June Beauties

Since no one else in my family to too enthusiastic about eggplant, these are all for me!

Wanted to share a few of our favorites from the Alemany Farmer’s Market this weekend. We think they’re almost as pretty to look at as to taste. Also, talking to one of the farmers today we learned a good tip: the best way to pick peaches, nectarines and apricots is to look for lots of freckles. The more the better because these “sugar spots” mean the fruit is going to be super sweet. This is also the case for watermelon. If you see a pronounced white patch, it indicates that the melon has been left in the field longer to ripen. Since watermelon just happens to be one of my favorite foods in the galaxy, I’m very, very excited to test this technique out.

With summer produce on the brain, we also rounded up some of our favorite summer recipes in a little recipe collection. Hope these provide a little inspiration for your family’s summer food adventures.

Last, but not least…… Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there and buon appetito!

It’s not easy to find green tomatoes around here (for fried green tomatoes of course!) — nice to see them at the market this week.

Sooo lovely and the cherries and strawberries didn’t even make the photo.

Click these happy tomatoes to see our “Summer Favorites” recipe collection.

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Emily’s Eggplant Parmesan

Everywhere people are turning off their ovens in favor of cool summery dishes. You might want to consider turning your oven back on for this yummerific eggplant parmesan. My cousin Emily was nice enough to share her recipe which she got from a friend who got it from an aunt who got it from….. This always disappears in nanoseconds at our family gatherings making it a perfect pot luck dish. It’s also a great make-ahead cooking project for the weekend that will get dinner on the table in a jiffy on a busy weeknight.

Since four hands are better than two, I invited my friend Rachel to come over and cook this with me. We made a double batch while catching up and letting the kids exhaust themselves by running circuits of my house. Tired kids and dinner checked off the list is a lovely thing indeed, but not as lovely as the eggplant parm sandwich I had the next morning for breakfast. The sandwich was so dang delicious that I will make sure to bulk up my recipe in the future just to make sure there are sufficient leftovers.

If it happens to be a nice day set up your eggplant breading station outside and enlist the help of your young chefs to dip and shake the eggplant and then layering it all up in the baking dish. It’s a good and messy cooking project which means they’ll love it!

Emily’s Eggplant Parmigiano (makes enough to fill one 8″x8″ baking dish)

Emily says: It’s ALL in the sauce! She’s tried all the fancy and organic tomato products for this recipe, but prefers Hunt’s.

  • 28 oz can Hunt’s Whole Tomatoes
  • 28 ounces of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Large Cloves of Garlic
  • Dried Basil, Oregano, Crushed Red Pepper to Taste
  • 2 Large Italian Eggplant
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 cups Breadcrumbs (Emily prefers her own made from herbed focaccia bread but the stuff from the store works too. I approximated herb focaccia breadcrumbs by blitzing some dried rosemary, olive oil and sea salt in the blender and drizzling the herbed oil over plain homemade breadcrumbs)
  • Vegetable Oil (for baking the eggplant)
  • 3/4 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Fresh Mozzarella, Diced
  • Fresh Basil (or basil oil)

Gluten Free Tip: If you want to make this gluten-free, the Gluten-Free Goddess suggests using frozen gluten-free waffles in place of traditional breadcrumbs. Toast them, crunch them up into crumbs and drizzle them with rosemary infused olive oil. You’re good to go GF peeps!

The Sauce (you can make this ahead):

Start with some olive oil and crushed garlic saute until golden. Add the sauce and then the whole tomatoes, which you can crush by hand as you add them into the pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of crushed red chili flake and plenty of dried basil and oregano, sometimes a splash of red wine too. Cook for a few hours, adjust the seasoning and enjoy.

Purge, Bread and Bake the Eggplant (you can do this ahead too):

  • Slice the eggplant about 1/2″ thick. Salt it and stand the slices up in a colander for a few hours to let the juices drain out. Discard the juices and pat the slices dry.
  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and place an oiled cookie sheet in the oven to heat up while you do your breading.
  • Set up your breading station: Season the flour with salt, pepper and a few pinches of dried oregano and basil and set it aside in a shallow bowl. Beat the eggs and place in a separate bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl. Place a cooling rack on a cookie sheet as the last stop on your breading assembly line.
  • Dip both sides of each slice of eggplant in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Shake off the excess between each dip and place on the cooking rack until ready to bake.
  • Place your breaded eggplant slices on the hot cookie sheet and drizzle the tops with a little more olive oil. Turn the oven down to 375 and bake 15 minutes. Flip and bake 15 minutes on the other side.

Assemble and Bake

  • Spread a half cup of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Layer the baked eggplant slices, then sauce, then grated parmigiano reggiano. Repeat the layers.
  • Bake in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. If baking from the freezer you will need to defrost it completely and add another 15-20 minutes to your bake time.
  • Top with diced fresh mozzarella and torn fresh basil (or basil oil)  just as it comes out of the oven.

Baby’s First Ratatouille

Our little one has just started to eat solid food. He’s sampled the usual apple sauce, bananas, green beans and sweet potatoes and enjoyed them well enough. Tonight he stepped into the land of real food with this rustic ratatouille which, with a few tweaks, also happened to be our dinner. He really, really enjoyed eating this as much as the rest of us did. Maybe it’s the sweet-savory flavor combination or the sunny yellow color that won him over. All I know if that he scarfed it right up.

