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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

At the Tuesday, Nov. 18, Oyster Bay-East Norwich board of education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Laura Seinfeld said that the OBEN schools are partnering with local organizations to form a Community Advisory Board to deal with issues affecting the youth of Oyster Bay-East Norwich. The Community Advisory Board was initiated by the Youth and Family Counseling Agency of Oyster Bay-East Norwich. The Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Club, Library and houses of worship will come together with the OBEN schools in this effort.

Other News:

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Dr. Lisa Mulhall spoke about some new courses that will be offered at the high school, including an exercise science course that will carry physical education credits from Adelphi University and a college level engineering course. These courses will be offered in conjunction with the State University of Stony Brook.

This holiday season, Oyster Bay will once again be home to unique, homemade, scrumptious confections from The Chocolate Lady, in the form of a mobile chocolate boutique set up at Buckingham Variety Store on Audrey Avenue. She arrived on Sunday and plans on staying throughout the holidays, and possibly longer.

“I have been developing this concept for the last year and a half and am excited to be coming home to Oyster Bay for this year’s holiday launch,” says Lee Perrotta, aka The Chocolate Lady, who had her shop across the street from Buckingham’s for about five years before she was forced to shut her doors on Christmas Eve in 2012 due to excessive water damage at the rental space.


Sports

Long Island Lutheran High School senior Samantha Horton of Oyster Bay signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Siena College and compete on the Girls Division I Lacrosse Team in the goaltender position next year. Samantha will be receiving a full athletic scholarship. Horton is pictured with her family.

On the weekend of Nov. 8, the Oyster Bay High School Boys and Girls Cross Country teams traveled to the State University of New York at Canton just a few miles from the Canadian border to compete in the New York State Cross Country Championships.

Alex Tosi became the first Bayman since Joe Jazwinski and Justin Nakrin (2008) to become All-State, placing 16th with a time of 16:53. Most runners ran about 20 seconds slower than their Bethpage times because of the muddy conditions on the course. Tosi’s time was basically equivalent to his best Bethpage time, as he powered through the toughest parts of the race. He led the Baymen to a seventh place finish in the Class C race, an improvement from their 11th place finish last year, which ties the highest place at the New York State Championships of a Baymen team since 2009.


Calendar

Annual Turkey Trot

Thursday, Nov. 27

Turkey Detox Workshop

Friday, Nov. 28

East Norwich Holiday

Sunday, Nov. 30



Columns

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