Stuffed Cremini Mushrooms – gluten free & keto

I was inspired to create this recipe when I found these gorgeous cremini mushrooms at our neighborhood farmers market, which is held every Saturday morning in the beautiful Parque de Los Enamorados.

I love the mushroom stand set up with a variety of mushrooms that I buy every Saturday.

Ingredients:

  • 12 medium sized cremini mushrooms (they are also called Baby Bella)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium red onion
  • A variety of veggies can be used, such as, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes. Here I have used a red and an orange bell pepper.
  • 1 serrano chili, is optional, if you want to add a spicy kick.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • A handful of any herbs you like. Here I have used Italian parsley.
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Use your favorite melting cheese. I usually buy a block of the best cheese I can find. Then I get my husband to grate it for me. However, the Italian cheese in the photo, was on sale and it had no additives or anti-caking compounds, so I bought it.
  • 2 teaspoons of my Italian Spice Mix for sprinkling over the mushrooms and 1 teaspoon for the filling. The Italian Spice Mix consists of garlic powder, onion powder, chili flakes and dried oregano.
  • Olive oil – enough to coat the pan and drizzle over the mushrooms.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Prepping The Mushrooms:

Clean the mushrooms by carefully wiping off any dirt with a moist kitchen towel. Then remove the stems by gently snapping them off. Hollow out each mushroom with a grapefruit spoon. Set the stems and the mushroom innards aside in a bowl. We will use them as part of the mushroom filling. Nothing goes to waste around here!!! Place each prepped mushroom upside down on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper and my Italian Spice Mix. Then drizzle with olive oil. Turn the mushrooms over and repeat the sprinkle and drizzle.

Turn the oven to 400F or 200C. Place the seasoned mushrooms into the oven and bake until they release their juices, as seen in the photo below. This should take about 10 minutes.

Let the mushrooms cool for about ten minutes. Then pour out the juices, that are full of umami flavor, into a small bowl. My motto is “SAVOR EVERY FLAVOR 😋” We will use this umami bomb as part of the mushroom filling. Umami is the savory or meaty taste of foods. It corresponds to the flavor of glutamates in foods. That is why monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used as a flavor enhancing agent. My husband and I are both very sensitive to artificial MSG, but mushrooms have a high concentration of natural glutamates which don’t produce the reaction that artificial MSG does.

TIP – By extracting the mushroom juices we accomplish two things:

1. Dehydrated the mushrooms so they will not be water-logged when they are stuffed and baked again.

2. Created a mushroom extract that is an umami bomb.

Prepping The Filling:

Finely chop all the veggies and herbs. Place each one in a separate bowl because they do not all go in to the pan at the same time.

Cooking The Filling:

Coat a heavy duty stainless steel pan with olive oil. Place the pan over a medium-low flame. Add the onion and a teaspoon of the Italian Spice Mix. Sauté until the onions are translucent.

Add the garlic. Continue sautéing until the garlic is soft. This should take about two minutes.

Add the peppers and the chili. The chili is optional if you want to add a spicy note. Add a dash of salt. Sauté until the peppers are soft.

Add the mushrooms. Sprinkle a dash of salt and a grind of black pepper over the mushrooms. Also drizzle a small amount of olive oil. Stir in the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are soft.

Create a hot spot in the center of the pan by pushing the vegetables to the outer edge of the pan. Place the tomato paste in the center of the pan. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the tomato paste. Stir the tomato paste in the center of the pan and let it cook for a minute. Then stir it into the rest of the vegetables.

Once the tomato paste is incorporated into the vegetables, deglaze the pan with the vinegar and reserved mushroom juices. Cook for about a minute and turn off the flame.

Add the herbs and stir them in. Taste the filling and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. The filling is now ready. Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it cool so that you will not burn your fingers while stuffing the mushrooms.

Use a teaspoon to stuff each mushroom.
Top each stuffed mushroom with freshly grated cheese.

