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Eggplant Parmesan My Way

by Anne Maxfield on September 3, 2018

Accidental Locavore Striped EggplantSince I first posted this, it’s become my go-to recipe for eggplant Parmesan. It’s lighter (but still no diet dish) than traditional and I do it in stages when we get a couple of cooler hours in a day. It’s inspired from Mark Bitman’s How to Cook Everything and really good because it’s dredged in flour, not heavily breaded. Serves about 4.

Eggplant Parmesan My Way

  • 3 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 cup of flour (for dredging)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella grated (about 2/3 of a fresh ball)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • About 30 basil leaves (or a mix of oregano and basil)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce

Pre-heat your oven to 350°. Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. While the olive oil is heating, pour the flour, salt and pepper into a shallow bowl. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour and shake off the excess. Saute the slices in the olive oil until golden brown. You’re going to need to do this in batches, and don’t crowd the pan! Let the cooked slices drain on paper towels while you saute the rest. You’ll need to keep adding olive oil to the pan, and it will seem like a lot; it is, but this is not a low-fat dinner.

Accidental Locavore Eggplant Parm My WayWhen you’ve finished sauteing the eggplant, take a gratin pan, or several small ones, and lightly grease with olive oil. Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce, a layer of eggplant slices, a sprinkling of mozzarella, a sprinkling of Parmesan, and a few basil leaves. Keep repeating until you reach the end  of the eggplant. On top of your last layer of eggplant, more tomato sauce, the rest of the mozzarella, a good sprinkle of Parmesan, and your best looking basil leaves (style points). Bake for about 20 minutes until it’s warm all the way through and the cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Frank paid this the ultimate compliment last night, when he said I did for eggplant what Bill (the former chef at Rancho la Puerta) did for salmon. In other words, made him love something he’s not generally fond of. This recipe works well because the eggplant is thinly sliced and not heavily breaded. Since sautéing the eggplant, is what takes time, I often do it ahead of time and just pull it out when I’m ready to bake it. We thought, last night, that some Italian sausage might be a nice addition to this, so maybe next time.

Update: This is my go-to way of making eggplant Parm. I generally do add some Italian sausage, crumbled, into the layers. Frank loves this and now looks forward to having eggplants from our CSA share. I ususally find a cool morning to fry up the eggplant and try to do a big batch, as it freezes and reheats well. If it’s going to be hot out, I’ll just carefully bag the cooked eggplant, and wait for a cooler day to assemble and bake.

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The Accidental Locavore: How it Started

by Anne Maxfield on February 20, 2017

Accidental Locavore Farmbasket Week 3For those of you who don’t know my locavore story, here’s how it all got started…

As you know, sometimes in life, opportunities come from the most unlikely places.

The Accidental Locavore was created when, in the summer of 2008, my local farmer, Paul, decided not to open his farmstand.

He decided to focus instead on the farmers’ market in Millbrook, and building his wholesale business. Understand that I never make it to the (only on Saturday mornings) Millbrook market. Besides, I don’t have the prerequisite black Range Rover matching black retrievers, or proper riding boots(although, since this was originally posted, we have rescued a black dog reputed to have some retriever in him). And as much as I love farmers’ markets world-wide, when the weather is nice I’m on the golf course. 

What to do?

Spoiled for years, by being able to run down the road to grab a couple of amazing tomatoes, I came up with an interesting idea (necessity being the mother of invention).

Would Paul consider putting together a basket of whatever was fresh that week, that I could pick up on Friday afternoons?

A deal was struck, and soon picking up that mystery basket became the high point of my week! The only restrictions I put on the basket were that when corn & tomatoes were ripe, they had to be in every basket.

The lesson from this was that I really enjoyed the challenge of working with ingredients that were incredibly varied, came from down the road (doesn’t get more locavore than that!) and not necessarily what I would have chosen.

More fun was figuring out how to cook with these great ingredients in a manner that would honor their peak ripeness!

Another test was not revert back to the same-o same-o every week (for example, those few weeks when we were overrun with eggplants or corn). In the weeks and now years since then, I’ve written about what was in the weekly baskets, and what delicious meals they turned into!

I hope it inspires you to buy local and fresh–be your own locavore.

And please feel free to comment and share your favorite recipes.

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Three Green Goals for 2017 and Beyond

by Anne Maxfield on January 23, 2017

Accidental Locavore Green Goals EarthThese three green goals are all works in progress for the Accidental Locavore.

