Zucchini and Eggplant Gratin: Or how to get your family to eat their vegetables.

gratin

By now, those of you who know me have heard me talk ad nauseam about how lucky I was to grow up with freshly grown vegetables at arms length. Being able to eat extremely fresh produce certainly made a difference in flavor, but my love for vegetable recipes was certainly influenced by my mother’s kitchen skills and her ability to prepare these vegetables to best tickle my taste buds. I recognize that not everyone is fortunate enough to have my mom preparing their vegetables, and that perhaps this is why they get such a bad rap. For those people I offer a little secret. Just a little something to solve the riddle of dreary, steamed, mushy vegetables. In a word… CHEESE!

Gratin2For many families, cheese is the perfect vehicle to introduce even the most offensive vegetable. In this recipe, ribbons of green zucchini and aubergine eggplant are coated with not one, but three types of cheese, in order to add depth of flavor. Mozzarella and parmesan are traditional favorites, but when paired with fontina cheese, whose characteristics boast a nice sharp flavor and high melted gooiness factor, the three make a winning combination.

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Zucchini and Eggplant Gratin
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 12
Prep time:
Cook time:
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Ingredients
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • 2 Japanese eggplant, cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices.
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of heavy cream, divided
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella, divided
  • 1 cup grated fontina, divided
  • ½ cup grated parmesan, divided
  • 3 sheets of Yehuda matzo, crumbled
  • 2 Tbs. Italian seasoning, divided
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with kosher for Passover nonstick spray (Or grease with butter or oil).
  3. Place the first layer of zucchini and eggplant in the bottom of the dish, and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  4. Pour ⅓ of the heavy cream on the zucchini. Sprinkle ⅓ each of the mozzarella, fontina, and parmesan cheeses. Add ⅓ of the matzo crumbs, and ⅓ of Italian seasoning.
  5. Repeat the layering (steps 3 and 4) two more times, ending with the matzo crumbs and Italian seasoning on top.
  6. Drizzle the olive oil over the dish, and place in oven.
  7. Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes, or until the dish is bubbling and the top is brown.
  8. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Notes
Be careful of spillage while baking. You may want to place a tray underneath to catch any leaking cheese.

*Note: I am working in conjunction with PJ Library on several recipes featuring Yehuda Matzos. Although I am being compensated for my recipes, my opinions expressed regarding Yehuda Matzo are honest and entirely my own.

Mis Abuelos and the No Dilemma December: Frituras de Malanga (Malanga Fritters)

Malanga Fritters.TheCubanReuben.comMost of the Jewish kids I knew growing up partook in a handful of familiar traditions during the holiday season. They would light their menorahs, eat latkes and jelly doughnuts, and squeal in delight at the gelt they’d win from a few festive rounds of dreidel before bedtime. In my house, the traditions were very similar, except we sometimes swapped Cuban-style malanga fritters for potato pancakes. Despite the fact that my extended family represents many different religions, my parents made it clear from the start that in our Jewish home, we celebrate Hanukkah.

Conversely, my abuelos, or grandparents, native Cubans and devout Catholics, hosted an annual Christmas party, and as it was the one time in the year where every single member of my large extended family would be in attendance, my parents felt strongly that we accept the invitation, as well. These parties boasted beautiful decorations ornamenting the entire house, piles of colorful gifts for the grandkids under the tree, and echoes of laughter and warmth from family members reuniting. Of course, these elements were certainly a big draw, but the main event was always the food. Oh, the food! My abuela, the original culinary matriarch of the family, made sure nobody left hungry, and always had enough food for everyone to take home leftovers of the scrumptious Cuban feast she’d make. Her Christmas parties offered the all-star dishes from her culinary arsenal: succulent roasts, creamy black beans spooned over white rice, a variety of seasonal vegetables, and just like our Hanukkah dinners, Abuela’s Christmas parties would not be complete without malanga fritters.

As featured on Jewish&, a collaboration between Be’Chol Lashon and MyJewishLearning.com

My Hanukkah malanga fritters, sitting in front of the "famous" family cookbook my mother gifted me.

My Hanukkah malanga fritters, sitting in front of the “famous” family cookbook my mother gifted me.

As dinner ended, my abuela found immense joy in passing out the Christmas gifts, and she went to great lengths to make sure that her Jewish grandchildren were not overlooked. She always had a little something for my brother and me under her tree, and unlike the gifts for my cousins, ours were always wrapped in Hanukkah paper. This small gesture not only made my brother and me feel extra special, but it was an expression of the support she showed my mother about her decision to convert to Judaism.

Through the years, I’ve attended countless family Christmas parties, baptisms, first communions, and so on, just as my family has shown their support at my traditionally Jewish life-cycle events. I’ve always loved learning about my family’s different religions, and fondly remember many a time when I stayed up late with my cousins, explaining the significance of some of the Jewish traditions I practiced. I took great pride in being the authority on all things Jewish, and made sure my explanations were always as authentic as possible. As an adult, I have a deep-rooted fascination with the world’s major religions, mentally noting the similarities and differences between them and my native Judaism every chance I get. This fascination, coupled with my early exposure to other religions, has only helped to foster my strong identity as a Jew.

I recognize that I am incredibly lucky to have been born into such a supportive and engaged, albeit religiously diverse, family. This spring, as my husband and I welcome the newest member of the tribe to our family, I hope to teach our child not only of our Jewish traditions, but to encourage respect and admiration for others’ traditions, as well.

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Frituras de Malanga (Malanga Fritters)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 35 fritters
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Take an international bite this Hanukkah with Cuban-style malanga fritters.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. malanga, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ lb. yuca, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp chopped Italian parsley
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  2. In a food processor, grind together the malanga, yuca, and garlic. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Add lemon juice, baking powder, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper to the mixture, and stir until well combined.
  4. Test the oil with a tiny drop of the mixture. If oil bubbles, it is ready to fry.
  5. Using two kitchen spoons, drop one spoonful of the mixture into the hot oil, and fry for two minutes or until the bottom side starts to brown. Turn the fritter over, and continue to fry until golden brown throughout.
  6. Taste fritter to determine if it has enough salt and pepper for your liking. Adjust batter accordingly, and continue frying. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.
  7. Remove the cooked fritters from the oil, and drain on a platter lined with paper towel.
  8. Serve immediately.