Eggplant Lasagna Fan

Here is an easy, impressive vegetarian dinner, Eggplant Lasagna Fan.

Eggplant Lasagna Fan
1 eggplant
1 container ricotta cheese
8 oz mozzarella cheese, grated,
4-8 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 jar tomato pasta sauce

Combine the grated cheeses. Slice the eggplant into thin strips without cutting through the top of the stem end, set it aside. Add some freshly ground black pepper, and about a third of the grated cheese to the ricotta and set it aside. Spoon some of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a baking pan. If you want to make your sauce from scratch, check out this great red sauce recipe from Chef Ray. Place the eggplant on top of the sauce and push it down to push the slices apart a bit. Spoon the ricotta mixture between all of the slices. Spoon a little sauce between each layer, then sprinkle grated cheese between each layer. Top the eggplant with the remaining sauce and grated cheese, and s sprinkle of fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, parsley, etc) for color. I like to run my finger down the edge of each slice to make sure the eggplant skin will show. Bake it at 350 degrees until it’s heated through and the cheese begins to brown. The duration will depend on the size of your eggplant, mine took about 35 minutes.

To serve the eggplant cut the top off of it to release the layers.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

 

Muse Style Madras Curry

How do you feel about eggplant? I love it, but I’m starting to think that it’s a a love it or hate type of food. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s baked, grilled, mashed, cubed, sliced, or pureed, I’ll eat and love it. Long ago a vegetarian friend of mine described it as ‘comfort food’. Even if you aren’t as crazy about it as we are, you may still find it enjoyable. This is a simple method for making a spicy dinner of miniature eggplants and tofu. You can easily adjust the recipe to accommodate full size eggplants. If your Madras is hot add a side salad, or sliced cucumbers, to help balance the heat.

Curried Eggplants with Tofu

Slit the ends of mini eggplants, going both directions, up to the stem but leaving the stem in tact, and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with Hot Madras Curry Powder (recipe follows). Toss to evenly distribute the spices. As you place them on a baking sheet, or tray to take them to the grill, stuff each one of them with a dried red chili, a cherry tomato, or anything else to help keep them slightly open. If any of them look dry on the inside then drizzle a little more olive oil into the opening. Save the bowl you tossed them in, you’ll use the drippings for the tofu. Smoke, roast, or grill them, at a medium low temperature until they soften to your preference.

For the curried tofu, start with a brick of extra firm tofu. Drain and dry it, and then slice it into 1/2″ slices. Rub each slice around in the bottom of the eggplant tossing bowl until it’s covered on all sides with the olive oil and madras curry powder mixture. Add more of both to the bowl if you need more. At this point you can heat the tofu and serve it, or let it set for a while to incorporate more flavor. Heat the tofu on a grill or bake in in the oven to heat it. If you heat it on the stove in a hot skillet, you would probably end up with a lovely golden crust. I was afraid that the hot chilies would release too much capsicum into the air.

For a smokey version of this dinner, both the eggplant and tofu can be cooked in a smoker. Slice the leftovers for a great addition to garden salads.

 

Tasteful Muse Madras Curry is a hot curry, cut back on the chilies if you want a milder batch. Make sure you have good ventilation while making this recipe. The spices will become very fragrant as they toast, and the chilies can be very strong. The recipe can be easily doubled, or tripled and it can be stored for a long time.Visit an ethnic market for the best availability and prices on whole spices.

Tasteful Muse Hot Madras Curry Powder

4 tbsp Coriander Seeds
2 tsp Cardamom Seeds
1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
4 inch Cinnamon Stick
6 Dried Red Chilies
10 Fresh or Dried Curry Leaves
1 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tbsp Ground Turmeric

Heat a heavy cast iron pan over medium low heat. Toast everything but the turmeric, ginger and curry leaves, for a few minutes, just until it begins to brown. Add the curry leaves and stir, letting it brown for just a little longer. Remove the spices from the pan to let them cool. After it cools, grind small batches in a a clean coffee grinder to grind everything into a fine mix.  Place the finished batches in a larger mixing bowl. Once everything is finely ground and add the ground turmeric and ginger and stir until it’s well blended. Store the curry in an airtight container in your spice cupboard.

