I never expect to see shiny, plump and beautiful eggplant in the grocery store until mid/late summer, but we’ve gotten lucky this year as a booming crop became readily available in our local market (unlike the empty paper towel and toilet paper shelves!) Since this is one of my favorite summer comfort foods, I thought I’d share and old world recipe with you. (If you want to skip a step and use purchased tomato sauce, that’s a great time saving option.)
You might ask why you need to soak your eggplant in salt water first. This does two things: it draws out any of the bitter juices that can be found in older eggplant and tightens up the flesh, making the eggplant less likely to soak up too much oil when you are frying them. This recipe will make 2 – 9×13″ pans. Since it can be a bit time consuming to make, it enables you to put one pan away in the freezer for another time.
Wash eggplant. Remove the top and bottom from the eggplant and slice across into 1/2" rounds (no need to peel) Submerge in a large bowl of cold water with 3 Tbsp Salt. Put a plate across the top of the bowl to keep the eggplant submerged. Let soak 30 min to 1 hr.
Prepare the sauce: In a medium pot on top of the stove, heat the oil and add diced onion and a teaspoon of sugar. Cook over low heat until the onions are translucent and soft.
Add the torn basil leaves, oregano and garlic. Continue cooking for another minute, watching that the garlic doesn't burn. Add the the salt and pepper and the tomatoes and the remaining sugar, if desired.
Continue cooking over low heat until the flavors meld. Let simmer 30 min. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Drain eggplant and dry on paper towels
Mix together the Flour, salt and pepper on one plate. In a second large shallow bowl or pie plate, beat the eggs together.
One at a time, dip the eggplant in the seasoned flour and then in the beaten eggs
Heat oil in a large skillet or fry pan
Fry the eggplants until golden on one side and then turn to continue frying on the other side. Remove to a paper lined sheet pan.
When all the eggplant are fried, you are ready to assemble!
Spray two 9X13" pan with PAM spray
Put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of each pan
Lightly sprinkle with the grated pecorino romano cheese
Layer the eggplant slices - touching but not overlapping
Sprinkle grated mozzarella over
Lightly sprinkle with grated pecorino romano cheese
Continue layering in this order:
Sprinkle Chopped Parsley
End with Sauc
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 min. Let rest 10-15 min.
On a recent pilgrimage to Israel, I encountered the cultural phenomenon that is the traditional Israeli breakfast: Fresh vegetable salads, an abundance of fruit, creamy bowls of hummus, smoky eggplant baba ghanouj, borekas, and pastries of every description. The pièce de résistance, however, was the warm and savory shakshouka. Featuring delicately poached eggs, spices and vibrant herbs, I knew I needed to make this when I returned home.
Fun to say (shak-SHOO-kah) and even more fun to prepare, this delicious souvenir from the Holy Land warms me from the inside out!
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Warm the oil in an oven-safe skillet (I used cast iron) over medium heat. Once oil shimmers, add onion, bell pepper, and salt. Cook until the onions are translucent.
Add garlic, tomato paste, cumin, and paprika. Cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add crushed tomatoes with their juices and cilantro. Stir, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make a well near the edge of the pan with the back of a spoon and crack the egg into it. Spoon a bit of the tomato mixture over the whites to contain the egg. Repeat with remaining eggs, and season with salt and pepper.
Put the skillet to the oven and bake for 8–12 minutes, checking often after 8 minutes. Cook until the egg whites are an opaque white and the yolks have risen a little but are still soft.
Take the hot skillet out and place on a heat-safe surface. Garnish with fresh cilantro or a crumble of feta and enjoy!
At this time of year, our garden is bursting with mini eggplants. Earlier in the season at planting time we received a donation of seeds for this specialty vegetable and it has indeed been a bumper crop. This dish can be prepared with a single eggplant for a personal size serving, or in a cast iron or ovenproof dish for a family as you see below. You may enjoy watching the video below which offers three additional ways to serve eggplant. Although the directions are in Russian, the pictures are universal! Once you have made the dish, you may want to share your picture with your Facebook fans and friends!
