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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Leftovers keep well, covered and refrigerated, for about 4 days. Reheat before serving.
Can be prepared ahead: chill for up to 2 days or freeze then bake as above adding about 15 minutes
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
Eggplant – about 3 pounds sliced lengthwise in ¼ inch slices
8 oz fresh mozzarella ripped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup flour
2 cups extra virgin olive oil – EVOO – can use virgin oil
Parmigiano Reggiano – 1 cup freshly grated
Tomato sauce – recipe below
Salt sliced eggplant and leave with a weight on top for an hour in a colander over sink to rid of excess moisture. Then wipe off salt and pat well with paper towels. (You can skip this step if you use small Japanese eggplants or eggplants that don’t exude bitter juices) Flour them lightly then fry in ½ inch hot EVOO (extra virgin olive oil- which has a higher smoke point than virgin olive oil). 2 minutes per side placing on paper towels when done. Use paper towel to absorb excess oil – (or just drink that liquid gold haha ). Make sure not to crowd eggplant when frying as it lowers the oil temp. Insure oil is hot but not smoking between batches.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce (Recipe below) on bottom of 8x9ish baking dish, layer fried eggplant slices with more tomato sauce, grated REAL Parmigiano cheese then a good soft mozzarella ripped in small pieces. Repeat layers until all eggplant is used. Finish with mozzarella on final layer. It won’t be covered with sauce or cheese but it all melds together in the oven. Bake at 400° for 20 – 30 minutes or until bubbling- let rest 10 minutes before serving
Tomato sauce recipe:
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic – chopped
28 oz can tomatoes: Stateside I use Muir Glen or Hunts , in Italy it’s Mutti or Pommi
Chili pepper– optional if you like a kick – whole in pieces or flakes
Sauté onion and garlic in EVOO until onion is soft with optional Chili pepper, add tomatos and cook about 10 min. Blend all with an immersion blender. Turn off heat and add fresh basil ripped into pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
Am I crazy to try artichokes since 100% of commercially grown come from California where I am from?
If they grew in louisiana in the 1800’s I would think they can grow here...
1500s – In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), married to King Henry II (1519-1559), of France at the age of 14, is credited with making artichokes famous. She is said to have introduced them to France when she married King Henry II in the mid 16th century. She was quoted as sayig, “If one of us had eaten artichokes, we would have been pointed out on the street. Today young women are more forward than pages at the court.”
1600s – Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains a 17th-century recipe entitled “To Make Hartichoak Pie.”
1800s – French immigrants brought artichokes to the United States in 1806 when they settled in the Louisiana Territory. But though the first commercial artichoke fields were developed in Louisiana, by 1940 they had mysteriously disappeared. They were later established in Louisiana by French colonists and in California in the Monterey area by the Spaniards during the later 1800s.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), poet and dramatist, shunned the artichoke. In his book Travels Through Italy, Goethe says, “the peasants eat thistles,” a practice he could never adopt.
20th century – In 1922 Andrew Molera, a landowner in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California, just south of San Francisco, decided to lease his land previously dedicated to the growing of sugar beets to Italian farmers that he encouraged to try growing the “new” vegetable. His reasons were economic as artichokes were fetching high prices and farmers could pay Molera triple what the sugar company did for the same land.
By the early 20th century, Fannie Farmer noted in her ninth edition of her cookbook that California artichokes were selling in Boston for 30 to 40 cents each.
In the 1920s, Ciro Terranova “Whitey” (1889-1938), a member of the mafia and known as the “Artichoke King,” began his monopoly of the artichoke market by purchasing all the produce shipped to New York from California at $6 a crate. He created a produce company and resold the artichokes at 30 to 40 percent profit. Not only did he terrorize distributors and produce merchants, he even launched an attack on the artichoke fields from Montara to Pescadero, hacking down the plants with machetes in the dead of night. These “artichoke wars” led the Mayor or New York, Fiorello La Guardia, to declare “the sale, display, and possession” of artichokes in New York illegal. Mayor La Guardia publicly admitted that he himself loved the vegetable and after only one week he lifted the ban.
Did You Know?
Nearly one hundred percent of all artichokes grown commercially in the United States are grown in California.
In the 16th century, eating an artichoke was reserved only for men. Women were denied the pleasure because the artichoke was considered an aphrodisiac and was thought to enhance sexual power.
Artichokes are one of the oldest foods know to humans.
Marilyn Monroe was the first official California Artichoke Queen in 1949. How To Purchase Artichokes:
One medium to large artichoke will yield approximately 2 ounces of edible flesh.
If the artichoke feels heavy for its size and squeaks when squeezed, you have found a fresh artichoke.
Select globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation, and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage.
Fall and winter artichokes may be darker or bronze-tipped or have a whitish, blistered appearance due to exposure to light frost. This is called “winter-kissed.” Look for tender green on the inside of petals. Many consider these frosted artichokes to be the most tender with intense flavor. Avoid artichokes which are wilting, drying or have mold.
How To Store Artichokes:
To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do no wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.
RECIPES Roman Artichokes in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Herbs – Can Make Ahead
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mint, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 artichokes with stems, trimmed – see video
In a bowl, combine parsley, mint, garlic, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Rub artichoke hearts inside and out with herb mixture. Place them stem-side up in a medium pot. Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and enough water to come halfway up the sides of the artichoke hearts.
Place pot on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer until artichokes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining herbs. Cool completely in the cooking liquid.
Divide artichoke hearts onto four plates, and serve at room temperature with some of the liquid spooned over the top.
Carciofi alla Giuda
Roman Fried artichokes
4 whole artichokes
3 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Remove the hard leaves from the artichokes, cut stalk leaving about 1,2 inches of it.
With a very sharp small knife, shape the artichoke from top to bottom turning it, so as to remove only the hard part of the leaves. Soak the artichoke in water with the juice of one lemon and repeat the operation for each single artichoke.
Meanwhile, in a pan heat up plenty of oil.
Drain the artichokes, dry them and press them lengthwise on the table to open the leaves. Each operation must be repeated for each single artichoke.
Season the inside of the artichokes with salt and pepper. Then dip the artichokes into the boiling oil with the stalk up, cook per about 10 minutes, then turn them upside down and cook on the other side, for the same time.
Drain them on absorbent paper and serve hot.
Start with fresh milk curd from your local dairy and crumble it up– then pour boiling salted water over it and stir. Then grab a handful of cheese and press it on the strainer on both sides getting the water out. Fold the cheese back and forth, both ways several times, pressing and squeezing the water out and re-dipping it in the hot water to keep it malleable until its shiny and you can form a ball out of it. Seal at the bottom and drop in ice water if you are saving for several days. Otherwise keep in tepid water until ready to use (outside of refrigerator) for up to 2 days.