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Zox Kitchen: September 4, 2014

Eggplant Bounty Part I

India is the birthplace of eggplant. But seldom do we see Indian varieties. In fact, many people assume that eggplant, which is actually a fruit not a vegetable, comes from the English who originally thought of eggplant as having an ornamental virtue rather than a culinary one. Its beauty is not to be under estimated but the numbers of ways eggplant can be prepared to eat are virtually endless especially during the summer months. And the more I explore this lovely fruit, the more I appreciate the multicultural possibilities.

However, the discovery that the fruit contained an alkaloid was thought to aggravate gout and arthritis. People with these conditions were even told not to eat eggplants.

Perhaps the bitterness of eggplant may have compounded these biases further, which is why cookbooks will tell you to use salt to draw the bitter acid out of the eggplant which can be washed away after an hour of salting. But by the 18th century, eggplants had been developed that was less bitter. Today chefs and farmers will tell you that farmer’s markets provide homegrown, non-acidic eggplants.

Today our gardens are bursting with non-acidic eggplants that most of us enjoy eating in a multitude of ways. For example, I like grilling on a BBQ, or griddling on a stove top with a heavy cast iron black skillet that marks the vegetable or protein. I like broiling eggplants in an oven or baking in gratin pans or terrines, or just plain enjoying them right out of the frying pan which too often burns my lips due to my impatience. Eggplants give us a plethora of choices and tastes to experience.

For example, recently I rediscovered the menagerie of unique spices from the Middle East that are used with eggplant. For example, have you tried preserved lemon, cardamom, garlic and pomegranate or date syrup? One dish in particular that i have grown fond of is called Chermoula. It is a North African paste that is brushed over fish and vegetables, and especially eggplant, that is roasted and topped with cold yogurt, lemon, cilantro, cardamom, and garlic with a salty bulgur wheat salad. I have converted the dish into an appetizer by serving the roasted eggplant with it’s spicy roasted paste on pita triangles. This delicacy has become one of my favorites and that of many diners as well at fancy or modest parties I have catered.

Here are a few other favorite eggplant recipes in Italian cuisine while others are more ethnically diverse. All of these delectables are easy to make and too delicious not to try yourself. (More recipes to come next week)

Eggplant Rollatini With Proscuitto Or Spinach

4 Servings

Ingredients

1 eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices  

1 egg, beaten

1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs (Homemade or Progresso brand)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 of a lb. prosciutto or spinach

3 cups spaghetti sauce (See recipe below)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 pound spaghetti

1. Dip the eggplant slices in egg, then coat with homemade Italian bread crumbs. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant on each side until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

3. Spread a thin layer of Ricotta cheese onto each slice of eggplant with a slice of proscuitto (or spinach) with mozzarella cheese. Roll each eggplant up as tight as possible, and place the roll in the baking pan, seam side down. Bake the dish for 15-20 minutes.

4. While the eggplant rolls are baking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti, and cook for 8-9 minutes, until tender. Drain. Serve eggplant rolls with pasta and sauce on the side. (See Tomato sauce recipe below.)

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 stalk celery, medium diced

1 carrot, medium dice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 (15-ounce) cans of Marzano tomatoes

4 to 6 basil leaves

2-3 leaves of fresh oregano

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the fresh basil and oregano and 1 oz of butter to soften the acidity. Stir to blend and add the tomatoes. Cook for an additional few minutes over high heat, stirring from time to time. Allow the sauce to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan off the heat. Taste for seasoning.

Eggplant Terrine

Serves 6-8

(Adapted from The 50-year-old Italian cookbook, The Silver Spoon)

Ingredients

• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling and brushing

• 2 yellow bell peppers

• 1 red bell pepper

• 1 large Poblano pepper or 2 small ones

• 3 eggplants cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

• 5 ounces Emmenthal cheese

• 1 fresh basil sprig, chop the leaves

• 3 eggs, lightly beaten

• 3 large ripe home grown tomatoes or a 15 oz container of Marzano plum tomatoes

• 2 garlic cloves

• 1 tsp. sea salt

• 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the broiler and the oven to 425F. Lightly brush oil on an oven- proof terrine dish. Place the bell peppers and Poblanos on a sheet tray for 20 minutes; turn over for another 10-15 minutes. When blackened, place the peppers in a plastic bag and close for 10 minutes. The skin will be released so that you can peel the peppers more easily. It’s also even more convenient if you remove the skin under lukewarm water from the faucet.

