Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summertime Goodness

My Saturday morning jaunts around the Summerville Farmers Market usually include some time spent at the Gruber Farms produce stand. While all of the vendors at the market offer quality produce and goods, the folks at the Gruber Farms tent just seem to have that something special in their presentation and style. I have friends who participate in the Gruber Farms CSA and they also boast about the quality of their weekly bounty as well. This past Saturday morning I "picked" some fresh eggplant from the market with the intention of making one of my two favorite eggplant dishes, either eggplant parm or stuffed eggplant, a dish that I am still trying to perfect, just can't seem to duplicate the recipe used by my childhood neighborhood italian cuisine chef of choice, Frank Perry.

Yesterday afternoon before Michelle and I headed off to the neighborhood pool to soak up some sun and deal with the record high temps yesterday (the mercury hit 100 in downtown Charleston but the water was perfect), I prepped a new dish that I found in Charleston Receipts Repeats. If you don't own this cookbook, and if you are a fan of sophisticated southern cuisine, do yourself a favor and buy it online, NOW.
I actually found this recipe by accident as I checked the index for eggplant parm. I didn't find an eggplant parm recipe in "Receipts" but I did find find five new eggplant recipes including a version for stuffed eggplant that I will undoubtedly experiment with in the near future and a recipe for Meatless Moussaka (Baked Eggplant) that I just couldn't pass up, mainly because I noticed the recipe was credited to Mrs. J. Michael Grayson, the wife of my cardiologist. A quick scan of the ingredients list and I knew any recipe for eggplant that included fresh basil, parsley, and mint combined with oregano, garlic and cinnamon had to be good. And, so I was off, out of the starting blocks to the kitchen herb garden to trim some herbs, then to the cutting board to chop the newly snipped greenery.

If you try real hard, you will imagine the way our kitchen smelled after cooking chopped onions and garlic in olive oil and then adding tomatoe sauce along with the herbs and cinnamon to make the ragu for the dish. The bi-line in Receipts for this recipe states, "worth the time and effort" and I say, "you bet it is." When prep was complete and we headed out to the pool I think Michelle and I were both looking forward to getting our afternoon at the pool out of the way in order to bring on supper. The Moussaka combined with some Italian bread and olive oil dipping sauce and a heart of romaine salad with balsamic vinegarette was a big hit.

Don't be intimidated by the seeming complexity of this recipe, while the prep does take about an hour, it really isn't that hard and you will be thankful that you took the time, once you taste the first bite. Let me know what you think, buy the cookbook, but first, here is the recipe.

Meatless Moussaka (Baked Eggplant)
Charleston Receipts Repeats

2 medium eggplant (sliced 1/2 inch) 4 tbsp fresh parsley
4 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp fresh mint chopped
2 medium onions, chopped 1 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 tsp oregano
1 cup tomatoe sauce 1/2 tsp basil, chopped
1 cup water 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt vegetable oil
1/8 tsp black pepper 1 cup grated romano
Filling Ingredients
1&1/2 cups cottage cheese 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beat

*Slice eggplant, soak in a pot of salt water for 30 minutes
*Heat olive oil in skillet and saute' onion until transparent
*Add garlic to onion and saute' for additional 3 minutes
*Add tomatoe sauce, water, salt, pepper, parsley, mint, sugar, oregano, basil and cinnamon
*Simmer, covered for 30 minutes
*Drain eggplant and squeeze slices with paper towel to drain and absorb excess moisture

*Brush eggplant with vegetable oil and broil 4 minutes on each side (4 inches from the heat)
*Mix the cottage cheese, egg and salt for the filling
*Grease a 13 x 9 casserole
*Spread 1/2 the tomatoe sauce over the bottom of the casserole
*Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of grated romano
*Arrange half of the broiled eggplant on top of the sauce, overlapping slices
*Spread the cheese filling over top
*Place remaining eggplant slices on top of cheese filling
*Cover with remaining tomatoe sauce
*Sprinkle with 1/2 cup romano
*Bake at 375 for 30 minutes
*Remove from oven and let it stand for 15 minutes to firm before cutting into squares and serving

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