Eggplant Gratin with Sweet Onions and Feta

1½ lbs. eggplant

¼ – ½ C olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced in half-moons (about 2 cups)

12-16oz. prepared Marinara or Arrabiata (spicy) pasta sauce

6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

¼ C grated Parmesan

Slice the onion into half moons, then heat a large sauté pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the onion slices. Add a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally until browned and caramelized, while you prepare the eggplant.

Rinse and pat dry the eggplant, trim the ends and do not peel. Cut the eggplant in half crosswise, then cut each half into 6 or 8 (1½–inch) wedges.

In a medium sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant wedges, a few at a time without crowding. Sauté on all three sides until lightly browned, adding small amounts of olive oil as necessary.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Select a baking dish large enough to hold the eggplant wedges in one layer. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with about 1 cup of the pasta sauce – enough to lightly cover the dish. Transfer wedges to the baking dish and line them against each other in two rows. If necessary, pack the wedges tightly to avoid creating a second layer.

Distribute onion slices evenly over the eggplant. Cover with one more cup of sauce, leaving most of the eggplant exposed, but do not completely immerse in sauce. Top with crumbled feta and sprinkle with Parmesan, cover the dish with foil and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes; uncover and bake another 10-20 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.


Blueberry Clafoutis

Don’t limit yourself to blueberries – any berry or summer stone fruit is delicious, such as cherries or plums. In the fall try this with apples or pears.

5 heaping T flour

4 T sugar

3 T milk, whole or lowfat

2 T safflower oil

1 egg

1 T baking powder

1/4 t salt

2-3 cups berries, washed and sliced as necessary, tossed in 2 T sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (add if it’s needed, a little milk); the batter should be very thick. Pour the batter into a buttered 9″ cake pan or quiche dish. Spread the fruit on top of the batter; it should fill the pan & spill over a bit.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake in the oven about 15 minutes or until the cake begins to set. Spread the following mixture on top of the batter:

4 teaspoons sugar

         1 egg

         1 tablespoon of melted butter

Bake again about 15- 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve with fresh whipped cream if desired. Serves 6.


Zucchini Salad with Lemon, Herbs and Ricotta

Adapted from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Magazine

2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound)

2 T lemon juice

2 t fresh rosemary, minced

1 t honey

½ t sea salt

½ C whole milk ricotta

2 t lemon zest

2 T extra virgin olive oil

¼ t sea salt

¼ C pistachios, chopped

1 T sesame seeds

Garnish – ½ – 1 C lightly packed fresh herbs, chopped (mint, chives, parsley)

Thinly slice the zucchini (use a hand-held slicer or a mandolin if you have one) and transfer to a bowl. Mix together the lemon juice, rosemary, honey and salt and add to the sliced zucchini; toss well and let stand 15-30 minutes. Left longer, the slices will turn limp and continue to release moisture, which changes the texture of the salad and can dilute flavors.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta with the lemon zest, olive oil and salt. Set aside.

In a small skillet (or in a toaster oven), combine the pistachios and sesame seeds and toast, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Transfer the zucchini to a platter, add half the fresh herbs and mix gently. Dollop the ricotta mixture on top. Scatter with the pistachio-sesame mixture and the remaining fresh herbs. Drizzle with additional oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Serves 4.


Mini Strawberry Tarts in Pretzel Crust

Makes 6 mini tarts

Crust

2 ½ C mini pretzels, finely crushed (yield 1 ¼ cups)

¼ C light brown sugar, packed

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Filling

4oz. cream cheese, softened

2 T light brown sugar, packed

1 t vanilla extract

Topping

1 ½ C strawberries, hulled and quartered, divided

½ C light brown sugar, packed

4 t cornstarch

¼ C water

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat 6 wells of a large muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Prepare the crust: process the pretzels in a food processor until very finely crushed, add the sugar and pulse to mix, then add the melted butter and pulse until well mixed and resembling wet sand. Divide the mixture among the prepared wells and press very firmly into the bottom and up the sides of each well. (Make sure the crust is well packed on all sides as this will keep the shells from breaking once baked). Bake the crusts until the cups are set and browned, 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool in the muffin pan.

Prepare the Filling: cream together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla, mixing well with a rubber spatula. Set aside (but do not refrigerate yet).

Prepare the Topping: put ¾ cup of strawberries in a bowl and mash them with a fork (or crush with a potato masher), enough to yield ½ cup. In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch then add the water and crushed strawberries. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium and stir constantly until it thickens, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining ¾ cup sliced strawberries. If the remaining strawberries are large, cut them into smaller pieces.

Assemble the tarts: carefully wedge the tip of a paring knife between the top of each crust and the inside of the well, gently sliding each crust out of the well of the muffin pan; transfer to a platter. Spoon and spread some of the cream cheese filling in the bottom, then carefully spoon the strawberry topping on top. Refrigerate uncovered until thoroughly chilled and set, at least 3 hours. Garnish with mint if desired.


Stir Fried Broccoli with Sichuan Peppercorns

1/3 C plus 2 T water, divided

3 T unseasoned rice vinegar, divided

1 ½ T soy sauce

1 t sugar

¼ t salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 t fresh ginger, grated

¼ t red pepper flakes

2 scallions, white and pale green parts finely chopped, dark parts thinly sliced on bias

1 ¼ lbs. broccoli, florets cut into 1-inch pieces, stems peeled and sliced 1-inch thick

3 T grapeseed or sunflower oil

2 t toasted sesame oil

½ – 1 t Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and finely ground

To enhance the flavor and aroma of the peppercorns, toast in a small skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes, let them cool and then grind them into a fine powder with a spice grinder.

In a small bowl, stir together the 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. In a second small bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons water and the salt. In a third small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, pepper flakes and minced scallions.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine the broccoli, salt water and 2 tablespoons of grapeseed/sunflower oil. Cover and cook for 1 minute, the water should reach a simmer. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally until the broccoli is crisp-tender and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl or platter.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil and the garlic-ginger mixture. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the soy sauce mixture and simmer, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until slightly reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the broccoli to the skillet and stir to coat.

Off the heat, stir in the sesame oil, remaining 1 tablespoon of vinegar and ½ teaspoon of the ground Sichuan peppercorns. Taste and add more peppercorns, if desired. Serve sprinkled with the sliced scallion greens. Serves 4.