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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Marinara

Eggplant is probably my family’s favorite vegetable and it is certainly a major food in Italian cuisine. It is versatile and can be prepared healthy or anyway you like it. I prefer to bake the eggplant slices instead of frying them and then I can use them in any number of ways: parmesan, lasagna, “meatballs” or as below – rollatini. This dish is delicious as a main entrée or as an appetizer. Grilled Italian sausage is an excellent side dish as are the green beans.

Eggplant Rollatini

If you choose, you can also coat the eggplant slices in egg and breadcrumbs and bake as described below. If you want less carbs, leave out the crumbs.

Ingredients

2 large eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into very thin slices, to get about 14-15 slices
Olive oil
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups prepared marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought

Directions

Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and place them on a large baking sheet.

Roast (or broil) in a 400-degree F oven for 20 minutes, turning the eggplant slices halfway through cooking.

Place on paper towels to cool.

For the filling:

Combine the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella, egg, parsley, salt and pepper and mix well.

When the eggplant has cooled about 10 minutes, place about 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture on each slice.

Spread it over the eggplant slice and then roll up into a cylinder. Repeat with all the eggplant slices.

Coat the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish with 1 cup of the marinara sauce. Place the eggplant rolls in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the eggplant rolls. Cover the dish with foil and bake in a 400-degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs Italian pork sausage
Olive oil

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Oil the grill grates.

Brush the sausage lightly with olive oil.

Place the sausage on the indirect side of the grill and close the cover.

Cook for 15 minutes and turn the sausage over. Cook for 15 more minutes. Slice and serve.

Skillet Green Beans

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound green beans, washed, trimmed and cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, smashed flat with the side of a knife
A little coarse salt
1/4 cup water
Black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the skillet on medium and add the oil.

Add garlic and cook 30 seconds or until lightly golden, stirring.

Add the beans, turn a few times to coat well with the oil. Sprinkle with salt.

Stir in the water. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Cover and cook 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are slightly wilted but still crunchy.

Uncover and increase the heat to high.

Cook 2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the beans are cooked but still bright green.

Taste and adjust the salt as needed. Add black pepper and transfer to a serving dish.

 

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Eggplant are at their very best now. Take advantage of their availability and you will make some very rewarding and tasty recipes. Buying eggplant in season, picked young, means they will not be bitter, nor will they need to be salted before cooking them. Chubby purple eggplant are not the only kind of eggplant available. My CSA grew three different types this summer: regular purple globe eggplant, Rosa Bianca, an heirloom eggplant from Sicily and white eggplant. All delicious. Here are some recipes I made with my share.

Baba Ghanoush with Pita

Ingredients

2-3 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup lemon juice, more if desired
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Kosher salt

Directions

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat and place the eggplants directly on the grill.

Cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until tender and charred on all sides, about 15-20 minutes.

The eggplants should be very tender.

Test the eggplants by sticking a skewer near the stem and bottom ends. If the skewer meets resistance, continue cooking.

When they are done, wrap the eggplants in foil and crimp the top to seal. Let the eggplants rest for 15 minutes.

Open the foil package, using a sharp knife slit open the eggplants and with a large spoon scoop out the soft flesh.

Transfer to a strainer set in a large bowl. Pick out any bits of skin and blackened flesh.

To roast in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Pierce the eggplants with a fork in several place. Place on an oiled baking pan and roast until soft all over, about 20 minutes.

Follow directions as above.

Put the eggplant in a food processor, add the garlic, lemon juice and pulse until it is smooth and creamy.

Add the tahini and pulse again until it’s combined. With the processor turned-on, slowly add the olive oil in a thin steady stream.

The mixture will be pale and creamy.

By hand, stir in the parsley, agave, smoked paprika and salt. Taste to see if you’d like additional salt or lemon juice.

Put the baba ghanoush into a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and serve with warm flatbread or vegetables.

Baba ghanoush can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Let the eggplant dip warm to room temperature before serving.

Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or ricotta cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 500º F.

Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.

To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the burrata cheese.

