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!

Apples, Apples, Apples & a recipe for Apple Cheddar Muffins

There’s no doubt about it – apples are in season at the Calgary Farmers’ Market right now! We all have our favourites, that’s for sure, but if you’re looking to do more than just bite into a refreshing snack – do you know which apple is best for the job?

I took a moment to chat with Chris Souto of Souto Farms to learn a bit more about the plethora of apple varieties they carry at the market. They currently have 10 varieties of apples to choose from; read on to learn a little bit about each one!

Honey Crisp – This delicious eating apple is a top seller at Souto Farms; it is the crispest, biggest and hardest to grow. The results are worth it though for this sweet, tart, juicy favourite. (Season: early September – late January).

Ambrosia – This medium sized apple is a crisp, sweet eating apple. It also happens to be Chris Souto’s favourite! (Season: mid September – late May).

Pink Lady – Another medium sized eating apple, the Pink Lady is tart, but full of flavour and super crisp. This later season apple isn’t harvested until November. (Season: early November – late May).

Gala – The Gala is an older generation eating apple. It’s sweet, with a medium crispness. The Ambrosia is slowing taking over the place the Gala used to hold at Souto Farms. (Season: early September – late May).

Mac – Most people are familiar with the classic Mac; it is one of the older generation apples that Souto Farms carries. Its softer texture and tart taste make it best for cooking, though in season it’s still an enjoyable eating apple. (Season: late August – late May).

Granny Smith – This apple is super crunchy and very tart! It is another older generation apple that is very popular in cooking. (Season: mid October – late May).

Aurora – This small apple is slightly crisp, and the sweetest that Souto Farms carries. It is a great eating apple, but also makes a wonderful apple sauce. (Season: October – mid January).

Golden Delicious – The Golden Delicious is a classic. It is a very, very old generation apple that is sweet, crisp and perfect for eating. (Season: late September – late May).

Spartan – Another old generation apple, a bit sweeter than a Mac, but still tart, the Spartan is good for eating. It may be small, but it’s still slightly crisp and makes a great snack. (Season: late September – late May).

Empire – With a slightly  crisp texture, small size and sweet taste, this old generation apple is a nice eating apple. Maybe less popular that the other varieties, but still delicious! (Season: mid October – late December).

All this apple research had me seriously craving some elaborate apple creations – but sometimes simple is best, so I decided on this simple Apple Cheddar Muffin recipe. Who doesn’t love apples and cheese, anyway? Right?

Ingredients in a rowApple Cheddar Muffins

Market sourced ingredients:

*Sylvan Star Cheese has more than just cheese! They’ve also got a selection of eggs, yogurt, organic milk and goat’s milk – basically a one stop shop for dairy!

**While Beeland has a huge variety of honeys, especially this time of year, I chose their basic all-purpose clover honey for this recipe. It’s the best value in cases where honey isn’t necessarily the star of the show!

Other ingredients:Muffin Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour*
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 3 Tbsp oil (olive or vegetable)

*While I used baking supplies on hand in my home, you can source many flours and other baking ingredients from Blush Lane Organics at the market!

First, preheat your oven to 350° F. Grease your muffin pan, or line with muffin liners. This recipe makes 12 muffins.

Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl (flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices). Toss in the cheese and mix until it is evenly distributed.

Whisk wet ingredients together in a separated bowl (eggs, honey, molasses, oil, and yogurt). Stir in the grated apple and mix until is it evenly distributed.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently stir until just combined.

Muffin bowls1
Might not look like much, but the smell of the apples at this point made my mouth water!

Pour the batter into the muffin pan, and bake about 30 – 35 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. I like these best served with a pat of butter, but you could also go big and melt a fresh slice of cheddar on yours. Try your best not to eat them all at once!

Muffins done

Grilled Apple, Bacon, & Cheddar Sandwich

It’s that time of year… the sun is rising a little later to crisp, cool temperatures, the kids are moaning to stay in bed a little longer, and your blissful sunny summer vacation is starting to feel just a little too far away already.  But with the warm days of summer slipping through or chilly fingers, beautiful gourds, greenhouse-treasures, and apples! are gracing our shelves.  There’s something really comforting about cozying up in a sweater with one of your favorite meals; ours is a grilled cheese.  Yes, you may say it’s just a sandwich…. but it doesn’t have to be.  With seasonal tart apples, smoky bacon, and oozy sharp cheddar, this isn’t just a sandwich… it’s a warm hug on a cold day, a nostalgic mainstay, a damn good quick dinner.  And if you don’t like apples or bacon (you might be a little crazy), but you can throw just about anything between two slices of fresh bread and make a hearty, kid-friendly, speedy dinner for those nights when you’re running out the door to soccer practice or piano lessons or just need a little piece of cheesy heaven.

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Market Sourced Ingredients

2 slices whole wheat bread from Yum Bakery

4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked crisp from Spragg’s Meat Shop

4 slices Farm House Cheddar (we chose 8 years for it’s deliciously strong flavor) from Sylvan Star Cheese

1/2 Honeycrisp apple, cored, sliced thin from Souto Farms

*Brassica Whole Grain mustard from Blu Seafood

Butter

*This can be substituted nicely with the Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Garlic Onion Jam from La Cucina

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Preheat a seasoned grill pan or griddle over low to medium heat.  Assemble this sandwich just as you would a traditional grilled cheese sandwich: spread 1 slice of bread with some whole grain mustard, then top with cheddar (you can go as little or a lot as you like; we covered most parts of the bread with thin slices of cheese), the bacon, the apple slices, finishing with another mustard-slathered slice of bread.  We chose to use the Honeycrisp apple instead of say, Granny Smith, because it’s the perfect balance of tart and sweet that compliments the rich, sharp aged cheddar.  Unlike Granny Smith that are really quite sour, these may just be the perfect apple.

Butter the outsides of the bread generously and transfer to the pan. Grill about 3 minutes per side until golden. Remove to a cutting board and cut the sandwich in half on the diagonal to serve.  And if it’s a particularly crisp evening and you’re yearning for a hot bowl of soup to dip your ooey-gooey salty, sweet sandwich in, check out The Stock & Sauce Co. for a wide array of hearty, healthy soups.

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