But, I was being a good sport. I turned the heat on in the house. I wore my winter jacket outside (sometimes with a scarf). And I had myself all geared up for cold weather comfort food.
And then, something strange happened. The frosty 36ºF days suddenly became balmy 69ºF days. The sun came out. Woodland creatures crept out of their premature hibernation and began to frolick once again. And a day lily in my garden burst into spontaneous autumn bloom (seriously, folks -- I wish I had taken a picture).
For some reason, it seemed wrong to blog about risotto when I could pull out the stops and hearken back to one of those luscious late summer dishes that makes your head swim with lusciousness. And so, I changed my mind.
Instead of hauling out the photos of that risotto, I took a mental journey back to those warm September days when the garden was ripe with cherry tomatoes. I thought back to the delicious end-of-summer lasagnette that's become a tradition at our house. Layers of delicious fried eggplant, roasted cherry tomato sauce, tangy goat cheese, salty parmesan, and plenty of Italian parsley.
Yeah, this was the sort of food I was in the mood for.
Just look at those gorgeous fruits. Succulent. Sweet. Bursting with pure tomato flavor.
On this particular occasion, I took about 4-6 cups of the tomatoes and placed them on a roasting pan in a 425ºF oven with a few nice long sprigs of fresh rosemary.
They sweltered, and burst. Their sugars caramelized and their juices mingled with the flavors of the rosemary branches.
I sauteed about 2 cups of red bell pepper and about the same amount of onion in olive oil. I added 2 cups of uber flavorful homemade chicken stock, a bay leaf, and all those luscious tomatoes. And I let the sauce simmer away for about 30-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, I turned my attention to the eggplant I'd picked up at the farmer's market. And took a sip of the glass of wine Peef poured me while I was making the sauce.
I sliced it thinly, salted it liberally, and then left it to drain for about a 1/2 hour or so; then, I rinsed them briefly and dried them thoroughly. Now, I know that there are skeptics among you -- skeptics who scoff at salting eggplant. Who claim that eggplants don't NEED to be salted. And maybe that's true. But, I'm not into doing extra work if there's no pay off.
In this case, I didn't salt the eggplants because I feared they were bitter; rather, I wanted to draw out some of the moisture from the fruits. This accomplishes three things: 1) It firms the flesh of the eggplant, which renders them texturally more pleasing for the lasagnette; 2) It adds a bit of flavor to the dense eggplant flesh; and 3) A salted (and dried) eggplant will absorb less oil when fried.
I seasoned some flour with salt, pepper, and garlic, and dredged the eggplant. When every slice was nicely powedered, I shallow fried every last piece of it in olive oil.
Then, the assembly of the lasagnette began. First a layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan.
Then, layers of eggplant, crumbled fresh goat cheese, chopped parsley, and parmesan cheese. And repeat. Keep layering until you've used up every last bit of eggplant. Then, top with bread crumbs and additional parmesan cheese. Bake at 375ºF for about 30 minutes, or until the lasagnette is browned and bubbles slightly along the edges.
Serve up the lasagnette in generous slices with a bit of extra cheese. Maybe a nice salad alongside.
A pan feeds 6-8 easily. Leftovers are amazing. And it freezes beautifully. In fact, we just ate the last of this batch a couple of weeks ago in the midst of a cold snap. And it was perfect.
Thick Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
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