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.

Click here to check out my post at PJLibrary.org.

Zucchini and Eggplant Gratin
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 12
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
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.

Dinner Party Delight: Irene’s Famous Salad Dressing

IrenesFamousSaladDressing.TheCubanReuben.comA few weeks ago, Kenny and I were invited to our friends’ house for Shabbat dinner. This is a big deal, because often times our friends get nervous about inviting me, the in-house foodie, to eat their home-cooked food. The truth is, as much as I love cooking for others, I also appreciate when others cook (or order in) for me! It’s really a treat, and this particular dinner was no exception. Leading up to the occasion, we were teased with promises of an old family recipe for Russian short ribs, which Irene paired with creamy, stick-to-your-ribs polenta. Yes, the short ribs most certainly lived up to the hype, as there may or may not have been a moment where all four of us bonded over sucking on the bones after the meat literally slid off. Even when there was no meat left, we tore pieces of my challah to mop up any remaining sauce. That’s how good it was. And yes, home-style polenta was certainly the perfect choice to accompany such a decadent and special dish. But those tasty eats aside, I must admit that the true dark-horse dish of the evening was a simple salad Irene prepared, that was topped with a homemade dressing.

Pre-dressing, my salad included spring mix lettuce, sliced hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and chunks of fresh avocado.

Pre-dressing, my salad included spring mix lettuce, sliced hearts of palm, baby heirloom tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and chunks of fresh avocado.

I know it seems hard to believe that when compared to short ribs and polenta, the star of the evening would be dinner salad, but trust me on this one, as it was all in the dressing. I will always favor a homemade dressing to the jarred stuff you can get at the store, particularly because they are so easy to make. Irene combined a handful of both savory and sweet ingredients, like real maple syrup and dijon mustard, that so perfectly heightened her choice of salad mix-ins, and for several days after our dinner, I was still thinking about it. This is why, when I planned the next dinner party Kenny and I hosted, I knew exactly which salad dressing to feature.

Rachel, sporting her mighty peach upside-down cake.

Rachel, sporting her mighty peach upside-down cake.

As my guests arrived with their pot-luck offerings in tow, I quickly shook up the ingredients of the dressing in a small mason jar, and placed the jar alongside the salad on the dinner table. It was really that easy. After a quick photo for good measure, we chowed down on dinner, and before we knew it, there wasn’t a morsel of lettuce left of the salad to speak of.

Dinnerpartyguests.TheCubanReuben.com

Dinner guests, anxiously awaiting the photo, so that they can start eating!

It looks like I’m not the only fan of Irene’s famous dressing! Next time you’re in the mood for whipping up some homemade dressing, give this one a whirl. Or a shake, for that matter. It may be the je ne sais qoui to kick up your favorite salad just a notch.

Irene's Famous Salad Dressing
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 6-8
Prep time:
Total time:
 
Kick up your salads a notch with this easy, homemade dressing recipe.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. pure maple syrup
  • 1 heaping Tbs. coarse ground dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 three-finger pinch each of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar, seal tightly, and shake vigorously until oil has emulsified and everything is well-incorporated.
  2. Chill until right before serving.
Notes
Irene also suggests trying flavored balsamics, like peach or fig, for this recipe.