Summer Eggplant Tart

Serves 8

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
Olive oil spray
1 small eggplant, sliced 1/8 inch thin
3 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thin
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
¼ cup fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the thawed puff pastry in a 7 x 11 inch baking dish patting the dough up the sides of the dish.

Refrigerate until ready to assemble the dish.

Bread the eggplant slices and oven bake until brown and crisp – as if making them for eggplant parmigiana. Directions are below in the eggplant parmigiana recipe.

Sprinkle the tomatoes on both sides with kosher salt. Arrange in a single layer between on paper towels to drain.

Remove the baking dish with the pastry from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry with the minced onion and garlic.

Arrange the eggplant and tomato slices in even rows on the pastry. Season with pepper and sprinkle the thyme over the vegetables.

Distribute the shredded cheese over the top. Bake until the vegetables are tender and the cheese is browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the dish from oven and allow to cool. Serve warm.

Eggplant Parmigiana

This is a staple in my house. So happy that my CSA grows wonderful eggplant.

First Stage

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

1 pound eggplant, peeled
2 eggs, beaten with a few tablespoons of water
1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with olive oil.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise or lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Lightly salt the eggplant slices.

Place the eggs and water in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:
Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
2 ½ cups Marinara (pasta) sauce
1- 8 ounce package shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese
Breaded eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly.

Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the cheese.

Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

 


Planning your menu before you go shopping is a practical skill that will save you time and money. At this time of year, you want easy to prepare meals that utilize what is in season and you want to cook healthy meals most of the time. This does take a little planning but well worth the time. Here are a few ideas to help you plan next week’s menu.

Fish Parmigiano

Serve this fish entrée with basil pesto pasta and yellow summer squash.

Ingredients

4 white fish fillets (about 6 oz each), such as flounder, tilapia, halibut, etc.
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 to 1 ½ cups Italian seasoned panko crumbs
Olive oil plus olive oil cooking spray
1 cup Marinara sauce, heated
4 slices mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cover a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil and coat with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush each fish fillet on all sides with the mayonnaise.

Place the coated fish in the panko crumbs and press the crumbs into the fish on all sides.

Place the fillets on the prepared baking pan and drizzle the top of each fillet with a little olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place hot marinara sauce on each fillet (about ¼ cup on each) and top with a slice of cheese.

Return the pan to the oven and cook about 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted.

Creamy Cauliflower Pasta

Serve this pasta entrée with a tomato salad.

Topping

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Cauliflower

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, chopped fine
1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 minced garlic cloves
12 ounces short pasta
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

For the topping:

Combine the breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat.

Cook, stirring, until the mixture is well toasted and golden-brown.

Stir in the thyme; remove from heat, and reserve.

For the cauliflower:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium baking dish, combine the shallots, cauliflower, garlic, salt and red pepper.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the cauliflower is tender and browned.

Remove the dish from the oven and stir in the cream and Parmesan cheese. Set aside while the pasta cooks.

For the pasta:

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pan.

Turn the heat to very low and add the cauliflower sauce. Heat for a minute or two and pour into a pasta serving.

Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the top of the pasta and serve.

Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Pizzaiola is a term used for a Neapolitan style pizza tomato sauce. I like to use it over pork cutlets or beef steak. Mashed potatoes and a green vegetable are good sides for this entrée.

Ingredients

For the pork

4 boneless pork chops, about 4 oz each
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

For the sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ cups crushed Italian tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 basil sprig

Directions

For the pork:

Trim the pork chops of all fat. Pound them between sheets of plastic wrap until about a ¼ inch thick.

Beat the egg with a little water. Season the pork with salt and pepper.

Dredge the pork cutlets in the Italian breadcrumbs. Place on a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.

It is important to refrigerate the breaded pork for a few hours, so that the breading stays put when the pork is cooked.

For the sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion, bell pepper and garlic.

Cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and let the sauce simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.

To cook the pork:

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with a thin coating of olive oil. Heat.

Add the pork cutlets and cook until brown on one side, turn and cook the second side until brown.

Drain the chops on paper towels. Place on serving plates and top with the Pizzaiola sauce.

