Dish of the Day: Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese

Dish of the Day: Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese

With 20 days until Christmas, it’s time to get into the spirit! My recipe for Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese is perfect for a veggie weekday meal. You can prepare in the morning, and finish it in the oven for Tuesday’s dinner.

Before I dish out the recipe, here’s a gentle reminder to order your copy of SUNDAY BEST DISHES today! It’s the perfect Xmas gift for the foodie on your Christmas list! Jorj.com subscribers — OR any subscriber who emails me, actually — gets a FREE autographed bookplate to insert into the book! Send an email to Jorj.com that includes your mailing address and the name you want me to personalize!! Oh, and get cooking!

The prep work on this one fills your kitchen with an incredibly pleasing aroma. See what I mean?

Another bonus is that the herbs have an almost Christmasy look – well, in my holiday kitchen they do:

Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

 

This vegetarian delight is every bit as filling as traditional lasagna, and special because of its closeness, yet differences to eggplant parmesan. It’s ooey, gooey and totally yummy!

Eggplant

2 (1-pound) eggplants, sliced into ¼-inch rounds, about 27 slices

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs

Canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350°. Season the eggplant slices with salt. Place into a colander in the sink for 1 hour. This will take the bitterness from the eggplant. Rinse the slices and pat dry. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Dredge the eggplant in the breadcrumbs, pushing the crumbs into each slice.  Add as many eggplant slices that easily fit into your skillet.  Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other side until golden.  (As the eggplant cooks, it will immediately absorb most of the oil.  As it continues cooking, it will start to exude that oil back into the pan.  Watch carefully as you cook.) Remove the eggplant to a baking sheet, lined with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper. Continue until all of the eggplant slices are browned.  Add more oil as you cook a new batch.

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Casserole

½ cup whole milk ricotta cheese

¼ cup organic half and half

1 large egg

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 ½ cups marinara sauce

12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Whisk together the ricotta cheese, half and half, egg, Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. Coat an 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray.  Spoon ½ cup of the marinara into the bottom of the dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices into the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 1 cup marinara sauce. Place ½ of the mozzarella cheese over the sauce. Top with another layer of eggplant.  Repeat with 1 cup marinara and the remaining mozzarella cheese. Top with the last layer of eggplant. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over top. Spoon the ricotta cheese topping over all. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the top is golden, about 30 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to the broil setting. Place the casserole under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the topping.

Let the casserole rest for 15 minutes before cutting into squares.

GAME DAY CHILI!!

GAME DAY CHILI!!

Game Day Chili

What’s better than a bowl of chili on game day? Well, a bowl of chili topped with cinnamon roasted butternut squash, that’s what. I really like to make food that’s ready when you are… especially if the game is close and the shouting is loud. Chili is the perfect one pot meal. You can make it early on, and keep it simmering ‘til half time. You can load it up with toppings and serve it in a mug. It’s simple to make, you can’t blow it. If it’s too spicy, add something cool and sweet. If it’s too lame, pass the bottle (of hot sauce!).

I have a recipe for chili in my cookbook, Sunday Best Dishes for chili with pork chunks, butternut squash and black beans. This version replaces the pork with turkey, puts the butternut squash on top, and exchanges black beans with a combo of red and black. It’s proof that using a recipe as a guideline to create your own dish is not only doable, but required for a simplified, use-what-you-have-on-hand, game day dish! Serve your favorite chili, and you are definitely a game day winner!

Turkey Chili Topped with Butternut Squash

Serves a Crowd

40 Minute Cuisine Plus Simmering

For Butternut Squash:

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded, cut into ½ -inch dice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon ground chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons coarse black pepper

For Butternut Squash:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and diced into ¼-inch dice, about 2 cups

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced into ¼-inch dice, about 1 cup

2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced, about 1 cup

1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled and minced, about 4 tablespoons

3 pounds ground turkey (a mixture of white and dark meat)

3 tablespoons (or more) ground chili powder

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 to 6 drops (or more) hot pepper sauce

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1 (12-ounce) jar chili sauce

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Diced avocado

Sour cream

Diced red onion

Pickled jalapeno pepper slices

Corn chips

Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the butternut squash pieces onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon ground chili powder and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Use your (very clean) hands to gently toss all the squash with the seasonings. Roast until the squash is soft and beginning to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, peppers and garlic and cook until the veggies are soft and beginning to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t forget to stir things around a bit.

Add another tablespoon olive oil to the pot. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the clumps until the turkey is beginning to brown, about another 8 to 10 minutes. At this point, generously season the turkey with salt, pepper and 3 tablespoons chili powder. You can add more later on! Stir in Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce. Pour in crushed tomatoes and chili sauce. Stir in tomato paste with the beans. Reduce the temperature to low and simmer your chili for 20 minutes or so to let the flavors blend. Stir, taste and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Add additional salt and pepper, chili powder and/or hot pepper sauce. Continue to simmer the chili until you are ready to serve.

Ladle the chili into bowls. Offer toppings of chopped avocado, sour cream, diced onion, pickled peppers and corn chips. Spoon roasted butternut squash on the top and dig in!