Eggplant Parmesan

This time of year, while we wait for the abundance of field crops to start lining the shelves of our vendors’ stalls, greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers really take the ‘local’ spotlight. For this recipe, a lesser known, but equally exciting locally grown vegetable – the eggplant – is finally getting a turn to be the star of the show! (These beauties can be picked up at Gull Valley Greenhouses.)

Many people view the eggplant as some sort of exotic ingredient, but it’s actually quite easy to prepare and cook in a number of ways! Eggplant parmesan is a wonderful way to start cooking with eggplant, and a great way to sneak in another vegetarian option to your menu at home.

Market Sourced Ingredients:

2 medium eggplants, sliced ½ inch thick from Gull Valley Greenhouses

1 ½ cups panko crumbs from Blu Seafood

½ cup milk from Blush Lane

2 eggs from Blush Lane

3 cups tomato sauce from Gull Valley Greenhouses

2 cups mozzarella, shredded from Sylvan Star Cheese

1 cup parmesan, grated from Sylvan Star Cheese

Fresh basil, chopped for garnish from Gull Valley Greenhouses

eggplant ingredientsOther Ingredients:

2 tbsp kosher salt

Vegetable oil for frying

Method:

Before you do anything else, you need to slice your eggplants up; salt both sides of the slices and let them sit in a colander in the sink for at least 30 minutes. This will draw out extra moisture and bitterness.

eggplants

When you’re ready to get cooking, pat the slices dry on a piece of paper towel to remove excess salt.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs into a shallow dish; whisk the milk and eggs together in another dish.

Taking the slices one at a time, dip the eggplant into the milk and egg mixture, coating both sides, and then dip it into the breadcrumbs. Shake off any excess. Set aside on a tray and repeat for all the slices.

process collage

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a pan over medium high heat and add a generous dollop of oil. When it’s nice and hot, add one layer of eggplant slices to the pan, flipping part way to cook both sides. Remove the slices when they are golden brown and place on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat this step until all the eggplant has been cooked.

Now it’s time to put everything together in a good sized casserole dish. Coat the bottom of the casserole dish with about 1 cup of tomato sauce. Add a layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella and parmesan on top. Repeat the layers until you run out of ingredients (about 3 layers). Make sure the top layer of cheese is generous!

Cook for about 25 minutes in the oven. When it’s almost done, you may want to (carefully) switch to the broiler to brown the cheese. When the cheese is brown and bubbling to your approval, remove from the oven. Sprinkle the basil over top, and dig in!

Eggplant (6)

While frying the eggplant before adding it to the dish can take a bit of time – it is totally worth it! This dish is delicious right out of the oven and a great one to keep in the fridge for easy leftover meals. The moral of the story is -next time you’re at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, don’t be afraid to try something new!

Canned Tomatoes, Two Ways

‘Tis the season for preserving the harvest! Calgary has such a short growing season, with such an amazing bounty of local produce that we must do our best to make it last. One of my favourite ways to preserve the harvest is to can it!

If you haven’t canned before, it may seem like a daunting task to start. Don’t be scared, it can really be quite an enjoyable process. Newer canning books also focus on smaller batch, artisanal recipes that are definitely a manageable place to start.

When canning, it is important to follow a recipe specific for canning to ensure the safety of your final product. That’s why I went to the experts on these recipes, and used two of my favourite canning books: Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff, and Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan.

All Purpose Tomato Sauce (makes about 4 pint jars)

From: Canning for a New Generation

Market Sourced Ingredientstomato blog 7

About 12 pounds of tomatoes (preferably Roma) – from Gull Valley Greenhouses

1 tbsp olive oil

12 ounces onion (about 2 small) – from Innisfail Growers

2 large cloves garlic

2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

2 tsp citric acid*

First you need to peel your tomatoes. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, trust me! First, using a sharp knife, score a small ‘x’ on the bottom of each tomato. Now, simply bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill another large bowl with ice water. Drop a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water. The skins will just slip off easily at this point.

tomatoes times 3

Now for the fun (and messy!) part; you’ll want two bowls on hand, one for the seeds, and one for the tomatoes. Break the tomatoes apart and scrape out the seeds and core with your fingers. In batches, put the tomato flesh in food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Keep going until you have 12 cups of puree – that is all you need!

tomato guts

In a wide preserving pan or stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent – about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stirring constantly about 1 minute. Pour in all 12 cups of tomato puree and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the sauce darkens and is reduced by one third. I find it takes a bit longer that 45 minutes to get the consistency I like, but it will depend on your preference, and your pan! Season with salt to taste.

In the meantime you can prepare for water bath canning. For full details on the proper method for canning, you should use a canning book or check out a website like the National Centre for Home Food Preservation.

Put ½ tsp of citric acid in each jar. Fill jars with hot sauce with ½ inch headspace. Wipe the rims, put your lids on and place the jars in the canning pot full of water. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, start your timer for 35 minutes (plus adjustments for elevation*).

tomato blog 17

 

Remove the jars from the canner when complete and set aside for 12 hours. If you notice any that didn’t seal, put them in the fridge immediately. Label and store!

And now for the second recipe…

Whole Peeled Tomatoes (makes 4 quart jars)
From: Food in Jars

Market Sourced Ingredientstomato blog 18

10 pounds Roma tomatoes – from Gull Valley Greenhouses
(I used a few yellow and orange tomatoes as well, for variety!)

½ cup bottled lemon juice*

Prepare your boiling water bath and 4 quart jars according to the proper canning process.

Core your tomatoes using a sharp knife, and score the bottoms with a small ‘x’. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill another large bowl with ice water. Drop a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water. The skins will just slip off easily at this point.

Bring a fresh full kettle or pot of water to a boil. This will be the liquid you add to your tomatoes to fill any voids.

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each prepared jar. Gently pack the peeled tomatoes into the jars. Squish them in as tightly as you can without mangling them too badley, and pour the boiling water over the tomatoes with ½ inch headspace. Use a wooden chopstick or similar utensil to remove any air bubbles.

I ended up cutting a few tomatoes in half to make them fit well into pint jars. In our household, we don’t often need a full quart of tomatoes at once, so smaller jars seemed like a better option. Of course, I adjusted the quantity of lemon juice to 1 tablespoon per jar.

Wipe the rims, put your lids on and place the jars in the canning pot full of water. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, start your timer for 45 minutes (plus adjustments for elevation*).

Remove the jars from the canner when complete and set aside for 12 hours. If you notice any that didn’t seal, put them in the fridge immediately. Label and store!tomato blog 21

*Because tomatoes are lower acid than some fruits, it is important to add an acid like citric acid or lemon juice to your jars, just follow the directions of whatever recipe you are using.

*Most canning books will recommend adding 10 minutes to the water bath canner time for Calgary’s elevation of about 3500 feet.

There you have it – two ways to can tomatoes. Hopefully these two all-purpose recipes will be welcome additions to your pantry come winter! This is my second season canning with tomatoes from Gull Valley Greenhouses, and I have to say – they are wonderful to work with and perfect for canning. Large, firm, uniform Roma tomatoes are a breeze to peel and taste delicious too!

Whole tomatoes can be used in any recipe that calls for them, like soups, stews or thicker sauces. Tomato sauce can be poured over pasta, used on pizza, as a base for more complex sauces – the possibilities are endless, really!

For example, I couldn’t resist using the leftover sauce that didn’t fit in my jars on some Veal Ravioli from Soffritto’s! Yum!

pasta collage

If you’re looking for more ways to preserve tomatoes, check out the Food in Jars blog – it comes chalk full of ideas! For even more canning recipes, check out our blog post from last year: Canning Extravaganza! If you’re anything like me, once you start canning – it can get a little addicting! It’s a good thing there are plenty of canning resources and books out there. I’ve shared two of my favourite books in this blog – which are your favourites? Leave them in the comments section below.

There’s no better place to start preserving the harvest than the Calgary Farmers’ Market!

Cobb Salad with Roasted Sweet Onion Dressing

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Have you ever met someone who just doesn’t like a cobb salad?  Sure, there are vegetarians or vegans and ingredient-restricted individuals who steer clear of this delicious, often-reinterpreted salad, but there’s something for everyone in the well-rounded salad that eats like a meal.  This version, with a southern sweet onion twist, is sure to please even the pickiest of palates.  While it has many individual elements, it all comes together quickly and taking the time to make your own dressing is entirely worth it.  So let’s get started.

Ingredients

Market-Sourced Ingredients

Dressing:

6 unpeeled garlic cloves from Souto Farms

1-2 large sweet onions, peeled and quartered through the core from Souto Farms

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing from La Cucina

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

juice and zest of 1 lemon from Cherry Pit

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Salad:

1 clamshell of fresh Alberta romaine lettuce from Cherry Pit

1 clamshell of fresh spicy microgreens from Cherry Pit

1 avocado from Cherry Pit

1 bag of sweet tomatoes (your preference) from Gull Valley Greenhouses

2 cups shredded cooked Bowden Farms chicken from Spragg’s Meat Shop

1 package of bacon from Spragg’s Meat Shop

4 ounces crumbly Gorgonzola cheese, (1/2 cup) from Fresh DELIcious

1/2 cup toasted pecans, choppped from Going Nuts

2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced lengthwise from Sylvan Star Cheese (or Blush Lane Organics)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Cobb Salad Collage

MAKE THE DRESSING: As we are likely enjoying the last week of warm sun and beautiful blue skies, we opted to grill the chicken and onions.  We even wrapped the garlic in foil and threw it on the grill too.  If you choose to do this step of the process in the oven, roast at 425°. Wrap the bulb of garlic (or individual cloves) in foil and set on a baking sheet. Brush the onions with oil and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, until the onions and garlic are lightly charred and soft. Let cool.

Peel the garlic and transfer the cloves to a processor. Add the onions, cider vinegar and lemon juice and puree until smooth. With the blender on, gradually add the 1/2 cup of olive oil until incorporated. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.  At this point, we’d like to be perfectly transparent and admit that while our recipe calls for absolute measurements, we prefer to free-pour the vinegar and oil and trust our instincts.  Food is all about what tastes good right?  So if you want to add a little more vinegar, knock yourself out!  This dressing should have a good kick to it as it will cut through the rich chicken, bacon, and avocado and balance the salad.  Remember: Taste. Taste. Taste.  Taste as you go.

Set Up

MAKE THE SALAD: In an effort to not overdress the salad (who wants wilty, wet salad?), we placed the romaine and micorgreens in the bowl and arranged the remaining ingredients on top.  Just before serving, add your fresh-made sweet onion dressing and allow your guests to toss it all together to really see the magic happen.

This salad is a full meal that is sure to leave your family satisfied, hitting every mark: crisp lettuce leaves, succulent chicken, salty bacon, creamy avocado, bright tomatoes, nut-crunch…. and that’s just a few!  If you don’t like blue cheese, a milder cheese will absolutely work in this salad.  Choose what you like…. because let’s face it, food is meant to be enjoyed so use what you love and leave with a full and happy tummy.

*The onion dressing can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.