Tag Archives: vegetarian

Eggplant Parmesan, Part 3a

I took a lot of pictures, as usual along the way, but first I’ll do words, with a post called 3a. It started with a line – I got inspired and free – and the rest came as I cooked, plus the plans for 3b.

Part 3: Tomato sauce

There are a lot of ways to make tomato sauce,
But if it’s summer or fall and I have the time,
I like to start off with them fresh,
In place of the canned crushed kind.

From the garden, farm market, and CSA,
I’ll get all that I need and be on my way.

Step one is the stems,
With a knife, cut away.
In a pot of hot water,
Place the tomatoes to stay.

For fifteen or thirty,
Have them sit in the boil,
It’s not the minutes that matter,
But the soft flesh from the toil.

When cooled, peel away,
The cracked skins from the rest,
And reserve for yet later,
To pass the use test.

Meanwhile, start the onions,
And garlic together.
Dice and set in a pan,
And sauté till they’re soft, much better.

And now the tomatoes,
Just before set aside,
Have them join the mirepoix,
For the sauce-making ride.

If they’re soft and cooked well,
The next step is easy,
With a spoon that is wooden,
Split them in pieces.

That cooks for a while,
Let it simmer, not quick.
With tomatoes so fresh,
That’s how to make the sauce thick.

And lest we forget,
About trick number two,
Dice the saved-skins really fine,
And add this paste to the stew.

For salt and for pepper,
What you like, you should do,
Also sounds like advice,
Not just cooking, life too.

Still, to note what I add,
When including this pair,
I trust two parts the former,
One the latter, all square.

The last step’s the herbs,
Oregano and basil,
Dice one and chop two,
And we’re done! Let’s make the plates full.

Are you hungry like me?
I could go for a dish.
We’ll save some for the eggplant,
That’ll be our tomorrow wish.

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Eggplant Parmesan, Part 2

If you saw the Eggplant Parmesan, Part 1 post the other day, then you know my method for making fresh bread crumbs. You’ll also know from Part 1’s first picture that I had two eggplants set and ready to go for Part 2.  While this would be a perfectly good number to work with for this step – the prepping and cooking of the eggplant – I was thinking during the day yesterday, If two is good, why not three? So I stopped at a farm stand on the way home and got another one.

Before getting started last night, I also took an eggplant family portrait.

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You can tell they love each other.

And so then with the group shot taken, it was time to begin. Here are the basic steps and some notes.

Part 2: Fried eggplant

Step 1:

  • Peel and cut the eggplant into slices
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I’ve found that making them about 1/4″ thick works well

Step 2:

  • Sprinkle a little salt on the eggplant slices, and let them sit for an hour or so to draw out some moisture

I’ve seen a lot of recipes include this step (the sitting time varies), with the added suggestion of using a colander as an aid. I ended up doing it this time (I let the eggplant slices sit while I went to my class last night), but usually I just do the salt-sprinkle and move forward when I’m ready for the next step.

As

It was a double-colander day

Step 3

  • Set up the assembly line for the breading – flour, eggs, bread crumbs.

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  • Then do the dipping – take each eggplant slice, and making sure to coat both sides, go from one bowl to the next.

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At this point, you could get all the eggplant slices coated and ready, or, if you’re like me and decide to go big and use three eggplants, you could start the frying and finish the rest of the assembly line at the same time.

In terms of the flour / egg / bread crumb quantities, the following amounts worked well for the three medium-large eggplants:

  • 1 cup flour (plus 1/2 tsp salt mixed in)
  • 5 eggs (mixed)
  • 4.5 cups bread crumbs (this was the total amount I used; in the bowl in the picture above, there are about 2 cups – I refilled it over time)

Step 4:  (Final step!)

  • Cook the breaded eggplant slices.

I’ve seen some recipes that suggest baking instead of frying, but so far I’ve only tried frying. Here are the steps:

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  • Heat 3/8 cup olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. (On my gas stove, I turned the knob to 3 out of 6.)
  • Add a single layer of eggplant slices to the pan
  • Cook about 4-5 minutes per side, flipping once. (When the breading has gotten a little darker and has started to crisp up, and when the inside is partially cooked (you’ll know it’s partially cooked when you poke it with a fork or spatula and it still has some resistance but isn’t quite as firm as when you started), then it’s time to flip. After the flip, you’ll know it’s done when you poke it again and it’s no longer firm.)
  • When the slices are done, put them on a plate with a paper towel. As the plate gets full, add another paper towel, and then continue on with the layers on up.

The key to the frying step is getting the amount of oil and the temperature-setting right. I try to keep the olive oil base-layer consistent throughout, which means adding a little more oil as I go (I tend to add a little with each new batch or so of eggplant slices).