 

 

Don’t Fear Eggplant… Master It!

eggplant_8033

Eggplant is like so many other delicious foods, it has a bad wrap because many don’t take the time to learn how to prepare it. But being low in calories and incredibly versatile, this nightshade deserves to be dealt with! I use eggplant in so many different ways it’s difficult to keep track of them. Recently I’ve been enjoying stuffed eggplant rolls. Today I filled them with red quinoa. eggplant_8035

Prepare your quinoa as per the package instructions. I like the toasting method as it adds a little more flavor. Also, I like to add some hot madras curry powder and freshly cracked black pepper to mine while it’s cooking.

For the eggplant, cut the top off and slice it thinly lengthwise, using a mandoline or sharp knife. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with freshly ground black pepper. Feel free to add any other spices – rosemary, oregano, paprika, cumin, etc. Turn them over and drizzle and spice the other side. Roast them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, turning once. The time will depend on how thin your slices are. The thinner the slice the easier they are to roll.

When the quinoa is done, remove it from the heat and let it set. When the eggplant is done remove it from the oven and chop up the side pieces. Add these to the quinoa with some finely chopped onion and a drizzle of olive oil. When the eggplant slices are cool enough to handle place a spoonful of the quinoa mixture toward the wide end and roll them up. Place the rolls on a serving platter, drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle them with crumbled feta (preferable a sheep’s milk feta), and chopped mint. Serve them while they’re still warm. These are so delicious that you won’t believe you’re eating something healthy!

This is one of those dishes that is easy to alter. Change the spices to more of an Italian theme by adding freshly chopped basil or pesto to the quinoa, then top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Or go with a Mexican theme, flavor the quinoa with cumin and tomatoes and top it with grated cheddar and chopped cilantro. So many possibilities!

If you need a heartier dish add some cooked beans to the quinoa. For me this is easily a main dish, but if your hesitant to rely on it it fill you up introduce it to your table as a side dish. For a faster version I sometimes stack the ingredients instead of rolling them.

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

 

Eggplant Hummus

egg hummus_6363

I love eggplant, and I love hummus. So why not combine them? For this quick flavorful dip use a food processor. Drain and rinse one can of garbanzo beans, place them in the food processor. Add a dash of salt, some fresh cracked black pepper, a spoonful of tahini (optional) and a garlic clove if you like. Begin processing, you want to get this mixture smooth, add a combination of olive oil, water, and lemon juice to suit your palate. When the mixture is smooth add slices of grilled eggplant and process to your desired consistency. To grill eggplant slice them crosswise and place them in a large bowl, toss them with olive oil and a spice mix you like (curry, tandoori, mustard mix, etc.). Grill them, turning at least once, until they are soft.

Serve the eggplant hummus with vegetables, carrot stick and cucumbers, and pita bread or crackers. Just before serving drizzle the serving bowl with olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flake.

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Eggplant Boats in a Sea of Olive Oil

eggplant_4410

Here’s a simple yet gourmet meal, they also reheat well so left overs (if you are lucky enough to have any) and a bonus.

Quarter or slice some mushrooms and toss them with finely chopped purple onion and a jalapeño. Add some cooked, sliced sausage (bratwurst, Italian, etc.), chopped prosciutto, or ham. Add a few spoonfuls of pesto, and some grated cheese (fontina, sharp cheddar, romano, feta, blue cheese, etc.). Stir the filling mixture well. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Working quickly, as eggplants will begin to brown as soon as they are cut, halve two eggplants and scoop out some of the center. Don’t remove more than half of the eggplant center. The remaining will cook well with the pesto flavor. Chop the centers that you have removed and add  most of it to your stuffing mix. Stir well and then use it to fill the halved eggplants as you place them in a baking dish.

