Tag: Aubergine

Gnocchi Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake in a Parmigiana Sauce.

Gnocchi Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake in a Parmigiana Sauce.

We have been playing with meat free dishes for a while and although it is taking us out of our comfort zone we are having fun with the step by step exploration.   We have really enjoyed refining our Aubergine Parmigiana but one day we didn’t have enough aubergine, but we did have a little gnocchi.  And so we came to this dish.  On the first trial run we went with a simple parmigiana sauce.  This worked really well, especially with the addition of some red peppers.  This is the dish we will describe here.  We have also tweaked the recipe further and moved it a little closer to a puttanesca sauce with anchovies, capers and olives but without the chilli.  We will look at that recipe later!

The dish is simplicity itself.  The aubergine was cut into decent size chunks.  I like them to be odd shapes rather than cubes, but what ever way they should be around 3 cm in most directions.  These were sautéed in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour and the pieces are a little gnarly.

We then added the chopped pepper and cooked for a few minutes more. Then set both the peppers and aubergine mix to one side.  The onion was finely chopped and added to the pan to soften in a little olive oil.  Once it had started to take on some colour the chopped garlic was added too and cooked for a few minutes more.

The can of chopped tomatoes was tossed in and allowed to cook through for a couple of minutes and then seasoned with salt and pepper.  At this point we added the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi.  The sauce was left to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally, until the gnocchi was soft and the sauce had thickened.   This would be the time to transfer to an ovenproof dish, but as we were cooking in the Tefal Ingenio pans with the removable handles, this was going to be our ovenproof dish.

We stirred through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scattered the torn chunks of mozzarella on the top.  You could also add a little grated parmesan cheese to add more crunch to the top if you fancy the idea. We have cooked this inside on the hob and on the Big Green Egg, both work well.

The vents were closed on the Egg and the cheese allowed to melt for a minute or two.  Whether cooking in a domestic kitchen or on the Big Green Egg the dish really needs to be finished under a domestic grill as a ‘crozzled top’ is the one thing the BGE doesn’t do well (unless you are using a very small pan in a much larger EGG).   The dish was put under the grill in the kitchen to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!

Serve with a green salad ………………… give it a go!

Variation

Add anchovies, capers and black olives rather than the finely chopped red pepper – but we will link to this later!!

 

Gnocchi, Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake

October 29, 2020
: 2
: 15 min
: 45 min
: 1 hr
: Easy

A combination of roasted Aubergines, tomato sauce and gnocchi - a perfect and simple bake

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Ingredients
  • 1 Aubergine cut into decent size chunks.
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 Red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove chopped
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 250g gnocchi
  • Fresh or dried oregano and thyme
  • 125g mozzarella
  • Grated parmesan (optional)
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut the aubergine into chunks, around 3 cm in most directions. Sauté in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour and the pieces are a little gnarly. Add the chopped pepper and cook for a few minutes more.  Set both the peppers and aubergine to one side.
  • Step 2 Add the finely chopped onion to the pan and soften in a little olive oil.  Once it takes on some colour add the chopped garlic and cook for a few minutes more.  
  • Step 3 Toss in the tinned tomatoes and allow to cook through for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  
  • Step 4 Add the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi and leave the sauce to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally. The gnocchi will soften and the sauce thicken.  Transfer to an ovenproof dish, stir through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scatter torn chunks of mozzarella on the top.  At this point you can also add a little grated parmesan cheese
  • Step 5 To get a crunchy top transfer to a domestic grill for a couple of minutes to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!
  • Step 6 Serve with a green salad
Aubergine Parmigiana revisited – our definitive version!

Aubergine Parmigiana revisited – our definitive version!

We have written before about the glorious ‘Melanzane alla parmigiana’ We first came across it in Italy in the summer of 2017 when travelling through the Dolomites in Northern Italy.  Taste wise it was a plant based dish that absolutely took my breath away ……….. or so my memory tells me!  I went back to the article we wrote about this in early 2018 and our first attempts to recreate the dish and you can find that here (Aubergine Parmigiana).  Whilst we were very pleased with this first attempts we said at the time ‘.…… the dish, it still doesn’t quite match my holiday memory of that first mouthful in the Dolomites. When it does we will post the next instalment’.  Well I think we are in a position when it is worth offering that ‘next instalment’ and so here it is!

What is it?  It is probably the best tasting plant based meal I have ever eaten (speaking as an obligate carnivore) – and absolute truly – you don’t miss the meat!  There are umami flavours in their myriads.  There is nothing missing – it is just a coincidence that there is no meat!!

The recipe we are currently using is very similar to that 2017 first try – we have been round the recipe books and the final dish is dependent on how you cook it not really the basic recipe itself!   So lets talk about how we are cooking the dish.

Firstly,  we have come to the conclusion that the aubergines are best cooked in a cast iron skillet with a moderate amount of good olive oil at around 180C direct. No matter how much you use, the aubergines will always accept more – so it is up to you how much you give way to their greed!  With moderate portions – you can afford to be generous!!  The aubergines are cut not along the fruit but across it to produce circles of around 7mm thick.  (If you prefer your dish to ‘slice’ and the slices to remain as a single piece – then cut the aubergines lengthways and build each layer in alternate directions – but we have ended up favouring a less firm finish).  Once cooked these were put to one side.

