Posts tagged ‘eggplant’

Grilled Veggie and Pesto Sandwiches

It’s been unusually warm here in Oklahoma lately.

Well, actually yesterday and today have been a little cooler, and by that I mean more along the lines of normal April weather (temps in the 70’s).

Last week, the high temperatures were generally in the 80’s, and on Sunday it even got into the 90’s. Very weird for the end of March, beginning of April, no?

At our house, we just with it. Preview of summer? Okay then! Let’s crank the A/C and fire up the grill! And fire up the grill I did.

I wanted something quick, healthy, and tasty that wouldn’t heat up the kitchen any more than necessary. Grilling is great when it’s hot for that very reason. It’s usually easy, often tasty, and it won’t heat up your kitchen at all (unless for some odd reason your grill is in your kitchen, which is probably a huge safety no no, and generally just a bad idea).

I decided to make grilled veggie sandwiches on ciabatta rolls, which ended up being really really good. For my vegetables, I grilled sliced onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and eggplant (but feel free to use whatever you like). I cut the ciabatta rolls in half, buttered them, and toasted them on the grill as well. To serve them, I put pesto and mayonnaise on the rolls, some of the grilled veggies, and mozzarella cheese (again, use whatever cheese you want/have).

These were really simple and fast, but oh so good! I will definitely be making these throughout the summer!

 Serve them with your favorite salad or vegetable. Cole slaw and grilled corn on the cob come to mind.
After 4 years of not being able to have a grill in Japan, I’m looking forward to grilling everything I can this summer! Bring it on!

Grilled Veggie and Pesto Sandwiches

(serves 5 – 7)

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • ciabatta rolls
  • butter
  • pesto
  • mayonnaise
  • mozzarella cheese (or any sliced cheese of your choice)
  1. Heat up grill on high for a few minutes, then lower heat to medium.
  2. Slice eggplant and zucchini. Chop onion and green bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Grill vegetables until tender, flipping eggplant and zucchini slices once, and stirring onion and bell pepper around. Remove to a serving plate.
  4. Cut ciabatta rolls in half, and butter each half lightly. Grill, buttered side down, until slightly brown and toasted. Remove to a serving plate.
  5. To serve, spread pesto and mayonnaise on ciabatta rolls. Place grilled veggies and sliced cheese between rolls halves and enjoy.

April 5, 2012 at 8:58 am Leave a comment

Rigatoni with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

Have you ever had rigatoni pasta?

It’s like penne, but larger, and the ends are cut straight rather than at an angle like penne. Because the whole inside is larger, more chunky sauces can get inside the pasta, which is always a good thing. Good and delicious.

I love trying different pasta shapes. Now that I’m back in the U.S. this is much easier to do. I don’t know why, but if you get pasta in an Italian restaurant (or any restaurant) in Japan, 99% of the time it’s spaghetti. It doesn’t matter what kind of sauce it is, it’s almost always going to be spaghetti. I got so tired of spaghetti in Japan, so I’m having a great time now fixing different types of pasta.

Did you know there are over 500 different types of pasta in the world today? That boggles my mind. But in a good way. I dream of trying them all… Much like I dream of trying every type of cheese in the cheese section at Whole Foods. Mmmm, cheese… That’s my new year’s resolution for this year. That and to exercise a whole lot in order to burn off the calories from all the cheese I plan on eating.

While I don’t know all the 500 different types of pasta out there, I found a site, here,  that introduces quite a few, and describes what kinds of sauces they go well with.

I tried another Jamie Oliver recipe last night. This one is adapted from a recipe in his cookbook Jamie’s Dinners.

It’s a nice, chunky vegetable sauce with tomatoes, eggplant, onion, and garlic in it. You mix in fresh basil leaves and chunks of fresh mozzarella right at the end, so when you serve it, the basil has gone all fragrant and the mozzarella is just turning into melted, stringy delight. All in all, it’s a nice, hearty vegetable pasta dish, with some lovely cheesy goodness as well.

Rigatoni with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

(serves 4 – 5)

  • 1 lb. dried rigatoni pasta
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans of tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves shredded, stalks diced
  • 4 Tbsp. cream
  • 7 oz. fresh mozzarella
  1. Heat 4 – 5 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add cubed eggplant and stir to coat eggplant in oil evenly. Cook eggplant for 8 – 10 minutes.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook for 4 – 5 minutes more.
  3. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and diced basil stalks. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving a little of the water (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup).
  5. Season pasta sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and add cream.
  6. Add pasta and reserved water to sauce. Add torn up pieces of mozzarella cheese and shredded basil leaves. Mix everything until pasta is well coated and mozzarella has started to melt. Serve immediately.

