Sunday, April 24, 2011

Vegetarian Classic

Pesto and Panko Eggplant Parmesan
My mom brought back one of my favorite Eggplant Parmesan recipes from a trip she took to Tuscany. It's great! Fresh, delicious, and very time consuming. While I enjoy whipping up this authentic Italian recipe for friends or a Sunday night dinner, it's a bit labor intensive and I wanted to find a quicker twist on one of my favorite vegetarian meals. This recipe was inspired by a bag of marinara sauce and a bag of pesto I had in the freezer. You can definitely use homemade, or just get your favorite prepared brand from the store for a quick and tasty dinner.

- 1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1/4 disks
- salt
- 4 eggs, beaten
- flour for dredging
- 2 c. Panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 c. pesto
- 1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced crosswise
- 4 c. marinara sauce
- chopped Italian Parsley
- 1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
- olive oil for frying

Line a baking sheet with paper towels and arrange eggplant disks in a single layer. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Allow eggplant to sit and "sweat" for about 10-15 minutes per side. The salt will dissolve and beads will form on the slices. Rise eggplant disks in cool water and pat dry. Set aside and preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Spray a 13x9" baking dish and set aside.

Set out an assembly line to prepare the eggplant for frying. Mix about a cup of flour with a tsp. of salt and some pepper and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs with pesto, and set aside. Fill a second shallow dish with panko crumbs. Working in batches, dredge eggplant slices, one at a time, in the flour. Then dip into the egg and pesto mixture, allowing the excess drip back into the bowl. Then carefully coat in panko crumbs and set aside for frying.

 Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry coated eggplant slices until they are crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. When all the slices are fried arrange in the prepared baking dish. Layer slices of eggplant the slices of mozzarella cheese. Pour marinara sauce evenly over the eggplant and mozzarella then sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese.
Bake eggplant for about 25-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vegetarian Diaries

 Hearty Vegetable Soup With Gnocchi 
As my Lenten vegetarianism rolls on and on, I continue to serve for and devise new meatless recipes. Soup is a favorite in this house, particularly on the many cold, wet nights we seem to get in Oregon (regardless of the season). I had some remaining veggies in the crisper from other recipes and was looking for a good way to use them. At first I was planning on throwing in a more traditional pasta into the mix, but strolling through the Trader Joe's aisles I came across a package of gnocchi and thought, "Perfect." A leftover Parmesan cheese rind thrown into the mix adds tons of flavor to this vegetarian soup.

-  2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 4 leeks, (white and pale green parts only) cleaned and chopped
- 2 small zucchini, diced
- 1 c. frozen peas, thawed
- 2 14.5 oz cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 c. dry sherry
- 16-18 oz. gnocchi
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind, plus extra grated Parmesan for topping
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1 small handful Italian parsley, chopped
- 8 c. vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Add leeks, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook over heat until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Add sherry and cook over medium for another 2-3 minutes. Add carrots and zucchini and cook until vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add peas, artichoke hearts, thyme, parsley, Parmesan rind, and broth. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes.

Remove Parmesan rind from soup and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Add gnocchi to hot soup and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes until gnocchi are cooked. Remove from heat. Serve with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meatlessly Yours

Falafel in Your Face
I am currently in the midst of my annual Lenten vegetarianism. While I enjoy this time of reflection and self-denial, the absence of flesh does, admittedly, leave a protein hole in my diet. I'm a long distance runner, on average pounding out between 30 and 50 miles per week. I burn a lot of calories. Beyond the exercise, I lead a fairly active life. I am constantly on my feet at work, I walk a lot, I have a demanding little terrier and, the calorie deficit just adds up from a variety of places and I need fat from other forms. My latest fast go-to dinner has been falafel, protein rich chickpea patties fried up in grape seed oil and served with flatbread. Yum. What started as a Middle Eastern street food has become one of my favorite vegetarian staples. Even my meat-eating boy roommates have gotten on the falafel bandwagon. I typically serve the meal with a simple salad a make out of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. It's light enough for the transitioning to warmer weather yet filling enough to satisfy me after a day of work, chores, and running 10 or 12 miles. I like to whip up a quick cucumber yogurt sauce along for a topping and serve it with a couple of dollops of my favorite hummus (Trader Joe's White Bean or Mediterranean Hummus rock my tastebuds). Try this quick, addictive, and rad vegetarian meal next time you're experiencing a meat hangover . . . 

- 2 c plain Greek style yogurt
- 1 half cucumber, seeded and grated
- 1 tsp. dried dill
- salt and pepper
- juice from 1 lemon
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 14.5 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
- 3 Tbsp. flour, plus extra for dredging
- 1/2 yellow onion, grated on a cheese grater
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 small handful of Italian parsley
- 1 Tbsp. dried cumin
- ground lemon pepper
- salt and pepper
- dried minced garlic
- grape seed oil for frying
- flatbread
- prepared hummus
- tomato and cucumber slices
- crumbled Feta cheese

Drain grated cucumber on a paper-towel lined plate. Pat it dry on top as well to get as much moisture out as possible. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, dill garlic, and cucumber. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Warm the oven to 350˚ and wrap the flatbread in foil. Heat the flatbread in the oven while preparing the rest of the meal.

Pulse Italian parsley in food processor until finely minced. Add garbanzo beans, grated onion, 3 Tbsp. flour, baking powder, cumin, 6 good grinds of lemon pepper, 1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste, and 1 tsp. dried minced garlic to the food processor bowl and blend until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture collects on the blade. Using about 2 Tbsp. of the mixture, form a small ball in the palm of your hand, then flatten slightly into a 3/4" thick patty. Dredge lightly in flour, set aside on a plate.

After patties are formed, heat enough oil in a large nonstick skillet to cover the bottom of the pan. Adjust the heat to medium-high and fry patties in batches, about 1-2 minutes per side until they begin to turn golden brown. Drain briefly on a paper towel lined plate and keep warm in the oven while finishing the frying. Serve patties warm with flatbread, hummus, yogurt sauce, and tomatoes and cucumbers. Also serve with the rad, self-satisfaction that you're eating a deliciously meatless meal.