Eggplant Parmesan Non-Meatballs

Barbara Olson

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 lb eggplant, cut into 1″ pieces
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (low sodium)

Heat oil and garlic in a large skillet on medium heat until it sizzles – about three minutes.

Add eggplant and 1/4 cp water and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.. Cook, covered, on medium-low heat stirring occasionally, until tender – about 12-15 minutes.

Transfer to colander and let drain 5 minutes.

Heat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with cooking spray.

Transfer eggplant mixture to food processor and pulse to roughly chop. Do Not Puree.

Add breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, basil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Pulse to combine.

Stir in egg.

Form into about 20 1 1/2″ balls and transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Bake until firm and browned on the bottom 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat sauce in a large skillet then gently toss in meatballs.

Top with freshly grated parmesan and parsley.


Veggie Stromboli

Lauren Snyder

  • 1 pkg herb pizza dough
  • 3/4 bag shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 – 3/4 bag melange a trois peppers
  • 1/2 – 3/4 bag broccoli florets
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach

Roll out dough.

Season shredded mozzarella with curry, cumin, garlic, onion, paprika, and turmeric.

Saute veggies in a dash of olive oil.

Put half of seasoned cheese on dough.

Place veggies on top of cheese.

Put remaining cheese on veggies.

Fold dough. Cover in a light layer of oil.

Cut slices to vent.

Bake at 425°F for 15-17 minutes.

Cool and enjoy!

Tomato Galette

Tomato Galette

The garden tomatoes are slowly coming tpo an end, but while they're still around, we're coming up with more ways to eat them.

Tonight, Victor made a Tomato Galette - layers of sliced tomatoes under crisp and crunchy croutons. It was pure perfection!

He took a bunch of yellow heirloom tomatoes and sliced them and then layered them in a small casserole dish with thinly-sliced shallots, a bit of shredded quattro formaggio cheese blend, salt & pepper, topped with homemade croutons from the Italian Bread I made yesterday.

The croutons were bread cubes mixed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder - baked in the oven until crunchy and toasted. Since toast is one of my most favorite food groups, he made enough for me to snack on, as well!

It all went into a 350°F oven for 45 minutes.

Tomato Galette

Crispy crunchy croutons atop perfect tomatoes - seasoned simply, because they're so delicious on their own they don't need a lot. And the homemade croutons made the dish!

I made the bread to go along with a beef stew I had made.

I make stew based on a Boeuf Bourguignon recipe I've been making for years. It started off as a quick version of Julia Child's classic and has just morphed over the years. The constants are beef, bacon, brandy, a bottle of red wine, and beef stock - the rest changes to suit what's in the kitchen at the time... It slow-cooks in the oven for several hours and comes out great every time.

beef stew and tomatoes

This really has been the year of the tomato and I'm going to be sad to see it end.

But it ain't over, yet!





Eggplant and Eggs

Eggplant, Ravioli, and a Seven Minute Egg

I always know when Victor asks if I have planned anything for dinner that he has a plan for dinner. And I ain't no fool - I let him go for it!

His plan, tonight, was based on a soft-cooked egg he had seen on Milk Street - steamed for exactly 7 minutes.

Dinner based upon a simple egg?!? You betcha!

Of course, one needs something to put that egg upon - and he did not disappoint!

First, he made ravioli. Perfect little pillows stuffed with ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, egg, and parmigiano.

Our eggplant did not produce as it has in past years, but we were able to make some cutlets and freeze them. A couple of them came out and went into the oven with his sauce and the same ricotta filling in between them.

When they were ready, the ravioli went into the sauce and the eggs went into the steamer basket. And then everything went onto the plate.

Eggplant and Eggs

Absolute perfection!

It was one of those texture sensations - the silkiness of the ravioli, the crunch of the eggplant breading, and that perfectly cooked egg.

It was heaven on the end of my fork.



Making Tomato Paste

Homemade Tomato Paste

The tomato bounty contines.

Victor was online and came across recipes for tomato paste. We had both thought about making it, but neither of us were thrilled about stirring it on the stovetop for literal hours, worrying about scorching or burning...

Enter the Oven Method!

