Thursday, October 16, 2008

Veggie Extravaganza!

In terms of cooking, there is nothing I find more inspiring than a farmer's market. I am in love with the market in Copely Square! There is so much gorgeous produce. This time of year is perfect for picking up some lovely squash. At my friends' requests, I decided to pick up some butternut squash.

Beautiful varieties of squash.
I have wanted to whip up a batch of butternut squash soup for some time now, but have just never gotten around to it. I decide that now would be the perfect opportunity. I would serve the soup as an appetizer for the dinner I was preparing for the bf and some friends. I didn't know what I would serve as the main entree, until...
...I came across these purple beauties. The moment I saw them I knew the focus would be on eggplant. I don't know how I ever avoided this vegetable. It used to make me cringe, but now I can't seem to eat enough of them. When I told AJ what I had bought, he requested eggplant parmesan. This would be a dinner of firsts for me! I could only hope I could pull it all off.
On Sunday night, I began slicing up my squash, onions, and apples for the soup, and then began on the eggplant. To serve everything at the right temperature I would need to plan the preparation of this meal carefully.

I began roasting the vegetables so that I could let the soup simmer while I prepared the eggplant. After I sliced the eggplant I had to flour, egg, and bread them before sauteeing them. I created one batch of eggplant parmesan the traditional way and one without breadcrumbs for AJ. (I told him that if he didn't like the breading, then he didn't really like eggplant parmesan but he didn't want to hear it.) I layered the eggplant with tomato sauce and cheese and threw it in the oven for 30 min at 350 degrees.

Pureeing the soup in batches.

Looking edible...

Putting the final touches on the soup (some roasted squash seeds)!

Matt slicing into the eggplant parm.

Eggplant + tomatoes + cheesy goodness
These dishes were a little difficult to prepare at the same time. I tried my best not to burn myself while trying to sautee the eggplant and puree the soup at the same time. It was a challenge, and I can see how chefs develop those scars of honor preparing dishes in such a time crunch.

The butternut squash soup was awesome in my opinion. The apples and caramelized onions complimented the sweetness of the squash. The stock and garlic added a savory component. The lemony thyme and cider knocked this outta the paaark (my poor attempt at a Boston accent).

Here are the recipes:

I adapted the soup recipe to feed a smaller crowd, and changed some of the ingredients.

Adapted from ''Out of the Earth'' by Kerry Downey Romaniello (Spinner Publications, 1999)
Time : 1 hour 40 minutes

3 pounds butternut, buttercup, Delicata or Hubbard squash, halved and seeded (JAM Note: I used 2 medium sized butternut squash)
Olive oil
3 carrots, peeled (JAM Note: Used 2 small)
2 medium onions, halved but not peeled (JAM Note: Used 1 medium)
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

5 cloves garlic, peeled (JAM Note: Used 3 cloves)
4 apples, cored but not peeled, cut in 1/2-inch chunks (JAM Note: Used 2 small cortland)
1 pound red or white potatoes, peeled, cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices (JAM Note: Used 1 medium white potato)
2 large sprigs thyme, plus extra for garnish
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock. (JAM Note: Used 1 quart)

1/4 cup apple cider (JAM Note: I added this)
1 tsp cinammon (JAM Note: I added this)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash, cut side down, in baking pan lightly coated with olive oil. Toss carrots and onions in a little oil and salt. Add to pan with squash or place in separate pan. Roast vegetables until tender: carrots and onions 40 to 50 minutes; squash about an hour. (JAM Note: The squash took a 1.5 hr)
2. Scoop flesh from squash and place in 6- to 8-quart pot with carrots. Peel onions and add to the pot with garlic, apples, potatoes, 2 sprigs thyme and stock. Add water if needed to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are falling-apart tender, about 30 minutes
3. Puree soup in batches; return to pot and season with salt and pepper (JAM Note: and cinammon and apple cider). Reheat very slowly before serving. Leftovers may be refrigerated or frozen; add a little water or stock when reheating.
Yield: about 10 cups (JAM Note: Yields 6-8 cups)

I researched recipes online and found them all to be very similar. I based my recipe off recpies from and

Eggplant Parmesan

3 medium eggplant (sliced 1/2 in thick)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (preferabley parmegiano reggiano)
1/2 lb mozarella (sliced into rounds)
3 cups Japanese panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 32 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 jar tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic (minced)
Oil for sauteeing

1. Pour sauce and stewed tomatoes into a saucepan. Add seasoning and garlic and bring to a simmer.
2. Add flour, salt, and pepper to a large plate, mixing together well. Mix eggs together in large bowl with a tbsp of water. Pour panko, parmesan cheese, and italian seasoning onto a large plate, mixing together well.
3. Heat a couple tbsp of oil in large saute pan. Dredge a slice of eggplant into flour, then egg, and finally panko. Add to hot oil. Cook each each side for 3 min and then flip.
4. Take a large baking pan and pour a layer of sauce into the bottom of the pan. As eggplant finish cooking, place a layer of eggplant on top. Top with more sauce, and then a layer of mozarella and parmesan. Repeat with eggplant, sauce, and then cheese. (JAM Note: I made three layers)
5. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 min.

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