These stuffed mushrooms are very popular at our cocktail parties. They pair especially well with red wine. They are easy to make for a party because they can be made the day before. Just fill them but don’t top them with cheese. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator overnight. An hour before your guests arrive, top them with cheese. As your guests start arriving, pop them in a 350F or 180C oven for 5 to 10 minutes to melt the cheese. Before serving garnish each one with a little basil leaf or oregano leaf.

I often make these stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer to take to parties. I prepare them to the point where they are topped with cheese. Then I put them in a covered casserole dish so they transport well. When I get to the party, I pop them in the oven, so they are piping hot when put on the buffet table.

These stuffed mushrooms are very flavorful. I have been asked for this recipe so many times. I finally found time to write this post to share the recipe.

Sometimes I have filling leftover. It can be used for making omelets or a quiche. I used the leftover filling to make mini stuffed cremini mushroom quiches. They turned out so cute and delicious. I will post the quiche recipe for my next post.

In the meantime, please enjoy the stuffed mushrooms with your favorite glass of red wine. 🍷😋💕

Cheesy Cranberry Pistachio Crostini

Cheesy Cranberry Pistachio Crostini was the snack that was served with cocktails, to make up the Aperitivo for our Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.

I wasn’t planning to post this recipe because it is so simple, but during the event the guests enjoyed this snack so much, and many of them asked me for the recipe. So here it is.

Crostini means “little crusts” in Italian. They are an Italian appetizer consisting of small slices of grilled or toasted bread and toppings.

Ingredients: makes about 25

  • 1/2 loaf of cranberry pistachio bread that I bought at our local HEB supermarket. You can use your favorite fruit and nut bread if you can’t find this one.
  • Cracker cut cheese slices. I used extra sharp white cheddar and a sharp yellow cheddar so that I would have a color contrast.
  • Extra virgin olive oil to coat the bread pieces.

Prep:

Cut the bread into small slices. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on both sides. Place in a plastic storage bag. Refrigerate until you are ready to make the crostini. This can be done up to a day in advance to free up your time on the day of the party. Placed on a lined baking sheet about 30 minutes before you are ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the tray of bread slices in the oven and bake until they are golden brown. This should take about 5 minutes. Flip the slices and brown the other side. Keep an eye on them so them so they don’t burn.
Use a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter to cut out pumpkin shapes from your cheese slices. I usually do this while the bread slices are toasting.

By the way, set aside the extra cheese that is leftover after cutting out the pumpkin shape. These can be eaten or used for other purposes. At the end of this post I will show you an example of how they can be used.

Once the bread slices are toasted, top them with the pumpkin shaped cheese slices while the bread is still warm. This way the cheese will melt a bit and make the crostini taste even better. 😋 Warm melty cheese always tastes better than cold cheese.

The day after the event, my husband decided to make a salad for his lunch. He used the left over cheese slices.

The salad turned out so cute. I thought it was very creative. 😀

I had created an ambitious menu for our cooking class/pop up supper club, so I decided to make an easy snack for the cocktail hour. This was a tasty timesaver. For the most part I make everything from scratch, but once in a while it does not hurt to make things easier by using some quality pre-made products.

Do try this simple recipe and let me what you think. 💕

Pork Piccata – gluten free

This is the Secondi we will be making and serving, for the Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.

Secondi means second course in Italian. It is the main protein course which consists of meat, poultry or fish. I decided to create a play on the classic veal piccata, by using Berkshire Pork tenderloin supplied to me by our neighbors, Rose & James, at Peach Creek Farm. I like supporting our local producers and going straight from The Ranch to The Table. Couldn’t get any more local than the neighboring ranch! 👍😃

Berkshire pork is a gourmet product from a breed of pigs that originated in the English county of Berkshire. The meat has shorter muscle fibers than regular pork, making the meat more tender. The meat is also highly marbled with intramuscular fat, making the meat more succulent and flavorful. Rose & James treat their animals with care. The pigs are not caged and no hormones or chemicals are used in raising them.

