End of season pesto


I’m warming back up to Italian food. For awhile, nothing compared to the food I had in Florence, so I shied away from trying to perfect Italian at home. Luckily, J loves Italian style cuisine so we’ve dabbled in a few dishes (like Pizza Margherita and Eggplant Parmesan). We had a bumper crop of basil that needed to be used, so before the first freeze, (ok the second!), we harvested an armful and got to work making pesto. I found this recipe, but had to modify it a bit for our taste.

Ingredients:
2 cups packed basil leaves
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan (grated works best)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Add all the ingredients to your food processor (except the salt and pepper) and pulse it a few times. Taste. Add desired salt and pepper. Pulse again. We added the oil a little bit at a time, which left the pesto a little chunky, which we like. If you don’t, add the ingredients except the oil first, pulse, then add the oil slowly, pulsing in between. When it’s the consistency you prefer, pour into a clean mason jar, add a little olive oil on top, screw on the lid and freeze. Serve over your favorite pasta.

My opinion:
I was a bit surprised at how little this actually made. We only got two jars our of an armful of basil. Next year, I plan to make some early in the summer and then again at the end of the season so I end up with more pesto.

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Robert Irvine’s Eggplant Parmesan


I’m rather picky when it comes to Italian food. I blame my trip to Florence for spoiling Americanized Italian food for me forever. Luckily, there are a few recipes that measure up to my expectations and one of them is this delightful Eggplant Parmesan from the Food Network with a few modifications.

Ingredients:
eggplant, peeled (we particularly enjoyed an heirloom variety) and cut into disks
2 cups buttermilk
4 cups vegetable oil (we used our deep fryer)
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder (we used a bit more)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (we used about 2 tablespoons, since we didn’t have fresh oregano)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or minced fresh if you have it)
1 teaspoon ground white pepper (we used a little more of this too, about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cups egg wash (which for us, was four eggs and one cup milk)
1 pound penne or fusilli pasta, cooked (we used bowtie because that’s what we had)
2 cups red sauce
Grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (we used Mozzarella)
cooking spray of your choice (we used Pam Olive Oil spray)

Directions:
To bread the eggplant, first add the eggplant disks into the buttermilk and allow to soak, 1 to 2 hours (we let it soak for about an hour and a half).
Next, over medium heat, bring the oil to 350 degrees F in a wide shallow saucepan or deep fryer; then hold the oil warm until frying. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan powder, garlic, parsley, oregano and pepper in a bowl. Remove the eggplant from the buttermilk, and then coat with flour and tap off the excess. Dip the eggplant in the egg wash and finish with the breadcrumb-Parmesan mixture, coating well. Repeat the process with each eggplant, and then fry in the preheated oil. Allow the eggplant to brown, and then flip the cooked eggplant to ensure even cooking. Once golden brown on both sides, remove the eggplant and place on paper towels to allow the excess oil to drip off.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Drain the cooked pasta and once all the water is removed, toss with 3/4 cup of the red sauce. After tossing the pasta with the sauce, portion the pasta on plates. Place the cooked eggplant on a cooking spray covered baking sheet and finish with the remaining sauce. Add some cheese and bake, 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. After baking, place the eggplant over the sauced pasta and serve.

My opinion:
This is the best and simplest Eggplant Parmesan recipe we’ve found. I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this to friends and family.