Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan Revisited

A few weeks ago, I was in Nashville for a few days on work-related travel.

While I was there, I went to a very good Italian restaurant called Amerigo and ordered eggplant parmesan. Delicious!

What I especially liked about this eggplant parmesan was that it was topped with marinated portobello mushrooms.

This weekend, I took my usual eggplant parmesan recipe and changed it up by similarly topping it with sliced portobello mushrooms, which I sauteed in some extra virgin olive oil in a skillet for a few minutes until soft.

I then sprinkled lots and lots of shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top of the mushrooms before baking in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Finally, another revision I made to the recipe above was to dredge the sliced eggplant in flour first before dipping the eggplant in the beaten eggs. (The beaten eggs adhere better to a drier surface, which is achieved by coating the eggplant in the flour.)

Next, I dredged the eggplant in the bread crumbs and then sauteed each slice in some extra virgin olive oil until lightly browned on each side.

I ended up with perfectly (well, almost perfect) breaded eggplant slices, which I stacked between layers of
marinara sauce and the shredded cheeses.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vegetarian on the Road

"old country road" by rennett stowe

Last week, I spent the entire week in rural Kentucky on work-related travel.

It was difficult maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle while on the road. It wasn't a situation where I was tempted to eat any meat last week; rather, the restaurants tended to have no meatless options. So, I ended up subsisting that week for the most part on bagels for breakfast, and salads for lunch and dinner from McDonald's. I'm glad I had the foresight to pack Power Bars to tide me over in the event I became hungry.

Seeing the economic depression in this small town in Kentucky, I was reminded of the family portrayed in the film, Food, Inc., who subsisted mostly on fast food simply because - thanks to generous federal government subsidies to the meat industry - it was cheaper than going to a grocery store and purchasing healthful options, such as vegetables. I was not surprised, therefore, in my observation that fast food "restaurants" dominated the town where I stayed, the most popular being the KFC with its all-you-can-eat option for about $6.99.

I am returning to this town in early October. After this trip, my travel schedule will be considerably reduced. I am looking forward to being able to resume posting regularly on this blog and having the time to just chill and catch up with what's happening on my favorite food blogs.

There will be a post later this week about a
simple new twist on a vegetarian classic. It's something I learned while dining at a restaurant in Nashville a few weeks ago.

Have a good week!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day 2009

I'm back on the road during the next two weeks.

I'm posting two of my favorite songs, in honor of Labor Day. I could watch the Springsteen video, which I've posted before, over and over and over.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Vegetable Tian

A few days ago, I wrote about my new mandoline slicer given to me by a coworker. I used the mandoline slicer to make Ina Garten's vegetable tian, which consists of onions and thinly sliced potatoes, squash, and tomatoes. According to author Jeanne Lemlin (Simple Vegetarian Pleasures), a tian:
is a Provencal speciality of vegetable and seasonings cloaked in olive oil and cooked slowly in a hot oven until succulent and tender. "Tian" refers to the method of cooking as well as the heavy cooking dish that contains the melange of ingredients.

In the past, French village bakers would allow home cooks to place their heavy, vegetable-filled tians into still-hot ovens once the last breads were removed. The remaining heat became trapped in the earthenware casseroles and gently cooked the vegetables until they were suffused with the surrounding flavors of a fruity olive oil and aromatic herbs.
Ina's vegetable tian was delicious. I followed the recipe, as written, except that I used more gruyere cheese than called for. The next time I make this dish, though, I plan on using even more cheese and layering it between the potatoes, squash, and tomatoes.

Vegetable Tian
Serves approximately 6

Extra virgin olive oil

2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 pound medium round potatoes, thinly sliced (1/4")
3/4 pound squash, thinly sliced (1/4")

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, plus a couple sprigs
2 ounces gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they become translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another minute or so. Spread the onions on the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. Layer the potatoes, squash, and tomatoes on top of the onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, thyme leaves and thyme sprigs.

Drizzle olive oil on top of the tomatoes, cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Uncover the baking dish, sprinkle cheese over the top, cover, bake another 30 minutes, and serve.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fettucine with Vegetables and Olives

I really enjoy grocery shopping. It's something I do in a leisurely manner.

But because of my hectic work and traveling schedule lately, I've been finding myself spending not more than 30 minutes total on my grocery shopping for the week. That amount includes the time it takes to get to, and from, the supermarket. No lingering in the aisles. No food or wine sampling. Get in and get out.

The pasta dish shown above is something I threw together last night. Certainly nothing to brag about - it's just vegetable, olives, and fettuccine tossed in some extra virgin olive oil. But it only took 15 minutes to prepare, which makes it an ideal meal for weekdays. And it tasted good, too.

Fettuccine with Vegetables and Olives
Serves approximately 4

16 ounces fettuccine

8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

1 large tomato, seeded and chopped

3 cups broccoli crowns, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup green olives, pitted and sliced in half

1/2 cup black olives (e.g., kalamata olives), pitted and sliced in half

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 - 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed

2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and begin cooking the pasta according to the directions on the package.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, until the mushrooms start to become soft. Add the broccoli and 1/2 cup of pasta water to the skillet. Turn the heat to high and continue cooking until the broccoli turns bright green and the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add the tomatoes and olives to the skillet.

When the pasta has approximately 1 minute left before it is done cooking, add the green beans to the pot of boiling water. When the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and the green beans.

Transfer the pasta and green beans to a large bowl. Stir in the vegetables and olives from the skillet, along with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste, and serve. Pass the grated parmesan at the table.