Dinner Frittata

I usually make extra grilled vegetables, so I can use them in a frittata or quiche.

Serve this entrée with an Italian Mixed Greens Salad.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 cups leftover grilled potatoes, peppers and onions
See recipe link 
1 cup cooked spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
6 large eggs beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
3 slices of your favorite cheese

Directions

Preheat the broiler

Heat the oil and butter together in an ovenproof nonstick skillet.

Add the potato and pepper mixture and cook until hot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scatter the crumbled bacon over the mixture.

Pour the beaten eggs over all and cook until the eggs are set on the bottom.

Distribute the cooked spinach over the top of the frittata.

Break the cheese slices into quarters and place them evenly over the spinach.

Place the skillet under the broiler and cook the frittata until the cheese melts.

Remove and let rest for 3 or 4 minutes. Cut into serving pieces.

Chicken Piccata

Serve this quick cooking chicken entrée with noodles dressed with butter, Parmesan cheese and parsley and a green vegetable.

Serves 2

Ingredients

Two 6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded until thin and even
Coarse salt
Ground white pepper
1/4 cup finely ground all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
2 tablespoons small capers, drained
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and white pepper. Lightly coat in flour. Shake off excess.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the olive oil and butter, swirl them around the pan, and add the chicken.

Turn the heat to high and saute the chicken 2 minutes per side.

Pour in the wine, swirl it around the pan for 20 seconds, and turn the chicken over.

Add the lemon juice and capers, swirl them around in the pan and turn off the heat. Serve immediately.


Gnocchi are Italian dumplings and they should be light and fluffy when you serve them. Store bought gnocchi can be a little dense and heavy. How do you get the lightness in the dough? By not using too much flour and using flavor ingredients that are not heavy. I never just use just flour and potato in the dough. I like to add ricotta cheese and alternate the potato with other vegetables, such as butternut squash, pureed carrots, sweet potatoes or spinach. They are not difficult to make at home, so give gnocchi a try.

Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients

2 medium baking potatoes, cooked and peeled
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 cups 00 (Italian) flour or all-purpose flour

Directions

Dice the cooked potatoes and place them in an electric mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment mash the potatoes.

Add the salt and pepper.

Mix the egg and ricotta together in a small mixing bowl. Add to the potatoes in the mixer along with the flour.

Mix until thoroughly combined and the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a floured board and knead a few minutes until smooth.

Divide in half. This recipe usually comes out to weigh about 2 lbs.

Wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is time to cut the gnocchi.

Wrap the other half in plastic and place in a freezer zip-lock beg. Freeze the dough for another time.

This dough freezes well. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator when you want to use it.

To shape the gnocchi:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before making the gnocchi.

Spread some flour on a large work surface and cut the dough into four equal pieces.Take one piece and cut it in half.

Roll the piece of dough into a snake about 1/2 inch thick, then cut it into 1 inch pieces.

Dust the gnocchi with a little flour and push the tines of a fork into one side of the dumpling.

Place the gnocchi on a waxed paper tray dusted with flour and cover with a dry kitchen towel.

To cook the gnocchi

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add enough salt to it so that the water tastes salty.

Place a pasta bowl close to the stove.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they rise to the top of the boiling water.

You may have to do this in batches, so as not to crowd the pan.

Remove the gnocchi with a spider, allowing the water to drain and place the gnocchi in the bowl.

Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked.

Sauces for Gnocchi

Tomato and Fresh Basil

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced (about 3 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled, tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, the herb sprigs and basil and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes or until thickened. Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper, to taste.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients

2 cups fresh basil leaves (about 1 large bunch)
3 cloves garlic
½ cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
3/4 cup freshly grated hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese, or a combo of the two
½ cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the oil and cheeses in a food processor. Pulse until the pesto is blended into a slightly coarse paste.​

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oil and cheeses.​

To serve with pasta, you can toss the cooked pasta directly with the pesto. Or, if you want to thin out the pesto sauce a little, add a spoonful or two of the hot pasta water to the pesto, then toss with the cooked pasta and serve right away.