January 26, 2012 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

Italian Stuffed Tomatoes

No, they’re not tomatoes stuffed with Italians. That would just be creepy…and gross.

They’re tomatoes stuffed and seasoned in an Italian style!

And they’re really really good.

I mean, when I found this recipe, I thought to myself, “Hmm, that looks good. Maybe I’ll try it out”. When I actually made the dish, and my husband and I both took our first bite, our reaction was, “This is goooood!” Have you had moments like those? Those special recipes that surpass your expectations in all the right ways? Those are the gems that go into your recipe book after only making them once.

This recipe is one such gem. You will not be disappointed.

Note: The recipe calls for ricotta cheese, but as anyone living in Japan knows, it’s really hard to find ricotta cheese here. You can use cottage cheese instead of the ricotta (that’s what I did), and it will still taste great. It’ll also be lower in fat if you use cottage cheese, so for those who want a healthier version, you may want to use cottage cheese.

Based on the recipe from The Italian Dish.

Italian Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 6 medium/small tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (paprika), diced
  • 1/2 small eggplant (or two small Japanese eggplants), diced
  • 3/4 c. ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
  • 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C)
  2. Cut the tops off the tomatoes, and scoop out the seeds and flesh, reserving 1/4 cup for the filling. Lightly salt the insides of the tomatoes, and place upside down in a colander so the excess liquid can drain out.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, or until tender. Add the bell pepper and eggplant, and continue cooking for 8 – 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese. Add the egg, bread crumbs, oregano, and basil and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable mixture, and mix everything well (at this point, you can blend the filling in a food processor to make it smooth, but it’s not necessary).
  5. Scoop the filling into the tomatoes until slightly higher than the top of the tomatoes. Place in a glass baking dish, and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until filling is golden brown and tomatoes are tender.

I served this with pesto tortellini and squash, but I think any light pasta dish and/or a salad would go great with this.

August 9, 2011 at 10:12 am 2 comments

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

When I was a kid, I loathed eggplant.

The only think I hated more than eggplant, was the combination of eggplant and green peppers. My mom had this eggplant casserole dish that she made every so often that contained both, and I always hated it when she made it. I would always try to pick out just the meat and cheese, and when my mom finally made me eat the vegetables, I would hold my nose and eat them as fast as possible before taking a huge drink of water.

Yeah… sorry about that Mom.

Now, I love eggplant, especially with green peppers! I would probably love my mom’s eggplant casserole if I had it now. Life’s funny like that…

One eggplant dish I really like is baked eggplant parmesan. It’s eggplant parmesan, but it’s baked instead of fried, then it’s layered with pasta sauce and cheese, and baked again.

I cannot for the life of me remember where I got this recipe, so I don’t know who to give credit to. Sorry!

I forgot to take pictures of all the step for this, so there’s just pictures of the main steps.

First things first, make your pasta sauce! I usually make marinara sauce for this, but I decided to make meat sauce this time around.

In one bowl, beat some eggs together. In another bowl, combine bread crumbs, grated parmesan, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1/2 tsp. dried basil, and a dash of salt and pepper. Dip your eggplant slices in the egg mixture, then the bread crumb mixture, and place them on a greased baking sheet or baking paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a 375 degree F (190 degree C) oven for 20 minutes. Then turn over the eggplant slices and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

In a deep baking dish, layer a little bit of sauce, half the eggplant slices, shredded cheese, and grated parmesan. Repeat with sauce, the last of the eggplant slices, shredded cheese, parmesan cheese, and top of with the last of the sauce and cheese. I had leftover bread crumb mixture, so I put that on top and then added some cheese during the last 10 minutes of baking.

Bake in a 400 degree F (200 degree C) oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until bubbly. Let cool five minutes and serve.

Warm eggplant and cheesy goodness.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan (serves 4 – 5)

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c. bread crumbs
  • 3/4 c. grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • dash of salt & pepper
  • 2 large eggplants (or about 6 Japanese eggplants), sliced into 1/2″ rounds
  • 6 c. marinara sauce
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1 c. grated parmesan
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Brush 2 baking sheets with oil (or line with parchment paper) and set aside.
  2. In a wide, shallow bowl, mix eggs and 2 Tbsp. cold water. In a seperate bowl, combine bread crumbs, grated parmesan, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper.
  3. Dip eggplant slices in the egg mixture, then the bread crumb mixture, coating well, and place on baking sheets.
  4. Bake eggplant slices until golden brown, about 20 minutes, then flip the slices over and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and raise oven heat to 400 degrees F (200 C)
  5. Spread 2 c. of marinara sauce in a 9 x 13 in. baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant slices in dish. Cover with 2 c. of sauce, then 1/2 c. of mozzarella, then 1/3 c. parmesan. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan.
  6. Baking about 15 – 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Let stand five minutes before serving.

