Tag Archives: Italian Food

Cacciatore, Hold the Chicken!

16 Aug

Since becoming a vegetarian I learned how to make all kinds of recipes without meat, and this has become a favorite. Summer time in New Jersey means lots of fresh local vegetables including eggplant, peppers and the famous Jersey tomatoes all of which I used in this recipe. Now I know most of you think of New Jersey as crowded and dirty, with bad drivers but in fact, there is a lot of farmland and beautiful rolling hills. We have lots of local farmers markets where we can get everything from local produce to homemade pies. (We are called the Garden State for a reason.)

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This is the perfect summer time pasta dish that is light, has lots of taste and loaded with healthy veggies!

eggplant-cacciatore

Just a few notes-I peeled the eggplant, I don’t like the skin but it’s up to you. You can use your favorite mushrooms, I used baby Portobello, just about any kind will do. Finally, instead of the 14 oz can of diced tomatoes I used fresh Jersey tomatoes.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb eggplant, sliced into 1/4 thick slabs

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

6 oz dried penne pasta

1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced

1 small onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp capers

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dry

1/2 tsp dry oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub eggplant slabs with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until eggplant are slightly browned and tender, but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

 

While eggplant is baking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to instructions. Drain when done and return pot, toss with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.

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While eggplant bakes and pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and  place over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and sauté’ for another minute. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until liquid is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, capers, rosemary, oregano and red pepper flakes to skillet and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and add eggplant, simmer 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Serve over pasta with a salad, crusty bread and a glass of delicious wine!

Thank you to Connoisseurusveg.com for this recipe and the photo of the final dish, mine didn’t look quite as good.

 

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Part II: Eggplant Rollatini

25 Oct

Hands down one of my all time favorite meals ever! And this is the first time I have ever made it and to make it with my homemade sauce made it even better. Thank you to Vodka and Biscuits for the great recipe, the only thing I changed was using fresh spinach versus frozen.

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Ingredients:

2 medium eggplants

kosher salt, as needed

pepper, as needed

15 oz. part skim ricotta cheese

1/2 package fresh, organic baby spinach-torn into pieces

1 egg, beaten

1 T chopped parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, minced

pinch red pepper flakes

2 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

To make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the the stem end of the eggplant, I also like mine peeled but it is up to you. Using a meat slicer, mandolin or chef’s knife , cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4″ inch slices. Generously sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and to “sweat” for 15 to 20 minutes.

Rinse each slice with water and pat dry. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay slices on a baking sheet and bake 10 -12 minutes.

In a bowl combine ricotta cheese, parsley, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, torn spinach and red pepper flakes. Taste for flavor before adding egg. Once you like the flavor, add egg and mix well.

Cover bottom of baking dish with a thin layer of sauce.

To roll the eggplant, place a heaping spoonful of ricotta mix on a slice of eggplant, roll and place in the sauce. Continue making the eggplant rolls and place them in the baking dish.

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Cover the eggplant rolls with the remaining sauce and top with shredded mozzarella. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

I served mine with spaghetti of course…just had to have the carbs. My husband said it was the best dish I had ever made, can’t beat that!

*Sorry about the crappy photos, one of my New Years’s resolutions for the coming year is better blog photos.

 

 

Part I: Tomato Fresh and Dietary Changes

25 Oct

Recently my husband and I have become vegetarians. We are animal lovers and even though we knew the meat industry is cruel and unforgiving, it only just became clear how bad it really is, so we are no longer eating meat. This being said my recipes going forward will be meatless (we do still eat seafood though.)

This summer we had our first garden and it was amazing! So much fun to see the plants grow and produce and then you get to eat it! I am a huge lover of Italian food, so to be able to make sauce with tomatoes and herbs from my own garden was incredibly rewarding. This post will be in 2 parts, this post is the recipe for the homemade sauce and the following post will be for the eggplant rollatini that I made with the sauce.

Now this is truly my recipe so the measurements are not exact, use your best judgement when adding the spices and herbs and adjust to your taste.

Prepping the Tomatoes

Start with about 2 to 3 lbs fresh tomatoes

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Bring to a boil a large pot of water. Cut out the core of the tomatoes, and mark an “X” on the bottom. Have a large bowl of ice water ready to put the tomatoes in after they go into the boiling water. Once the water is boiling place the tomatoes into the boiling water for no more than 60 seconds, then using a slotted spoon put them into the ice water. The skin will come off no problem, just don’t let them sit in the ice water too long or they get soggy.

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Once they are all peeled, cut into quarters and set aside in a bowl. Dice half of a large onion and saute in 2 Tbls of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until soft. Add 3 cloves minced, fresh garlic and cook till fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat using a wooden spoon to break the tomatoes into smaller pieces as they cook. Once they really start to cook down add salt and pepper, fresh thyme, oregano, basil and parsley. I used them straight from our garden, just rinsed and chopped; started with a little bit of each and added more as the sauce cooked until I liked the flavor. Simmer on low for about another hour and half.

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I cooked my sauce for about 2 hours total. It was absolutely delicious. I ended up making it about 3 times this summer, we had lots of tomatoes. We grew heirloom and beefsteak but it looked like we ended with some plum too, I used all 3 in the sauce. If you prefer a thicker richer sauce you can add tomato paste and if you like a little kick you can add some red pepper flakes…no rules in the kitchen, just make sure it tastes good!

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