Oops! I forgot to take a picture of the crate this week, so I took some pictures of individual produce.
I decided to tackle my supply of eggplant by making this classic comfort food dish. I didn't want it to be too heavy, though. So instead of frying the breaded eggplant, I baked it. I really liked the freshness of this dish - an uncooked tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil all coming together to make this very light. I always peel eggplant, because I don't want to worry about toughness or bitterness, but you don't have to.
This is my breading station - flour seasoned with salt and pepper, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs with Parmesan. I had to refill these a few times, and eventually ran out of plain breadcrumbs and had to switch to panko.
Then I layered slices of fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. The original recipe used whole basil leaves, and I should have listened to my instincts when I thought that sounded strange. It would have been better to chiffonade them, or to blend them in with the tomato sauce.
Spiced Pear Flat Pie
This pie was an adaptation of another recipe that used both pears and cherries, and spiced the filling with Chinese 5 spice. I omitted the cherries and added in extra pears to compensate. I still thought the filling layer was a little thin, so the next time I made this I added a few apples into the mix. I didn't have any Chinese 5 spice, so I made my own 5 spice mixture, and I thought the result was really nice - a hint of exotic spice, but not enough to overwhelm the delicate pear flavor. The puff pastry becomes nice and crisp on the outside (with a lovely crunch and hint of vanilla from the sugar) and soft and croissant like on the inside. This was a big hit with guests, especially the little ones.
adapted from Simply Recipes
2 lbs (about 2 large) eggplants
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes, blanched and peeled)
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
5 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 lbs of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 cup grated high quality Parmesan cheese
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
Peel eggplants, and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange one layer in the bottom of a large colander and sprinkle evenly with salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant, salting, until all eggplant is in the colander. Weigh down the slices with a couple of plates and let drain for 30 min to an hour. The purpose of this step is to have the eggplant release some of its moisture before cooking.
While the eggplant is draining, prepare the tomato sauce. Combine tomatoes, garlic and 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
When eggplant has drained, press down on it to remove excess water, wipe off the excess salt, and lay the slices out on paper towels to remove all the moisture. Place flour in a large plastic bag and season with salt and pepper, shake to combine. Pour beaten eggs into a wide shallow bowl. Place breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan in another wide shallow bowl, stir to combine. Bread the eggplant by first placing it in the bag with the flour and shaking to coat, shake to remove any excess. Dredge the flour coated slices in the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Again, shake to remove excess.
Place the slices on a rimmed baking sheet coated in a thin layer of olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides. Repeat in batches until all the eggplant is cooked.
Lower the temperature to 350 degrees. In the bottom of a 10x15 inch glass baking dish, spread 1 cup of tomato sauce. Top with one third of the eggplant slices. Top eggplant with half of the mozzarella slices and half of the basil leaves.
Make a second layer of eggplant slices, topped by 1 cup of sauce, remaining mozzarella, and remaining basil. Add remaining eggplant, and top with the remaining tomato sauce and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.
Bake until cheese has melted and the top is slightly brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
Spiced Pear Flat Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart
14 ounces frozen puff pastry, thawed
8 small pears, peeled, halved, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices (can substitute half of the pears with golden apples)
1/3 cup vanilla sugar, plus more for sprinkling*
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch star anise (optional)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, unfold dough, and roll to two 10x8 inch rectangles. Refrigerate until cold.
Stir pears (and apples), sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and spices in a bowl.
Transfer 1 rectangle of dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Spoon fruit mixture onto dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Brush border with beaten egg. Lay remaining dough over filling; press gently to seal. Trim edges (or fold up if you like extra puff pastry, like me), and brush top with beaten egg. Cut five vents in the top. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake, rotating once, until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, about 35 minutes. Transfer pie to a wire rack; let cool 20 minutes before serving.
*for recipes like this, I like to use vanilla sugar, but regular granulated is fine. To make the vanilla sugar, I put some granulated sugar in a container with split vanilla beans, which infuse the sugar with their flavor. When I'm running low, I just top off the container with more sugar, and give it a shake to distribute the flavor.