De-gorgeous Eggplant Lasagna

22 Jan

Finished product - eggplant lasagna!

I like to think of eggplant as the Moby Dick of produce–slogging through it may require more energy than it’s worth, but doing so gives you serious bragging rights. Like brownie points, but… you know, veggie points.

I think we can agree that of all produce items, eggplants are the weirdest. Evidence:

Exhibit A: Native to India, eggplant is a member of the nightshade family.

Exhibit B: Salting, rinsing, and draining of sliced eggplant is known, disgustingly, as “degorging.”

Exhibit C: Technically, eggplant is a berry, and those tiny seeds inside of it contain nicotinoid alkaloids. Yep, eggplant is a close relative of tobacco. You’d have to eat 20 pounds of it, though, to pick up the amount of nicotine in a cigarette, so no worries.

Though all that makes it sound thoroughly unappetizing, eggplant’s dense texture makes it a handy substitute for meat in some dishes and pasta in others. Always on the lookout for ways to trim carbs, I was thrilled to find this recipe for Eggplant Lasagna.

Recipe: Eggplant Lasagna, courtesy of Real Simple

  • 1/2 pound plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 eggplants, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 large egg (We used Eggbeaters.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil (We used about 2 tsp. dried basil.)
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan

In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

In 2 batches, arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Broil until charred and tender, 3 to 4 minutes per side.* (See below more on this.)

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, basil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Spread half the tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. On top of it, layer a third of the eggplant slices and half the ricotta mixture. Repeat with another layer of eggplant and ricotta. Top with the remaining eggplant and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the Asiago.

Reduce oven to 400º F. Bake the lasagna until bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

He Said, She Said:

Dinner's ready! (Apologies for poor picture quality.)

We made this dish on a chilly fall weeknight, and appreciated its heartiness. It’s tasty… but boy, it’s more labor-intensive than one would think. Making the tomato sauce in the food processor was a cinch, and the filling was simple; it’s just the eggplant part that was difficult. I had to keep popping the eggplant slices back in the oven, because they never got charred – just slightly blackened on the outside and soft on the inside. Maybe our oven doesn’t get hot enough, or perhaps the key is to really coat the slices in olive oil. (I’m a skimper on oil.)

One other critique is that the sauce is a little watery, so maybe in the future we’d add more olive oil, or really strain the tomatoes before processing.

Still, the finished product was straightforward, dense, and satisfying. John admitted he didn’t miss meat in it at all. Given the exertion of effort, though, we both agreed that, like Moby Dick, maybe it’s best saved for a languid Saturday evening or afternoon.

Baby Frittatas

17 Jan
Mini Frittatas

Not my hand. Image from Family Fun.

I love to make frittata. But mostly because it sounds awfully cool to say “frittata.” So cool that spellcheck doesn’t recognize it. No, spellcheck, I don’t mean “fritter,” I mean “frittata.”

“So, frittata. That’s just another way to say ‘omelet?'” John asked me as we prepped our “breakfast for dinner” meal this week. “Like how a panini is really just a sandwich?”

“They’re basically the same thing. To-may-to, To-mah-to,” I answered, utterly unsure if this was true.

Since I can’t Wikipedia this because of the SOPA blackout (word!), I checked Epicurious, who says:

frittata
[frih-TAH-tuh]
An Italian OMELET that usually has the ingredients mixed with the eggs rather than being folded inside, as with a French omelet. It can be flipped or the top can be finished under a broiling unit. An omelet is cooked quickly over moderately high heat and, after folding, has a flat-sided half-oval shape. A frittata is firmer because it’s cooked very slowly over low heat, and round because it isn’t folded.

And there you have it. We tried these mini frittatas from Family Fun, discovered via Pinterest, with great success. It’s the perfect solution if you have two stubborn egg-eaters (like a vegetarian and a carnivore!) with wildly different preferences.  Just whip up two separate egg mixtures with desired fixins’. Plus, this frees up the stove if you, like us, have only one skillet. And it solves the age-old breakfast dilemma of eggs that are ready before the pancakes or vice-versa.

Recipe: Baby Frittatas, via Family Fun but re-tooled by me
  • 4 large eggs – Of course, Eggbeaters can be used.
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Assorted mix-ins, like diced veggies, bacon, ham, etc. We used kale, diced plum tomatoes, basil and rosemary.
  • Grated cheese – We used mozz-romano blend and sprinkled on parmesan.

Heat your oven to 350º F and coat a 6-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. (Seriously, use the spray. Ours were a little stuck to the muffin pan.)

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and spices in a medium bowl, then evenly distribute the egg mixture among the muffin cups. Add about 2 tablespoons of mix-ins to each cup, then sprinkle on a bit of Parmesan cheese, if you like.

Mini Frittatas - Step 3Bake the frittatas until they are puffy and the edges are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edge of each one to loosen them before removing them from the pan. Makes 6 mini frittatas.

  1.  He Said, She Said:

These were gone before we had a chance to take a picture. Fast, adorable, and certainly handy if you’re cooking for a crowd. Definitely a hit. I loved how the lil’ frittatas got slightly crispy on the top and outside. Sometimes eggs’ texture gives me the heebie-jeebies, but this one passed the test. As they cool, the frittatas firm up a little, so I’d wait a few minutes before removing them from the pan and serving. We’ll make ‘em again, even if they really are glorified omelets.

Butternut Squash Home Fries

27 Sep

Inaugural post! Keeping the Peas has been simmering for a long time, ever since my male companion and I joined culinary forces and realized that cooking for divergent palates is a challenge. We have hardly any money, time or (most importantly) counter space, but we’re devoted to eating mindfully and striking good vegetarian-omnivorian compromises.

But let’s get to what’s really important here: SQUASH!

Photo courtesy of St. Martin's Press. (Though in the future, I'll be posting my own alluring food photos.)

Sassy Squash Facts:

1. Like its gourd brethren (melons, cucumbers and pumpkin), it’s a fruit. Remember that for your Trivial Pursuit tournament.

2. Eating a mere cup of butternut goodness gives you half your daily dose of vitamin C.

3. In a health benefit beatdown, it would kill / maim the wimpy summer squash: butternut is packed with beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin B1, folic acid, fiber and potassium.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Home Fries, courtesy of Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien 

  • 2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (1-inch cubes)
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fat-free broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice *I just used dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Sauté onion with olive oil in a pan over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until translucent. *I sauteed my onions 3 minutes longer, because I hate overpowering onion bite.

Add bell pepper and cook for 1 minute.

Add squash and stir. Raise heat to medium and add all spices. Mix well.

Cook for about 7 minutes, until squash starts to soften.

Raise heat to high and add broth. Bring to a boil. After 30 seconds of boiling, reduce heat to low.

Simmer until broth evaporates (which was like, four minutes for me), stirring often.

Cover pan and continue to cook for 3 minutes, or until squash is tender.

He Said, She Said:

I’m such a sucker for any food that can transcend the breakfast food / dinner food divide. This was great!  We’ll definitely be making it again in the ominous coming winter months – if I can figure out how to peel squash without making it look like orange Playdough roadkill. Outside of the peeling (kitchen MacGuyvering that I have yet to master), this is quick, painless and hearty. Though I was concerned the squash would be either too hard or too mushy, this technique with the chicken broth worked like a charm and the texture was Goldilocks-style just right.

“These taste just like real home fries,” proclaimed the boyfriend. I say they taste like a slightly sweeter, warmed-by-cinnamon, pull-on-your-flannel and settle-in-for-fall version of home fries.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.