Crispy Eggplant Marsala (Vegan)

Crispy Eggplant Marsala

Crispy Eggplant Marsala

Rachel (the daughter)

Once upon a time, there was a girl who didn’t like mushrooms. She took much care to avoid them until one day, her restaurant manager made her taste Chicken Marsala. She tasted the chicken with the sauce and pushed the mushrooms to the side. The sauce was heavenly. On her lunch break, she craved that yummy rich sweet sauce, so she ordered the Chicken Marsala without the mushrooms. She was sad. The sauce was not the same. Maybe, she thought, I do like the taste of mushrooms but not mushrooms themselves. The next day, she ordered it again and ate around the mushrooms. The sauce was delightful once again. It seems mushrooms added a depth of flavor she loved. She often rewarded herself at the end of a long waitressing shift with her new favorite dish. As time went on, she got brave and occasionally tried a little bite of mushroom with the chicken. Maybe, she thought, I do like mushrooms … but only in this dish.

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Years later, the girl gave up meat and found that mushrooms were actually delicious in many dishes if you know how to cook them. Now that she loved mushrooms, she was sad that she missed out on the best part of chicken marsala for so long. So she decided to make a vegan ‘chicken’ marsala using crispy eggplant. It was everything she hoped it would be and more. And she was very happy.

A vegan twist on the dish that first made me swoon for mushrooms.

A vegan twist on the dish that first made me swoon for mushrooms.

Eggplant Marsala

Serves 4

Ingredients

16 oz whole wheat spaghetti or choice of pasta, cooked

Crispy Eggplant

1 small Eggplant (peeled and sliced into 12 quarter inch thick slices)
1 cup flour
1 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
2 cups Panko bread crumbs seasoned with 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoing, 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley, and a little salt & pepper)

Marsala Sauce

1/2 medium sized yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced or diced
16 oz mushrooms (any variety), sliced thin
2 tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan margarine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups Marsala Wine
1 1/2 cups veggie broth
salt & pepper to taste
parsley for garnish

Most of the ingredients. I modified a few things as I went though, like leaving out the milk and adding flour.

Most of the ingredients. I modified a few things as I went though, like leaving out the milk.

Directions

Place eggplant in colander or between paper towels and sprinkle it with salt. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to remove moisture. Pat dry with clean paper towels when done.

Salt the eggplant and let rest between paper towels or in a colander to remove excess moisture before frying. Makes it crispier!

Salt the eggplant and let rest between paper towels or in a colander to remove excess moisture before frying. Makes it crispier!

Heat a large skillet (preferably heavy stainless steel or iron) on medium high heat. Add Earth Balance and olive oil and let it heat up. Add mushrooms and cook until they’ve browned and shrunk quite a bit in size. Stir in onions and garlic, reduce heat if needed so garlic doesn’t burn, saute for 2-3 minutes until soft. Pour in 1/2 cup of wine and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in one tablespoon of flour and slowly add the rest of the wine and veggie broth. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, remove lid and simmer until liquid is reduced to about half. If it’s not thick enough, stir in a little more flour and keep cooking down. Season to taste with salt & fresh cracked pepper. Stir in pasta noodles and cover to keep warm.

The sauce should be thick enough to cling to the noodles.

The sauce should be thick enough to cling to the noodles.

In another skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil (or your choice of oil) on medium heat. Set up an assembly line with shallow bowls of flour, milk, and seasoned panko bread crumbs.  Dip eggplant slices in milk, then flour, then milk again, then bread crumbs. Put in single layer in the oil and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until crispy and golden brown. Remove slices to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat in batches until all eggplant is cooked.

Dredging station.

Dredging station.

Serve the marsala pasta topped with crispy eggplant and sprinkled with parsley. Or serve the eggplant to the side of the pasta if you want to keep it crispy longer.

Toddler Approved.

