Zucchini Parmesan Assembled Raw – No Frying (Parmigiana di Zucchine) Like Eggplant Parmesan but with Zucchine

pesto tops this cheesy dish

Do you know that we actually spell Zucchini wrong in America? In Italian one Zucchini is “una zucchina” so plural is ” Zucchine” Just thought you should know lol.

This is a great easy alternative to eggplant parmesan especially when you have zucchini coming out your ears like I do! My cheese man gave me a bag of zucchini and zucchini flowers which I stuffed with cheese and anchovy , dipped in batter and fried- even though I dislike frying these are so worth it! They disappeared in a nanosecond! Stay tuned for that recipe. You can make ahead and refrigerate for 3 days or freeze then bake when needed.

The most work in this recipe is slicing the zucchini but if you have a mandoline it’s easy and fast. I add a layer of thinly sliced mortadella because it’s so good here and the deli slices it thin for me. You can leave it out to make it vegetarian or use ham, speck or prosciutto.

zucchini thinly sliced with a mandolin
mortadella layer
sheet of mozzarella (it was too much so i used strips of it
scamorza obtained from the deli here in Manfredonia

Ingredients:

1 pound zucchini or about 3 zucchini thinly sliced by mandolin if possible

2 cups grated mozzarella or your favorite cheese – gruyere would be yum

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

6 slices mortadella (optional) can use ham, prosciutto or speck

fresh basil leaves – a handful

salt and fresh cracked pepper

Method:

heat oven to 350F 180C

drizzle an 8×8 or 9×13 pan with EVOO – extra virgin olive oil – (if you want it taller use the smaller pan and make more layers)

cover it with slices of zucchini even overlapping

sprinkle with salt and pepper

sprinkle a fourth of each cheese

add a slice of mortadella or as much needed to cover

repeat layers finishing with cheese on top and scattered basil leaves (save some fresh leaves for after baking

bake for about 40 minutes or until bubbling and top is golden.

Let sit at least 15 minutes for it to settle before cutting and serving

note: the raw zucchini exudes a lot of water so the longer you cook it the more it will evaporate out.

Pasta with peas, red onions and pecorino (Pasta e piselli)

Fresh peas are best as that’s what motivated me to make this simple cucina povera dish. My cheese man friend gave me a bag of fresh picked peas from his farm and told me to get the local red onions and make a simple olive oil sauce which I did today in about 10 minutes. Well not really as it took about 30 minutes to shuck 2 pounds of peas or longer as i ate them as I went LOL. Feel free to use frozen peas straight from the freezer if you can’t get the fresh ones.

Cerati Pasta from our friends’ factory in Milan – fusilli
all that should be in the pasta ingredients are durum wheat and water and/or egg. This one has traces of soy as they are a factory that must disclose this.

This doesn’t even need a recipe as you just saute an onion and 1 garlic clove with a chili pepper or some flakes. While that’s happening boil your pasta water – I use a lot less water these days as I’ve learned how you benefit from the starchy water in the final assembly with just enough water to cover the pasta completely. I used fusilli but you can use any pasta long or short. It’s really so easy and you can add pancetta or zucchini or whatever you are craving today or have on hand like cherry tomatoes even.

When the pasta is cooked but still has a nice firm bite, drain it, reserving a cup of pasta water, add it to the sauce in the big pan on medium high heat and stir it up to infuse the pasta with the sauce, adding the water as needed so that that pasta is coated but not drowning in sauce.

the amount of salt for 4 cups pasta water for half pound pasta. the water should taste salty like a soup for full flavor benefits!!

Taste for salt, plate it and sprinkle with pecorino or your favorite cheese and fresh cracked pepper and even basil if you have it. Just know that Italians don’t use black pepper when there is red pepper. They are not as pepper crazy as we Americans are.

Amazing Roasted Eggplant Parmesan! bonus – it’s Gluten and Lactose Free!!

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

oh so tasty olive oil infused eggplant
pure delicious and clean!

Since eggplant (melanzane) season is just beginning I decided to create a baked eggplant parm I actually like that’s not fried. Here in Puglia they say to be good it has to be fried but I disagree (don’t tell them that) . Here in Puglia their version differs from Rome, Florence and Como where we’ve also lived. They use a rich meat sauce (ragu) and ham or mortadella and of course they fry each slice of eggplant after dipping in bread crumbs and egg. I have tried it every which way and I actually prefer this new method the most. I tested it on my husband and he gave me the thumbs up which is huge since he is born and raised Italian and tends to prefer his traditional foods.

To salt or not to salt: I have been researching this for years and my conclusion is that if you use this method with good fresh smallish eggplants there is no need to salt. I’ve also been told by farmers that the modern varieties don’t require it as they don’t contain the bitter juices.

Interesting Food Trivia : Italian food experts suggest that the name Parmigiana Melanzane has nothing to do with parmigiano cheese or Parma the city, but derives from the Sicilian palmigiana not parmigiana, meaning “shutters,” the louvered panes of shutters or palm-thatched roofs that the layered eggplant slices are meant to resemble. Isn’t that great? Didn’t you always wonder about the name?

