Peak tomato season seems to have come and gone, but I did buy some last week at the Hitching Lot Farmer’s Market and they were good. Not crazy good, but good. I also picked up some beautiful eggplant. Calling them “aubergine” conjures up that gorgeous deep purple that I love.
I read up on the salting vs. not salting eggplant before cooking and it appears to me that current thought is leaning toward not salting.
For those who are scratching their heads at what we are talking about, here’s the deal: Eggplant has had a reputation of being bitter. The first thing to know is that eggplant is a fruit and a member of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes and sweet peppers. Choose eggplant that is firm and heavy for its size with no bruising. Use within three days for optimum taste. Now back to the salt controversy. There is no reason that the lovely fruits at our farmers’ market should need to be salted. They are fresh and young and tender. However, those in the grocery store are older (who knows how old), and would tend to be bitter. So, once you cut them for cooking, especially frying, sprinkle with salt and let them sit 30 minutes or so. Rinse, dry and proceed with your recipe.
I made an eggplant and tomato pie recently and it was yummy. I have tweaked the recipe a tad. It also reheated nicely two nights later when I served it with roasted broccoli with Parmesan cheese. For the pasta dish (see recipe), try the sausage sold by Beaverdam Farms at the farmers’ market. Their bratwurst is the best I’ve ever tasted.
EGGPLANT AND TOMATO PIE
1 pie crust of your choice
1 1/2 pounds eggplant (2 medium)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/3cup milk
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 ounces Gruyere, grated (1/2 cup) I used Swiss.
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)
2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, in season, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Line a lightly oiled 9- or 10-inch pie pan with the dough. Using a fork, pierce at regular intervals to allow for even baking. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to prebake and fill.
Heat oven to 450 F. Slice eggplant about 1/3-inch thick and toss with salt, to taste, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Line 1-2 baking sheets (as needed) with foil and brush foil with olive oil. Lay eggplant slices on foil in 1 layer. Roast in hot oven 15-20 minutes, until slices are soft when pierced with a knife and browned in spots. Remove from oven and carefully fold foil up over eggplant slices. Crimp edges of the foil and allow eggplant to steam for another 15-20 minutes. It should now be completely cooked. Turn oven down to 350 degrees.
Beat together the eggs in a medium bowl. Set pie pan on a baking sheet to allow for easy handling. Using a pastry brush lightly brush bottom of the crust with the beaten egg and place in oven for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Wrap edges in foil if needed. Remove from oven and set aside.
Whisk milk into the eggs. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce over bottom of crust. Top with a layer of eggplant slices. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon one third of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with thyme, Parmesan and half of the Gruyere. Repeat the layers one or two more times, depending on size of your eggplant slices, ending with Gruyere. Pour on the egg and milk mixture. It should seep down into the layers; if it looks like it’s not moving and going to overflow the crust, use a fork to create some holes so it does seep down.
Arrange sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle any remaining thyme over tomatoes. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until set and bubbling and browned on top and edges. Remove from heat and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.
(Source: adapted from nytimescooking.com)
BALSAMIC ROASTED EGGPLANT AND ARUGULA SANDWICHES
4 Japanese or baby eggplants
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 baguettes or 4 ciabatta rolls
Salted or unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 425 F. Slice eggplants lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick strips and lay strips on an oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a dish. Brush vinegar-oil mixture across top of each slice of eggplant. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper over the top. Roast for about 10 minutes. Turn slices over, brush with oil mixture, season with salt and pepper, and roast for another 8 minutes or so. Cool.
Cut baguettes lengthwise in half and spread each half generously with the softened butter. Place eggplant slices on bread and top with arugula leaves. Close sandwiches and serve.
PASTA WITH GRILLED SAUSAGE, PEPPERS AND EGGPLANT
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage links (or the Beaverdam brats)
1/2 pound sweet red peppers, cubanelles or bell peppers
1 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more, for brushing
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces farfalle, or other short pasta
1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1/3 cup), plus more for serving
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn
Either cook your sausages on a grill or in a skillet on the stove, until browned.
Brush peppers and eggplant slices all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
Grill peppers over high heat, turning occasionally, until blackened all over, 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, cook them under a broiler until blackened all over. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool slightly.
Grill the eggplant over high heat until dark brown grill marks form, about 4 minutes. Flip and grill until charred and eggplant is tender, 3-4 minutes longer. Or cook in the oven at 425. Transfer to the cutting board.
Slice sausages about 1/3-inch thick and transfer to a large serving bowl. Dice eggplant and add it to the sausage. Peel peppers, then discard the stems and seeds; slice into bite-sized strips and add it to the sausage and peppers.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water and drain. Add pasta and the 2 tablespoons olive oil to the bowl and toss. Add the 1 ounce of cheese and toss again, adding pasta water, little by little, if you need to loosen the pasta sauce. Season with salt and pepper, add the basil and transfer to bowls. Serve the pasta, passing more cheese at the table.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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