In making classic veal piccata, the veal is pounded thin and dredged in flour. I decided to not use flour so I can make the dish gluten free and keto friendly. The flour dredging is traditionally used to protect the thin, lean veal cutlet from drying out, to create a golden brown crust and to thicken the piccata sauce. I will be using Berkshire pork medallions that are 1.25 inches thick and are higher in fat than veal, so they don’t need flour dredging to protect them from drying out. I will get additional flavor and a golden brown crust by coating the pork medallions with my Italian Spice Mix. I will be able to thicken the piccata sauce by adding and whisking in butter at the end. This is a French sauce making technique called Beurre Monte. Which means to mount with butter.

In the test recipe I used bone less pork chops. They turned out well, but I decided to use center cut pork loin medallions for the cooking class/supper club because it is a more tender cut of meat. I will be serving two 1.25 inch center cut pork medallions per person. The pork piccata will be accompanied by roasted squash medallions and seasonal vegetables. Click on the link in the previous sentence for the roasted squash recipe. It has turned out to to be my most viewed post. The recipe was posted on November 17, 2017.

Ingredients: for 4 servings

  • 8 – 1.25 inch thick center cut pork medallions
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (1 to coat the pork, 1 to coat the pan, and 1 for the piccata sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon of my Italian Spice Mix
  • 3 pats of the best unsalted butter you can find
  • 2 tablespoons of small capers
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of wine
  • 1 lemon
  • handful of Italian flat leaf parsley
  • sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Prep:

  • Coat the pork with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the Italian spice mix. Rub the spices into the pork. Cover with plastic and set in the frig while you do the rest of the prep. If you marinate the pork overnight it will be even better.
  • Mince the garlic and parsley leaves
  • Zest and juice the lemon

Cooking the pork:

  • Coat a large nonstick skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place on medium high heat.
  • Once the pan is hot place the pork medallions in the pan. Cook on first side for 2 minutes and then flip.
  • Cook on the second side for 1 minute. Do not over cook the pork or it will dry out.
  • Remove the pork medallions from the pan. Set aside and cover to keep warm. I used a crockpot container with its lid on to hold the pork warm.

Making the piccata sauce:

Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a pat of butter to the pan you used to cook the pork medallions. Turn the flame to medium.
Sprinkle in the chopped parsley.

Taste the sauce. Adjust for salt pepper and acid. During the cooking process, I added only 1/2 the lemon juice. If you need more acid you can add it at this time. Once you are happy with the way the sauce tastes pour it over the pork medallions.

When I am doing a cooking class or a party, I hold the pork piccata in a warm crock pot until I am ready to serve. This makes it easier for all my guests to have warm plates of food, served simultaneously, so we can all eat together.

I have been told many times that the best part of our pop up supper club event is the camaraderie generated by sharing a meal together while supporting our community. It brings me a great deal of joy to be able to hold these events. 💕

Next week I will be posting the final recipe for our up coming cooking class/pop up supper club. Be on the look out for it. Until then ciao! 🖐😃

Italian Stuffed Vegetables – gluten free & keto

This is the Antipasto (appetizer) we will be making and serving, for the Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.

The event will be held on October 30, 2020. I will use the freshest vegetable I can find for the class, but for this recipe I used round zucchini squash that was grown by my neighbor in his garden. My neighbor, Billy usually brings us vegetables and we provide him with fresh eggs from our chickens. I love living in the country and having access to simple fresh ingredients. So when I say “Farm-to-Table”, I really mean it. 😃

Ingredients:

  • 2 round zucchini squash
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 small tomato (in this photo I have a yellow tomato from the garden)
  • 1 small bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 or 2 green chilies (optional – leave them out if you want to tone down the spice level)
  • 2 slices of fresh Mozzarella
  • 4 ounces of grated Parmesan
  • 3 sprigs of fresh herbs (here I have basil, oregano and thyme – I grow these in the sunroom just outside the kitchen)
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil (1 for coating the squash and 2 for coating the pan used for cooking the filling)
  • 1 tablespoon of my Italian Spice Mix
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prep:

