Italian Lunch Spread

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Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on my blog or talking to me will know I adore all things cheese and all food Italian. I have been planning on making a full fledged Italian meal forever now but never got around to doing it. The Thali theme for this month’s Blogging Marathon finally forced my hand and I ticked an item off my bucket list.

Disclaimers first – This may not be an authentic Italian meal considering it is purely vegetarian except for an egg in the Eggplant Parmigiana. This would be the meal you would have in popular Italian restaurants in India. My limited research tells me the meal usually consists of –

Soup

Antipasti / Starters

Primo / First course – Usually a risotto or pasta

Secondo / Second course – Usually some meat or fish

Dolce / Dessert

I have made –

Mushroom Soup

Bruschetta – A simple and lip smacking starter that goes well with the soup

Pasta in Arrabiata Sauce for the First Course

Eggplant Parmigiana – A tasty baked eggplant dish topped generously with cheese

Mushroom and Capsicum Pizza with lots of Mozzarella cheese – I used a healthy pizza crust recipe with oats and wheat flour which results in a guilt free indulgence.

Vanilla Panna Cotta – An easy and quick dessert to round up the meal

The usual Italian meal also includes a cheese platter and seasonal fruits. I have omitted them and replaced that with a Pizza in typical Indian style because all we know about the Italian cuisine is pizza, pizza and some more pizza.

I have detailed the recipe for Bruschetta here which is a perfect answer to an easy and tempting starter and can be made quickly if you have unexpected guests.

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This is my post for the Blogging Marathon under the theme – Thalis.

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Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#74

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Roasted eggplant with lemon garlic sauce

  

   

I finally found these large eggplants which are such a rarity here. We only get the smaller ones which are not the best for baba ghanoush or sutta kathrikai (South Indian brinjal delicacy). 

After satisfying ourselves on both those counts, I still had one large eggplant left and was looking for a quick and easy bake. Voila!

This recipe is super easy and gets you a dish with almost zero effort. And it’s tasty and not really unhealthy. So yay on all fronts.

I found this recipe here and am I excited or what!

  
 

So here goes –

Serves 1

WHAT WE NEED

Eggplant              1

Olive oil               2-3 tbsp

Salt

Pepper

Garlic cloves       2 large or 3 medium

Juice of 1 medium sized lemon

WHAT TO DO

  • Preheat the oven to 180C
  • Cut the eggplant vertically into  2 halves
  • Slit the flesh with a knife but don’t cut it all the way through.
  • Apply 1 tbsp oil on the flesh side and use your fingers to get the oil into the slits.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on it.
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • Grind the garlic cloves, 1 tbsp oil and lemon juice to make a sauce.
  • Once you take the eggplant out of the oven the slots would have spread open making it easy to apply the sauce all over.
  • Sprinkle some more salt and pepper ensuring they are sprinkled into the slits as well.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Enjoy!

 

  NOTES

  1. It is essential to ensure the sauce and salt are generously added to reach the inside layers of the eggplant else the taste will not shine through even though it will be fully cooked.

 
 


This is part of the
Bake-a-thon 2015 


 

Pasta alla Norma 

   

The husband is so fixated on white sauce pastas that I hardly get a chance to try the others. Even when we eat out he refuses to try pesto or arabitta. So I was delighted when I chanced upon this dish. 

Pasta Alla Norma is originally from Sicily, Italy. It derives its name from Vincenzo Bellini’s masterpiece opera ‘Norma’. Apparently, a Sicilian writer by the name of Nino Martoglio was so amazed when he tasted this dish that he exclaimed “This is Norma” (in Italian, I guess) and hence the name.

I have no idea how the opera was but at the risk of sounding immodest, I have to say this is one of the best pasta dishes I have tasted. It’s a must try!

The best part of the recipe is that it’s simple and the ingredients would usually be available in our fridge and pantry. I have adapted my recipe from this one.

Serves 4

WHAT WE NEED

200 gms eggplant

4 medium to large tomatoes

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

200 gms spaghetti 

Fresh rosemary to taste (3-5 leaves)

Dried oregano to taste 

salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

WHAT TO DO

  • Cut the eggplant into cubes, salt them and set aside for half hour to draw out water. 
  • Make slits in the tomatoes and add them to boiling salted water for 5 minutes to blanch them
  • Once the skin on the tomatoes loosen, peel them and chop them
  • Drain the water from the eggplant and dry them on paper towels for a few minutes
  • Add the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion and garlic.
  • Add the eggplant, tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes
  • Cook the spaghetti  in salted boiling water and when cooked, toss it with the sauce.

  

  •  Add Rosemary and dried oregano and mix well
  •  Grate some cheese on top and serve.

 
NOTES 

  1. I used spaghetti. You can use any other pasta like fusilli or penne
  2. You can use canned tomatoes or tomato purée instead of fresh tomatoes
  3. From what I read, basil was the most recommended herb for this dish. I didn’t have and hence the Rosemary.
  4. The traditional dish uses ricotta.

