Monday, September 24, 2012

Eggplant and Pasta Timballo

 Looking for a way to use up some of that late summer eggplant in a show-stopping presentation? This eggplant timballo fits the bill, and it's much easier to make that you'd think. Imagine the surprise on your guests' faces when you slice into this, unveiling the pasta interior. Some of my blogger friends - Rowena and Marie - have also posted similar recipes and I always find inspiration from them.

For this timballo, I used a one-quart souffle dish that was lightly oiled. I grilled just one large eggplant, spreading a little olive oil on each slice before placing on the grill. Place the pieces with the prettiest grill marks facing the dish, not on the inside since it will be filled with pasta. 

I cooked the pasta - anelli (little rings) in this case - then added some cooked sausage, peas and tomato sauce.

Throw in some parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese. I had only about 2 ounces of mozzarella in the fridge, but I recommend using more. It helps to "glue" everything together.

 Blend it all together.

And stuff the dish to the brim.

Fold the eggplant slices over the pasta and bake.

Let it rest at least 15 minutes before flipping and serving - with extra sauce on the side.

Here's a timballo I made last year using a much larger pot. You can see I ran out of eggplants, even though I used three. I baked it this way anyway.

It held together well enough and everyone loved it just the same.

Even though it uses only one pound of pasta, it served a lot of people. That's why I went with the smaller one-quart container you see in the first photo this time, that used only 1/2 pound of pasta. But if you've got a crowd of a dozen people coming, the larger timballo will serve that many people comfortably.

Eggplant Timballo

(for a one-quart souffle dish or similar vessel)

This will serve at least six people easily.

printable recipe here

1 large eggplant, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1/2 pound anelli pasta, or other pasta to your taste

1 pound sausage

1/2 cup peas, cooked

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups to 2 cups tomato sauce

Smear the eggplant slices with oil and grill until cooked through. Oil a one-quart souffle dish or similar vessel and arrange the cooked eggplant slices inside, leaving enough hanging over the side to fold over the pasta when the dish is full.

Remove the casing from the sausage, break into bits and cook in a pan. Boil water and cook the pasta until it's al dente. Drain the pasta and place into a bowl with the cooked sausage, and the rest of the ingredients, using as much tomato sauce as necessary to coat well. Reserve some of the sauce for later. Fill the dish with the pasta, then fold the eggplant slices over, covering the top of the pasta completely. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter, sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, and serve with the extra sauce.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

From the Grill: Pasta with clams

 While there's still some summer weather left for a short while, and grape tomatoes are still ripening on the vine, here's a chance to put the grill to a little more use. Everything is cooked outdoors -- even the water for the pasta is boiled on a separate burner beside the main grill. I place aluminum foil pans directly on the grill. At left, I've got clams cooking. In the one on the right, I'm sautéeing the shallots and  tomatoes.

 Keep an eye on the clams and cook them only until the just begin to open up. Remove them as they do, and leave the others to cook a few minutes longer.

Reserve and strain all the clam liquid in the pan, and remove the clams from the shells (but hold a dozen or so in the shell to garnish on top. Set the clams aside - you'll put them back in the sauce later.

After the shallots and tomatoes are cooked, add the strained clam juice, wine, seasonings and the clams. Meanwhile, I cooked the pasta on a burner that's off to the side, (under the brown potholder), then moved the pot to the main grill and added the pasta to the pan with the clams and other goodies. Of course, you could boil the pasta water on an indoor range, but this dish was prepared on a very hot day when I wanted to keep all the heat out of my air-conditioned house.

Toss everything together and serve.

How would you like a colorful, delicious drink before dinner?

 Here are a couple for you -- one from me and one from Adri of The Front Burner. We've both entered the Metropolitan Opera's "Elixir of Love" contest and could win two tickets to the Met's new production of "L'Elisir D'Amore." Adri lives in California and I live in New Jersey, but we've made a pact that if one of us wins, we're going to the opera together. Don't you want to support the arts? (and me and Adri?) We'd love it if you voted for us. Voting starts today and continues until 11:59 p.m. Sept. 23 (Eastern time). 