Mushroom Cream

Ingredients

1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup half & half
1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated (or Parmesan)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to desired taste
Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and butter, swirl to coat the skillet.

Add the onion, mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper; sauté 20 minutes until mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid.

Add wine and thyme and cook for a few minutes until liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat.

Add hot cooked pasta another sprinkling of salt, half & half and Grana Padano to the skillet, tossing to combine.

Add cooking pasta cooking liquid until desired moistness and continue to toss. Sprinkle with parsley.

Gorgonzola Cheese

Ingredients

1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
6 ounces dry miniature ravioli
3 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 apple, diced
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Directions

Place a heavy skillet over medium heat. Pour cream into skillet, bring to a simmer, and cook cream until it reduces by half, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Pour dried ravioli into boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, 16 to 18 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water.

Gently fold cooked ravioli into cream sauce and turn heat to low. Mix in Gorgonzola cheese, stirring gently until melted. If sauce is too thick, thin it with a little pasta cooking water.

Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley and Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with diced apple, walnuts, and 1 teaspoon parsley.

Primavera 

Ingredients

2 cups penne pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 carrots, cut into strips
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, minced, or more to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender yet firm to the bite, about 11 minutes. Drain.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat-high heat; saute asparagus and carrots until tender yet firm to the bite, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic; saute until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir Parmesan cheese, cream, and black pepper into vegetable mixture until cheese melts and sauce is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pasta to sauce and toss to coat.

And Our Favorite

Butter Sage

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Black pepper to taste
12 sage leaves, sliced

To make the sauce:

Heat the butter and sage together in a small skillet. Pour the melted butter over the cooked gnocchi, add the cheese and mix well. Garnish with black pepper and serve immediately.


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This is the time of year for parties and getting together with friends and relatives to celebrate the New Year. It is also a time for festive foods. If you are asked to bring a dish to the party, you may be thinking about what you can bring. Below you will find the recipes for some of my favorite take along dishes.

Stromboli

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Ingredients

2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
Olive oil
1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
1/4 pound thinly sliced capicola
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup marinara sauce
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.

Spread half the marinara sauce over the dough.

Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.

Layer half the meat over the cheese on the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.

Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

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Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, place the roll on one of the baking sheets. Cut five small slits in the top of the log.

Complete the other roll in the same manner.

Brush the rolls with the beaten egg mixture and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Eggplant Parmigiana

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First Stage

I usually prepare 4-1 pound eggplants at once and freeze them, individually, for future use.

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:
1 pound eggplant, peeled
1/2 to 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)
1 cup Italian style bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

If you are not going to assemble the eggplant dish at this time, wrap each batch of eggplant in aluminum foil with foil sheets between the layers and place it in a ziplock freezer bag.

Store in the freezer until you need it. Defrost a package overnight in the refrigerator, when you want to make the casserole.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe below)

1-8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese

1 package of breaded and baked eggplant

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly.

Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the package of cheese.

Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Here is the recipe for Marinara Sauce.

Homemade Version

Ingredients

3 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 celery stalk, chopped fine

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute vegetables

Add 1-6 oz. can tomato paste
Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot
Add 4-26 to 28 oz. containers of chopped Italian tomatoes

Directions

Simmer for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme.

Simmer for another hour or until the sauce has thickened.

Taste the sauce to see if it is very acidic. If it is, add a teaspoon of honey or agave syrup.

Measure out 2 ½ cups of sauce for the recipe above and freeze the remaining sauce.

Oven Barbecued Brisket

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Time: About 4 hours

Ingredients

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole beef brisket, about 5 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup dry red wine or beef broth
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon chili powder, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven that can later be covered over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes.

When it is hot, add the oil, swirl it around, then add the beef.

Sear the meat for about 5 minutes on each side, seasoning with salt and pepper; when nicely browned, remove from pot to a plate.

Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes (if the meat is very lean you might need to add a little oil).

Add all remaining ingredients, stir and cook for about a minute. Return the meat to pot, nestling it in sauce.

