Eggplant Moussaka

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In the Mediterranean there are endless versions of moussaka, but the basic principle is layered vegetables alternating with layers of minced meat, tomato sauce and bechamel sauce. Typically the vegetables, be it potatoes or eggplants, are fried and then layered accordingly.

This light and and dairy moussaka is not only vegetarian, but not as heavy and fattening as the classic Greek moussaka. I used eggplants for this casserole and instead of breading and frying it, I brushed it lightly with olive oil and then broiled it. I personally do not like fried eggplants,  because it tends to be a greasy with a pool of oil at the bottom of the dish.

To create the substance of meat in this vegetarian moussaka, I used feta cheese and cottage cheese which gives a rich and filling texture to the layers of eggplants.

In the summer time, serve this dish straight from the oven dish with a fresh leafy salad for a satisfying meal on those long summer evenings. In cooler months, try serving it with homemade potato wedges cooked with chili flakes and olive oil for a filling plate of comfort food.

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Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplants, unpeeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil, for basting

Cheese Filling
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces cottage cheese
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup Gluten Free cereal, crushed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
5 tomatoes, diced
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2–3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt, scant
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Directions
  1. Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and let stand ½ hour. Set your oven to broil. Pat dry with a paper towel, baste with olive oil on both sides. You can use a brush to baste. Lightly salt the eggplants and place on tray for the oven. Grill on both sides until golden, about 7 minutes on each side. Make sure the eggplants do not burn.
  2. To prepare filling: mix together cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, feta cheese, beaten egg, gluten free cereal, garlic, and parsley.
  3. To prepare tomato sauce: sauté sliced onion in oil until tender. Add remaining ingredients for sauce and bring to boil. Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until tomatoes have emulsified.
  4. Put a layer of eggplant slices in a greased casserole dish. Place a tablespoonful of filling on each slice and cover with a second slice. Pour tomato sauce over eggplant slices. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 20 minutes.

Quinoa and Swiss Chard with Parmesan

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Short of 2 weeks ago, my CSA started up for the season. This is my 4th year hosting the Great Neck, Long Island site (uhmm… that I started- bragging rights). Happy to say that over the years there has been an overwhelming response to the CSA in Great Neck, that it had to spill over to another site close by. Although there is less traffic in my garage, which is where my makeshift CSA is, I at least get to know everyone in my group on a more personal basis.

Typical of crops that grow well in the late spring, is the Swiss Chard- which made it’s first appearance the first week of the CSA. It contains a lot of fiber, and a host of antioxidant vitamins. It is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in a fuchsia stem with wide fan-like green leaves. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile: it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves. Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible. I decided to cook it with quinoa, which is a complete protein and makes a fulfilling and satisfying dish that could last for a couple of meals. Cremini mushrooms are added, also known as the “younger” portobello mushroom, for a hearty and meaty chew against the nutty quinoa.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Swiss Chard, stems and leaves cut into 1/2 inch pieces, rinsed well
Coarse  Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved

Directions

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Meanwhile heat 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook Swiss Chard, stirring until wilted and tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and season with pepper. Add pepper flakes and toss. Transfer to a platter.
  2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the garlic to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring until garlic is slightly golden, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, and cook stirring occassionally, until they release their juices, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in cooked quinoa; cook to heat, about 1 minute and add thyme. Serve the mushroom-quinoa mixture over the Swiss chard, topped with parmesan.

Roasted Squash with Sunflower Seed Dressing over Wild Rice

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I need to have a good breakfast before I make this dish because I need all the power in my arms to hack away the skin off the squash. I use an 8 inch Wusthoff knife to slice away the the thick layer of skin that is protecting the sweetest moist orange flesh that is the star of this dish.

It is Fall and I love autumn produce. This giant dish is a seasonal favorite of mine. How do I describe this dish to you… there is so much going on here and it is one the best recipes out there for squash, thanks to Heidi Swanson’s 101 cookbook vegetarian website. I have been following her vegetarian blog for sometime and am quite impressed with some of the dishes she has created. This is one of them.