My entry is called "Adina's Downfall" and you can vote for me by going here.

Adri's drink is called "La Figlia Del Reggimento" and you can vote for her by going here.

Entry Photo

 Pasta with clams and grape tomatoes

printable recipe here

This recipe was done entirely on the grill, but you can use an indoor range instead.

2 8-ounce packages of fresh tagliolini or fettucini (or 1 lb. dried pasta)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium size shallots, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

grape or cherry tomatoes (enough to fill about 2 cups)

about 4 - 6 dozen cherrystone or littleneck clams

clam liquid (from cooking the clams - should be about 1/2 cup)

grated rind of one lemon

freshly ground black pepper

a handful of fresh parsley, minced

extra virgin olive oil to finish

red pepper flakes, if desired

Sauté the shallots in the olive oil over low heat. After they are slightly softened, add the tomatoes and cook until they almost burst open. Add the garlic and cook until softened.

Place the clams in a separate container in another part of the grill over high heat. Close the lid to the grill and let the clams cook, just until they open. It may take as little as two or three minutes for them to open up, depending on how hot your grill gets. When the clams start to open, remove each clam from its shell and place in a bowl, reserving about a dozen still intact to garnish on top. There should be a fair amount of liquid in the pan after they all open. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the clam liquid through a coffee filter.

Meanwhile, get the water boiling for the pasta. If you're using fresh pasta, it will take only a few minutes, just enough time to finish up the sauce.

In the pan with the shallots, tomatoes and garlic, add the strained clam juice and white wine. Cook for a few minutes, then add the clams and heat through a minute or two in the sauce. Drain the pasta (reserving a little of the pasta water to use in the sauce if necessary). Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce and add the lemon rind, freshly ground pepper and the parsley. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve in a large bowl with the clams in the shell as garnish on top.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Zucchini Crostata

 As much as I love stuffing those globe zucchini growing in my garden, it was time for a change and 

Panini Girl gave me just the inspiration I needed for those cute little green orbs. Yes, you can make this with the regular long zucchini too, but you'll need to line up a couple of rows of zucchini slices, rather than one overlapping disc as you see in the above photo.

Roll out the pastry dough and spread the topping. Tip - roll out the dough directly onto parchment paper and transfer the whole thing to a cookie sheet that's been preheated. If you have a pizza stone, so much the better. I used one the second time I made this and the crust turned out more evenly browned on the bottom.

Slice the zucchini thinly (or use a mandoline), arrange over the cheese and season with salt, pepper and thyme.

Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the slices, then plop a small cherry or grape tomato in the center.

 Bake as directed.

And dig in. Enjoy with a fresh tomato salad before the season's over.

Zucchini Crostata

printable recipe here

recipe adapted from Panini Girl (My changes in red)


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
About 1/4 cup ice water

In a bowl toss flour with salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Using a fork, stir in the ice water by tablespoons until the dough holds together when pressed. Sprinkle in more water if needed. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap well and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before rolling out.


2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (I used a mandoline, but you can just use a knife and slice about 1/4″ thick or a little less) (I used one medium globe zucchini)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used one cup)
1/4 cup goat cheese (I used a little bit of gorgonzola in addition since I had it, and it was delicious too)

1 extra large egg (extra large or jumbo because I save a little bit for the egg wash at the end)
freshly grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg, beaten with a little water (use a little bit of the egg you reserved above instead)

Heat a baking sheet or pizza stone in a 375 degree oven. Mix ricotta and goat cheese (and egg, except for a little bit to brush on top later) together until smooth. Add lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Roll out your dough into a circle (directly on a piece of parchment paper on your countertop). Spread cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 2″ border. Arrange zucchini slices in an overlapping pattern. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, salt, pepper and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Drizzle a little olive oil over the zucchini. Fold the the edges of the crust up over the filling. Brush the crust with the beaten egg. Lift the parchment paper with both hands and transfer to the baking sheet or pizza stone. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes. Serves: 4 as a main course, 6-8 as an appetizer

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lemony Fig Olive Oil Cake

 I know, I know. I just posted a grilled fig pizza, but figs are still in the market for a short time, and for those of you with fig trees, you may be up to your ears in these sensuous beauties and looking for ways other than fig pizza or fig jam to make use of them. This lemony olive oil cake will not disappoint. It's the best version of an olive oil cake I've ever eaten (caveat - it does contain butter also). If you don't have figs, use other fruit, like peaches, plums or apricots -- even apples.