  • Remove the stems from the squash and cut them in half going from stem to stern
  • Hollow out the squash using a grapefruit spoon. Don’t throw out the innards. Instead, dice them and set aside. We don’t waste anything. The innards will become part of the filling.
  • Dice the onion, tomato, bell pepper and Mozzarella slices
  • Mince the chilies and garlic
  • Finely chop the herbs
  • Season the hollowed out squash with salt, pepper, Italian spice mix and olive oil

Cooking the filling:

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a heavy duty stainless steel pan. Place the pan over a medium-low flame. Add the onion, bell pepper, chilies, garlic and herbs.
Sauté the vegetables until they are soft
Transfer the sautéed veggies to a bowl. Taste the filling and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Let the filling cool to room temp. before mixing in the cheeses.
Stuff each squash half with the filling. Place on an oven safe tray or baking dish.
Bake in a 350 F oven until the squash is tender and the cheese is melted and golden.

Most Italian stuffed vegetables have breadcrumbs in the mixture. But I decided to leave out the breadcrumbs so that I could make this recipe gluten free and also fit my ketogenic lifestyle. Trust me, you won’t even miss the breadcrumbs.

I have also made stuffed peppers and mushrooms using a similar recipe. I took photos of the mushroom recipe and just posted it. I posted Cauliflower Stuffed Peppers on November 7, 2018. The cauliflower stuffed peppers are also gluten free. Please click on the link in the previous sentence if you want to see the stuffed peppers recipe.

I am really looking forward to making this recipe with my students on October 30, 2020. My husband will be selecting a local Italian style wine to pair with this Antipasto course. Should be yummy and fun. 😋😃

Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

Cooking With Love and Spices is so excited to be able to do another event in support of The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry. The event details are shown in the flyer below. All the recipes, except for the surprise Halloween cocktail, will be posted ahead of the event. I am doing this because many of the students, who attended the previous cooking classes, requested that I post the recipes in advance.

In May of 2020, I did an event planning survey, to find out what my students and guests would like for the next event. Most people wanted the next event to be Italian cuisine. So I have created an Italian menu with a Halloween flair.

We will start off with cocktails and crostini to honor the Italian tradition of Aperitivo. Aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink and small snack. My husband will be making his Chili Cherry Bourbon and an additional Halloween cocktail. The “ghoulicious” Halloween cocktail will be posted on Saturday October 31, 2020, on Halloween Day Of Course. 😈

The cocktails will be served with a very easy to make Cheesy Cranberry Pistachio Crostini.

Next we will be having an Antipasto (appetizer) consisting of Italian Stuffed Vegetables. The vegetable will vary depending on seasonal availability, but I will post the recipe for stuffed squash on October 10, 2020 to show the basic recipe for stuffing vegetables Italian style.

For the Insalata we will be having Golden Beet Salad topped with crispy goat cheese croutons. If you want to see the full recipe, click on the link above. This recipe was posted on January 13, 2018.

Following the salad, will be the Primo, which means first course in Italian. It usually consists of a risotto or pasta. We will be having Pumpkin Gnocchi with Collard Greens. This recipe was created in 2017 for our family’s Thanksgiving Dinner. For the full recipe, click on the link above. This recipe was posted on December 13, 2017. I just realized that was my dad’s 84th birthday. He loved that Pumpkin Gnocchi 😊

After the pasta course we will be having the Secondi, which means second course in Italian. It is the main protein course which consists of meat, poultry or fish. I created a very special gourmet Berkshire Pork Piccata for the main course. The Berkshire pork is supplied to us by our neighbors at Peach Creek Farm. Since I am a pescatarian, I don’t eat pork, so I will also have a fish piccata option. The full recipe for the Pork Piccata will be posted on October 17, 2020.

All of the above courses will be paired with local Texas Italian style wines from Duchman Family Winery. My husband will be selecting the wines for each course. We like supporting our local producers. For the last two events, we served wines from Messina Hof. This time we decided to work with Duchman.