This ratatouille makes a delish side dish, but you can easily make it a bit more hearty as the main event for dinner, brunch or lunch with the addition of a soft egg finished under the broiler and toasty crostini on the side. We’ve been eating more “mostly vegetarian” family meals and this this a good one with summer peppers and squash just around the corner. I would say the crostini are key, especially for little eaters like my Luca who might at least dip if all else fails.

Ratatouille with Soft Eggs and Parmegiano Reggiano

adapted from “Avec Eric” by Eric Ripert

Ingredients: 3 Red, Orange or Yellow Sweet Peppers; 1 Onion,; 4 Cloves Garlic; 3 Medium Tomatoes; 1/2 Cup Tomato Sauce or Puree; 1 Large Italian Eggplant; 3 Yellow Summer Squash; Parmegiano Reggiano; Eggs; Crusty Bread; Olive Oil; Lemon Juice/Vinegar (optional)

Ahead of time:

Poach several eggs a little under where you like them because you will finish them under the broiler. Try a minute less than what you would normally do. After poaching them, immediately move them to a bowl of cold water to stop their cooking. They can be held this way in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Here’s a handy link on poaching eggs.

  1. Heat several Tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add another drizzle of oil as you are cooking the vegetables if anything starts to stick.
  2. Chop 1 large onion into medium dice. Mince 4 large cloves of garlic. Add them to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove the stem, ribs and seeds from 3 sweet bell peppers (yellow, orange and red) and chop into medium dice. Lightly season them and add them to the pan.
  4. Chop 3 yellow summer squash into medium dice. [To me long-cooked zucchini are not the prettiest shade of green, so next time I’ll opt for yellow squash in this recipe]. Lightly season them and add to the pan.
  5. Remove half the peel of a large Italian eggplant because the peel can sometimes be bitter. Cut off alternating strips giving it a purple and white stripe effect, then cut it into 1/2″ thick slices and then into medium dice. Lightly season with salt and add to the pan.
  6. Chop 4 large tomatoes (or the equivalent of cherry tomatoes) into medium dice. Lightly season them with salt and add them to the pan.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or tomato puree.
  8. Stir and lower heat to medium-low and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt as needed, black pepper and a dash of vinegar or lemon juice if you like.
[You can make the ratatouille in advance, it will keep for several days.]
  • Heat the ratatouille if made in advance. Spoon the warm ratatouille into a baking dish (or individual oven-safe bowls would be nice) and put it under the broiler until it is bubbling and piping hot.
  • Dry the pre-poached eggs well and arrange them on top of the hot ratatouille, seasoning each with a little bit of salt. Drizzle the whole dish with olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmegiano reggiano. Return the dish to the broiler for 30 seconds to a minute just to heat the eggs through without cooking them too much more.
  • Garnish with minced parsley and serve with slices of good, rustic bread, toasted and drizzled with olive oil.

Eggplant-Sourdough Polpette

I first got inspired to make these after enjoying the excellent eggplant polpette at Bar Bambino in San Francisco’s Mission District. I wasn’t able to find a recipe, so I just made up my own. This is one of my very favorite “go-to” recipes for parties and potlucks.


Because I often don’t have a lot of time to cook in one sitting, I purge/ roast the eggplant one day and assemble and bake the polpette on another day. These freeze well, so I always make a big batch so that I have some to stash away in the freezer for a quick meal or snack at the ready. I’ve found that kids (well mine at least) will generally eat anything in the shape of a meatball.

Ingredients (makes about 3 dozen small polpette)

  • 3 Medium Italian Eggplant
  • 1/2 Loaf of Good Sourdough Bread (or your favorite rustic loaf)
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 1 Carrot, 1 Zucchini — grated finely and squeezed dry
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmegiano Reggiano
  • 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Parsley
  • 1 Cup Bread Crumbs*
  • Olive Oil, Kosher Salt, Pepper

Click on the picture above for more detailed instructions, but here is the method in a nutshell.

  1. Slice and purge the eggplant by sprinkling the cut sides with kosher salt and letting the juices drain out.
  2. Pat dry and roast the eggplant slices on a lightly oiled cookie sheet until tender. Chop and set aside.
  3. Trim the crust from the bread, slice and soak in milk. Squeeze out & discard the liquid and crumble into a bowl. Add the chopped eggplant, egg, carrot, zucchini, parmegiano reggiano, parsley, and a dash of salt and peper. Mix well.
  4. Form into balls. Roll each ball in breadcrumbs. Bake on a lightly oiled cookie sheet at 375 until crispy and golden.

Serve as is, simmered in tomato sauce, on a sandwich — or any other way you like to eat meatballs!

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* Homemade Bread Crumbs *

It’s easy to make your own bread crumbs and they are soooooooo much better than store bought. Just toss your stale bread, crusts in a freezer-safe container. When you have saved up a bunch, lay your bread trimmings on an ungreased cookie sheet. Toast at 350 until dry and crisped (15-20 minutes). You can flavor them up if you like with herb and spices of your choice. I often add a handful of sesame seeds or golden flax seed. Process everything in a food processor until you have the texture of coarse sand. If you find your bread crumbs are not dry and sandy, return them to the baking sheet and toast them a bit more. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.