It has a tender crumb, a delicious citrusy flavor (boosted by a lemon olive oil sent to me by Nudo) and it's easy to prepare. A sprinkling of powdered sugar on top (and a stencil of a fig leaf is nice too) is all the decoration you need.

Pardon me while I get a little crazy on my "pop art" attempt.

 After making the cake, I wanted to see how that lemon olive oil would taste in a savory dish, without any cooking involved, but straight out of the tin. 

So I grilled some grape tomatoes on one part of the grill, while on the other side, I placed some flounder on a piece of tin foil that had been smeared with regular olive oil, not the Nudo al limone. I splashed the flounder with a bit of white wine, then seasoned it with salt, pepper, slices of shallot, lemon slices and bits of fresh thyme. I closed the lid for five minutes and came back to a perfectly cooked piece of flounder. I plated it, strewing the tomatoes around the fish and finished it with a healthy drizzle of the Nudo olio d'oliva al limone. The fresh lemony flavor was evident in every bite and I think it's the best possible use of this olive oil. The cake was delicious, don't get me wrong. I plan to make it again and again. But with the lemon zest and citrus juice already in the cake recipe, I'm not sure the lemony olive oil really stands out. In this fish dish, however, the oil is a star. 

Lemony Fig Olive Oil Cake

printable recipe here

adapted from Lottie and Doof blog, but originally from Chicago's "Floriole" restaurant

amounts were given in grams, and I find that method of baking much more accurate. But I've converted the measurements for U.S. cooks who don't have a scale.

  • 200 grams granulated sugar (a little less than 1 cup)

  • zest of 2 lemons (I used the zest of an orange because I had already zested the remaining lemon in the fridge for another recipe - either orange or lemon zest is great)

  • 100 grams melted butter (about 7 T. butter)

  • 200 grams olive oil (1 cup - I used the Nudo al limone brand olive oil)

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 250 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cup)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 4 large eggs

  • about 1-1 1/2 cups fruit (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches- whatever is in season!) 

  • (I used figs cut into halves)

Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Butter and line the bottom of a 9″ cake pan with parchment paper.

Combine lemon zest and sugar in a bowl, rub zest into the sugar to release essential oils—set aside. Combine melted butter, olive oil and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Sift together flour and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine eggs, sugar mixture and salt. Beat at high speed until very pale yellow in color and has about doubled in volume. You are looking for the batter to hold a “ribbon”. With mixer still running slowly add oil mixture to egg mixture. You are slowly emulsifying the oil into the egg mixture. If you do this properly the mixture will not break.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixture and fold in the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.

Pour about 2/3 of batter into bottom of the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle whatever fruit you are using on top. Cover with remaining batter and bake for approx. 35-40 minutes or until the cake is set. You can use a toothpick to test, it should come out clean. I like a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar on top.

 Filet of Flounder or Sole with Lemon Olive Oil

Place some cherry or grape tomatoes on an aluminum foil container on the grill, into which you've smeared a little olive oil. Cook at high heat until they burst open and/or caramelize. On another burner, on low heat, place another aluminum foil container, onto which you've smeared a little olive oil. Place the filet of sole or flounder on the oil. Splash with a little white wine. Then strew the fish with sliced shallot, slices of lemon, sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Close the lid on the grill and check back in five minutes. The fish should be done or nearly done. Remove to a place and scatter the tomatoes all around, then drizzle with the lemon-flavored olive oil.

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