Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lil' Break's been such a busy summer!

I was gone the first part of August visiting my daughter-in-law and grandson while my son is deployed; and then I was not home but two days when my other son, his wife and my granddaughter came to visit! 

I sure got my grandbaby fix this month and loved (loved!) every second of it :)

I'm now in catch up mode.  I'm gonna take a short break from my blog to regroup, catch up and try to salvage what's left of my garden in this relentless, record-breaking heat spell South Texas has been experiencing.  I've lived in Texas for more than 30 years and I've never (Ever!) experienced a summer like this one. 

On a good note, I've got cantaloupe ripe and ready to pick!

Cantaloupe gelato anyone? :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

I rarely order this dish in a restaurant.  Most of the time it's gooey, bland and swimming in a watery tomato sauce.  Yuck!  But I wanted to try and make it at home with vegetables from my garden.  God knows I have enough eggplant!

And in my freezer, I've got several batches of that fire roasted tomato sauce I blogged about a couple of days ago.  So I searched my cookbooks and the internet and hoped to find a good, easy recipe.  And I found one on  Of course, I wouldn't be "me" unless I tweaked the recipe a little bit to reflect what "I" (and wonderful hubby) like!

So here is my version of Summer Eggplant Parmesan.  It's not a simple-throw-together-quickly-on-a-weeknight-recipe, but it's not that difficult either.  It just takes a little time.

Summer Eggplant Parmesan 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 (1 pound) eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices

1/2 cup torn fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic or pressed through garlic press (about 2 cloves)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 16 oz container whole milk (or part-skim) ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Remaining Ingredients:
1 24 oz jar premium pasta sauce (or homemade)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.

To make eggplant:
Combine 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon water in shallow bowl.
Combine panko and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a second shallow dish.
Dip eggplant in egg mixture, dredge in panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere and shaking off excess.
Place eggplant 1 inch apart on foil lined baking sheet, coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or so until golden, turning once and rotating baking sheet after 15 minutes

To make filling:
Combine basil and next 6 ingredients.  Set aside.

To assemble:
Spoon 1/2 cup pasta sauce in bottom of a 9 x 13" glass baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Layer 1/2 of eggplant slices over pasta sauce.
Sprinkle eggplant with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Top with 3/4 cup pasta cause.
Spread half of ricotta mixture over sauce and top with a third of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup cheese.
Repeat layers once, ending with about 1 cup pasta sauce.

Cover tightly with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375F for 35 minutes.
Remove foil; top with remaining mozzarella and Parmigiano.

Bake an additional 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese melts.
Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Looks yummy doesn't it? Tasted even better! :)

Buon Appetito! 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cantaloupe and Sweet Potatoes

I can't believe how much the cantaloupe vines and sweet potato plants have grown!  Maybe it has something to do with that wonderful manure compost I put in this bed before planting.  I'm not sure, but it has to be something because this is what this bed looked like when I first planted it...

 ...and this is what it looks like now!

I wasn't sure any of these sweet potato slips or the three volunteer cantaloupe plants would even make it in this God-awful heat.  Not only did they survive, but they are thriving!  Look at the cantaloupe on these vines!  There are fifteen (15!) of these babies on the vines, just this size and a lot more little ones waiting to grow.  It's amazing!

There's a ton of little ones out there too!  Don't ask me yet what I'm going to *do* with all these melons that will likely be ready at the same time!  I suspect some of my friends will have a cantaloupe mysteriously appear on their doorstep!  I also envision cantaloupe ice cream, cantaloupe bread, maybe cantaloupe preserves... :-)

And I've never grown sweet potatoes before so I wasn't sure what to expect.  But the plants are gorgeous!  The foliage is purple and green with very large leaves.

The potatoes should be ready to harvest 90-100 days after planting, which puts the harvest date around mid September.  I can't wait for that!  And I sure wish I could get a glimpse of what's going on underground in this bed!  Oh well, that's part of the fun of gardening...the waiting, the anticipating and the joy of the harvest!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce

My tomato plants are producing like crazy these days!  Of course, I have nine plants so what can I expect?! :)

The problem is they ripen faster than I can use them and I had a bunch that were bordering on overripe and having to be thrown to the deer!  I simply couldn't let that happen.  So I decided to make fire roasted tomato sauce.

It's a very simple, basic recipe.

Preheat oven to 400F.   Pick some fresh basil and thyme from your garden.  Or you can use dried herbs if that's what you have.  It'll work just fine. 

Core and seed the large tomatoes. Then set them in a large colander in the sink for about 30 minutes or so to drain the excess water.

 Toss tomatoes in a large bowl with extra virgin olive oil.

Place tomatoes, skin side down, on a foil lined baking sheet that's been coated with extra virgin olive oil,  Using foil lined pans makes clean up so much easier!  I sometimes throw in a few cloves of garlic that have been tossed with olive oil to roast along side the tomatoes. 

Roast in hot oven for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, until tomatoes are cooked and the skins are nicely charred.

Remove from oven and let cool.  Remove the skins...they really should slip right off.

Working in batches if necessary, place roasted tomatoes (and any juice left on the baking sheet) in food processor (or blender) with the pulp from the roasted garlic cloves and some fresh herbs.  Puree until mixture is your desired consistency.  I don't like my sauce too chunky, so I puree it very well.

Pour into freezer bags in 2 cup increments and freeze till needed.

I'll use this as a base for any type of tomato sauce, meat sauce, in soups, etc.  I don't season it until I'm ready to use the puree in something I'm cooking.

This is a great way to use very ripe summer tomatoes and I'm sure (absolutely sure!)  I'll be making many more batches of this sauce this summer.