And they’re the kinds of goals that should be works in progress for all of us.

No matter why you do it, every step helps the planet (and in these days, it’s going to need help from all of us).

How and what you eat is a big part of that.

So, here are a couple of goals I’m setting. They’re not big, just some small steps in the right direction. How about you?

Support local business.

Accidental Locavore Green Goals Nice Market GuysWhether it’s a local grower, farmer, purveyor, or the small very specialized business down the street, local is better.

And get out of your comfort zone with food.

A green goal might be to try a cut of meat you’ve never had, experiment with an unusual vegetable at your farmer’s market, or go for a different type of fish that might be more sustainable than the best sellers.

Most sellers (especially when it comes to food) are more than happy to explain what it is and share ideas on how best to cook it.

You can’t believe how much I’ve learned from talking to the people behind the counter. That’s one of my favorite things about farmer’s markets and local purveyors.

Clean out your refrigerator, and fill your freezer.

Accidental Locavore Green Goals FreezerOne of your green goals should be to clean your refrigerator.

Believe it or not, the experts say you’re supposed to clean your fridge every time you go grocery shopping.

If by cleaning, they mean shoving stuff around to make room for the new food, I’m there.

You know that’s not it.

We’re all guilty of keeping stuff around past its prime, or not tossing that bottle of ______ that no one will touch.

And how many jars of mustard do you have in your fridge? There are at least 4 in mine (that I can find).

I’m going to do a complete cleaning and toss all the science experiments. Then when I reload it, I’ll do it the smart way, so everything stays fresh as long as possible. If you have questions about keeping or tossing food here’s a useful site (that obviously my mother has never been to).

Why fill your freezer? A full freezer works better and more efficiently than a partially full one. Mine must be working pretty well….

Swap plastic for ___?

Accidental Locavore Green Goals Food WasteHere’s where I could use some help with my green goals.

We go through an amazing amount of plastic food storage bags, and while I’ve made some inroads in swapping some Ziplocs for small, reusable containers, I’m always tossing plastic bags.

What do you use?

The problem for me with glass containers in my crowded fridge is that if it slides off the pile, it breaks. I’ve found that Ball jars work for a lot of things, fridge or pantry. And swapping styrofoam take out boxes (which I hate) for plastic ones, may not be the best, but it’s a step in the right direction.

With the GIR lids, covering glass or china containers in the microwave has stopped being a problem.

What about the grocery store/farmer’s market? My ChicoBag is always with me to gather groceries, but once I get them home, if the lettuce and scallions aren’t in a clear bag (i.e. visible) they get overlooked and quickly become food waste.

Do you just try to minimize the plastic bag use, and make up for it somewhere else?  I’d love your ideas.

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A Local Apple Relish Recipe

by Anne Maxfield on October 6, 2016

Accidental Locavore Red Hook ApplesThis apple relish came last year when I was playing golf with friends, it’s simple and a nice way to use up a couple of apples.

The Accidental Locavore decided on a condiment to go with the two chèvres I had from Goat Cheeses of France. The Red Hook Golf Club was originally an apple orchard, and hundreds of apple trees still line the fairways. This has been a terrific year for apples and there are literally thousands of them, ripe for the picking. I grabbed a bunch of Romes and McIntoshes from my favorite trees (around the tee box on the fifth hole) and made a simple relish for the cheeses. This made about 2 cups:

Apple Relish Recipe:

  • ½ cup of sugar, more or less depending on your apples
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • 1 ½ pounds tart, crisp apples, peeled and cut into 1/2” chunks
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Accidental Locavore Apple RelishIn a medium sized pot over medium heat, heat the sugar and vinegar, stirring to dissolve.

Stir in the apples and cook for about 5 minutes, until the apples are cooked but still hold their shape. Stir in the ginger, taste and add salt as needed.

Cool to room temperature. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Although I’m not generally a fan of “stuff” other than bread or a plain cracker with cheese, this was a nice addition.

The apples had a nice fresh flavor that contrasted well with the rich funkiness of the cheeses. Leaving them in chunks kept them from turning into mush (aka apple sauce).

The ginger added a hint of spice and some brightness. Now that I’ve done my posts for the Goat Cheeses of France, I can sit back, relax and enjoy their wonderful chèvres my way, with a baguette. The rest of the relish I’ll use to garnish a duck, or go more traditional with some pork chops or smoked pork tenderloin.

What would you use it with?

 

 

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