The concept is to take the tomato juice/pulp and reduce it in the oven instead of on the stove. Since we can't do it outdoors as they do in Sicily, it seemed like a perfect solution. We watched a video of people in Sicily making tomato paste - spreading the juicy pulp on five wooden tables outdoors, and then gradually combining it until they were left with a bucket of paste.

The reality is you don't get a lot of volume - it reduces 90%. One woman made a great point, though, about it - Yes, it's a bit of work, but would you ever consider spreading canned tomato paste on a crusty slice of bread?!? Most likely, not. You will with this, however! We spread it on fish and then topped it with fresh tomato relish - but that's another story.

We added just a bit of citric acid. Tomatoes are naturally acidic - something you want for canning - but the seeds carry a lot of that acidic content and you take out the seeds for paste.

You can use any tomatoes, but plum tomatoes will give you the most volume per pound - they're more meaty. We did a combination of about 7 pounds of plum/San Marzano and 3 pounds heirloom.

You'll need a food mill and 2 rimmed sheet pans. You will also need 3 to 4 hours of oven time. It will vary based on the juiciness of your tomatoes.

Tomato Paste

  • 10 pounds tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid

Wash and cut tomatoes. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and miox well.

Making Tomato Paste

Simmer the tomatoes until they break down and are soft and cooked through.

Making Tomato Paste

Let cool a bit and then pass through a food mill.

Making Tomato Paste

Spread juice/pulp onto two sheet pans and place in upper and lower thirds of a preheated 350°F oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

Making Tomato Paste

After 30 minutes, remove from oven, stir, and return - switching pan location each time. This is after the first 30 minutes. Still quite thin, but noticeably thicker than when it went in.

Making Tomato Paste

After an hour and a half.

Making Tomato Paste

After 3 hours. The deep brick red color you're looking for.

Making Tomato Paste

Ready to jar.

Making Tomato Paste

The finished product.

Making Tomato Paste

You can place it in containers and freeze, or you can can it either with a water bath or pressure canner. We have a pressure canner, so I use it almost exclusively.

Use 4 oz jars.

For a water bath, process for 15 minutes or process for 15 minutes at 11 pounds pressure with the pressure canner.

The result is unbelievable - the most awesomely rich tomato flavor you may ever experience.

We're hoping we'll be able to do at least one more batch before the season is over.

It really is awesome stuff!



Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes

The tomatoes just keep coming! The eggplant fizzled, the peppers fizzled, but the tomatoes are coming on strong.

If I was going to hope for at least one of the three to come on strong, it would be the tomatoes - there are so many more things you can do with them.

Tonight, Victor took a few plums and stuffed them Victor-Style - the perfect side dish!

Stuffed Tomatoes

  • bread crumbs
  • parmigiano
  • garlic powder
  • oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • fried hot Italian peppers

Slice tomatoes in half and core. Lightly salt and lightly cover in olive oil. Dredge in bread crumbs.

Mix bread crumbs with parmigiano, garlic powder, oregano, crushed red pepper, and S&P.

Place a hot Italian pepper in tomato cavity. Top with bread crumb mixture.

Place in small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Add about 1/2 cup white wine to dish, cover, and bake about 30 minutes at 350°F.

Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Absolutely delish! We're both fans of hot peppers, so the Italian hot in the tomato was perfection. If you don't like heat, leave it out - but it was really really good!

The steaks were liberally doused with Nick Stellino's magic spice mixture - equal parts of:

  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • brown sugar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika

Onto the grill they went.

There are more heirloom tomatoes ripening with another round of San Marzanos and plums not far behind.

This is fun!



Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup and Tomato Galette

It's summertime and it's rather hot outside, but with the air conditioner running, it could be any time of the year, at all, indoors. Time for some soup!

Victor found a recipe for a Turkish red lentil Soup that sounded like the perfect dinner. A spicy red lentil soup drizzled with a spicy oil. How perfext!


Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup


For the Soup:

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme or oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • salt, to taste

For the Paprika Oil:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Pick through your lentils for any foreign debris, rinse them 2 or 3 times, drain, and set aside.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté the olive oil and the onion with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for another 3 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir it around for around 1 minute. Now add the cumin, paprika, mint, thyme, black pepper, and red pepper and sauté for 10 seconds to bloom the spices. Immediately add the lentils, water, broth, and salt. Bring the soup to a boil.

After it has come to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover the pot halfway, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils have fallen apart and the carrots are completely cooked.

In the meanwhile make the paprika oil by swirling together the olive oil, paprika, and red pepper in a small sauce pan over medium heat. The moment you see the paprika starting to bubble, remove the pan from the heat. It's done.

After the soup has cooked and the lentils are tender, blend the soup either in a blender or simply use a hand blender to reach the consistency you desire. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Serve the soup with a drizzle of paprika oil, wedges of lemon, and extra mint and red pepper for everyone to customize to their taste.

While Victor made soup, I set my sights on a tomato galette

It's a stellar year for tomatoes - they are just sooo flavorful - I doubt I will ever get my fill of them.

This was about the easiest thing to make in the history of easy things to make. I pulled the pie dough out of the freezer, but it's really easy to make.

Tomato Galette

  • 2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz mixed cheeses, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Gently toss tomatoes, garlic, and 1 tsp salt. Let sit 5 minutes (tomatoes will start releasing some liquid). Drain tomato mixture and transfer to paper towels.

Tomato Tart

Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper to a 14" round about 1/8" thick.

Tomato Tart

Transfer on parchment to a baking sheet.

Tomato Tart

Scatter cheese over dough, leaving a 1½" border.

Tomato Tart

Arrange tomatoes and garlic over cheese.

Tomato Tart

Bring edges of dough up and over filling, overlapping as needed to create about a 1 1/2" border.

Sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt and pepper. Chill in freezer 10 minutes.

Bake galette, rotating once, until crust is golden brown and cooked through, 55–65 minutes.

Let cool slightly on baking sheet.

Top with sun-dried tomatoes, if desired.

It was the perfect combination - soup and galette - and it really brought home the flavors of summer.





Tomatoes and Potatoes

Tomatoes and Potatoes

The Tomato Bounty continues...

We have lots of sauce downstairs and lots more to make - and that's just from the plums and san marzanos. The other heirlooms are coming along strong, as well.

I had less than a pint of sauce left from the last canning - too little to process - so tonight, I used it to braise a couple of sliced red bliss potatoes. I started with a chopped leek and a bit of garlic, then added the potatoes to brown just a bit. Next went the sauce and a handful of the principe borghese tomatoes. A bit of salt, pepper, mint, and oregano - along with some crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper, finished the dish. On top of the potatoes and tomatoes went some sliced, grilled chicken, with three varieties of heirloom tomatoes on the side.

Tomatoes and Potatoes

The tomatoes are just so damned good! I'm going to be very sad when they're done for the season.




Rice and Tomatoes

Leftover Rice

I've always found it easier to cook a minimum of one cup of rice - I just don't have a lot of luck with cooking smaller amounts. It's even easier to cook two cups and have a couple of meals set up in the freezer or 'fridge.

Rice is the perfect vehicle for many things, so, tonight, I took plain cold rice and made a bit of a Mediterranean stir-fry.

Mediterranean Stir-Fry

  • 2 cups cold cooked rice
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • basil and mint, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Saute leek, carrot, and mushrooms until wilted and lightly browned. Stir in rice and heat thoroughly.

Stir in chopped tomatoes and herbs and heat through.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

We had our rice with a small bacon-wrapped filet but it would be equally good with a protein of your choice - chicken, pork, ground beef - whatever.

Rice and Tomatoes

Total simplicity - and really good!

Bean and Tomato Salad

Tomatoes and Beans

The tomatoes are starting to come in fast and furious. We're now harvesting daily.

With different varieties, there are different uses. In the grand scheme of things, they're all interchangeable, but they all have characteristics that make them better at some things than others. The San Marzanos are perfect for sauce. The Principe Borghese are perfect for sun-drying. The Black Krim, Yellow, and Green Stripe are perfect for salads and sandwiches.

And they all combine well.

