Thursday, July 15, 2010

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

Found this recipe when we were blow-drying my mom's cookbooks after a leak in the kitchen. It's adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Pasta cookbook. I loved the addition of the goat cheese; it was delicious!

J'adore: Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

1/2 a large eggplant, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
8-10 mini plum tomatoes OR 4 regular size tomatoes, diced
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes with roasted garlic
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
olive oil
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
1 lb. (med. container) tomato sauce*
1 package fresh lasagna sheets*
1 lb. (1 med. size container) fresh ricotta cheese*
1 small log (5 oz.) goat cheese
1/2 cup half and half, milk, or cream
leaves from 2-3 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped or minced
grated parmesan or romano cheese

Dice the eggplant, zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and rosemary. Mix them together in an oven-safe baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, toss to coat, and bake at 450°F for approximately 35 mins. The vegetables should be cooked and lightly browned.

In a skillet or sauce pan combine diced tomatoes, fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, and some olive oil. Turn heat to med-low and simmer for approximately 15 minutes while the other vegetables are roasting.

In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, goat cheese, half and half, and chopped parsley.

To assemble the lasagna, first pour some tomato sauce into the bottom of your lasagna dish. Place a layer of pasta over the sauce. Spread 1/3 of the roasted vegetables onto the pasta and drizzle or spread 1/4 of the tomato mixture over it. Add another layer of pasta, another layer of veggies, and some more of the tomato mixture or sauce. This time, dot with the cheese blend before adding your next layer of pasta. Continue with one more layer containing cheese, tomatoes and/or tomato sauce, and roasted veggies. I usually sprinkle some grated parm. or romano cheese on each layer as well. Once you have your final layer of pasta over the cheese and veggies, top with the remaining tomato mixture and ample sauce to cover all of the pasta. Sprinkle with more grated cheese. Bake at 350°F for approximately 45 minutes.

*I am spoiled and always get fresh pasta sheets, fresh ricotta, and sauce from Carlino's Italian Market in West Chester or Ardmore. If you can get fresh, use it because it makes a far superior lasagna.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


This year one of the other teachers at school gave me some cucumber seedlings. Insanely, I planted all 15 of them in my new (2nd) veggie bed. The cukes loved the township compost, and just this week I've picked over 25 cucumbers. I've never pickled anything before, but what else can you do with so many cucumbers?

Today I'm trying two different pickle recipes in the hopes that at least one, if not both, will be good. Of course, waiting will be the hardest part: at least 3-4 weeks just to taste test a jar!

The first recipe is from my neighbor's Whole Living July/August 2010 magazine. As usual, I made some modifications.

Sour Pickles
(makes 4 pints)

3.75 lbs. cucumbers (approx. 6 or 7, 3-4in. cukes)
1/3 cup pickling salt plus 1 tsp.
2 1/2 distilled white vinegar
2 1/2 cups water (I used filtered from the Brita)
pickling spice
8 cloves garlic, halved
8-16 sprigs fresh dill

Pickling Spice:
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard seed
1 tsp. whole allspice
1/3 cinnamon stick, crumbled

The Night Before:
Trim down both ends of the cucumbers with a knife. Apparently, leaving the ends on create some funky results. I had to trim them down anyway to make the cucumbers fit in the pint-sized jars. Cut cucumbers into spears. Put spears in a large bowl, add 1/3 cup pickling salt, cover with cool water, and mix to dissolve salt. Put a small plate over the spears to keep them submerged, and stick the bowl in the fridge overnight (or 12 to 18 hours).