May 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm 5 comments

Ratatouille, a dish for all veggies (unless you’re Julia Child or a talking mouse)

My closet smells like syrup.

I’ve thought this ever since we moved into our current apartment, over two years ago.

Hisa swears he can’t smell it though. It’s just me. And we keep our closet open all the time, so it’s not like our closet isn’t being aired out all the time.

Not that I’m complaining, because who doesn’t like the smell of syrup, right? Syrup reminds me of pancakes, and pancakes make me feel all warm and happy inside. Almost every time I go to my closet to get something I end up thinking, “Mmmm, pancakes…”.

That would make a great air freshener don’t you think? If you had a syrup air freshener in your closet, you could feel warm and happy every time you went to your closet like me! And if you were really lucky, it would even make your clothes smell like syrup, so all day the people around you would end up feeling warm and happy (Either that or they would randomly start licking your clothes and nibbling on you *cough*)! I smell a business franchise here…

I think perhaps I shall never solve the mystery of why my closet smells like syrup, and why I’m the only one that can smell it, but at least in provides incentive to make pancakes for breakfast every weekend.

Mmmmm, pancakes…

*        *        *

I don’t recall ever having ratatouille before until my husband made it for dinner a couple of years ago. Since then I’ve been hooked. I love the combination of vegetables and the burst of flavor you get from each of them. It’s great to use fresh summer vegetables for, but I usually end up making it all year round with whatever fresh veggies I can get.

That’s another great thing about ratatouille, there are no rules really (unless you’re a French chef, Julia Child, or a talking mouse that is). There are traditional ingredients like tomatoes, eggplant, onion, garlic, zucchini, and bell peppers, but you don’t have to adhere exactly to that. You can put in whatever fresh veggies you want.

The key word here is fresh. Don’t put in anything frozen or canned (besides tomatoes). Just don’t. It’ll hurt me and it’ll hurt you, and we don’t want that. Listen to your inner Julia Child/talking mouse and use fresh veggies.

A lot of people also argue about the proper technique for cooking ratatouille. Some say you should individually cook each vegetable before adding it to the pot. Some say you should layer all the vegetables. Some say you should bake it. Some say not. Some say you should just throw it all in a pot at once and be done with it.

I say. Choose whatever method floats your boat, because it’ll probably taste fine whichever you choose.

I like to saute the veggies individually before adding them to the pot. I think it brings out the flavor of the individual veggies more, but that’s just me. If you prefer to just throw all the veggies in the pot then power to ya.

Also, you don’t really need a whole lot of seasoning for this dish. The star of the dish should be the flavors of the fresh veggies, not the seasoning. I usually just add a little basil and oregano, and then salt and pepper to taste. That’s why it’s so important to use fresh, in season vegetables.

So here’s my ratatouille recipe. Again, feel free to substitute vegetables. For example, it’s really hard to find zucchini in Japan, so I don’t usually include it. I even left out the eggplant once when all the grocery stores in my vicinity were mysteriously out of eggplant. Other veggies I’ve used before include asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, and yellow squash. Go with the flow (and season). And use fresh veggies.

Ratatouille (serves 2)

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 c. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 eggplant (or about 5 Japanese eggplants), halved, quartered, and sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper (2 – 3 Japanese piiman), chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 2 whole tomatoes diced (or one can diced tomatoes – this is the only non-fresh veggie I think it’s okay to fudge on)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil (or handful fresh basil, chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano (or handful fresh oregano, chopped)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about two minutes. Add garlic and cook for about one minute. Turn heat down to low/med-low.
  2. In a separate skillet, heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Saute each remaining vegetable separately (except the tomatoes) over med-high heat for 3 – 4 minutes. You want the vegetables to get slightly browned, but not lose their crispness. After sauteing each vegetable, add it to the pot with the onion and garlic.
  3. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, and bay leaves to the pot, and mix. Raise heat back to medium and cook until vegetables tender, about ten minutes. Remove bay leaves, season with salt and pepper, and serve with fresh bread.

May 19, 2011 at 9:40 am 3 comments

About Me

My name is Rachel. I'm a small-town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, currently living in Japan, who likes cooking, baking, reading, working out, and traveling. Join me in my culinary adventures, my domestic doings, and the story of my life, one day at a time.

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