Yes, I do realize it is fall, but I am not listening. I am not ready to embrace squash and pumpkins. Why? I missed summer. I didn’t feel the sand between my toes, or even put on a bathing suit (which for most of us ladies is always a blessing). It just turned out that way. I’d explain, but frankly, it is not that interesting.
As a result of all the stuff I’m not bothering to bore you with, I realized I needed to get OUT. Somewhere. Anywhere. Away.
Being a procrastinator has its upside. You avoid the crowds.
Oh, right, this is a food blog.
So these beauties were still in the market and here's what I made with them: eggplant casserole. I also bought up the last of the tomatoes to make fresh tomato sauce to use and freeze. You can too.
If your market or your garden is still hanging in there with tomatoes (and basil) you can make this sauce and freeze it. Don’t want to bother with sauce from fresh tomatoes? then try this quick one from
Jody and Ken (Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant in Cambridge MA and writer husband Ken Rivard just started blogging; you should check them out and pick up a few of Jody’s tips, such as how to peel tomatoes something I'm too lazy to do Jody's way.) I won’t be too jealous if you decide to make their eggplant Parm instead of this one.
Speaking of eggplant: Eggplant’s texture is like a sponge and it therefore soaks up a lot of oil. Older eggplant is like an even drier sponge and soaks up more oil. Brushing it lightly with oil and broiling it cooks the eggplant without drowning it in a bath of oil, if that is your concern. Older eggplant can be bitter, too.
Instead of sweating eggplant with salt to avoid bitterness, give your eggplant a squeeze before you buy it. Fresh eggplant should not be bitter. It should feel firm and the skin should be taut and smooth. You can be a bit more freewheeling with this casserole than some other recipes.
Want more than 4 servings? Just buy more eggplant and make more stacks with more sauce and cheese. It freezes well, too, nice to have around when you want to take a day off. At the beach.
Fresh tomato sauce
Makes about 6 1/2 cups
5 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves, garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 basil leaves, torn in small pieces
1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Set a large bowl and a colander side by side in the sink.
2. Core the tomatoes with a paring knife and cut a small, shallow cross at the tip of each one.
3. Working with half the tomatoes at a time, place them in the bowl in the sink and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 20 to 40 seconds, or until the tomato skins pull easily away from the tomatoes. The riper the tomatoes, the less time this will take.
4.With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the colander to cool slightly. Discard the water in the bowl. Repeat with remaining tomatoes and more boiling water.
5. Pull off and discard the tomato skins. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half over an empty bowl to pop out the seeds. Discard the seeds. Cut in 2-inch pieces.
6. Slowly heat the olive oil and garlic together in a large pot over medium heat, until the garlic sizzles. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft.
8. With a potato masher, break up the tomatoes in small pieces. Continue to simmer the sauce over medium-low heat for 15 minutes longer, or until it thickens slightly. Total cooking time is about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if you like. Stir in the torn basil leaves.
Stacked eggplant casserole
2 (1 pound each) eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch thick rounds to make 24 slices
About 1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups fresh tomato sauce
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 large basil leaves
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, thickly sliced
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Set an oven rack 8 inches from the broiler element and turn on the broiler.
2. Spread the eggplant rounds in one layer on 2 large, rimmed baking sheets. . Use a pastry brush to coat them with oil. Turn them over, and brush the other sides with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Broil the eggplant for 4 minutes on each side, turning with tongs, until golden and cooked through. Cool briefly.
4. Decrease oven heat to 400 degrees.
5. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Using the largest slices first, set 8 slices over the bottom of the pan. Spread each slice with a tablespoon of tomato sauce and sprinkle with a tablespoon of Parmesan.
6. Top each eggplant round with a second slice. Spread with a tablespoon of tomato sauce. Top with a basil leaf and a slice of mozzarella. Cover with remaining eggplant slices. Spoon 1/4 cup of tomato sauce over each stack.
7. Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining Parmesan, parsley and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each stack with about 2 tablespoons of the crumbs.
8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until hot all the way through and golden brown on top. Serve 2 stacks per person and spoon the sauce around them.