Toddler Approved

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Crispy Eggplant Marsala (Vegan)
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Uk
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

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Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade (Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

greek stuff xmas eve 009

(Becky, the Mama.)

The first time I created and served this recipe for a patio party, guests kept saying, “Oh my goodness, what IS this yummy stuff?” I struggled to describe what is was, because, as is so often the case, I just put whatever sounded good to me into a pan and crossed my fingers. This recipe began with a pan of diced roasted Greek veggies that becomes a colorful, intensely flavored Mediterranean topping for wedges of hot grilled Naan bread, alongside hummus and a lemon-zest ricotta. If I were to be asked to create a “perfect bite” on some sort of home cook’s competition, I’d serve this Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Tapenade on top of, well, just about anything.

This hearty appetizer is perfect with a glass of good wine, either on a hot summer day or a cold winter evening. It is wonderful at just about any temperature but probably best served a room temp which makes it a great no-fuss appetizer for parties. (Also perfect for New Year Celebrations coming up.)

I must confess, I am a little sad when there is not a container of “Yummy Stuff” in the fridge somewhere. It’s become my favorite condiment on top of fresh grilled Naan or Pita,burgers or sandwiches, or as a topping to punch up flavor in everyday spaghetti. If you are vegan, it’s especially nice to keep on hand to add a quick burst of color and flavor to lentils, beans, brown rice or quinoa.

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Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade

(Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

* Recipe of Roasted Veggies below,cooked, cooled and diced to desired “chunkiness” for spreading
1 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 ½ t. sugar
Couple of shakes hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco) to taste
1 T. capers or 1 T. finely chopped pepperoncini peppers
5 large green stuffed olives, sliced (may use black olives if you prefer)
1/3 c. chopped dried tomatoes
1 to 2 T. water, if needed
Salt and pepper, if needed

Directions:

In medium to large skillet, heat olive oil. Add diced roasted Garlic Greek Veggies. Add tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, capers or pepperoncinis, sundried tomatoes, and olives. Stir and cook in skillet until sauce is thick, well-blended and hot and some of the “vinegary” smell and taste is cooked out, about 2 minutes.

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Add water if needed, but keep the tempenade thick. Serve warm, room temperature or even cold if you like. It is amazing on grilled Naan or pita bread atop hummus, fabulous as a thick relish-like topping for a Greek-style burger or any sandwich.

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Mediterranean Garlic Roasted Veggies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, peeled and diced about 1 inch cubes
1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and rough chopped in big chunks
3 big cloves garlic (or 4 smaller ones)
1 red onion, peeled and rough chopped in large chunks

3 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar

Fresh ground sea salt and pepper (light sprinkling over all)

Directions:

On a large baking sheet sprinkle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place chopped eggplant, red pepper and red onion on pan. Using clean hands mix the veggies with the oil and vinegar and then give the whole thing a light sprinkling of fresh sea salt and pepper. Put whole garlic cloves somewhere on pan either wrapped in foil or parchment with a little olive oil; or use a small clay garlic roaster.

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Roast veggies for about 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies just begin to get soft and brown-blackish in spots. Smash soft roasted garlic into a paste with flat edge of knife or fork, and toss with veggies.

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-QX
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant “Lasagne”

Lemony Pesto Ricotta

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday I went on a wild cooking spree, working as I do,  at top speed,  to get several dishes prepared.  Then once the kitchen looked like it had been ransacked by a herd of  goats with ADD, I started in to clean it.  When I load the dishwasher, I know that my husband is pulled in two emotional directions.  On the one hand, he is glad that I’m the one loading it so he doesn’t have to.  On the other hand, he is nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, knowing that I will take a lot of creative license in my loading technique.  He is the one who first said, “Becky, you load a dishwasher just like a drunk monkey.”