On the second day:
1. Prepare the pint-sized jars by washing them with warm, soapy water. Place them in a large canning pot or other large pot. Fill the pot with hot water making sure that all of the jars are level, rim-up, and covered by at least an inch of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Jars will need to boil for at least 10-15 minutes. Leave them simmering in the pot as you prepare everything else.
2. Wash the bands and lids with warm soapy water. Put the lids in a small pot of water and bring them to a boil. Dry the bands and put them to the side.
3. Drain the cucumbers and rinse thoroughly.
4. Bring vinegar, water, and 1 tsp. pickling salt to a boil.
5. Lift jars out of the water one at a time making sure to empty all of the water back into the canning pot. Lay jar on its side on a kitchen towel. Add two garlic halves to the bottom and fill jar half-way with spears. Place 2-3 sprigs of dill in the center, and continue filling the rest of the jar with spears. Turn upright, add two more garlic halves and one tsp. (plus a little) pickling spice. Fill with boiling pickling liquid leaving 1/2-inch head space.
6. Slide a non-metal spatula or chopstick into the jar between spears to release any extra air bubbles. Lightly tapping the jar on the towel is another way to release some of the extra bubbles.
7. Make sure the the rim and threads of the jar are clean. Place dome lid on top of jar and screw the band down .
8. Repeat with the rest of the jars.
9. Once all of the jars are filled, gently place them back into the canning pot. Make sure that the jars are covered by at least 2 inches of water.
10. Boil steadily for 10 minutes.
11. Carefully remove jars and place on a clean kitchen towel out of the way somewhere. Cover lightly with a lightweight cloth, and listen for pops over the next few hours.
12. Store in a cool, dark place.

Side notes:
1. In crawling the internet for pickling recipes, almost ALL of the comments mentioned to only use pickling salt because other salts make pickles cloudy and dark.
2. The original recipe calls for three times the amount of spices to make the pickling spice. I found that 1/3 of the amount (which is the amount I've listed above) was more than enough.
3. Any time you do canning you have to use new dome lids. You can re-use the jars and bands, but the dome lids will only make a seal once. (If you buy new jars, those dome lids are good.)
4. I always process an extra jar or two, just in case. Depending on the size of your cukes or how loosely you pack them, you may end up with 5 or 6 jars.
5. DON'T press on the lids to check to see if they've popped! If you pop the lid yourself, you'll have to re-process with a new lid. Wait 12-18 hours before checking the lids to make sure they've sealed. Generally, you can look at the tops to see if the dome is concave. If you can't tell, and you haven't been around to hear the popping, then you can gently press in the center of the lid. If it's already down, you're in good shape. If it's not, you'll need to process the jar again with a new lid.

The second recipe I found at Here's the link to the original recipe. The comments other people made were pretty helpful. Again, hopefully these pickles will taste good in two months!!

Dill Pickles
(makes 10 pints)

8 lbs. cucumbers*
4 cups white vinegar
12 cups water
1/2 cup pickling salt
16 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
8-16 sprigs and flower heads fresh dill
mustard seed, dill seed, hot pepper flakes (optional)*

1. Wash and cut cucumbers as in the first recipe. Place spears in dish of ice water (or in the kitchen sink, filled with ice and cold water) and let sit for two hours, replenishing the ice often.
2. Sterilize jars and lids as in first recipe.*
3. Bring water, salt, and vinegar to a boil in a large pot.
4. Add 2 half-cloves of garlic to the bottom of each jar, fill with cucumbers, add fresh sprigs of dill, and another 2 half-cloves of garlic.
5. Process jars as in the first recipe.

*After the first batch (top recipe), I only had 5 lbs. of cucumbers left. I'm pretty sure that having enough jars and enough brine is what's key. Having a few more or less cukes shouldn't be a problem.
*The original recipe calls for 8 quart-sized jars. I needed 10 pint-sized jars for my 5lbs. of cukes.
*The original recipe may mean that you are supposed to ice the cukes whole, then cut them. I iced the spears. Right away I noticed that the spears from the second recipe are much firmer than the ones from the first recipe. You wouldn't think that a few degrees or a few hours would make that drastic a difference, but it did.
*A number of people on all recipes made comments about adding dill seeds, mustard seed, or hot pepper flakes to their pickles. As I was in an experimental mood, I tried 2 jars with scant 1/4 tsp. each dill seed and mustard seed, and 2 with scant 1/4 tsp. each rep pepper flakes and mustard seed (in addition to the dill and garlic). The rest I made plain with lots of dill and 2 cloves of garlic.