Thursday, May 22, 2014

deconstructed eggplant parmesan

Hell might be freezing over folks.  I can't get myself pumped about making dinner these days.  I know it stems from the stress of moving and the supplies in my kitchen are dwindling.   The last few weeks at post require creativity to put together meals that don't require purchasing new or exotic ingredients.  It's at this time you have to just start cooking whatever is in the fridge and cupboards.  I'm going to share with you a super easy recipe that took so little time and so few ingredients.  Both requirements for me right now.

My sweet friend Emily and I share a love for cooking and food.  She's a mom to a son with allergies and just a healthy eater in general.  She introduced me to Vegan with a Vengeance months back and I was in love.  Then, for Mother's Day she surprised me with a copy of Isa Chandra Moskowtiz's gorgeous new cookbook, Isa Does It.  This cookbook is loaded with great vegan recipes and for those of us who aren't vegan, but just love the idea of cooking new and interesting things, I find this cookbook really inspiring.  The photos are amazing and Isa is hysterical.  A gal I'd love to be cooking and drinking with at home.

Most of the recipes in the book will have to wait until I can get settled into a new kitchen and stock it full of all sorts of fun ingredients required.  But her Eggplant and Breadcrumb Fettuccine recipe stuck out to me as the kind of meal anyone, and I mean anyone can throw together any night of the week.

I had to make all the components of this meal, like the tomato sauce and bread crumbs.  My quick homemade tomato sauce can be tossed together in minutes and I just let it simmer away.  It's so easy I won't ever buy jarred spaghetti sauce again.

Deconstructed eggplant parmesan (adapted just slightly from Eggplant and Breadcrumb Fettuccine)
Olive oil
2 medium eggplants peeled and sliced in 1/4 inch half moons or quarters
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 tsp cumin
1 lb bow tie pasta
tomato sauce homemade or jarred.

Make your sauce* and let it simmer.  Toast your bread and pound it into crumbs.  Then start on the eggplant.
Heat a large cast iron or nonstick pan on medium heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, Add eggplant and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and another drizzle of olive oil.  Cook, flipping the eggplant here and there for about 15 min or until the slices are nice and soft and slightly browned in parts. I put a lid on for a few minutes to let the steam really cook the eggplant through.  Add a bit more oil and add the bread crumbs, cumin and a dash of pepper to the pan, stir to coat the eggplant. Cook for a few more minutes until the crumbs are browned a bit.  Turn off the heat and let the eggplant stay warm.

Cook your pasta as directed for al dente pasta.  Spoon some onto your plate, layer on the tomato sauce and then eggplant breadcrumb mixture.  If you're a cheater like me add a tiny bit of shredded parmesan and enjoy.  It's delicious and exactly the same flavors as eggplant parmesan minus all the fuss of frying and layering and baking.  Such a quick perfect meal.

* I used to be intimidated by the idea of making homemade tomato sauce.  As if it wasn't worth doing unless you had your great grandmother's prize winning recipe or something.  But making your own sauce doesn't have to be an all day affair and my recipe is quick enough that you can do it on any given day.  You could make a huge batch of this and freeze some OR you can make just enough for one dinner.  My disclaimer for this recipe is that I really don't measure anything out when I make my tomato sauces and I use what I have in the fridge or cupboard.  So I am approximating on these amounts BUT the great thing is you can't wreck the sauce, just taste as you go and add this and that to your taste.  Always error on the side of less salt in the beginning.  You can always add salt at the end if needed.  But there is nothing worse than realizing later on that it's too salty.  Then your stuck!

Sara's homemade quick tomato sauce.
3-4 medium to large ripe tomatoes cut in quarters
2 medium onions cut in quarters
4-6 large cloves of garlic peeled
olive oil
1 can of plain tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes (choose one without any added sugar)
red pepper flakes
basil (fresh or dried)
vinegar (balsamic, red wine or cider)

The quickest way to throw together this recipe is with a food processor.  You can hand chop the tomatoes and onions if you like but I wiz mine in the processor so they are chopped finely and quickly.

Heat a dutch oven or pot over medium and add about 2 tbsp of olive oil.  In your food processor, add the onions and garlic and pulse until chopped.  Not until it's pulverized but just fine enough.  Add the onions to your hot olive oil.  Stir and add a large pinch of salt.  Turn the temp down just a tad. Add more olive oil if it starts to look dry. You don't want the onions to brown, let them saute for a few minutes.  Food process the tomatoes until nice and fine, there will be a lot of liquid.  Add them to your pot and let the mixture simmer, stirring frequently.   Put a lid on and let simmer 5-10 minutes or so.  Add the can of tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes.  You don't have to add this if you don't want to.  If you want to only use fresh tomatoes just add a few more large tomatoes during that first step.

Add a dash of pepper flakes, oregano and basil.  Then add about a tablespoon of vinegar and stir.  Add another large pinch of salt and turn the temp back to medium or a bit higher.  Let it get nice and bubbly and then put the lid on and turn it down to low.  Let it simmer for however long you can, and don't forget to stir here and there.  An hour is probably the minimum for the flavors to blend.  Sometimes I let it simmer all day.  If you want the sauce smoother you can use an emulsion blender to puree it.  But I like mine with identifiable bits of onion and tomato.  After it's been simmering for some time taste it.  Add salt or spices if needed.  When I have red or yellow peppers I like to roast them and throw them in the sauce too for a roasted red pepper flavor.  


Kathleen said...

What's your homemade sauce recipe? I'd love to try it.

Sara said...

Absolutely! I'll edit this post to include it at the bottom!

Kathleen said...

Thanks! Yum!