Italian

Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Ziti

Cauliflower is the new ? Help me complete that sentence would you? 🙂  Start out with a blank canvas and the sky’s the limit on the variety of dishes you can cook with cauliflower.  I’ve riced cauliflower, made a pizza base, curried it, steamed it, made many vegetarian dishes with it, but had never cooked it with pasta.  Of course it defeats the purpose of adding pasta to a low-carb dish, but believe me on this one, it was absolutely amazing, probably a ton of calories in it too, but hey, one’s allowed to stray off the path sometimes eh?

One of its high nutritional aspects is the elevated daily value of vitamin C it produces in one sitting.  It’s also a good source of vitamin K, magnesium and fibre to name a few.  I liked roasting the cauliflower and carrots on high heat in the oven before adding it to the dish.  It gives it a nice caramelized finish.  You can use any kind of cheese instead of fontina mentioned in the recipe.  I had a sharp cheddar, but I’m sure fontina would take it up to a whole new level.

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Eggplant Parmesan with a sweet surprise ending!

A good friend of mine recently had her first baby, so I thought of bringing her dinner one night as we all well know how the first few weeks of a new arrival literally turns one’s world upside down.  Since I know she favors vegetarian meals, I thought an Eggplant Parmesan dish would fit the ticket.  I love eggplant dishes myself, so set about trying to find some fresh ingredients at the local market together with some fresh basil from the garden.   This is a no-fry variation of the popular dish and re-created from 2 different recipes (All Recipes & Epicurious).  There’s a gorgeous, sweet surprise at the end of this recipe :))

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Ingredients – makes 8 servings

3 eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced (I’ve left the skin on on some occasions for a striking color)

2 eggs beaten

3 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (Japanese)

Large plum tomatoes – (I used about 7 and mixed it with some canned crushed tomatoes that I had in the pantry)

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

15 fresh basil leaves, torn in half

Salt and  black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 3/4 cup)

1 lb chilled fresh mozzarella (not unsalted), thinly sliced

Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt in a colander set over a bowl, then let drain 30 minutes.

While eggplant drains, cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch tomatoes together in a 5-quart pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.

Coarsely chop tomatoes, then coarsely purée in batches in a blender. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add garlic and sauté, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomato purée, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.

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I added onion and mushroom to my sauce, the recipe did not call for it.

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I added oregano, italian seasoning and dried basil leaves to the sauce – the recipe did not call for it.

Stir together flour,  1/4 teaspoon salt, and  1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow bowl, then stir together panko and 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in a third shallow bowl.

Working with 1 slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip off, and dredge in panko until evenly coated. Transfer eggplant to sheets of wax paper, arranging slices in 1 layer.

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Surprise!!! A double yolk, how cool is that!

IMG_0929 Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes on each side.

IMG_0932Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of a rectangular 3 1/2-quart (13- by 11- by 2-inch) baking dish. Arrange about one third of eggplant slices in 1 layer over sauce, overlapping slightly if necessary. Cover eggplant with about one third of remaining sauce (about 1 1/4 cups) and one third of mozzarella. Continue layering with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven 350 degrees.

IMG_0937And now for the sweet surprise :).  Here’s my friend’s bundle of joy, isn’t she just precious in that wee basket?  I did knit the baby blanket and was so happy to see that it was showcased in some of the baby portraits that were taken at the hospital.

photoI’m bringing this dish to Angie’s Fiesta Friday 4th of July celebration – No patriotic colors here but I do hope everyone enjoys this very special holiday and stays safe.  Thanks to our co-hosts Margy and Sylvia too for running this party.   http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/fiesta-friday-23happy-4th-of-july/