And that’s it and your done!

Congratulate yourself by eating a few of the fried eggplant slices, whether or not you’ve already had some along the way. So good. Just remember to save a few for making the Eggplant Parmesan later on. 

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Next up: making the tomato sauce.

Getting Started with Eggplant Parmesan

I’ve made Eggplant Parmesan about three times this summer, and I’m going to make it again this week.

A few of the things you'll need

Current view of my table

Come and make it with me! It’ll be fun. It’ll taste good too.

This time, I’m going to take it slow, one or two steps at a time (a day), so I can take pictures, write some notes, and fit in all the other great life things I also want to do at the same time, like reading, eating, hanging out, taking a community school guitar class (Tuesdays starting tomorrow!), riding, running, and sleeping and relaxing.

Here’s my plan: bread crumbs today on Monday (done!), eggplant slices tomorrow, tomato sauce Wednesday, and then awesome Eggplant Parmesan for dinner Thursday.

Let’s see how I (and you) do!

Part 1: Bread crumbs

For me, making bread crumbs starts with a trip to the Whole Earth Center to get a quality loaf of bread. Today I went for whole wheat.

Love that ingredient list, five items

Love that ingredient list, five items

The next step is to toast the bread. I recommend the oven for this step.

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I did about 15 minutes at 250 degrees, which produces (using my oven) toast that on the outside is crisp and that on the inside ranges from similarly crisp to a tiny bit soft. The pieces towards the outside of the oven-rack nearer the flames are the ones that get crisper. These are also the ones that have a tendency to darken and/or burn, particularly possibly the first few times you try it before figuring out your preferred crispness, timing, and color.

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The next and final step is to get out the big knife and chop! chop! chop! chop! chop! chop! chop! until you have lots of bread crumbs.

Actually, that’s what I used to do. And then I realized I could use the Cuisinart.

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Before

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After

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After after

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Back in the bag after

If I were saving them for another time, I’d put the bread crumbs in the freezer. As they’re destined for an eggplant date tomorrow, though, it’s in the fridge they go.

And that’s it for the bread crumbs and part 1. Pretty easy, right? Up for tomorrow is the eggplant – sliced, breaded, and lightly fried.

Matzah Lasagna

And now, for my first act of Passover cooking… Matzah Lasagna. (Make sure to say it in an Italian accent. Or a magician accent. Or both.)

matzah lasagna

Matzah lasagna!

I made this for dinner last night, having gotten the idea after a few minutes of searching the phrase, “Passover dinner recipes,” and seeing lasagna turn up several times. (Thank you internet.) Having made lasagna in the past, I thought, How hard could it be? You just need to remember one important substitution! (Matzah for the noodles)

For the recipe, I kind of made it up as I went along. What appears below is what I wrote up after I was done.

Matzah Lasagana

7 pieces of Matzah
28 oz homemade tomato sauce
1 bunch swiss chard
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 teasp salt
10 oz mozzarella cheese

Here’s how to put it together:

  1. Make the tomato sauce. (You can also use sauce from a jar, but I usually make the sauce. Yesterday I sauteed an onion, green pepper, and carrot in olive oil, and then I added a can of crushed tomatoes and some dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. More details on sauce in a future post.)
  2. Prep the matzah. (The internet seems to say to soak it in water for a minute or two, and then drain the water. I soaked it for 10 minutes because I forgot about it. I can tell you that 10 minutes isn’t necessarily too long, but the result was more difficult to work with.)
  3. Chop the swiss chard leaves, and saute them until wilted and soft. (If you want to save a little time, you can skip the chard. Or use frozen spinach. Or also put in/not put in additional vegetables or ingredients.)
  4. Make the ricotta mixture by mixing the ricotta, eggs, chard, dried oregano, and salt. (Some of the recipes I saw called for cottage cheese, but I went with ricotta.)
  5. Add the layers to the baking pan (9″ x 13.5″) to make the lasagna:
    – Spread about 1/2 cup of sauce in the pan (an initial sauce layer)
    – Then add a layer of matzah followed by 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the remaining sauce, and 1/3 of the mozzarella (shredded)
    – Do the preceding step one more time (add matzah, ricotta, sauce, and mozzarella).
    – Then to top it off, add a final matzah layer followed the rest of the sauce and mozzarella.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes (bake until the lasagna is bubbly or the mozzarella on top begins to get a little crispy).