In this case, a picture may be worth a paragraph of words:

Greg is my daughter’s stepdad, but in organization and cleanliness, you’d swear they were related by blood.  So, for fun, I sent the picture above to Rachel, and within minutes she sent me this side-by-side comparison:

People ask, “Do your dishes get clean when you load them this way?”  And I say, “Not all of them.  But, miraculously, about 90 percent of them DO!”  I can deal with the other 10 percent later, when I hurriedly run them through the dishwasher again.

Though the kitchen was a disaster for awhile, I did produce several mouth-watering dishes. (Some to be shared in later posts.)  The first dish I made was born from a love of the flavors in pesto, but discouragement with the pesto calories.  I wondered what it would taste like to fuse all the ingredients in classic pesto with ricotta cheese, cutting out the olive oil.  Part skim ricotta has a generous amount of protein while low in calories. I LOVED the results. Light, lemony and creamy with the crunch of walnuts, the zip of basil and garlic.  With the addition of a little Greek Yogurt it made a wonderful dip for veggies and topping for crostinis. (Small slices of French bread, toasted, usually with olive oil.)

Then I wondered how this “pesto ricotta” would taste with broiled  eggplant, in layers, with a marinara sauce?  I could have eaten the entire pan full of it, but my 22 year old nephew Jordan – who is living with us now, and had never had eggplant before in his life  – beat me to it!  He gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up.  It’s an easy, tender,  healthy  and vegetarian dish, loaded with flavor, that I will definitely be making again.  I bet the pesto ricotta would also be amazing on hot pasta with roasted veggies, maybe some sliced vegan or Italian sausage…..

Ricotta “Pesto”

16 oz. Part Skim Ricotta Cheese (Vegans can sub Tofutti or mashed drained, white beans.  If you use it to make the eggplant dish, mashed cooked white potatoes would also be great.)

Juice of one lemon, plus all of its zest

½ c. walnuts

Big handful of basil

2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Vegans omit or sub with Vegan Parm cheese)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until walnuts are chopped fine and rest of ingredients are well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ricotta Pesto Topping for Veggies and Crostini

Use the recipe above, but add 2 T. plain Greek yogurt.  Stir and serve with crisp veggies and crostinis

Ricotta Pesto Eggplant “Lasagne”

Ingredients:

Recipe of Ricotta Pesto Above

2 Eggplants, peeled and sliced ¼ inch rounds

Approximately ¼ cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper

3 cups marina, your favorite brand or homemade (I whirl 28 oz can crushed tomatoes in a blender with garlic, 1/4 onion, handfull of basil, dash red wine, 1 t. oregano, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 t. salt — simmer a few minutes and call it marinara.)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (more if you like)

Directions

Heat oven to Broil.   Place eggplant slices in a single layer on a large cookie sheet.  Brush with olive oil,  season very lightly with salt and pepper.

Broil about 4 inches from heat, keeping a close eye on the eggplant.  As soon as it begins to turn golden in places, take the cookie sheet out of the oven, carefully turn over the eggplant with a flat spatula, brush with more olive oil and salt and pepper.  Broil this side, too,  until slightly golden and eggplant is pliable and soft.  Take out of oven, let cool a bit.

Change oven temp to 350 degrees for baking.

Grease a square pan or round pan with a little olive oil.  Place one layer of eggplant in pan. (Using 1/3 of the eggplant slices.) Top with ½ the ricotta mixture.   Top with 1 cup marinara sauce.  Layer again with eggplant, ricotta,  and marinara in the same portions.  Top with layer of eggplant and final cup of marinara.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese.   Bake for about 25 minutes until dish begins to bubble and Parm is golden brown.   Let sit for  10- 15 minutes before cutting in slices to serve.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant”Lasagne”
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Iv
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Momma’s Messy Greek Sandwiches

A Favorite of Momma's Dishes

Happy Mother’s Day to each one of you, whether a mother, a daughter, a son, or even a husband. We all have someone’s life to celebrate today. My mom and I both have a special place in our hearts for those whose moms aren’t with them anymore or for those with difficult mom relationships. Today can be a tough day for some, we know.