Once the aubergines had been cooked we used the same skillet to cook the sauce but the BGE was set up for indirect cooking by adding the platesetter.  First a finely chopped onion was softened with a little oil until it just became translucent – then the 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced, were added and cooked for a few more minutes. Then 2 cans of chopped tomatoes were added (these seem to work better than fresh tomatoes – in the UK anyway) and some chopped fresh herbs.
This was left to cook at around 160-180C for 20 minutes or more until it began to look a little more dry.  (You need to lose that watery ‘tinned tomato’ look).

From this point on it really becomes a matter of ‘assembly”

We have been making our Melanzane alla parmigiana in one of our Tefal Ingenio pans and it works really well – though ideally something slightly deeper would be even better!  Put in the smallest amount of tomato sauce you can to cover the bottom of the pan then add a layer of the aubergine, and repeat this tomato sauce/aubergine combination until you are just less than halfway up the dish.  At his stage sprinkle the tomato sauce with some parmesan cheese and add around half of the mozzarella together with some basil leaves (I have taken to sprinkling just a little parmesan on each of the tomato layers but I don’t think that is traditional!).  Repeat until all the aubergines are used. Finish off with a layer of tomato sauce topped off with further basil leaves, parmesan and mozzarella (and ricotta if you are using it too – this is not traditional).  Put the dish back in the BGE and cook for a further 30+  minutes then ‘turn off the BGE’ and let it cool.

This is one of those dishes that tastes great on the day – but even better the day after!  We have taken to eating it on the second day, and although we could use the BGE to bring it back to temperature we have taken to doing this in a domestic oven at around 150C for around 30 minutes. At which point turning on the grill produces the most lovely crispy and glorious topping.

This is a dish best served warm rather than hot so don’t rush to serve it. All you need is to plate it up with a green salad.

We think we have now got to the essence of this dish – ours probably has just a slightly high proportion of the tomato sauce than the original one we had in the Dolomites.
It is probably also just a little more fluid in consistency.  It does however contain all the essence of that first experience of that ‘Timballo di Melanzane alla Veneta’.  Made in that Italian way – with lots of love!  It is a real thing of beauty.

………………… do give it a go!

Aubergine Parmigiana

September 4, 2020
: 4
: 40 min
: 60 min
: 1 hr 40 min
: Moderately easy

Roasted aubergine baked in a tomato sauce with baked Italian cheeses

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Ingredients
  • 2 Aubergines, sliced into 1/2cm-thick slices - I prefer circles as easier to arrange
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tins chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 2 x 125g Mozzarella balls, sliced In the last one we also added a little ricotta on the top as we had some - it worked well)
  • Basil or other herbs that you can lay your hands on
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan (or veggie alternative) or other Italian hard cheese 75g, finely grated
Directions
  • Step 1 Set up the BGE to around 180C. Direct roast Aubergine slices in a pan or in the cast iron skillet, till they take on colour and are a little ‘crisper’ turn a couple of times – need to do in batches
  • Step 2 Then olive oil in same skillet and cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, season, and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Step 3 In a baking dish starting with the sauce, layer up the aubergine and sauce, half-way, a layer of half of the mozzarella, basil, and parmesan. Layer up the remaining aubergine and sauce, and finish with a final layer of mozzarella, basil and parmesan (and or ricotta if using).
  • Step 4 Put back in the BGE and cook for a further 30+  minutes then ‘turn off the BGE’
  • Step 5 30 mins before you want to serve – re warm in a domestic oven and pop under the grill for a couple of mins to give a really great top!!.
  • Step 6 Serve with a salad.