This wild rice dish with roasted squash features two of my seasonal favorites; squash and tiny red onions.  Topped with a sunflower cilantro dressing and you have a healthy hearty and incredibly complex dish.  So many exciting flavors… sweet, salty, nutty, crunchy all in one that just creates a POW in your mouth and stomach.

Now you may not be able to tell from the picture, but the wild rice is under the squash. I did not want to mix it to much because I did not want to break apart the soft roasted squash. I also used Sweet Dumpling Squash which looks like a miniature pumpkin with a hint of orange skin. You can use any squash you have for this dish.

Serves 4

              Ingredients
3 cups Sweet Dumpling Squash (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
extra-virgin olive oi
fine grain sea salt
12 tiny red onions or shallots, peeled (OR 3 medium red onions peeled and quartered)
2 cups cooked wild rice*
              Dressing 
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Toss the squash in a generous splash of olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt, and layer onto a baking sheet. At the same time, toss the onions with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and layer onto a separate baking sheet. Roast both for about 45 minutes, or until squash is brown and caramelized. The same goes for the onions, they should be deeply colored, caramelized, and soft throughout by the time they are done roasting. You’ll need to flip both the squash and onion pieces once or twice along the way – so it’s not just one side that is browning. This could take about 40 minutes. You should keep an eye on the onions because they will roast faster then the squash.
  3. In the meantime, make the dressing. With a food processor puree the sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and sugar until creamy. You may need to add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the dressing a bit. Stir in the cilantro, saving just a bit to garnish the final plate later. Taste and adjust seasonings (or flavors) to your liking.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the wild rice with a large dollop of the dressing. Add the onions, gently toss just once or twice. Scoop the rice and onions out onto a platter and top with the roasted squash (Gently toss to disperse the squash a bit). Finish with another drizzle of dressing and any remaining chopped cilantro.
 
* To cook wild rice: Rinse 1 1/2 cups wild rice. In a medium sauce pan bring the rice and 4 1/2 cups salted water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes or until rice is tender and splitting open, stirring occasionally. You’ll have enough for this recipe and some leftover.

Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I belong to a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) which I run out of my garage for the local farm in Great Neck. So when the CSA season beings I look out for recipes that work with the produce of the week. I came across this recipe Spinach Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms from the Vegetarian Times Issue: May 1, 2008

If you have ever had Greek food, you have had to come across some spinach and feta stuffed vegetable dish of some sort. Take for example, spanikopita, the filo dough filled with spinach and feta. Yum. I find Mediterranean diets so filling, healthy and really so simple. With just a bit of olive oil, garlic, spinach, feta… and presto you have a delicious meal ready in no time. This recipe called for artichoke bottoms, however since I did not have any on hand I used portobello mushroom caps for variation, and I am so glad it worked out that way, because these came out stupendous!

I think if I did this recipe again, I would still use portobello mushrooms, because they have this great chewy hearty texture similar to a piece of meat. This would be a great dish for your carnivorous friends who would be equally satisfied with this classic twist on this Greek dish.

Serves 6

Ingredients
2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 large leek, white and pale green part finely chopped (1 cup)
2 cups chopped spinach OR 1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1/2 cup reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese
6 portobello mushroom caps
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. dried oregano
1/3 cup Gluten Free crumbs OR 1/3 cup crushed gluten free millet/buckwheat flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add leek, and sauté 5 minutes, or until translucent and soft. Stir in spinach and garlic, and cook 3 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, and stir in feta until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cool 10 minutes, or until easy to handle.
  3. Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel- never wash mushrooms with water because it absorbs the water. Place the mushrooms gills side down in an over proof baking dish and place in a preheated oven of for 15 minutes.
  4. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray, and place mushrooms face up on baking sheet. Fill each mushroom cap with spinach mixture, and top with tomato slice. Sprinkle each tomato slice with salt, pepper, and oregano, then with breadcrumbs. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are browned and crispy.