I don’t ever take for granted how blessed I am to have  a relationship that is based on love, acceptance, trust, and laughter with my mom. I think the reason I don’t take it for granted is that I’ve watched her use her mothering and nurturing gifts (truly her spiritual gifts) beyond our family. She often spends her afternoons cooking up lunch for 20-somethings and their little chicks on her patio, many of whom are learning for the first time what motherly love should look like.

Several of these young women have become like sisters to me, a bonus to having a mom that girls my age love to hang out with. When we get together at mom’s house, we all know to expect it to look a bit like a monkey on speed was cooking in the kitchen. Literally, the way this woman cooks boggles my neat freak mind. Last time I visited, I watched her use 13 utensils to make one cake. But, she’s quick in the kitchen, which gives her more time to focus on her chickadees. So we don’t complain and we all pitch in after lunch to try and piece her kitchen back together.

This Messy Greek Sandwich is one of the typical lunches she whips up for “her girls” on the fly. She’s made it for me several times and it’s always a hit. It’s one of those sandwiches you really want to enjoy in the company of those you don’t have to try and impress. It’s big, it’s messy, and it’s delicious. Mom always laughs when she serves me this, because I vocalize my approval with each bite. “Mmmmm mmmmm mmmmmm.”

Happy Mother’s Day Momma! Thank you for teaching me mothering is not just for mothers,  if you cook good food, guests will overlook a messy kitchen (and even help you clean it), and when all else fails, laugh…or write it down and hope you’ll laugh later.

Momma’s Messy Greek Sandwiches
(Rachel’s Variation)

Serves 2 big messy sandwiches

Ingredients

Two Hoagie Rolls (or other hearty bread)
olive oil
garlic powder
salt
8 1/4 inch slices of eggplant
1/2 a bell pepper (any color of mix of colors), sliced
1/4 medium onion, sliced
4 T. Spicy Pepper & Olive Mix (a mix of green & black olives, pepperocinis, & jalapenos)
1 Avocado
4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of Baby Kale or Spinach
2 T. Sundried Tomatoes

Directions

Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat (an iron skillet works well for browning veggies), add eggplant to the skillet, trying not to overlap too much, sprinkle with just a little salt. Let brown on one side, then turn over, sprinkle with a dash more salt and add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Once both sides are golden, set on a paper towel lined plate. Add onions, peppers, and mushrooms to the pan. Don’t add salt yet and try not to stir too much. You want the mushrooms and onions to get nice and golden. Once the onions are soft, add in the kale, sprinkle with a drizzle more of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

Coat the inside of the hoagie rolls with olive oil and garlic powder and toast under the broiler until golden.

Now pile on the ingredients: avocado slices, eggplant, onions, peppers, mushrooms, greens, sundried tomatoes and the spicy olive & pepper mix. You might want to tackle these with a knife and fork, or if you’re brave and don’t mind a mess just pick it up with both hands and go for it. As the old saying goes, Eat Like Nobody’s Watching (or something like that!)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title:  Momma’s Messy Greek Sandwiches
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/05/12/mommas-messy-greek-sandwiches/


Italian Veggie Layered Casserole


Becky's Italian Veggie Layered Casserole

When my kids were little, I remember going bathing suit shopping with three small children in tow. (The last child, number 4, had yet to be born.)  Like most women, I’d rather pour lemon juice on a paper cut than shop for a bathing suit, especially after having incubated, grown and given birth to multiple children.  The only thing that could make this task even more painful was to try to get it done with three bored and antsy preschoolers in tow.

After what must have seemed an eternity to my eldest son, he said, “Mom, just buy one of those zucchini bathing suits and let’s get out of this Lady Store!”

Little did this child know that due to his weighing in at 9 lb 2 oz,  leaving stretch marks from my neck to the my knees, his mother’s days of wearing “zucchinis”  (bikinis) were forever behind me.