Melanzane alla parmigiana – Aubergine, tomato and parmesan bake

Melanzane alla parmigiana – Aubergine, tomato and parmesan bake

Melanzane alla parmigiana

This is such a sumptuous dish and a perfect vegetarian dish to serve to anyone who says they do not like vegetarian food. We first had it in a hotel in the Dolomites in Northern Italy. In winter, a mountain ski lodge, but this was the summer and despite being in the mountains the temperature had been in the very high 30’s during the day, and even now at nearly 8pm the temperature was still around 30C. We had ordered off the set menu and the first dish was called ‘Timballo di Melanzane alla Veneta’. Within my very limited Italian what it was going to be was unclear, and when served it might best be described as ‘unprepossessing’, but that first mouthful was an absolute revelation ……………….. and I have never been quite able to recreate it ………………… or at least that is how I remember  it!
Jackie tells me she thought it was ‘quite nice’ but that those we have made since have been so much better. I prefer my slightly more romantic notion which allows me to keep striving to create a dish that lives in my imagination!
As we ate we realised that there were layers of aubergine, tomatoes, and cheese. In my memory there was an unsurpassed savory richness, lifted by the sweet fresh, sun ripened tomatoes, enhanced with garlic and basil. The richness came from the combination of the cheese and tomatoes working together with what seemed like thin slices of roasted aubergine. Anyway, a little internet searching a couple of days later revealed far too many recipes for this magical indulgence – so I pieced together themes from different recipes that I thought we may be able to do on the EGG – we were travelling in Europe and the Mini BGE we had with us was going to limit the size we were going to be able to try for our first interpretation of ‘Melanzane alla parmigiana’. This recipe records our first attempt, it was not perfect, or that pretty – but by candle light that did not matter – and the taste was very good …………… but not quite there yet.
We found some lovely fresh aubergines and a couple of handfuls of tiny baby tomatoes (though from experience I would now really recommend using tinned tomatoes for this in general). There are all sorts of suggestions for preparing the aubergines, sautéing in olive oil where they do really work as an olive oil sponge, oiled and then grilled, oiled then baked, and one healthy option where they were blanched in boiling water! As we had the EGG and a small, 4.5 inch, cast iron frying pan, for this first attempt we planned a combination of fried and grilled.
The aubergines were first cut lengthways into 5mm slices, sprinkled with salt and left in a colander to drain for half an hour. This was done traditionally to remove the bitterness from the aubergine which I believe has now been bred out of them – it does however season them well for the next stage and dehydrates them a little which seems to help the grilling.

Meanwhile a little olive oil was heated in the 8 inch BGE drip pan which we had with us – really too large for the Mini BGE it was all we had that was large enough to make the dish and allow closure of the lid – just! The chopped shallots were added to the pan and softened, then the sliced garlic cloves were added and cooked a little before the tomatoes were added the halved baby tomatoes first to lightly fry off then the tinned tomatoes and red wine.

This was then all allowed to simmer until the volume was reduced by about a third. The tomatoes were mashed  until reasonably smooth, seasoned and had a little basil and sugar added then left to simmer for a further 10 mins.

Now the EGG was again free, the aubergines were washed, dried, brushed with oil and grilled or fried on the BGE with the lid closed being careful not to burn the aubergine.  They are easy to burn if you have been too sparing with the oil. These were set aside on a paper towel in a vain attempt to convince myself we were removing the excess oil!

The tomato sauce was decanted into a bowl to allow access to our one pan. This was washed and then lightly greased and spread with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergines packed tightly, mozzarella, parmesan and seasoning. This was then repeated until all the ingredients were used finishing with the tomato sauce. I had certainly miscalculated the shrinkage that would occurred in the aubergines and this was going to be a very light supper!

One of the recipes I found suggested adding a layer of stale breadcrumbs at the end and then topping this with the remains of the cheese.Italian bread goes stale so quickly we had a ready supply! The breadcrumbs were tossed with a little olive oil and Parmesan and sprinkled on top. Put back in the EGG it was baked for about 40 minutes. I was hoping for a lovely bubbling crispy top but that was not to be.

As I had suggested the 8 inch drip pan was really a little too big preventing good circulation of heat into the dome. As a result the top looked a little bland and the sides rather than the top a little crispy. The pan was removed and the dish allowed to cool slightly and then it was served warm with some basil and freshly ground pepper.
This first attempt was an imperfect dish to be sure, but one that captured a lot of the essence of the one that inspired it. Rich, sumptuous and surprisingly meaty with a real umami essence. It was also good enough to know that over the months we would modify this a little and cook on a more appropriately sized EGG. Whilst very pleased with the development of the dish it still doesn’t quite match my holiday memory of that first mouthful in the Dolomites. When it does we will post the next installment – watch this space!

If you have a favourite recipe for this dish do please share it in the comments section

 

Melanzane alla Parmigano

February 15, 2018
: 2
: 1 hr
: 1 hr 30 min
: 2 hr 30 min
: Moderate

Baked aubergine, tomato and parmesan

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 Aubergines sliced lengthways into 5mm slices
  • 2 hands full of baby tomatoes halved
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 4 shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Glass of red wine
  • 100g Mozzarella
  • 75 g Parmesan
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Fresh Basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 Slice 2 aubergines lengthways into 5mm slices and sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander to drain for half an hour.
  • Step 2 Meanwhile, set the BGE to a dome temperature of around 180C and heat a little oil in the 8 in. drip pan, add the chopped shallots and cook till translucent then add the sliced garlic cloves cooking a little before the halved baby tomatoes go in lightly frying them off before adding the tinned tomatoes and red wine. Allow to simmer until the volume is reduced by about a third. Mash the tomatoes until reasonably smooth, season and add a little basil and sugar and simmer for a further 10 mins.
  • Step 3 Once this is completed and the EGG is again free, the aubergines should be washed, dried, brushed with oil and grilled or fried on the BGE with the lid closed being careful not to burn the aubergine.
  • Step 4 Decant the tomato sauce into a bowl and wash and lightly grease the 8 inch drip pan. Spread with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergines packed tightly, mozzarella, parmesan and seasoning. This should then be repeated until all the ingredients are used, finishing with the tomato sauce. Toss the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil and Parmesan and sprinkle on top. Put back in the EGG and bake for about 40 minutes. When cooked remove the pan and allow to cool a little
  • Step 5 Serve warm with some basil and freshly ground pepper.