Bake them until the eggplants soften and the filling begins to brown. Serve them with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a side salad.

Substitutions are easy to do with this recipe, a ground meat works well but so does a vegetarian version. Try chopped celery, finely chopped broccoli, or summer squash as substitutions.

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Cross Cultural Curry

Curry, just what is it? It seems so widespread and varied. There is of course Indian curry, which I used to think of as the ‘traditional’ curry. There’s Thai curry with coconut milk and hot chiles. There’s South African curry with fenugreek.

curry300

Red curries, green curries, yellow curries, wet curries, dry curries, vegetable curries, fish curries, lamb curries and don’t forget bunny chow and raitas! I love them all! It can be overwhelming but in the end let your taste buds decide. The more I study curry the more I read that each region or family has their own way of mixing the spices to make their curry. It seems they keep the mix on hand to quickly season their foods. Prefect, this means I can’t do it wrong! I’ve been thinking of curry in the slow cooker. Chicken, butternut, eggplant curry.

In the slow cooker I started with a layer of cubed chicken breast. I sprinkled curry powder, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne,  and garlic powder on it. Then I added a layer of cubed butternut squash and more or less the same seasoning. Then, a layer of cubed eggplant and seasoning again. To this layer I added a cinnamon stick and bay leaf. I added a few cups of water and went outside to work in the garden. You can easily skip the chicken and create a vegetarian curry. Cubed tofu, potatoes, or chickpeas can also be added to the mix. Actually almost any vegetable can be added to the mix.

About two hours later I stirred the mixture, the smells were making me dizzy with anticipation, and added about a half cup of black rice. I put the lid back on it and left it for two more hours. I ended up with an incredible curry stew. The sweetness of the butternut plays off of the curry spices nicely!

You can’t go wrong with curry! If you have the time and whole spices are available toast and grind your own spice mix. If not, there’s no shame in using a prepared mix or paste. Experiment and enjoy!

In The Tasteful Muse, Volume Two (release date August 2015) you’ll find several of my recipes for spice mixes to keep on hand – curries, mustard mix, dry rubs, and more!

Until next time… release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Leaning Towers…

… Eggplant, Grey Squash, Ground Lamb, Pink Peppercorn Tomato Sauce and Bulgarian Feta!

tower

This dish is comfort food at its best but on the lighter side. Substitute as desired!

For Pink Peppercorn Tomato Sauce I combine the following in a processor:
2 medium tomatoes
1/4 onion
4 garlic cloves
a handful of pink peppercorns
a few tablespoons of fresh oregano leaves
Process until it’s fairly smooth. Then heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large, flat pan. Add the tomato mixture and let it simmer until the flavors meld and it’s ‘soft’, about 15 minutes. If you haven’t used pink peppercorns before give them a try! They aren’t actually peppercorns but they taste like them, and they are softer so they grind easily.

For the ground lamb I sauteed it with chopped garlic and oregano, then I drained it. Substitute any ground you enjoy, chicken, turkey Italian sausage, chorizo.

I used a mandolin to slice summer squash and a small eggplant.

The feta I used was a sheep’s milk feta from Bulgaria. I find the sheep’s milk feta much more flavorful than it’s bovine derived counterpart. The cow’s milk feta is quite bland compared to the sheep’s milk.

Time to assemble…
Layer slices of squash in the bottom of the pan then slices of eggplant. You want moist eggplant so give them a spray or drizzle of olive oil each time you layer them. After the eggplant layer spoon some ground lamb, then tomato sauce then crumbled feta, repeat, repeat, repeat. I divided mine into quarters so I ended up with a four layer tower! I baked it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. It stayed together and was quite impressive. I cut it into eighths to serve it. While it is impressive in the pan, it is not graceful to serve! Make sure you plate it when no one is in the kitchen, you may not be able to resist those tasty, little browned feta bits from the top!

Until next time… Release YOUR Von Vivant and Savor Your Life!