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Cover the pan, put it in oven, and cook until the meat is tender, at least 3 hours and probably closer to 4. Turn the meat over several times during the baking process.

When the brisket is done, you can refrigerate it in its liquid for 1 to 2 days and reheat before serving.

Yield: 10 or more servings.

 


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This is a busy time with all the holiday preparations and the refrigerator has lots of leftovers from last week. As you know, I am not a fan of just heating up the leftovers. I have to do something different with them. Nothing too involved though at this time – just a few different additions. The leftovers include Beef Cacciatore, Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf and Spaghetti Squash. Here are some recipes to change them a bit.

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Beef Pasta Bake

Ingredients

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the ricotta cheese, mozzarella and salt.

Oil an 11×8 baking dish. Spread ½ cup marinara sauce in the baking dish

Layer half of the beef cacciatore and noodles in the dish.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the pasta and cover with the remaining beef and noodle mixture.

Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the top of the pasta and beef.

Cover the dish with foil and bake the casserole for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

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Meatloaf Pizzaiola

Make extra sauce because it is delicious on pizza.

Sauce

Directions

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Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook until tender.

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Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the marinara sauce and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the sauce cook for about 15 minutes. Add parsley and remove the pan from the heat.

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Warm slices of meatloaf in the microwave and pour some hot pizzaiola sauce over each slice to serve.

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Spaghetti Squash Cakes

Ingredients

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour and beaten eggs with a whisk. Add the spaghetti squash, cheese, onions and ¼  teaspoon salt. Mix very well, until all the mixture has a uniform consistency.

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Heat a large skillet on high-medium heat until very hot. Then add the olive oil. Add ¼ cup of the batter to the hot skillet. Repeat with as many ¼ cups as will fit in your skillet.

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Cook until the bottom side of each cake is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Using a spatula, turn the cakes over and cook 1-2 more minutes.

Repeat with any remaining batter and add more oil if needed.

Serve as is or with sour cream or Greek yogurt.


 

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This time of year it takes some creativity to cook with seasonal ingredients. There is plenty of cabbage in the market in December and it can easily be used for a delicious main dish. Finding ways to use cabbage is not difficult. Add cabbage to casseroles and soup or sauté it for a side dish. Don’t pass up this healthy, versatile and frugal vegetable when you see in the market.

Italian Style Stuffed Cabbage

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Stuffed cabbage rolls are usually made with rice but I like to use orzo because it has a soft texture and gives the rolls an Italian flair. You can use any type of meat but I like the flavor sausage gives the stuffing for these rolls.

Makes 18-21 rolls

Ingredients

1 large head of cabbage placed in the freezer two days before using and then thawed. (It’s easier to roll wilted leaves and eliminates the boiling step)
8 oz pork sausage, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 cup shredded carrot.
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon Italian pork sausage seasoning or use a combination of fennel and Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked orzo
Marinara Sauce, see recipe below

Directions

Remove as many whole leaves from the cabbage head as you can. I was able to remove 21 leaves from my cabbage. Cut out the core and discard. Chop the remaining cabbage.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the diced sausage. Cook until lightly brown. Place in a large mixing bowl

Add the vegetables to the skillet and saute just until tender. Add the seasonings and place in the bowl with the sausage.

Add the orzo and ½ cup marinara sauce. Mix the filling until all the ingredients are combined.

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To assemble the cabbage rolls:

In a greased 9×13 inch baking pan, spread one cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with the chopped cabbage.

Use about 1/2 cup of filling for large leaves and about 1/4 cup for smaller leaves. Place the filling on the base of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll the leaf up to make a tight packet.

As you complete them, place each roll, seam side down, into the prepared baking dish.. Continue until all the filling is used up.

Pour 2 cups of marinara sauce on top of the rolls and spread the sauce to cover all the cabbage rolls.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 2 hours or until the cabbage rolls are very tender.

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Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Half a medium onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
2-26 oz containers of Italian chopped tomatoes (without salt or sugar added, if possible)
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the next four ingredients. Saute them for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Partially cover the pan and let the sauce cook for about an hour until smooth and slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.



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