This eggplant Parmesan is lighter than most except for the olive oil , and the eggplant flavor actually shines through as it’s layered with the delicious ‘5 minute tomato sauce’ (see recipe on blog or use your own favorite). I will confess that living amidst olive trees in the olive oil capital of Italy I don’t skimp on using that liquid gold. It’s not too cheesy but has the just right amount and its mostly on top so it can develop that irresistible golden crust. Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses are bursting with flavor so you don’t even miss the usual mozzarella. That also makes it lactose free.

Before you head to the grocery store, here are some tips on choosing great eggplant. Be sure to choose eggplants that are smooth and shiny, with no dents or mushy parts. They should feel heavy for their size. If possible, choose eggplants that are on the smaller side. Large eggplants tend to contain more seeds, which have an annoying texture. Then be sure to turn that eggplant into eggplant Parm subito, since overripe eggplant tastes bitter.

Eggplant notoriously absorbs oil like a sponge, so you’ll want to brush oil onto the eggplant rather than drizzling it on. 

RECIPE

prep time 20 minutes, cook time 45 minutes with 20 minute rest

This Italian-style eggplant Parmesan recipe is lighter than most—it’s made with roasted eggplant slices (not fried) and no breading at all. It’s gluten free, too! Recipe yields one 9-inch square eggplant Parm, or about 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 pounds eggplants (about 3 smallish or 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup  extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh basil
  • 4 ounces freshly grated or sliced pecorino cheeses(about 1 cup) I use a mixture of Pugliese Roman and Tuscan pecorino cheeses
  • 4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
  • for the tomato sauce: https://janesitaliankitchen.com/2016/03/22/1-minute-tomato-sauce-that-tastes-great/

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To roast the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Line two large rimmed, baking sheets with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
  2. Slice off both rounded ends on one eggplant, then stand it up on its widest flat side. Slice through the eggplant vertically to make long, even slabs ¼- to ½-inch-thick. Discard both of the sides that are covered in eggplant skin. Repeat with the other eggplant(s).
  3. Brush both sides of the eggplant slabs lightly with olive oil (you’ll likely need about ¼ cup oil). Arrange them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle the top sides with a few dashes of salt and pepper. Roast until golden and tender, about 22 to27 minutes—halfway through baking, rotate the pans 180 degrees and swap their positions (move pan on lower rack to upper rack, and vice versa). The pan on the lower rack might need a few extra minutes in the oven to turn golden. Set aside. 
  4. When you’re ready to assemble, spread about ¾ cup of the sauce in the bottom of an 9 or 9 inch square pan. Arrange about one-third of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly (cut them to fit, if necessary). Spoon another ¾ cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with ¼ cup parmesan cheese.
  5. Arrange about half of the remaining eggplant slices evenly on top. Spread another ¾ cup sauce on top and sprinkle with ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Layer the remaining eggplant slices on top and top with ¾ cup sauce (you might have a little left over) and the remaining pecorino cheese. Evenly sprinkle the Parmesan on top.
  6. Bake on the lower rack, uncovered, until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes to give it time to set, then chop and sprinkle additional basil on top. Slice with a sharp knife and serve.
  7. Leftovers keep well, covered and refrigerated, for about 4 days. Reheat before serving.
  8. Can be prepared ahead: chill for up to 2 days or freeze then bake as above adding about 15 minutes

Best Ever Fresh Roasted Pumpkin Pie – No Evaporated Milk – Zero kilometer – we say that in Italy when its local

The only way is the BEST way in Italy I found out after making the best pumpkin pie in my life!

Roast about 2 pounds of fresh pumpkin wedges to get 2 cups of puree

…then add 2 large beaten eggs, 1/4 cup light cream or milk, 3/4 cup sugar, tbsp of flour,  1 tsp vanilla, spices of preference and Bam!  You just need to pour into the pie crust you already made.

I doubled the recipe to make them deep dish.    Here is the pie crust I used:

seriouseats.com/…/old-fashioned-flaky-pie-dough-recipe 

Recipe

Ingredients:

1 pastry for single crust pie – 9 inch

2 eggs slightly beaten

2 cups pumpkin puree

1/4 cup cream, half & half or milk

1 tbsp flour

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

Directions:

To make puree :place  2-3 pounds of fresh pumpkin wedges on sheet pan  in 200 degree  oven for 25 minutes or until knife inserts easily into flesh – remove from oven, cool then peel skin and let drain in strainer of excess liquid for 30 min. or longer

Line a 9 inch pie pan with pastry, crimp edge as desired and chill until ready to fill

In large bowl stir together eggs, pumpkin and cream or milk.

Stir in sugar, flour, vanilla, salt and spices

pour mixture into prepared pie pan

To prevent over browning, cover edge of pie with foil

Bake in 375 oven for 25 minutes

remove foil

bake for 40 minutes more until a knife inserted near center comes out clean

cool on wire rack

cover and refrigerate within 2 hours

 

 

 

 

Which Olive Oil to Buy in the USA?