2. Brush the eggplant with olive oil and broil until golden brown on both sides. Chop the eggplant flesh into thin slices and place them in the terrine. Use a second terrine if needed to include all the eggplant slices.

3. Grate 1/2 cup of the Emmenthal cheese and slice the remainder. Stir the grated cheese, with chopped peppers, a little basil, the eggs, a little salt and pepper.

4. Arrange a layer of the cheese on top of the eggplant and spoon in some of the egg mixture.

5. Continue to make alternate layers until all the ingredients are used, ending with the egg mixture.

6. Place the dish in a roasting pan, add boiling water to come half way up the sides and bake for one hour at 350F. (Conceptually, this is like a custard preparation.)

7. Meanwhile, put your homegrown, fresh or Marzano tomatoes, oil and garlic in a small pan, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for 20 minutes.

8. Remove and discard the garlic and pass the mixture through a strainer into a bowl. Remove the terrine from the oven, turn out onto a warm serving dish and serve the tomato sauce on the side.

Please send comments, questions or observations of interest to Chef Alan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it For further details visit www.zoxkitchen.com

News

Despite the national media attention about Ebola in recent weeks, there is one virus that is actually affecting Long Islanders, Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), with one of the first cases identified in North Hempstead on Sept. 18 and a recent case on Oct. 15 in Suffolk County, which school officials called for the closing of school, as a health precaution.

Dr. Charles Schleien, chairman of the department of pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, said that although the enterovirus is still active, cases are dwindling on Long Island. According to Schleien, approximately 500 cases have been reported this season of enterovirus, at Cohen’s Children Medical Center, with two to six patients being admitted per day.

Matt Bentz, of Forest Hills, was the winner of the Oyster Festival Raffle that took place as the event ended at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19. He had a choice between winning a 2015 Chrysler 200 three-year lease or $15,000 in cash. He chose the cash. He is the “Perfect Oyster Festival Raffle winner.”

Bentz is a computer systems administrator with Spa Creek Software, a company that writes software for other software developers, and has been to the festival numerous times over the years; in fact, next year he is hoping to sail here on his 24 ft. sailboat. He got it “reasonably” from a friend who was buying up.


Sports

The autumn varsity sports season is well on its way in Oyster Bay. Many young athletes have distinguished themselves. Several fine young athletes excelled right out of the gate and were chosen by the Oyster Bay Hight School coaches as Athletes of the Month for October 2014.

Cross Country Coach Kevin Cotter has athletes who consistently qualify for the states. Picking one to honor is a difficult task. Within this impressive group of talented athletes, one stands out: junior Alex Tosi, who recently broke the 17 minute barrier for a 5K course at Bethpage State park with a time of 16:52. This feat has not been accomplished since 2008.

5- and 6-year-old Peanuts

The Little Generals (Peanuts) stepped out into the cold Sunday morning ready to give the home crowd a show as they battled the Bellmore Braves, and that’s just what they did as the Generals beat the Braves 14-7. The teams battled to a first half tie as the Generals’ touchdown came on a 26-yard run by Kody Gehnrich, thanks to great blocks by John (Jack) Grace and Jack Symanski.

In the second half, where the Generals are usually at their best, the defense shut out the Braves as Rodney Hill, Jr. and Brandon Babel stepped in on the defense line to create a great push to allow Francesco Allocca to make eight tackles. The offense got a big boost with Allocca being allowed to play RB after playing QB the past two games, and boy did he respond behind great lead blocking from Luca Granito. Allocca carried the ball nine times for 60 yards and a TD coming on the last play of the game.


Calendar

Boys & Girls Club Gala

Thursday, October 23

Halloween Party

Saturday, October 25

Property Tax Exemptions Workshop

Tuesday, October 28



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1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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