Veggie Recipes: Italian Style Eggplant & Spaghetti Squash

Veggie Recipes: Italian Style Eggplant & Spaghetti Squash

Just a couple weeks ago, the farms up here in Vermont were producing eggplant like crazy and just beginning their spaghetti squash harvest. I love spaghetti squash and how easy it is to make. I also love that it gives me a chance to really splurge on a pasta type dish, because without the actual pasta, I don’t have to worry about the carbs, calories, or sodium. It was also a chance to use some of our homemade tomato sauce. I decided to put together a meal that was 95% Italian. The other 5% comes from the Vermont cheddar cheese I ended up adding instead of mozzarella only because I didn’t have any on hand. It didn’t matter, the end result was delicious.

Italian Style Eggplant with Pan Fried Polenta and Spaghetti Squash

For the Eggplant Dish:

1 Eggplant, inch slices

Cheese to taste

Basil

Tomato Sauce

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Place eggplants slices in a small baking pan. Add basil, any Italian spices you may want to add, tomato sauce, and cheese on each layer that you may have.

3. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Can bake concurrent with spaghetti squash.

For the Spaghetti Squash Dish:

1 Spaghetti squash

Tomato Sauce

Cheese to taste

1. Slice the squash in half long ways and scoop out the insides with a spoon (scrape the seeds and easy stuff out until you are scraping against the harder inside).

2. Although not necessary, you can sprinkle some pepper on the inside for flavoring.

3. Put a half inch of water in the baking pan.

4. Place the squash halves, open side down, on the pan and cook in 375 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. You should be able to stick a fork through the outside when it is done.

5. Take the squash out and put it right side up. Now, take a fork and just scrape it against the sides “fluffing” the spaghetti like pieces. There is a lot more there than you think! You should be able to scrape them off until you reach the skin.

7. After you have scraped all of the squash into spaghetti, dress it with tomato sauce and cheese. Place back in the oven, on broil, for about a minute or two.

For the Pan Fried Polenta:

1 Roll of Polenta

Pan fried polenta is an amazing side to any dish because it is crispy and delicious.

1. Cut polenta in thick slices, 1-2 inches thick.

2. Put a thin layer of EVO in a pan and place it on a medium heat.

3. Place the polenta in the pan. Season with Italian seasonings if you wish.

4. Sear on each side for approximately 10-15 minutes. The polenta will become smaller, thinner, and crispier. Keep checking it to make sure it does not stick to the bottom. Add more oil as necessary, but do not drown in oil or you will get soggy polenta.

All of these parts of the dish are very simple and easy to play around with, so don’t feel like you have to follow this recipe to strictly.

Thanksgiving in Vermont #2

Thanksgiving in Vermont #2

As I mentioned in my previous post, Anthony, Pup, and I live in an apartment (or room) that is under 500 square feet. It’s basically 1 1/2 times the size of my office at work with an attached bathroom. I usually describe it as cozy, and I have to admit I am quite in love with it. However, I knew that this year’s Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a bit of a challenge considering my kitchen has two stove burners, a toaster over, and a microwave (which I refuse to use). Yes, we don’t have an actual oven.

However, dinner went way easier than expected, and I am think this year may have even been more delicious than last year. In addition, this year’s meal was 98% made in Vermont. Now that I think of it, we didn’t go with a local wine, so that may drop it down to 95%. The only other two items that were not made in Vermont were the celery (maybe I should have used celery root!) and the crescent rolls. Everything else, down to the flour I used to make my pie crust, was “MIV”.

So what could have possibly been on my menu with no oven and both Anthony and I being vegetarians? Well I will tell you:

Blue Hubbard Pie

-Our “main dish” was locally made squash ravioli. Last year we made our own ravioli but since I was taking on a bit more than I thought I could chew this year with no oven, I opted for some of my favorite Vermont pasta makers who come out of Putney, Vermont – Putney Pasta. I tied it to the meal by putting the homemade gravy over them instead of tomato sauce.

-Squash Pie – I prepared this the night before. I have done from scratch pumpkin pies in the past with great results. There really is a taste difference in using real pumpkin vs canned pumpkin. This year, though, Anth had an extra baby blue hubbard squash (from his job at Deep Root Cooperative) that he was interested in me using. Even though this winter squash is usually used as a dinner item, I thought it would fit well as a substitute for pumpkin. And it did! I made this the night before and it took just over 50 minutes in the toaster oven to cook. I made a simple whole wheat crust to accompany it. The pie ended up tasting identical to a from scratch pumpkin pie with a thicker, creamier consistency. I will add more spice next year.

-Sage stuffing – We love stuffing. This year we noticed one of the farmers at the Montpelier Thanksgiving Farmers’ Market had fresh sage. I thought that might fit in our dinner well this year and boy did it ever. I prepared the stuffing first since I knew it would need the most time in the toaster oven. I sauteed mushrooms, shallots, celery, the fresh sage, and garlic. I added vegetable broth to this before pouring it over some of our favorite local bread – Bohemian Breads. I actually just put this in foil and threw it in the toaster oven for about 40-50 minutes.

-Sage gravy – Gravy is not a staple that I enjoyed at Thanksgiving in the past. I always ate my mashed potatoes plain. Whenever I was researching recipes with  sage, though, gravy kept popping up. The internet eventually convinced me it would be a good fit. I basically made it out of garlic, shallot, sage, vegetable broth and flour. The sage really popped and the gravy was a great addition to the meal since it was able to tie all of the components together.

-Brussel sprout and kale medley – We love brussel sprouts and kale during this time of year and needed some color to our meal. I steamed the brussels before added them to some local baby dino kale and doing a simple saute with garlic and spices.

-We picked up some little butter gold potatoes at the farmers’ market that made for delicious mashed potatoes. I added Italian spices and a hint of butter.

-Cranberry sauce – This was a new addition to Thanksgiving also. Neither Anthony or I have ever enjoyed cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, but we were interested in giving Vermont Cranberry Company cranberries a try. I dissolved brown sugar in a water, grapefruit juice, and red wine mixture before adding the cranberries until they popped. I then put them in the freezer until we were ready to eat. We actually LOVED the addition of these to our meal especially when paired with the stuffing and pie.

All of Our Fixins’

I began cooking at noon and we were eating before 2 pm. It all went incredibly smoothly even though I could only “bake” one thing in the toaster oven at a time and have two things going at a time on the stove. Anthony and I were both incredibly stuffed by the end of the night. It’s been four Thanksgivings with no meet. I cannot say that I actually miss the turkey at all!

I am incredibly thankful for being able to sit here, in this moment, and need nothing more than I already have.