Baked Eggplant Parmesan Bites

Baked Eggplant Parmesan Bites

Every year I plant a few new plants to test them out. One part of the test is to see how they grow and produce. The second part of the test is to see how they taste and whether we can make good use of the product. A number of plants have been abandoned over the years for issues with either of these. For example, we tried growing strawberries and blueberries (you had to see that coming if you know how much time I spent in Maine) and both failed to grow, as did asparagus. This year I decided not to grow one of the peppers I grew the last couple of years, not because it did not grow well or taste well, but because I could not find a compelling enough use for them. The “holes” left in the garden from removing these plants are where I try new varieties. Last year’s star new variety was Japanese eggplant.

Japanese Eggplant on plantThe eggplant variety I grow is named Orient Express. They are long and thin. They cook fast and easy, no salting or frying required, and the skins are tender enough that no peeling is necessary. The primary reason I started growing eggplant was to make cabonatina. Make it we did and it tasted great. With successful growing comes the inevitable issue of excess production. We tried all kinds of recipes. Now that the eggplant are ripening again, I have been refining what I started last year. As you can tell, patience is a key component.

Last year, using traditional methods, I fried the eggplant rounds after dredging in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs, all gluten-free. That took a lot of time and added a lot of oil and bread crumbs, two things I don’t need more of in my diet. So, this year I tried baking the eggplant rounds without frying them, then making as usual. It was a very tasty success. The sausage I used was homemade spicy Italian sausage (that is not on the blog yet). I realize most people are not as obsessive as I get, so use whatever Italian sausage, spicy or not, that you prefer. I also usually make this and most recipes on a two-oven Aga. If using an Aga, I did all this in the upper oven. I also usually eat them as an appetizer, but they could easily be substantial enough for dinner.


Baked Eggplant Parmesan Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 Japanese Eggplant (or more depending upon your needs)
  • 1/4 Cup Marinara Sauce
  • 1/2 Pound Italian Sausage, spicy or mild
  • 10 Fresh basil Leaves, sliced thin
  • 2 Pieces Provolone Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds, or lengthwise. Spray a cookie sheet with oil. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer. Cook for about 8 minutes, until just cooked through. You can do this step ahead of time and refrigerate until needed.

Cook sausage until cooked through and a bit crispy. I do this in the upper oven also.

Put a small amount of marinara sauce on each piece of eggplant. Don’t use too much. Put a small amount of sausage on top. Put a few slices of basil on top of the sausage. Top with a piece of provolone cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake about 8 – 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and browned. You can also broil on Hi for about 3 minutes.

Enjoy!

Let the Fun Begin

bowl of fresh picked vegetables
It’s about that time of year the last eight months have been building to – weekly harvests. This past weekend we were able to start what should be weekly harvests of various produce. This is always an exciting time in the garden. It is also coinciding with the start of monsoon rains. The weather report shows we have had about 2″ of rain this week. I know for some of you that is an average week. For us in the desert it brings not only a bit of rain, but cooler temperatures, an always welcome occurrence.

Thanks to help from my two favorite helpers this last March we harvested almost 2 pounds of beets. This too is welcome as we have not harvested many beets the last couple of years. The equally good news is that this was just a thinning of the larger beets and we have lots still growing.

ripening tomatoes

The peppers are really starting to get going and there are lots on the plants. I thought I had reduced the number of Shishito peppers enough so we wouldn’t be overwhelmed, but that is not the case. I guess we will have to step-up our consumption. We also have a bumper crop of Aleppo peppers ripening. I am saving the seeds so hopefully they are stabilized and the pepper we get will be close to what we have now. I have a few I just planted so I should know before next summer.

The tomatoes are also growing gangbusters – our Lady’s in Waiting as I refer to them. Most of our preserved tomato supply, whether canned or frozen, is dwindling so this is just in time. Other than the plants being a bit shorter than expected there is hardly any evidence the deer munched them a couple of months ago.

Lazy Days of Summer

orange tomatoes on a plate
The garden is in the lazy days of summer these days. Actually, the garden is super busy, but I’m not, and that is a good thing. The garden seems to be progressing well and has been generally incident free lately. Everything is growing nicely, the banana squash are poised to take over, and we have more tomatoes on the vine than is typical for this time of year, even though most of the plants were topped by deer.

cucumber blossoms

We have had small harvests of most things so far but I expect that to change in a few weeks. Last weekend I harvested almost 8 pounds of the red creole onions. They are hanging out under the house where it is a bit cooler and dry. The weather forecast shows a good probability of rain so the temperatures have moderated some.

red creole onions

For the next few weeks I guess I’ll just watch and wait while fixing the occasional irrigation leak.

banana squash on vine

Busy Long Weekend

baby cucumber on vine

It was a busy but relaxing long weekend over the 4th. There were no major catastrophes to deal with, the deer seem to be staying out of the garden, regardless of whether that is because of the defensive measures we took or they finally moved on, and the monsoon rains have started, at least for last week. The one issue I did have to deal with was completely self-created – I punctured a main irrigation line while staking a fence and did not know that until I ran the water to check something else a little before leaving. Luckily I had all of the components for a repair and got it up and running in no time.

fresh picked peppers and tomatoes

We harvested the first non-cherry tomato over the weekend, the earliest we have harvested such a tomato. It is from what is labeled as a determinate tomato plant. My understanding of determinate tomatoes is that they grow to a certain size, then set the fruit at about the same time. These “determinate” tomato plants did stop growing, but we have everything from blossoms to almost ripe tomatoes on the plant. Oh well, the more the merrier.

banana squash blossom

The one issue I am having with the peppers is identifying them. I know, I know, I should both be able to identify them and I should have labeled them. As it turns out, unripe Aleppo peppers look remarkably similar to ready-to-pick shishito peppers. Now I have to leave a few on each plant to determine what they are. At least the super hot and fairly hot peppers look very different, otherwise that would add a whole new dimension to pepper roulette.

bottles of homemade gin

We also did something entirely new this past weekend. We made gin! No, not from a still (being arrested for being a bootlegger was not on last week’s calendar), but by flavoring vodka. It was from a kit and actually tastes quite good. Next I will have to find the homemade tonic recipe I found years ago but never made. Then I can have homemade gin with a homemade tonic made with herbs from the garden. I know, you’re shaking your head and wondering what cliff I am about to jump off next. Don’t worry, most others are too.

Deer Alert

Tops of tomato plants eaten by deer

The enemy has escalated their attacks, preferring early morning raids. So far no shots have been fired, but, I don’t rule that out in the future. The attacks have prompted us to step-up our defensive posture. Last weekend was spent positioning additional barriers around and over the garden. I also figured out why the camera wasn’t working and repositioned that to see if the deer make it into the garden this week. 

In the past the pesky deer have moved to other ground by this time of year. That has not happened yet. The deer ate the top off 60% of the tomatoes and one more of the tomatillos. Because the tomatoes are being grown in the garden and not a greenhouse, I leave the “sucker” shoots on the plants for extra production and protection from the intense sunlight. 

I won’t be able to see if our increased defenses were successful for a few days. We ran a lot of barriers so I am fairly optimistic. That combined with the start of monsoon rains should allow the munched plants to recover quickly. 

Ripening Sarit gat peppers

One of the Sarit Gat peppers was ripe so I gave it a taste. The first bite was fairly fruity and mellow. The second bite, however, was quite hot, though still fruity. These plants are showing they will be very productive, so I will have to try them in a batch of hot sauce. 

growing tomatillo plants

Have a good holiday.