This is my post for the Blogging Marathon hosted by Srivalli.

  
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for other marathoners doing this BM

Baked Pisto with Eggs

   

Today is the second day in the ‘Do the eggplant’ series as part of the Blogging Marathon. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the husband has been throwing more tantrums than my daughter when it came to eggplants. But he loved the baked eggplant with Parmesan. So at least I have one go-to dish in desperate times! Yay!

Today’s dish is the Spanish Pisto which is basically eggplant with a whole lot of other vegetables sauted and baked. I have used eggs in them but you can forget about it and it would still be yumm. Plus, as an additional precaution I grated some cheese on top after baking so that the husband won’t groan. So again, it’s optional and can be done away with.
  

I have adapted the recipe from here. Mine is a lot more simple with fewer ingredients. So here goes –

Serves 2

WHAT WE NEED

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finley chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped 

1 large eggplant, diced

1 large capsicum, diced

4 medium to large tomatoes

salt & black pepper

 a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed from stem

2 eggs (optional)

Grated Parmesan / Cheddar cheese for garnish

WHAT TO DO

  • Soak the tomatoes in hot water for 15-20 minutes and peel off the skin. Chop them and keep aside.
  • Heat the oil, add the onions, thyme, garlic and chilli and cook till the onions are translucent 
  • Add the eggplant, salt and pepper and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes
  • Add the capsicum and cook till all vegetables turn soft. It should take another 10 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 190C
  • Transfer the vegetables to an 8 x 8 baking tray and spread it out evenly.

  

  • If using egg, make two small dips in the vegetables and crack the eggs into the dips. 
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on the eggs.

    

  • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the white of the egg is just set but the yolk is still runny.
  • Remove from the oven, sprinkle the grated cheese and serve with any bread for dipping in the pisto and egg yolk.

  

NOTES

  • You can add zucchini as well. Tropical countries don’t seem to have them 😔 so I had to omit those.
  • If you don’t have fresh thyme then you can use dried thyme but then you need to add it in at the end of the cooking, just before adding the eggs.
  • One of my yolk was funny while the other was not. That’s more to do with my oven hot spots than anything else. This was when I baked for 15 minutes. So I suggest you bake for ten minutes or so if you want a runny yolk.
  • From my limited research, I found corn bread to be the most recommended one with pisto but you can serve it with any other bread and it will taste just as good. I am letting you into a secret – I served it with pita bread. Yes, you read that right, pita bread. It was quite good, if I may say so myself. So go ahead and pick any bread. You can do worse than me 😊

  

This is my entry for the Blogging Marathon hosted by Srivalli. 

  
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for other marathoners doing this BM

Baked eggplant with Parmesan 

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I have always had a turbulent relationship with the eggplant. Earlier I used to simply hate eating it while my mother made umpteen efforts to somehow get it down my throat. When I got married I had to get used to them because the husband loves eggplant. I have found that it is easier to make things he likes the way he likes them rather than trying to introduce him to new dishes and cuisines. So we had a good deal of Indian varieties of eggplant like ennai kathirikai and baingan ka bhartha.

When we moved to Malaysia, a shocking transformation took place. The husband simply refused to have eggplant of any kind that I made. Same eggplant, same recipe, same husband but different reaction. What’s a girl to do? So I picked this theme for October’s blogging marathon simply to figure out other ways of getting the husband to go back to liking eggplants.

Today’s recipe is adapted from a blogging marathon recipe of yore. Do check it out for some amazing pictures and wonderful step by step guidelines. So here goes-

Serves 2 

WHAT WE NEED

1 large eggplant

2 bread slices ground to crumbs

1 egg

Salt

Pepper

3/4 cup tomato sauce

2 cups grated cheese ( I used around 1 1/2 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of cheddar)

WHAT TO DO

  • Mix breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and keep in a plate so as to be easy for dipping the eggplant slices.
  • Beat an egg and keep it in an open mouthed cup for easy dipping again
  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Grease a baking tray with olive oil or line it with parchment paper.
  • Peel the eggplant and cut them into half inch thick slices
  • Dip each slice in the beaten egg and coat each slice with the breadcrumb mixture
  • Place the slices on the baking tray in a single layer not overlapping each other.
  • Bake the eggplant slices for 10 minutes. Then flip each slice and bake for another 10 minutes
  • Spread  half of the tomato sauce at the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking pan
  • Place the eggplant slices on the sauce without overlapping each other.
  • Cover the eggplant generously with cheese
  • Pour the other half of the tomato sauce and place the balance eggplant slices and cover with cheese again.
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 200 C for 25 minutes
  • Remove the foil and bake it uncovered for 10 minutes
  • Enjoy !

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NOTES

  1. I added some extra cheese after baking and before serving simply because the husband is quite the cheesy guy.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM