I love eggplant parmesan, but restaurant versions are way too oily and leave me with a heavy feeling in my stomach. This version is not only much lighter, but faster and easier too. In the summer, I often make a quick fresh tomato sauce which can save you $$$ over buying a good one at the store. I’ll give you this recipe too which you can use over pasta or spaghetti squash. If you see “seconds” at the tomato stands at the farmers market, you can take advantage of them for this sauce or anything that calls for cooked tomatoes.
I love this eggplant parmesan as a hearty main dish with a salad in the summer and I also use this recipe as a vehicle for adding in leftover cooked veggies like sautéed greens, mushrooms or even swapping in roasted zucchini for the eggplant.
I hope you had a fantastic 4th of July weekend! There’s a good chance if you hosted a party, that you have some leftover hamburger or hot dog buns lying around. What were you planning on doing with them? Bread crumbs? Great idea. Croutons? Another great idea. Putting them in the freezer for the next time you make burgers or dogs? Good luck with that one. My freezer is basically one-third buns. They’re all freezer-burned too, because I was lazy and threw the bags in there and didn’t bother to wrap the buns tightly in foil first. And my kids reject previously frozen buns. They would rather eat a hot bog or a burger without a bun over one that has been previously frozen. It’s kind of annoying since we’re a family of 5 and you can’t buy a bag of 5 buns. And I cannot handle wasting food, even a silly hamburger bun.
So I came up with this strata using leftover hamburger buns that had been sitting in my freezer and that I absolutely knew would end up in the compost bin. Stratas are kind of like savory bread puddings, more bread-y than an egg-y quiche or frittata . I actually prefer a frittata, but my husband and kids love their bread! I posted a strata on my site a few years ago with spinach, tomatoes and feta. Super delicious and I love that you can put it together the night before to soak in the fridge and then you bake it in the morning easy peasy.
I essentially took what I had — a large tomato, half a red onion, a handful of baby mozzarella balls and a jar of roasted peppers in the fridge, plus some basil from my patio, and combined them with eggs and milk and voila! No one had any idea that I used leftover, previously frozen buns. And no one had any idea they were all different, including a whole grain sprouted bun! Of course, gluten-free buns work equally well. A strata is so versatile that if you had some leftover roasted zucchini, you could throw it in there too. Or a link of leftover sausage or a handful of corn kernels. And if you wanted a higher proportion of eggs, go for it. Just bake until the strata feels “set.” So no liquid gushes out when you push on the center of the strata and it kind of bounces back a bit.
What’s also cool about this is that you can make it for breakfast, lunch or (Meatless Monday) dinner. I served it in these photos with some lightly dressed arugula and I think that’s the best accompaniment or just a simple green salad. But any non-starchy vegetable, like green beans or summer squash, would be great, too. Because bread is the main ingredient, I wouldn’t serve another starch with a strata. But I would serve it with a cold glass of rosé. Happy summer!
1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing skillet
½ large red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk or unsweetened, plain hemp milk or milk of choice
¾ teaspoon sea salt (or 1 teaspoon if your mozzarella is unsalted)
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
6 ounces bocconcini (baby fresh mozzarella cheese), drained if in water
1 large tomato, seeded (if desired) and diced
1 roasted red or yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
a handful of basil leaves, julienned
5-6 ounces of whole wheat, spelt or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes, about 8 cups, preferably a little stale
For the Salad:
6 ounces baby arugula
good aged balsamic vinegar
unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3-4 minutes, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds, then remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, sea salt and pepper. Stir in the bocconcini, tomato, roasted red pepper, basil, bread and onion-garlic mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. You don’t have to soak overnight, but I love the way the bread soaks up the mixture. Feel free to put it straight in the oven.
If you soaked it overnight, remove the strata from the refrigerator and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 10-inch skillet (or a 9-inch pie plate or equivalent) with olive oil and pour the strata mixture into the skillet.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until egg mixture is set and top is golden brown.
Remove strata from oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the strata is cooling, toss the arugula with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (just enough to coat) and sprinkle with salt.
Top the strata with the arugula salad and serve, or cut the strata into serving size pieces and top each piece with arugula salad.
Unbaked strata can be frozen if wrapped tightly. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking, uncovered.
MINI-STRATAS: grease 4 individual ramekins or muffin tins. First layer bread then vegetables and cheese. Last, pour egg, milk, salt and pepper on top. Refrigerate overnight, if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
I hope you all had a lovely Fourth of July and that you had a day off of work at the very least. If there’s one thing I think many of us need more of it’s a little rest and relaxation. We had a nice mellow day with friends and no work all day at all. Nice. In fact, I even watched a little tv while I was putzing around the house before going out. Computer time has wiped out my tv time in the last few years, so watching tv is a real treat for me. Although it’s funny that when I have time off from work (i.e. cooking), I choose to watch the Food Network or the Cooking Channel. I have my favorites to be sure, but some of the really popular shows I just don’t get.
Can anyone explain the appeal of “Chopped?” I’ll tell you one thing — it’s not “reality” tv. What’s reality about being given a bunch of ingredients not normally found in a regular person’s pantry and being forced to have to make something tasty out of it given the resources of an unbelievably stocked pantry? I have learned so much from watching Ina and Giada and Tyler, but there isn’t much I get out of seeing what three chefs can do with graham crackers and squid in 30 minutes. Does that show talent? What do you think?
Let me tell you what I think takes some skill — making dinner for my family on a typically insane weeknight. You think the judges on Chopped are tough. Ha! They eat everything, even cheese, unlike Mr. Picky. Try making dinner for Daughters #1 and 2 and Mr. Picky under a time constraint. During the girls’ finals week earlier last month, I had a day that did not go as planned and I found myself in a dinner prep predicament. We always eat dinner together every night around 6:30/6:45 and I thought this was one of those nights, but no. Daughter #1 had a study group at 6:30 and Daughter #2 switched her music lesson without telling me and she would be coming home at 6:15. I found all of this out at 4:30 and I had soccer carpool to do. Oh sure, easy, right?
Do the contestants on Chopped have two teenage girls yelling at each other about the last ugly photo one posted of the other on Instagram? They do not. And Mr. Picky is not bouncing a basketball in the kitchen while the chefs are trying to figure out what to make for dinner very quickly with the contents of a very basic pantry. Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! Ok, think. Do some prep now, then you have 15 minutes when you get back from soccer drop-off before driving to music. “But the picture you posted of me was much worse than the one I posted of you!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! I have chicken, tomatoes, white rice is fast, thank goodness I washed lettuce yesterday. “Mommmmmmm, did you see what she’s getting away with? So many people liked that picture already!” “Really? They liked it? That’s good, right?” “OMG, Mom! No they didn’t like it! Make her delete it!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! I can bread the chicken now and bake later. “I am NOT letting her drive me to school anymore.” Whoa there, missy. Now you’ve got my attention. “Delete it this minute!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! “STOP PLAYING BALL IN THE HO– USE, MR. PICKY!!!!” Can you imagine doing this sober? Why don’t I drink? I need to rethink that.
I know this isn’t just my house, or maybe it is and I am deluding myself. But I think a lot of home cooks have skills that you just can’t learn in culinary school or by watching some pros on tv. I managed to pull something together that night that we ate at exactly 6:15 and we all liked it! I would have likely gotten “chopped” on tv for something so unoriginal, but this is the kind of food we like to eat and it’s reasonably healthful. One of the reasons this worked for me that night is because I was able to bake the chicken instead of sautéing/frying it. I didn’t know if it would work, but I learned the technique of getting crispy breading by greasing up the chicken with some fat before dredging it from an old Gourmet magazine recipe. That way, I didn’t have to babysit it on the stovetop, plus baking is more healthful than frying and MUCH less messy! This would also be a great method to use when cooking for a crowd.
Speaking of cooking for a crowd, for the next episode of “Chopped,” I’d like to see a challenge where the chefs have to prepare a dinner party for 12 guests in Los Angeles. “Oh, sorry, no gluten for me.” “If you don’t mind, I don’t eat dairy. Or meat. Or eggs.” “I’m easy. I eat everything except nuts. I am deathly allergic to all tree nuts. Deathly!” Now that’s something I would watch!
2 -3 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil, plus more for coating chicken and pan
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
⅔ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Pecorino-romano or Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon paprika
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking sheet generously with olive oil. You can line your baking sheet with parchment paper if you want and then brush the parchment with oil.
In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, basil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
In a shallow dish (such as a pie plate), combine the bread crumbs, cheese, and paprika. In another shallow dish, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil.
Slice the chicken crosswise in half so that you have two thin cutlets. Check out this post for a visual on what I'm referring to. You can remove the tenders if you wish and coat those separately. Sprinkle one side of the chicken pieces with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. This is the total amount of salt and pepper for all the chicken.
Dip the seasoned chicken first into the olive oil and turn to coat. Then dip chicken into the breadcrumb mixture and press to coat both sides completely.
Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Turn chicken with a spatula, not tongs which might break the breading, and bake another 3-5 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.
Remove garlic cloves from tomato mixture and discard. Spoon tomato mixture on top of chicken.
This serves our family perfectly with no leftovers, but we're not big meat-eaters. If one chicken cutlet is not enough per person, then increase the chicken and breading ingredients.
I feel like my universe is in a state of transition right now. Although I’m sensing this shift in energy in lots of people, not just me. We’ve transitioned from vacation to school, about to move from summer to fall, and we’re starting to change what we wear. It’s natural for us to adapt from warmer to cooler weather by adding an extra layer or wearing warmer clothes. We can think of food in the same way. It has the ability to warm us up or cool us down. Even the way you cook or don’t cook your food can change how “warming” or “cooling” it is. The most cooling form of a vegetable is its raw state, which is why I favor lots of salads and raw soups like gazpacho in the summer. But today we had the first break in our heat wave and as I scoured the farmers market feeling a little chilly in my short sleeves, I had a hankering for roasted vegetable lasagne.
But before you think of the lasagne you eat in the dead of winter — the heavy, cheesy, carb-y, stick-to-your-ribs-and-thighs kind — think again. Let’s call this one “Transition Lasagne.” It’s warm, flavorful and satisfying, but it’s mostly vegetables with a mere couple of ounces of pasta in the entire pan, so it’s super light too. I also use mozzarella only on the top layer and no one seems to have noticed the difference. If you’ve made lasagne before, you follow the same basic steps of layering except here we use thick slices of roasted vegetables in place of sheets of pasta. There’s still one layer of pasta, though. I tried this with all veggies and it was a little too watery. The top layer of blanched collard greens is really pretty too. I got the idea from NY Times columnist, Martha Rose Shulman, who published a beautiful “Lasgana with Collard Greens” a few months ago. Just like Ms. Shulman’s, not only is this lasagne lighter and fresher than the traditional, but no doubt more healthful too.
This is exactly what I wanted on a day like today and my family was pretty psyched when they came to the table, too. Mr. Picky psyched about vegetable lasagne? Ok, no, he wasn’t. He picked it apart, scraping the cheese off both the pasta and the zucchini so that it was more palatable to him and the eggplant came over to my plate. This is actually progress. Last year he wouldn’t have eaten any of it! Does this make me crazy? Not really. Because I know that transitioning to being a good eater doesn’t just happen with a change in the weather.
1 ½ pounds of zucchini, about 3 medium, trimmed and cut lengthwise into ½-inch slices
Olive oil for brushing on vegetables
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large collard green leaves
3- 3 ½ cups of marinara sauce (depending on how saucy you like it)
15 ounce container whole milk ricotta
1 large egg (helps to bind the ricotta)
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, divided
4 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles or your favorite gluten-free pasta, cooked and drained
4 ounces grated mozzarella cheese, about 1 cup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper.
Slice the stem off the eggplant and with a vegetable peeler, peel a few strips off the eggplant so that you don’t get 2 end pieces that are all peel. It will be hard to cut through the lasagne otherwise. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into ½-inch slices. Arrange the eggplant in one layer on one baking sheet and the zucchini in one layer on the other. Brush both sides of the vegetables with oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt and the collard leaves. Pull them out after 2 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg and 6 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.
Spread ½ cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish. Arrange the roasted eggplant slices on top of the sauce in one layer, squishing them together a bit so there aren’t too many open spots. Take ⅓ of the ricotta mixture (about ⅔ cup), and with a spoon gently spread it over the eggplant slices. Spread ⅔ - ¾ cup of marinara sauce over the cheese mixture.
Next, spread half the remaining ricotta mixture over the pasta sheets (I usually hold the pasta in my hands to do this.) Arrange the pasta in one layer over the eggplant/cheese/sauce and top with another ¾ cup of sauce.
Repeat with the zucchini slices, remaining ricotta mixture and ⅔ - ¾ cup of sauce.
Finally, place the collard greens in one layer on top. Spread ⅔ - ¾ cup of sauce on top of the greens, then sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and Parmesan over the sauce. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden. You can broil the top if it doesn’t brown enough. Lasagne is easier to cut (use a serrated knife) if you allow it to sit for a few minutes.
You can replace one of the layers of vegetables with a layer of pasta, if you prefer. You can also make this “cheesier” by adding a sprinkle of mozzarella in between each layer.
Vegetables can be cooked the morning of or the day before to save yourself some time.