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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

In a little-known chapter of New York City’s history, the name of police officer Phillip Cardillo is spoken in hushed, revered whispers. Though he was tragically killed in the line of duty back in 1972, the burning embers of his memory are still fanned by a passionate few who wish to finally obtain for the fallen hero the elusive recognition that he truly deserves.

At their Oct. 8 meeting in Mineola, the Nassau County-based Association of Retired Police Officers (ARPO) held a heartfelt ceremony, as both Cardillo as well as the driven NYPD detective who has fought for justice in his name for the past four decades, were honored as the true heroes that they are.

In what was their last free meeting at the Community United Methodist Church of East Norwich, the East Norwich Civic Association presented a money saving/energy saving program. It was presented by Marriele Robinson of the Homeowner Support PowerUp Communities group, an outreach of the L.I. Progressive Party. She came to offer free energy evaluations of homes to make them more energy efficient, which will save money.

She said Poor Richard’s Almanac promises it to be very cold this winter, and this is a way to plug up your energy leaks, with both current savings on needed work and through rebates resulting in future savings. After an energy assessment of your home, PowerUp will present you with a report based on their contractor’s assessment, which will outline all the ways you can improve your energy efficiency. The report will include all the potential rebates to reduce the cost of the upgrade which includes the option of financing through PS&G, which will include the monthly payments in your monthly bill.


Sports

A number of awards were given to runners in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich area at the Oct. 18 Oyster Bay Town Supervisor’s 5 Kilometer Run, including 23-year-old Justin Nakrin of Oyster Bay, who finished in 12th place overall and second in the 20-24 age group, and 43-year-old Daniel Valderrama of Oyster Bay, who scored in 17th place overall and second in the 40-44 age group. Maggie Reid of Locust Valley earned first place honors in the 15-19 age group.

The indomitable 81-year-old Nina Jennings of Mill Neck was the oldest woman to finish the run, taking first place honors in the women’s 80-84 age group in 35 minutes, 11 seconds, a pace of 11:19 per mile. She was the fastest of all of the five finishers—male or female—who were 80 years old or more.

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.


Calendar

Ghastly Grounds

Thursday, October 30

Trick Or Treat

Friday, October 31

Long Island Baroque Ensemble

Sunday, November 2



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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