Last but not least, to celebrate the Dolce Vita (sweet life), I created a unique dessert called Cranberry Tiramisu. It is made with Texas South Wind Cranberry Fruit Wine. The full recipe will be posted on October 24, 2020.

I am very proud of the Cranberry Tiramisu. I did a test low carb recipe. I invited a friend to come over and taste test it. If I do say so myself, it turned out so yummy that I just had to eat it. As written in my post entitled, “My Personal Story of Recovery,” I have been leading a ketogenic life style since February of 2019 so that I can control my blood sugar without medication. In all that time, this is only the third dessert I have eaten. I save my dessert eating for low carb, high quality desserts that are very special. I tested my fasting blood sugar the next day and it was fine. I was so happy. 😊

Just for the record, the first dessert I had was in May of 2019 in Killarney, Ireland. It was a fresh out of the oven, pear and almond custard tart. Still warm with a buttery crust, very flavorful and not too sweet. The second dessert I had was in November 2019 in Amritsar, India. My home town. It was Firni, a rice powder custard flavored with saffron, cardamom and pistachios. For special occasions, the top is garnished with silver leaf.

My grandmother used to make this all the time, so it brought back a lot of childhood memories. I will have to post the recipe for this some day.

Getting off memory lane and back to the event, the Cranberry Tiramisu will be paired with a champagne cocktail created by my husband. It will be a combination of Messina Hof Almond “Champagne” and the Texas South Wind cranberry fruit wine that I used in the dessert.

I had a lot of fun creating this menu. I hope everybody enjoys it. 💕

Patty Pan Parmesan

Patty Pan Parmesan is the signature Italian dish that I promised you last week.

Patty Pan Parmesan Feature

I created it in 2005 when we were living in California, and my husband had an abundance of Patty Pan Squash growing in the garden.  Now we live in Texas, and most of the vegetables we consume are grown by our neighbor, Billy.  When he brought me a basket full of Patty Pans, I was so excited to make this dish again.

Here is a slice of it plated with fresh basil on top.  Yum!!!😋 One of my favorite things to eat.  Its low carb, so I can still eat it.🙂  I started a ketogenic lifestyle in February 2019 so that I could control my blood sugar without medications.  If you are interested in the full story of my ketogenic journey, please read  My Personal Story of Recovery.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Feature

INGREDIENTS FOR PATTY PAN SLICES:

  • 8 large patty pans
  • 1/4 cup of my Italian Spice Mix
  • salt and pepper to sprinkle over patty pan slices
  • olive oil to coat the patty pan slices

PREPARING THE PATTY PAN:

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  • Remove the stem and flower ends off the patty pan with a small paring knife
  • Cut the patty pans into circular slices that are 1 inch thick
  • Place the slices on a lined baking sheet
  • Sprinkle each slice with salt, pepper and my Italian Spice Mix
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Rub each slice to evenly coat it with the spice mix and olive oil
  • Flip and repeat seasoning the other side with salt, pepper, Italian spice and olive oil
  • Place in a 400 F oven to roast for 10 minutes.  Flip the patty pan slices at the 5 minute mark, which is half way through the roasting process.

INGREDIENTS FOR ASSEMBLING THE CASSEROLE:

Patty Pan Parm Assembly Set Up

  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce (you can buy it or make it.  Click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential, for my recipe.)
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves
  • 10 ounces of fresh mozzarella cut into thin slices
  • 24 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in 2 layers

  • Coat the bottom of a 9 X 11 glass baking dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  This will prevent the bottom from burning.
  • Place a single layer of roasted patty pan slices
  • Top each patty pan slice with a piece of mozzarella and a basil leaf
  • Sprinkle on a layer of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Repeat, starting with another layer of patty pan slices

Bake uncovered in a 350 F oven until the casserole starts bubbling.  At this point, turn to a low broil setting to brown the top layer of cheese.  My oven has a high and low broil setting.  If your oven has only one broil setting go ahead and use it.  Whichever setting you use, turn the oven light on and keep a close eye on the casserole.  We want the top layer to broil without burning.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.  I like to make this casserole a day in advance because it tastes even better the next day.  It also sets nicely overnight in the frig, and can then easily be cut into pretty slices that hold together well.  Kind of like a gluten free, vegetarian lasagna.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Feature

This is a great vegetarian main dish.  Pair it with a fresh green salad to make a complete meal.  It can also be served with a protein and a green vegetable, to make a fancy plated entre.

Patty Pan Parmesan Plated Meal

Since I am a pescatarian, I plated a piece of the Patty Pan Parmesan with grilled shrimp and roasted asparagus.  I love this presentation.  We do eat with our eyes first.  Enjoy 😍

I can’t believe how fast this year is going.  Summer is almost over.  Next week is labor day weekend already!  In honor of labor day cook outs, I will be posting a recipe my husband made on the grill.

Until then Ciao 🖐 🙂

Red Lentil Pasta -Napoli Style

Red Lentil Pasta-Napoli Style, is the second of two recipes I created to show how marinara sauce can be used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes.   The first one was Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan, which I posted last Saturday.  Casseroles like this are great because they can be made in advance, and actually taste better the next day.

Red Lentil Pasta Feature

To make things easy, you can buy marinara sauce at your local supermarket.  If you would like to make it, click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential for my recipe.

Marinara Sauce Feature

INGREDIENTS:

Red Lentil Pasta Ingredients

  • 10 oz box of red lentil pasta (believe it or not, I bought this at Walmart.  It only has one ingredient listed on the box–red lentil flour.  That’s it, and water Of course.)
  • 1 lb of ground pork ( we are blessed to have this special Berkshire ground pork provided to us by our neighbors, Rose and James, at Peach Creek Farm.)
  • 2 lbs of ground beef ( this Austin bred & fed ground beef is from K & C Cattle Co.  which is owned by Patrick, an Army veteran of the 1st Ranger Battalion.)
  • 20 ounces of grated Parmesan (I usually grate my  own, but I found this grated Parmigiano-Reggiano imported from Italy at Costco.  It is the real thing with absolutely no additives.)
  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce
  • 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

COOK:

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  • Coat a heavy duty stainless steel pan with olive oil
  • Add the ground meat, break it up into bite sized pieces.
  • Saute until brown

Red Lentil Pasta Cook 4

  • Add the marinara sauce
  • Cook for about 10 minutes until the marinara sauce is bubbling

  • Add the pasta
  • Stir it in
  • Cook for 4 minutes.  At this point it will be par cooked.  It will finish cooking when we bake the casserole in the oven.
  • Adjust salt and pepper to taste

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in 4 layers using a 9 X 11 baking dish.

Layer 1 –  spread half the pasta mixture

Layer 2 – sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese

Layer 3 – spread the last half of the pasta mixture

Layer 4 – sprinkle 2/3 of the cheese

I like to make the top layer of cheese thicker so that I can get a really cheesy, golden crust.  Its the best part.

Cover with foil.  Bake in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil, and bake for another 15 minutes at 400 F to get the golden brown and delicious crust. 😋

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.  This a great meal to pack for lunch, or make ahead for a quick supper after work.  It is filling, nutritious, and yummy.

On days when my husband is working on the ranch, he gets very hungry and will end up eating a big piece as soon as he comes indoors.  Here is a piece he plated for himself.

Red Lentil Pasta Plated

I like the way it cuts into a sturdy slice.  It almost looks like lasagna.

Please try this and let me know what you think in the comments section.

Next Saturday, I will be posting an unusual and easy Indian vegetable recipe.  Be on the lookout for it.

Ciao for now 🖐

Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan

My first visit to Italy was in 2005.  Our first stop was Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.  It is the home of University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world.  As I walked around the city during lunch time, I noticed a long line of university students waiting their turn to go inside a tiny bistro.  I decided to come back when the lunch rush was over and eat there.  This is when I had the most incredible roasted eggplant dish.

