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

 

 

 

 

Easy Fresh Beet Pasta

20150522_210113 (5)
Fresh Beet pasta with sage

20150522_182138 20150522_180407 20150522_173802 20150522_140624 20150522_140423 20150522_135303 20150522_135242 (3)

Fresh Beet Pasta- so pretty and so tasty and healthy too!

Don your gloves for the beets unless you want bright red hands.
Cooking the fresh beets in the microwave make it easy to peel and cood with the fuss.

Ingredients:

1 fresh beet – or you can use canned – need 1/3 cup
2 cups semolina flour
3 oz warm water or as needed

Method:

Put unpeeled , washed beets in microwave and cook about 4 minutes per beet (covered with 1/4 cup water)
Throw the cooked beets in the food processor and puree.
Add the semolina and mix.
add water through feed tube until dough comes together into a ball.
Turn out onto a semolina floured counter.
Knead 4-8 minutes until soft and silky.  If sticks to your hands just add more flour.
Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Can store 1 day in fridge or freeze.

Remove from plastic and roll out to desired thickness. I used 5 on pasta machine.
Cut into fettucine or whatever you like and let dry for up to 3 days or use immediately.

Cook in well salted boiling water 1-2 minutes fresh- a little longer if dryed,and longer if frozen. (don’t thaw first if frozen)

Store in zip lock bags in pantry.
You can also freeze noodles instead of drying.

Have fun and expect to get rave reviews from your friends!

Good sauces for this are brown butter sage sauce or

rosemary garlic sauce.

Just saute the herbs and garlic in a few spoons of olive oil or butter and pour over cooked pasta.

All About Artichokes- even though the season is ending now…but I haven’t eaten one this year!

cropped-carciofi_romana.jpg
Roman artichokes in extra virgin olive oil, fresh mint, garlic. My favorite way to prepare them!

artichoke all giuda
Roman Artichoke Jewish style Carciofi alla Giuda

20130207_114922

artichokes
trimmed artichokes in the Italian market

20150514_105024
My First Artichoke Garden in Chattanooga TN. Looks like I’m the only one around here growing artichokes! I have to wait 120 days! I hope it works

VIDEO: How to trim artichokes Roman style

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

Ingredients

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

Method:
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

Ingredients:

4 whole artichokes
3 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lemon

Method:

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.

Butternut Squash Artisan Pasta with 5 Ingredient Skinny Pumpkin Sage Sauce

20150513_13041920150513_13031120150512_16540820150513_12551020150513_133226

So everyone wants to eat lighter around here so came up with this light version of pumpkin sauce using cottage cheese instead of cream and going for lots of pumpkin, galic, sage flavor.

Skinny Pumpkin Sage Sauce
5 ingredients only!

1-cup pumpkin pure – I prefer freshly roasted but canned is ok too
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic – peeled and sliced
10 fresh sage leaves- more or less
1-cup low-fat cottage cheese

Sauté garlic in 1 of the tbsp. butter until soft- a minute or 2
Add pumpkin and cook for another minute
Add cottage cheese and cook until heated through
Mix all with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth.
Add sea salt and pepper to taste
Meanwhile sauté the sage leaves in the remaining tbsp. of butter until crisp.
Salt to taste

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente
Add some pasta cooking water to the sauce to thin it out if needed.
Add your pasta to the sauce and stir until it’s hot and well amalgamated.
Sprinkle sage leaves on top

Buon Appetito!

Best Fire Roasted Bell Peppers that don’t even compare to the bottled kind!

Bell-Peppers

20150512_173145

20150512_175847

These are so delicious with the smoky flavor you get from the fire. They are best when you put them directly on the grill to be scorched by the fire but you can do it the easy way by cooking in the oven on broil.  My Italian family does it directly on the gas flame on the stove which turns out best but a mess to clean up.

Ingredients:

bell peppers, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper

Method:
Cook until blackened on all sides, turning as they blacken on each side.
When they are black all around place immediately in a paper or plastic bag to sweat for 15 minutes.
When they are cool the skins will peel right off.
Slice in strips if you like and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, sea salt and cracked pepper

Big Batch Basic and Fast Italian Tomato Sauce

 Big Batch Basic Italian Tomato Sauce – some now – more for tomorrow

for about 6 pasta dinners for 6 people or more!

papardelle with fresh tomato sauce
Pappardelle al Pomodoro (tomato sauce)

This is the recipe I use when fresh tomatoes are not in season. Make sure to use a good quality canned tomato like San Marzano tomatoes.  Mutti is the preferred italian brand the good restaurants use and you can get it online.  Otherwise I love Pomi (comes in a box- from Italy)  Nina Italian tomatoes I find at Costco are great and next would be Muir Glen.  I will post my fresh tomato sauce closer to the season. Btw that’s a roasted potato on the side

Ingredients;
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for garnish
12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes (I use a whole peperoncino chopped into pieces)
6 (28-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
Sea salt
1 pound pasta
1 bunch fresh basil, chiffonade, for garnish
1 (8-ounce) wedge Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, grated or shaved, for garnish

Directions

In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain reserving 1 cup pasta water.

In hot pasta pot add another tbsp. of EVOO, add pasta and 2 – 3 cups sauce (just enough so that it coats the pasta). Incorporate sauce into pasta stirring over medium high heat until steaming hot, adding pasta water if it dries up too much.  Keep stirring until the sauce is coating the noodles.  Serve with a sprinkle of basil, and cheese.

Let extra sauce cool completely and then seal in airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze..