Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan

Baked Baby Eggplant

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Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.
Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.

Baked Italian baby eggplant is a favorite blog text recipe post so we decided to show you how to make it. Let me know if there are other recipe posts or other Italian dishes you want me to cook and maybe we’ll add them to our upcoming video episode list.

We’re in the worst drought ever here in California.

My produce guys tell me prices are already on the rise because of the drought. 60% of America’s produce comes from California so we’ll all be paying 15-20% more.

Even as prices rise, keep on buying local organic produce. The quality of the ingredients is vital. There are only 4 key ingredients in this dish so they all have to shine.

The only two days of heavy rain this whole winter had to be when I’m out food shopping over the weekend for the 3 episodes shot on Monday. I know we need the rain but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain.

I was a man on a mission. Off I went to the Ferry Building Saturday farmer’s market in the rain. No Italian baby eggplant. I hit at least six other markets and baby Italian eggplant were nowhere to be found. All I got was wet.

I panicked. I needed eggplant for Monday’s shoot. While scouring the city I caught a glimpse of dark eggplant on a sidewalk stand as the bus passed Grant Street in Chinatown. I made my way back to the produce stand and there I found not the Italian baby eggplant I desperately needed but Japanese eggplant instead.

I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can't get 'em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.
I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can’t get ’em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.

I was about to pass them up when I said to myself “Hey, you got a show to shoot. Whaddaya gonna do? Buy these. Stupido! This happens to other people too, so it’s an improvisation lesson.”

After chasing all over the city, I had developed a “woolie” (a craving) for these baked eggplant. I had to make them.

So that’s why I’m using Japanese eggplant that are readily available in the market. If you can’t get the Italian baby eggplant, use the Japanese.

The taste and texture is as good as baking the small black-purple Italian ones. But if I find them in market, I go for the baby Italians every time.

Zesty crispy tomato and pecorino top sweet creamy soft eggplant inside the flavorful shriveled skin. The essence of eggplant in every single bite. Serve it by itself or as the centerpiece of an antipasti course. Just add some prosciutto & cheese to the platter and some olives too.

If you like eggplant watch me make my favorite dish eggplant parmigiano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

4.7 from 3 reviews
Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan
 
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Intense creamy baked baby eggplant topped with San Marzano tomatoes, oregano and pecorino.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4 Italian baby eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand
  • ¼ cup pecorino, grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut off the stem of the Italian baby eggplant and cut each in half. (If you're using Japanese eggplant, cut off most of the narrow neck.)
  3. Lightly score the top of the eggplant on the diagonal in both directions to form diamonds.
  4. Put the eggplant in a single layer in a baking dish cut side up.
  5. Drizzle each half generously with EVOO.
  6. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  7. Evenly distribute the crushed tomato on top of each half.
  8. Sprinkle the oregano on top of the crushed tomato.
  9. Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly on each half.
  10. Pour the water in the bottom of the baking dish.
  11. Add some olive oil and tomatoes to the water. (This will make a pan sauce to put over the eggplant before you serve them.)
  12. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil.
  13. Bake until the eggplant are knife tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  15. Uncover the pan and bake until the pecorino is lightly browned and the eggplant start to collapse in on themselves, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  16. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  17. Serves 4-6

 

North Beach Shopping Spree Ends with Shadow Ravioli

Homemade ricotta & mozzarella ravioli in a San Marzano basil sauce
David Fagan’s shadow pic of homemade ricotta & mozzarella ravioli

“Make homemade ricotta ravioli for Saturday’s dinner,” my Seattle friend told me before she boarded her plane. And so started a day of shopping and eating in North Beach with friends.

Those are my shadows on the dining room wall. I’m holding a tray of ricotta & mozzarella ravioli while tallying how many ravioli each of the 7 friends at my table would eat.

These are big ravioli. Most chose 2 or 3.

Early Saturday morning we headed down the hill to North Beach to buy what we needed for dinner. Santo let us use Cavalli Cafe on Stockton Street as our staging area.

As we sipped our coffees Santo packed up cannoli ingredients for us to assemble after dinner. We didn’t want the shells to get soggy if they were filled too soon before we devoured them.

We left the fruits and vegetables from Union Produce with Santo and headed to Molinari deli for the antipasti fixings. We dropped the bags back at Cavalli and crossed the street to Little City Meat Market for 3 types of sausage to roast and serve with the ravioli.

Italian wines from Coit Liquors and Acme bread from Little Vine and we were ready to head back to my place. My friends insisted that we had too many bags to carry up the hill. We hailed a cab. How civilized, a ride right to my front door.

Back in my kitchen, we got the San Marzano basil sauce going and left it to simmer. Then 3 of us made the pasta dough and ran it through my hand-cranked pasta machine until we had long, wide pasta sheets.

As the sheets dried we whipped up the simple creamy ricotta and mozzarella filling. My friends jumped in and made one sheet of ravioli under my careful supervision. We ended up with 27 large ravioli.

Watch my fresh ravioli with San Marzano sauce video episode and make some yourself. You won’t be sorry.

Antipasti Platter
Antipasti Platter

Here’s the antipasti platter that started off our meal. It’s a good example of what you can put together for your next holiday party.

Starting with the top middle dish:

Marinated mixed olives and black oil-cured olives; sharp provolone & a young pecorino with pistachios; marinated giant Corona beans; homemade pickled eggplant; gorgonzola dolce; taralli; steamed green beans with lemon & olive oil. In the center dish: prosciutto di San Daniele, mortadella and coppa picante.

Use my pickled eggplant recipe to make some to have handy in your fridge.

My green bean salad recipe is quick and easy. Add something fresh and delicious to your antipasti platter too.

Remember those cannoli fixings Santo packed up for us?

Three and a half hours after the meal started and 6 bottles of wine later, I just passed the shells, filling, chocolate chips and orange peel syrup around the table for each my guests to make their own cannolo. They didn’t mind doing it themselves. Santo’s cannoli are fantastic and the crispy shells shattered with each creamy bite.

Champagne grapes and roasted chestnuts ended our meal. A wonderful evening with friends at my table.

Treasure your times together around the table this holiday season.

Buon appetito!

Prosciutto Wrapped Prawns

Prawns wrapped in prosciutto roasted with olive oil, sage and garlic
Prawns wrapped in prosciutto roasted with olive oil, sage and garlic

I didn’t want anything heavy for lunch. I had a hankering for shrimp but didn’t want to spend a lot of time cooking some up.

Here’s a simple dish that will be on your table in 15 minutes after you peel and clean the prawns.

Flavor extra virgin olive oil with garlic and fresh sage in a baking dish. Lay in the prawns wrapped in prosciutto. Drizzle them with EVOO and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Bake the prawns in a hot oven for 10 minutes. Plate them up, drizzle the oil from the baking pan all over and eat. How simple is that?

A whiff of sage and garlic precedes each bite. The salty, crispy prosciutto enhances the sweetness of the tender, moist prawns with just a hint of heat from the black pepper. A simple, yet complexly flavored dish.

I served these prawns with steamed rice on the side to soak up the sauce and a baby field greens salad simply dressed with EVOO, homemade red wine vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. A perfect Sunday afternoon lunch.

You can also serve these prawns as an antipasto, maybe with giardiniera, my  pickled vegetables.

Buon appetito!

Prosciutto Wrapped Prawns
 
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Prosciutto wrapped prawns quickly roasted in the oven with sage and garlic infused extra virgin olive oil.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 12 large prawns
  • 6 thin slices of prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel and devein the shrimp and pat them dry.
  3. Put the sage and garlic in a baking pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon EVOO and place in the oven for 2 minutes to flavor the oil.
  4. Take the baking pan out of the oven.
  5. Reduce the oven heat to 350.
  6. Wrap each prawn with prosciutto.
  7. Lay the prawns in the baking dish in a single layer. (Be careful the baking dish will still be hot.)
  8. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Cut the butter in small cubes and scatter over the prawns.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes.
  11. Put the prawns on a serving dish and pour the oil from the baking dish all over.
  12. Serve immediately.

 

Suppli al telefono: Fried Arborio Rice Balls Video

Suppli al Telefono
Suppli al Telefono

We had fun in the Cookhouse kitchen in North Beach. I was still on this kick cooking the food of Roma and Napoli so I could get in the groove for an upcoming trip to those cities. Stay tuned for some episodes we shot in Italia!

Suppli are tasty egg-shaped fried rice balls. The surprise in the middle give them their name.

You may know these as arancini. They remind Sicilians of oranges. But in Rome, they’re called suppli al telefono for the telephone lines formed when you bite into melted mozzarella at the center.

The rice inside the crispy crust is flavored by a thick flavorful tomato-meat sauce. The best bite is when you hit the oozing mozzarella telephone lines in the center.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Suppli--Fried Arborio Rice Balls
 
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Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • For the tomato/meat mixture:
  • 1½ ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ pound ground lean beef
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups passato di pomodoro or tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • For the rice:
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • For the breadcrumb coating:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ½ pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into rectangles the size and shape of large sugar cubes (about 24 pieces)
  • Olive oil, preferably extra-virgin, for deep-frying
Instructions
  1. To make the tomato mixture:
  2. In a small bowl, combine the mushrooms with warm water to cover and let stand for 15 minutes to rehydrate. Drain, squeeze out the excess liquid and chop finely.
  3. In a fry pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the beef, onion and mushrooms and sauté until the meat is no longer red, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato puree and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced by about one-third, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  5. To make the rice:
  6. Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a rapid boil over high heat.
  7. Add the 1 tablespoon of sea salt and the rice and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the rice has softened but is still al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the rice and spread it out on a large platter or roasting pan to cool slightly.
  8. When cool put the rice in a bowl and add the eggs, butter, parmigiano, a pinch of salt and the tomato mixture. Mix to combine well. Let cool to room temperature.
  9. To form the croquettes:
  10. Whisk the egg in a small, shallow bowl.
  11. Pour the flour into a second shallow bowl and the breadcrumbs into a third bowl.
  12. Using a spoon or your hands, scoop up some rice and with your hand form into a ball the size and shape of an egg to make the suppli.
  13. With your finger, make an indentation in the side of the suppli, insert a piece of the mozzarella deep into the center and close the rice around it.
  14. Roll the suppli in the flour to lightly cover all over, then the beaten egg coating it all over, and then roll in the bread crumbs, again coating evenly.
  15. Place the ball on a large, flat plate or tray. Repeat with the remaining rice and cheese, evenly coating each suppli.
  16. When all the suppli are formed, cover the plate and refrigerate the suppli for at least 1 hour or up to overnight before cooking.
  17. Preheat an oven to 200°F. You can keep the suppli warm on a sheet pan in the oven as you cook them.
  18. To cook the suppli:
  19. In a heavy saucepan or deep, heavy fry pan, pour in olive oil to a depth of at least 2 inches and over medium-high heat the oil until a bit of rice dropped into the hot oil sizzles immediately on contact.
  20. Working in batches, fry the supply, turning as needed to color evenly, until they are a deep sunburned color and have a nice crisp crust, 5 to 7 minutes.
  21. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain, then transfer to the platter in the oven while you fry the remaining croquettes.
  22. Serve the croquettes while the mozzarella core is still hot. They may be eaten with a knife and fork, but for the traditional telephone-cord effect, they should be eaten by hand so the telephone line forms as you bite into the mozzarella center.
  23. Makes about 24 croquettes.