Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Travel the world's cuisines

It is that time of year.  Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants, oh my!  It feels like it takes forever for this harvest to arrive, but man, when it does...  I love playing around with new recipes to use these ingredients, and revisiting old recipes that we can't get enough of (tomato-mozzarella tart, anyone?).  One of the (many) things I love about these ingredients is that depending upon what you mix them with, you can travel the world's cuisines.

Last night, we had jalapeno-corn "pancakes" with a huge salad of lettuces, radishes, tomatoes, and a buttermilk-chive dressing.  I might, ahem, have let the pancakes dry out a little while warming in the oven.  Oops.  But it turns out that they're really good with the dressing, so all's well that ends well!  (The pancakes are also really, really, REALLY good with maple syrup.  We have them for breakfast frequently during corn season.) 

Tonight, we had an Eastern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern style dinner.  Our local farmer's market had a vendor with lamb, so I bought two lamb shoulder steaks and threw those on the grill.  I rubbed them with raw garlic as soon as they came off the grill, and sprinkled on freshly chopped marjoram.  Paired with a tomato, eggplant, and zucchini bake that I (think) I first saw on Eggs on Sunday  (, they made a heavenly dinner.  Add a little fresh ricotta to the top of the vegetables, and you might even convert non-eggplant lovers.  The best thing?  Well, other than how good it tasted?

While the lamb was grilling, I grilled up extra balsamic marinated eggplant and zucchini to freeze for sandwiches during the winter, and I charred poblano peppers to make stuffed poblanos with later this week.  Multiple meals for the price of one grill firing. 

We had the vegetable bake with lamb, but serve it up with crusty bread and a salad of some sort, and you have a wonderful vegetarian dinner.  Since we had it as a side, we had leftovers; they'll probably go in a sandwich with some of that ricotta for breakfast or lunch one day. 

I LOVE August harvest time!

Tomato, Eggplant, and Zucchini Bake
originally seen on Eggs on Sunday (?)

1 medium, firm eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 medium to large zucchini, cut on a bias into 1/4 inch ovals
2 medium to large tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1/4 cup of olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
fresh and dried herbs of your choosing (I used dried oregano in the baking, and sprinkled on fresh chopped marjoram when it came out of the oven.  Thyme is really good with this, too.)
2 tbsp ricotta per person (optional...but not really)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine eggplant, zucchini, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, and any dried herbs.  Toss to coat.

2.  In a large, shallow baking dish, layer the vegetables:  eggplant, zucchini, tomato, repeat.  Do this until the pan is snugly full of vegetables.  (I always have some left over.)  Drizzle over remaining olive oil, and add a little more salt and pepper, if desired.  (The photo at the header of my blog is actually this dish from a year or so ago--if you're wondering about the layers, just take a peek.)

3.  Bake, uncovered, on the middle rack for 25-35 minutes, depending on how caramelized you'd like your vegetables.  Remove from oven, and sprinkle with any fresh herbs you're using.  Dollop individual servings with ricotta cheese, if using.

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