now... if I could only stop coughing...