However, I am quite fond of cooking with zucchini, and this casserole below is one of my favorite ways to use up the abundance of zucchini squash that seem to overflow everyone’s backyard garden all summer long.

I created and made this casserole last week, and it seemed to get even better the next couple of days, as I enjoyed for a vegetarian lunch or a side dish with dinner.  It’s a little trouble to make, but it makes a bunch and keeps beautifully in the fridge for several days.  Just cut a slice, nuke and enjoy! (Would be a great take-to-work lunch.)   It also makes a gorgeous colorful side dish to go with a simple meat like baked chicken, fish, or hamburger patty for the omnivores in your family, while making a satisfying meal for any vegetarians among you. With a few tweaks, this can easily be made into a vegan-friendly dish as well.

Variations:

Vegan version below.

Add cooked seasoned ground hamburger, turkey, chicken, or Italian sausage for an all-in-one main dish casserole.

Using same technique experiment with a variety of veggies and cheeses.  Try using Alfredo sauce in place of marinara.

Becky's Italian Veggie Layered Casserole

 

Becky’s Layered Italian Veggie Casserole

Serves 10 to

Olive oil to coat large skillet (1 to 3 Tablespoons)

1 eggplant, peeled, sliced about ¼ inch thin

2 smallish or 1 large potato, unpeeled, sliced about ¼ inch thin

1/3 c. water

3to 4 zucchini squash, sliced ¼ inch

3 to 4 yellow squash

6 slices Swiss cheese (or mozzarella or any white cheese that melts; almond or soy cheese for vegans)

4 cups marinara sauce, your favorite brand, your favorite homemade recipe or my quick blender marina sauce below * (Try to choose or cook a marinara that is a little on the thick side.)

½ c. to 2/3 c. grated Parmesan, Asiago or other firm Italian cheese (Vegans, click on this link for a recipe for fake vegan parm)

1 ½ c. crushed buttery whole wheat crackers like Ritz or Town House brands (vegans use vegan-friendly crackers of your choice)

2 T. olive oil

2 T. butter or Earth Balance for Vegans

1 t. oregano or Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper

Directions:

In large skillet, pour a couple of tablespoons of  olive oil around skillet then sauté eggplant slices until partially cooked,  Using tongs,  place eggplant in a layer in bottom of big rectangle 11 by 13 inch baking dish.  Next,  partially cook potato in same skillet, adding 1/3 cup water.  Then add this layer on top of the eggplant.  Salt and pepper the eggplant-potato layer to taste.  Pour two cups marinara sauce on top of potato and eggplant.

First layer of eggplant an potatoes with first layer of sauce being ladled on

Lay Swiss cheese or other white cheese on top of this layer.   Next (using same skillet),  lightly sauté zucchini and yellow squash together, adding more oil if needed. Put this layer on top of Swiss cheese. Lightly salt and pepper the squash.  Pour two more cups of marina on top of squash.

Second layer of squash and marinara

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (or vegan substitute)  Melt butter with olive oil in skillet, add crushed crackers, and stir until evenly coated.  Pour buttered crackers atop casserole. Sprinkle with 1 t. oregano or Italian seasoning.

Topped with cheese and buttered crackers, ready for oven

Bake at 350 until cheese is hot and melted and crackers are golden brown about 20 to 30 minutes.

Piping hot Italian Vegie Layered Casserole just out of oven

A slice of Italian veggie heaven...

* Becky’s Quick Blender Marinara

1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes with basil

1 small 4 oz. can tomato paste

1 c. water

1 t. salt

1 t. Italian seasoning

½ onion

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 t. brown sugar

(optional: fresh basil leaves, ¼ cup red wine)

Put all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth, or until as chunky as you like it.  Makes about 4 cups marina, perfect for this recipe.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Italian Veggie Layered Casserole
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/04/16/italian-vegie-layered-casserole