Here’s how to do it with pictures:

Step 1: Make the sauce

onion sautee

Get that saute going if you’re making the sauce.

sauce

Why stop at an onion if you can add more veggies?

tomato sauce

Tomato sauce, now ready to go

Step 2: Prep the matzah

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How matzah looks before you soak it

Step 3: Make the chard

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How chard looks after you chop it but before you saute it

Step 4: Make the ricotta mixture

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How ricotta, eggs, chard, oregano, and salt look after you mix them with a fork in an orange bowl

Step 5: Layer the lasagana

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Sauce

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Matzah

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Ricotta

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Sauce

And then, you know, continue with the rest of the layering…

It might be just me, but does anyone else have trouble following the layering steps as described in a typical lasagna recipe? If I’m following a lasagna recipe, I always find myself reading those steps multiple times. For the more visually/graphically-oriented among us, I drew a picture to help:

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Lasagna layers in profile. Check out the shape on that pan. 

And now, the final product:

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Matzah lasagna! Out of the oven

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On the plate!

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Close-up!

My first thought after taking a bite was, Hmmmmm…..Celeste Pizza! I haven’t had Celeste or other frozen pizzas in a while, but the very top layer of the lasagna (the matzah, sauce, and mozarella on top) was reminiscent of the melting-in-you-mouth, feel-good flavor and texture of a hot-out-of-the-oven highly processed, one-dollar frozen pizza.

Another thought was, This could use a little more salt. I say this perhaps more as an aside to myself because I made the tomato sauce and have a tendency to use less rather than more salt. Maybe next time (next year) I’ll put more salt in the sauce or ricotta mixture.

Final thoughts? I like the noodle version better, but this one was still good. You can tell there’s something different going on (the softer matzah gives it more of a casserole feeling), but if no one told you what it was, it wouldn’t be that remarkable (as in, something different to remark about).

Also, I’m proud of myself for posting the recipe even though I only made it once and know it’s not perfect. I can think of more to say about that topic on the life side, but for now, let’s say this particular recipe is good but also a work in progress. I’m putting it out there for all to see, use, and potentially make better and give me suggestions on. Have an idea? Let me know. And yeah, give it a try, especially if you happen have to a good-sized stock of matzah (or matzo or matzoh) left over from the 5, 10, or more lbs you may have started with this week.

Hello World! It’s Gooda Bartha to meet you!

Hello! It’s Gooda Bartha to meet you!

I’d been thinking of starting something like this for a while now, and today’s the day it’s happening! Are you ready too? Let’s go! It will be a story in words and pictures, a mix of food and life. And even if it doesn’t always turn out as planned or hoped for, it’ll still be good.

Gooda Bartha

Gooda Bartha! But how did you end up looking so good??

So I had Good Bartha (Zucchini puree) for the first time three years ago, and it was one of those times when after tasting it, I thought or said something like, Wow, that’s really good, that’s amazing, let me finish this so I can have some more. I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Illinois at the time, and my uncle was cooking. I think he made rice and dal that night too.

I got the recipe from my uncle a few weeks ago, and now it was my turn. Time for some re-creation recreation.

Gooda Bartha (Zucchini puree)

  • 1 lb zucchini (about 2)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 teasp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teasp black mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh green jalapeno chili
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 teasp salt
  • 1/2 teasp chili powder
The players

But it says 2 zucchini, 1 chili, and 1 onion! That’s okay – let’s make it a double!

Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow!

The players, more prepared

The players, now more prepared

Here’s how to get everything ready:

The zucchini gets chopped,
the onion gets sliced, and
the chili gets seeded and sliced.

And here’s what to do in five easy steps:

  1. Put the zucchini in a saucepan, and cook with water until soft. (I used 1 cup water for 4 zucchini, and I covered the pan to have it cook faster.) Then drain the water, and mash.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry the cumin and mustard seeds until the mustard seeds crackle.
  3. Add in the onion and chili, and cook until the onion is soft. (I covered the pan again during this step.)
  4. Add in the mashed zucchini, salt, and chili powder, and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until the liquid evaporates.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.
    (Recipe modified from “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon)
Zucchini, ready to go

Zucchini, ready to go

Zucchini mashed up

Zucchini mashed up

Seeds in the pan

Onion and chili added

Onion and chili added

All together now

And now, ready to be introduced:

On the plate

Gooda Bartha close up

Gooda Bartha, with friends

I also made some friendly beaners while I was cooking and let them join the party too. They’re the red and black you see balancing out the picture.

And in the end? It was pretty good! My uncle’s was better (at least according to my memory), but that’s okay. I can compare notes and do some cooking with him the next time I’m in Illinois. Lucky for me, that next time is going to be in two weeks, when I head out there to do the Illinois Marathon and see my aunt and uncle and brother.

I’ll see you later too – here are some Gooda Bartha seeds and spices to chew on until then.

Cumin seedschili powdercumin seedssalt