To me, the perfect sandwich is one that awakens all the senses at once: the crunch of the lettuce, the creaminess of the cheese, the zip of the spice, and the smokiness of the grill. This recipe fits that bill and has become our favorite summer ‘go-to’ sandwich. It’s a feast for the eyes and easy to prepare, packed with flavor. If you can’t get to Italy this summer, let Italy come to you!
This week, we have five young women working as sous-chefs in our kitchen to help us with a week-long retreat. They’ve had some great lessons as they’ve learned how to: pick the proper herbs, chiffonade basil, properly dice tomatoes (yes, it’s a technique!), grill chicken so it is moist and delicious, and many others. I expect them to return to their families with some great new recipes and skills at the end of this week. We hope you enjoy this sandwich for one of your functions this summer. It’s going to be a staple on our menu!
Tip: make a jar of the pesto sauce to have on hand in the freezer any time you need it!
Make bruschetta topping: in a medium sized bowl. Combine the red onions, garlic, tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon olive oil, oregano, and basil. Set bruschetta to the side. Drain slightly before using.
Grill your chicken: season with salt and pepper and rub with about 1 tsp. of olive oil and grill over low flame until 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Meat is ready to turn when it no longer sticks to the grill. Do not overcook
Split your rolls in half then stack back together, lay on a sheet pan and toast for 5 min in a 350 degree oven.
To assemble, spread pesto sauce on each half of the roll, then layer with lettuce or arugula, mozzarella, grilled chicken then drizzle with balsamic reduction and top with the bruschetta topping. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately.
In the coming months, you will from time to time be treated to new recipes from “guest bloggers”. These are old and new friends — dedicated chefs and passionate voices who share our love of cooking. After all, we are Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen, and these kitchens extend far and wide, all over the world. Tables that welcome the “Stranger as Christ”, kitchens that “practice the presence of God” as Brother Lawrence taught, and communities that are built by hospitality, love and prayer. Our lives are enlarged as we welcome them and listen to their unique voices, share in their story and try our hand at their creativity.
Mepkin Abbey is a monastery of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly known as Trappists. We follow the Rule of St. Benedict and were founded in 1098 in Citeaux, France, from which we get our name “Cistercian.” As Trappists we are a cloistered contemplative community, worshipping God by chanting the psalms daily and seeking God in silence and solitude. Mepkin Abbey was founded in 1949 from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, the first Trappist abbey in America founded in 1848 from France.
We have the tradition of eating simple meatless meals. The recipes in “Food for Thought” are chosen with the eye to healthy, easy to prepare meals that met the needs of our tradition and satisfy hard working monks. Good healthy food contributes to the mindfulness of God that we seek as we give thanks for all God has provided us.
Lent is a special time, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday our main meal consists of bread and water. And in the evenings the brothers share a time of sacred reading of the Lenten book they chose, which was given in ceremony to each one by Father Abbot.
A young newlywed couple from Russia came to Bethany for an extended stay. Alexi, the groom, was delighted to discover that an old friend and former mentor from Russia was unexpectedly going to be near enough to spend some time with him while he was in the States. He immediately extended an invitation to him and his friends for dinner – a real, Russian meal that he himself would prepare for them.
The day of the planned dinner Alexi felt ill and was unable to do any cooking. With his permission I prepared a meal that I thought would be close to what he would have made, and I felt one of the dishes should be stuffed cabbage. I prepared them as I remembered my Ukrainian mother always preparing them.
By dinnertime Alexi was well enough to join his guests and no mention was made of his not feeling well earlier. Everyone enjoyed dinner and Maestro Serge was particularly taken with the stuffed cabbage. “This,” he said to me, “is authentic.” Then he added, “A real Russian can always discern whether or not the Russian food he has been served was prepared by a real Russian.”