Here is new information regarding authentic olive oil to buy:

NAOOA Certified Olive Oils

NAOOA Certified Olive Oils

List of authentic olive oils bearing the NAOOA Quality Seal which is awarded to olive oils that are tested for purity and quality.

365 Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spain
365 Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece
365 Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Spray)
365 Organic Mediterranean Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil
365 Unfiltered Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
365 Unfiltered Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
365 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
365 Mediterranean Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil
American Roland Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Athenos Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Carlini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Carlini Olive Oil
Cibaria Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Classico Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Classico Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Colavita Premium Selection Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Filippo Berio 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil Delicato
Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil Robusto
Filippo Berio Light-Tasting Olive Oil
Filippo Berio Olive Oil
Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Goya Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Goya Unico Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Goya Olive Oil
Goya Light-Tasting Olive Oil
Iliada Extra Virgin Olive Oil
La Tourangelle Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Robust
Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Smooth
Pompeian Classic Olive Oil
Pompeian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pompeian Light-Tasting Olive Oil
Sclafani Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Simply Nature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sprouts Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Arbequina
Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cornicabra
Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Greek
Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Italian
Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spanish
Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tunisian
Star Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Whole Foods Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sicily
Whole Foods Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Seville
Whole Foods Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece
Whole Foods Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Portugal
Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil

NAOOA Certified Quality Seal Program

Heart-healthy benefits and superior flavors have made olive oil a staple in many U.S. kitchens. But as with any premium product, there is a potential for imposters to mingle with the real thing. However there is an easy way for consumers to identify olive oil that delivers the quality they expect. The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) offers a Certified Quality Seal Program as a way to recognize and promote olive oils that measure up to the industry’s standards of excellence.

It is a condition of NAOOA membership that all oil marketed by members must meet or exceed the International Olive Council (IOC) standard, so membership in the NAOOA is a de facto certification program. The NAOOA Certified Quality Seal Program steps up quality control another notch by submitting the Seal products for testing even more frequently and by including organoleptic analysis. One key difference with the NAOOA Certified Quality Seal and other programs is that brands participating in this program agree to have samples taken directly from the retail marketplace, in the same manner any consumer would purchase them.

To use the seal, a company must be an NAOOA member in good standing and the type of oil bearing the seal must be tested to ensure it meets or exceeds the IOC standard for olive oil. For more than fifty years, the IOC has been recognized as the worldwide quality-standard-setting body for the olive oil industry and its standard is the basis for the newly implemented USDA standard. An annual licensing fee for the Seal program allows the NAOOA to perform rigorous quality testing of each product at least twice per year.

The Certified Quality Seal Program demonstrates the NAOOA’s long-standing commitment to educate consumers about the benefits of olive oil and ensures the integrity of the product. It also lets product marketed by NAOOA members stand out from the competition, and with good reason. These companies have taken the initiative to lead the industry by voluntarily following standards that are far more stringent than what’s required by the U.S. government.

 

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Garlic Toasted Bread Crumbs (Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa)

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Broccoli rabe, or rapini, is a bitter green that comes into season in autumn. It is a member of the turnip family and you will find it at selected greengrocers in bundles of large leaves with broccoli-like flower heads opening into small yellow flowers.   It’s earthy and rustic – a peasant-style Puglia dish to get you through the day.  In Puglia the main meal is lunch at around 1:30. Stores close at 1.  After lunch  they take a nap (penneca) since nothing is open anyway again until 6pm.  Carmen who does my nails at her home always asks what i made for lunch and we talk about food. She gave me her way of doing this classic Puglia dish and went home and made it as it sounded so good!

Ingredients

  • 400g cime di rapa or 1 pound
  • 200g pasta of your choice (the tradition is orecchiette)  I go veggie heavy and pasta light and make up for it all with the fresh pressed olive oil I helped produce.
  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • half cup fresh bread crumbs – at the bread counter in Italy (i make crumbs out of stale bread and keep in freezer)
  • 4 anchovies (optional but they make the flavor jump!)
  • Pinch dried chilli flakes or preferably a whole dry chili broken in half and tossed in
  • Parmesan, grated, to serve
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Wash the Cime di Rapa well, slice the lower part of the stalks into 2-3 cm pieces, keep the leafy tops whole. Drop the greens into the water.  You will add the pasta to the same pot when the Cime is almost done and a knife slices easily through it
  2. Meanwhile gently heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan (must be big enough for the finished dish) and slowly cook the garlic until fragrant but not burning.  Add the bread crumbs and dried chilli, cook gently for 2 minutes until the crumbs are toasted and golden. Cut the heat and save for later
  3. Drain the pasta and greens together when the pasta is still al dente (it will keep cooking as you finish) keeping a cup of the water for later in case it’s too dry.  Dump the drained mixture into the  bread crumb pan, add the anchovies if using and stir it all together fast while on medium heat adding some of the pasta water if needed and drizzle of good olive oil. Serve piled into shallow bowls and finish with plenty of grated Parmesan and more good olive oil.  I love fresh cracked black pepper on everything but in Italy you don’t put chilli peppers and black pepper together ever! But in the end I do what I want and like.