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Feature

It has been one of my favorites ever since.  I recreated it when I got back home, and I make it a lot.  Fortunately for me, it is gluten free and keto friendly.  As I stated in a previous post, I started a ketogenic lifestyle on 25 February 2019 to control my blood sugar without any medications.  Since I have decided to lead a ketogenic lifestyle forever, I am glad that this favorite dish of mine can still be part of my life.

INGREDIENTS FOR EGGPLANT SLICES:

  • 4 small eggplants (these came from my neighbor’s garden.)
  • 1/4 cup of my Italian Spice Mix
  • enough kosher salt to lightly sprinkle over eggplant slices
  • olive oil to sauté the eggplant

PREPARING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Using a serrated knife, cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch discs
  • Lightly sprinkle them with kosher salt on both sides
  • Place in a glass container and cover with plastic wrap
  • Refrigerate overnight to allow excess water to be extracted from the eggplant.  This process makes the eggplant absorb less oil.
  • Remove the eggplant slices from the glass container and place onto paper towel sheets to dry off excess liquid.  Discard the liquid at the bottom of the glass container.
  • Place the salted and dried eggplant slices , in a single layer, into a clean glass baking dish

Kachri Sliced

  • drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle with my Italian Spice Mix.  Flip the slices over and repeat on the other side.
  • Add another layer of eggplant slices and coat with oil and spice mix.  Repeat until all the eggplant slices are used up.

Eggplant Slices Coated with Italian Spice Mix

  • Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.

COOKING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Coat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil
  • Turn the flame to medium heat and get the oil hot, but not smoking
  • Once the oil is hot add a layer of spiced eggplant slices.  Do not crowd the pan. Cook the slices till they are golden brown on the first side. Flip and repeat until the slices are brown and crispy on both sides.
  • The cooking time is longer than you think.  It is 10 minutes per side.  Once the eggplant is brown on both sides, test it with a fork. Once it is fork tender remove it to a glass baking dish.
  • Continue the process until all the eggplant slices are cooked.

When I am cooking a lot of eggplant, I use two pans on the stove.  This saves time.

INGREDIENTS FOR ASSEMBLING THE CASSEROLE:

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Assembly Set Up

  • Cooked eggplant slices
  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce (you can buy it or make it.  Click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential, for my recipe.)
  • 10 ounces of fresh mozzarella cut into thin slices
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves, removed from their stems
  • 24 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

By the way, those beautiful dishes in the photo above are by Ceramiche d’Arte Carmela in Ravello, Italy.  One of my favorite places.

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in two layers

  • Coat the bottom of a 9 X 11 glass baking dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  This will prevent the bottom from burning.
  • Next place a single layer of eggplant slices
  • Place a piece of mozzarella on each eggplant slice
  • Top each slice of mozzarella with a basil leaf
  • Spread a layer of marinara sauce
  • Sprinkle on a layer of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Repeat, starting with another layer of eggplant slices

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 F oven until the casserole starts bubbling.  Should take about 20 to 30 minutes.  Take the casserole out of the oven.  Raise the oven temperature to 400 F.  Remove the foil and top with a final layer of Parmesan cheese.  Place back in the oven, on the top rack, and bake until the top layer of cheese turns brown.  Should take about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it so the cheese does not burn.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Feature

The hardest part is waiting to let it rest.  It smells so good and looks so tempting that it is hard to wait.  I like making this for pot luck suppers, because I can make it in advance, and it tastes even better the next day.

I have also made this dish with other vegetables like spaghetti squash and patty pan squash.  I will post those versions next time I make them.

Here is a photo of my  “Spaghetti Squash Faux Lasagna” version, served for dinner with a large salad.  Easy breezy, gluten free, vegetarian, keto friendly and oh so delicious!!!

Spaghetti Squash Faux Lasagna with Salad

Hope you enjoy this.  Please let me know in the comment section.