Tonight, we made a bean salad using a homemade sauce from the San Marzanos, mixed with beans, served over Black Krims, and topped with sun-dried Principe Borghese.

Bean and Tomato Salad

What a treat!

The concept for the bean recipe came from Bon Appetit.

Tomato and Bean Salad

  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 can beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • thick sliced heirloom tomatoes
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • grated parmigiano

Mix tomato sauce, beans, green onions, garlic, oregano, and red wine vinegar. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed.

Arrange thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes on plate. Top with bean mixture. Sprinkle with parmigiano and top with sun-dried tomatoes.

For the sun-dried tomatoes...

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Dried Tomatoes

Slice tomatoes in half and lay out cut-side up on a lined baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle with salt.

Place in a 225°F oven for 2 1/2 hours.

After 2 1/2 hours, remove from oven and flatten with a small spatula.

Return to oven for an addition 2 1/2 hours or until dried to your preference.

You can turn off the oven and leave them in overnight.

Store in refrigerator.

If you're growing some smaller tomatoes, this is a great way to preserve them when they start coming in faster than you can eat them. The tomato flavor just explodes in your mouth.






Thug Kitchen

Thugs and Ainsley

I'm sitting here with the Summer Cold From Hell.

Since I actually don't remember the last time I had a cold - it's been a few years, at least - I suppose I shouldn't complain, too much.

On the other hand, it really sucks. We missed out on a Phillies/Giants game, today, but since the Phillies beat my Giants 10-2, I suppose that wasn't such a bad thing...

Colds tend to dull the taste buds, so I was looking for something fairly bold and spicy - and I had two new sources - so I went with one from each.

The first was my Thug Kitchen Cookbook. It is a hoot - and it has some outstanding recipes! I started off with 5-Spice Fried Rice with Sweet Potatoes. I more or less followed the recipe, but they call for adding bitter greens in and I didn't have any, so I just ignored that part. I used Carolina Gold Rice Grits from Anson Mills for the short-grain rice.

5-Spice Fried Rice with Sweet Potatoes

adapted from Thug Kitchen

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced into small cubes
  • 2 tsp neutral oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili paste or sriracha
  • 4 cups cooked short grain rice
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed


Heat 1 tsp of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the sweet potato and two tbsp of water and stir fry, stirring often, for about 5-8 minutes until the potato is tender and starting to brown. Add more water if the potato starts to stick.

Add the onion and carrot and continue to stir fry for another 3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

Add the 5-spice powder and garlic and stir fry for 1-2 more minutes. Remove all vegetables from the pan, cover and set aside.

Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and Sriracha in a small bowl.

Heat the remaining oil in the wok over medium heat. Add the cooked rice and stir fry until warm, approximately 5 minutes. Add the sauce mix and the vegetables, plus the peas to the rice and mix well.

Stir fry for another 1-3 minutes. Fold in green onions.

Next up was a Caribbean Chicken from Ainsley Harriott's Street Food. It's a show on Netflix where this guy travels around the world eating street food. A job I should have...

He used bone-in chicken breasts. I used a single boneless breast I cut into strips before marinating. I also adjusted the marinade ingredients - it's simply equal parts lime, rum, and soy sauce - and used demerara sugar in place of palm.

Rum-Drunk Barbecued Chicken

adapted from Ainsley Harriott's Street Food

  • 6 bone-in chicken breasts
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) lime juice
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dark rum
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dark soy sauce
  • 1 small bunch thyme, leaves picked and coarsely chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 tsp grated palm sugar


To make the marinade, place all the ingredients in a large airtight container and shake to combine well.

Using a sharp knife, make 2-3 deep incisions through the skin side of the chicken, to help the marinade permeate the flesh. Add the chicken to the marinade, stir to coat well, then cover and stand for 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight if time permits.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium heat.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and cook, basting with the marinade and turning regularly, for 15 minutes or until just cooked through. Rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Thug Kitchen

Surprisingly good! There was definitely that rum flavor, but not overpowering. It really was balanced with the lime and the soy sauce.

And both the rice and the chicken had some heat. They balanced one another, as well.

I'm sure we'll be seeing more fun recipes from both as time goes on.


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.