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Meatless Mondays…Wednesdays…and Fridays

I love meat.  Roasted, braised, grilled, bbq’d, fried… meat!  Beef, pork, chicken, goat, lamb, venison… just to name a few… I love it!  Growing up my mom cooked the typical meatloaf, hamburgers, and chicken breasts for dinner.  That was up until I turned 13.  She became a vegetarian.  She cut out beef, chicken, and pork from her diet.  She still consumed cheese, eggs, and fish but ultimately her diet was fruit and vegetable based.

Family dinners from that point were… stressful for her.  Being the only vegetarian in the household when it seemed to be more a fad than a lifestyle, was difficult.  She was made to “pick out” what ever meat was included in dinner.  She was banished to “side dishes”.  Jokes flowed in abundance.  “What does she eat??” was always the question.  If she ever wanted to eat well, she’d have to bring her own food.

Today, the jokes have slowed and there are a few more options for her at the family table.  I never followed her path.  I love meat too much…but… I’ve never shunned the lifestyle either.  We as Americans consume way too much protien…in the form of animals, that is.  Our need for meat has created a system that is ultimately poisoning us.  Consuming a high fruit and vegetable based diet along with small amounts of varied proteins, I believe is the best of both worlds.

I’ve followed several food writers and they too are pushing the way of the vegetable… honoring “Meatless Mondays”.  But I say, why only Mondays… we should have meatless Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays!  Tonight our household honored Meatless Mondays with Baked Eggplant.  How will you enjoy your next Meatless Monday?

Baked Eggplant 
2 medium-sized eggplant (Pinnacle Organics)
32 oz canned tomatoes (Pinnacle Organics, canned by me)
2 cloves garlic, diced (Pinnacle Organics)
1 leak, chopped (Pinnacle Organics)
1/2 cup red wine (Bonterra Organic Merlot)
2 cups panko crumbs
1 cup flour (Bob’s Red Mill Organic)
2 eggs (Pasture Chick Ranch)
2 tablespoons milk (Straus Organic)
1 tablespoon pesto
1 cup shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese (hormone free)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes, Garlic Powder – to taste for sauce / 1 teaspoon each for flour & panko mix

Prep & Assembly

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees

Prepare a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.  Slice the eggplant 1/2 inch think and place on the tray.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and let rest while you assemble the remaining ingredients.  The salt will help extract moisture from the eggplant.

In a medium size pot, cook the leaks and garlic till translucent and slightly brown.  Add in the tomatoes, red wine, and sugar.  Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to your taste.  Let simmer on low while you assemble the remaining ingredients.

In one bowl mix 2 eggs, milk, and pesto.  Set aside.  In another bowl mix flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Set aside.  In another bowl mix panko crumbs salt and pepper.  Get the bowls lined up in an assembly next to the tray with the eggplant.

Before running the eggplant through the assembly line, dab each one on both sides with a paper towel soaking up any moisture that extracted.  Now through the assembly line.  Dip in flour, then egg, then panko.  Line the eggplant back on the baking sheet.  Place the eggplant in the pre-heated 425 degree oven for 25 minutes or until crispy and brown.

Remove the eggplant from the oven and place into a baking dish.  Spoon the tomato sauce across the eggplant and top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Increase the oven temperature to 475 degrees and place the baking dish in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

Serve with fresh chopped basil… and Happy Eating!

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