Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eggplant Parmigiana with Okra & Crimini Mushrooms

You'll notice a theme to the vegetarian meals I've posted this week simply by looking at the pics.

So far all 3 meal ideas have been variations on these abundant, and thus priced accordingly, summer vegetables: eggplant, tomato, zucchini, onions and garlic, bell peppers, okra, and today's addition- -crimini mushrooms.

When I was sixteen, my family hosted a South African exchange student of Greek heritage. Helen fit right in at the Ross household; she loved food and she loved to cook.

Helen navigated our kitchen with ease, cooking up a memorized repertoire of traditional Greek dishes -- not South African. (It was obvious she and her family, closely identified with their roots even though Helen had a stash of Rooibos tea in her suitcase.)

My mother was so impressed with her cooking, and the flavor of Helen's dishes, she dashed out and bought a book on traditional Greek cooking. And therein began my love affair with baklava and moussaka.

This was back in the late '70's and the eggplant purchased then for the moussaka was always very organic. I have vivid recollections of cutting into eggplant only to find a worm or two. One simply cut around the worms or picked them out.

The eggplant I buy now is always so perfect: perfectly shaped, beautiful color, minimal marks on the skin, and no worms inside. And it's not bitter! We used to cut our eggplant, sprinkle it with salt, and then let it sit to sweat which drew out the bitter flavor.

I do wonder why even organic vegetables are so perfect these days?!

Eggplant is a versatile veggie because it will soak up flavor due to its sponge-like texture. I love it tossed in the pan with lashings of good quality olive oil.

Both Monday's ratatouille, and today's parmigiana, call for browning eggplant in a pan or skillet with olive oil, and again, because of it's spongy quality, eggplant will lap-up oil, and taste better for it!

Eggplant Parmigiana
1) Wash, trim and slice two large eggplant length-wise.
2) Heat good quality olive oil in a skillet or pan and place eggplant slices into hot oil, turning to brown slices evenly.
3) Once browned, drain eggplant on a paper-towel lined plate.
4) Meanwhile, chop onions, a smashed garlic clove, some red or green bell pepper, and slice a tomato or two.
5) Saute, garlic, onions & bell pepper till soft.

To assemble:
Line a baking dish with a layer of eggplant, dot eggplant with a layer of the sauteed onion, garlic and peppers. Add a layer of sliced tomatoes (or you could use a bottled or tinned tomato sauce if you wish), then dot with crumbled feta.

Begin again with a layer of eggplant and finish with a layer of crumbled feta or grated cheese of your choice. Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for about 30-40 mins or until the parmigiana is hot through.

While parmigiana is cooking prepare a side of:

Okra & Crimini Mushies in Vermouth & Cream
1) Wash and slice a portion of fresh okra and one large white onion.
2) Either wipe crimini mushies clean of dirt and organic bits or peel them with your fingers by gently taking a piece of flesh from the under-side of the mushroom, and peeling it up and over and off the top of the mushroom. (I do this because I find I like the white flesh under the top skin to be exposed and because I find it very Zen peeling mushrooms -- what I can say!)
3) Toss okra, onion and mushies into a pan or skillet with a big dob of butter, stir around over med-to-high heat until veggies have softened and taken up all the butter.
4) With the heat on high, pour in a good slurp of Vermouth. The liquid will bubble away furiously, and the alcohol will evaporate.
5) At around the 5-min. mark, reduce heat to med. Add a slurp of pouring cream, gently stirring it into veggies and vermouth. Allow to simmer gently on low for another few minutes, then season to your liking.

To Serve: Pour okra & mushroom combo into a serving dish and place on the table with the hot parmigiana still in its baking dish for family-style table service. You might also like to serve a side bowl of hot elbow or shell noodles tossed with olive oil and chopped parsley.


Unknown said...

this was super simple and delicious!! I made the Eggplant parm, but not the other dish. Thanks, I love your blog!

Louise Ross said...

Great to hear that the parm was such a success, Laura. Always love to hear from Market to Mouth readers, thanks for your comment!