Eggplant and Pasta Turrets Eggplant Fest Continues!

Spaghetti is an American classic.  I don’t make it often enough, especially since going gluten free.  That may change since I started to read Mario Batali’s newest cookbook “America Farm to Table”.  I cooked up a storm this past weekend making his eggplant and angel hair turrets.  What’s a turret?  A tower of yumminess!

farm to table cookbook

Having a surfeit of eggplants I was diving into all my eggplant recipes to determine the best way to utilize my crop of purple beauties. This one is a winner!


We devoured it by candlelight on my back porch Saturday night, bees wax candles to be exact.  I thought for a moment that my man was going to lick his dinner plate! It was rewarding to see him so enraptured by my cooking.  I served it with a side of Italian sausage but it does stand alone as a complete entree.  We had a greens and tomato salad to complete this wonderful meal.

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I took this picture by candlelight!

I made a few changes so this is an adaptation of the recipe.  I advise reading it through twice so you don’t screw it up! I used less red pepper flakes than the original recipe; up it to a tsp. if you dare!  Yes, it uses instant potato flakes and they work fantastically to coat the eggplant slices.  Don’t be squeamish about the anchovies; they totally disappear into this spicy but lush sauce that coats the pasta and provides a base for the tower.   I used tomato sauce I had made the night before from the last fresh tomatoes as the base to build this extra spicy sauce which can hold its own with the eggplant headliner.  This recipe serves 4.

Eggplant and Pasta Turrets

4 tbsp. EVOL (Extra virgin olive oil)

2 large eggs

1 cup instant mashed potato flakes

1 large eggplant or 2 medium ones

½ cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 oil packed anchovy fillets plus 1 tbsp. of the packing oil

1 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed by hand plus all the can juice or your own homemade tomato sauce, unseasoned

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1  12 oz package gf spaghetti

½ cup shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese

Fresh basil leaves

Eggplant: Place the eggs in a wide shallow bowl, beat well.  Put the potato flakes into a second shallow bowl or a wax paper covered plate.  Slice the eggplant into 1/3 inch slices.  Dip into the eggs, let excess drip off and dredge in the potato flakes.

Heat a large Teflon pan, add 2 tbsp EVOL.  Let heat to medium hot, add the eggplant slices, cook 2-3 minutes a side.  Place cooked eggplants on a paper towel lined plate.  Do a second batch of slices.  I put my cooked slices on a small baking sheet and put them into a 350 oven which I then turned off.  They stayed hot and I felt a tad more sure that they were fully cooked.

Make the sauce: heat the remaining EVOL in a large pot, add the onion, sauté until slightly softened; 2 minutes, add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, mashed up anchovy fillets, oil of fillets and the tomatoes.  Cook, stirring often; 12-15 minutes.

Pasta: Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling salted water, I used Barilla by the way.  Drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Save a cup of the pot water to thin the pasta.

Use the eggplant fry pan (wipe out the brown bits of crust) and ladle in 2-3 big scoops of the sauce and the pasta.  Cook one minute, turn off the stove and add the cheese, stir well.

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Construction of the turrets:

Place a big spoonful of sauce on each plate.  Top with an eggplant slice (I used my biggest slices for the bottom layer) and then top with a big twirl of the pasta mixture.  Top with another eggplant slice and then another pasta twirl.  Do this again.  Top with a dab of the red sauce.  You can also top it with some red pepper jelly but I didn’t go there!  I did sprinkle our towers with a few torn basil leaves. My towers were a tad sloppy Saturday but I made another one for Sunday lunch and that time I got the right amount of pasta between the eggplants and it looked amazing!

Dive in to this wild but yummy dish!  And check out this new cookbook; chock a block full of great relatively healthy recipes. This was one of the more complex ones; most seem fairly straight forward and sound darn delicious.

Rustic Apple Pear Tartlets for Dessert Tonight

10-25-14 014 Apples and pears go together delightfully.  Fall is the perfect time to indulge in baking them into tartlets for company.  I like to make individual tarts sometimes because they make people feel so special when you each get your own tartlet.

Use what ever kind of baking apples you have.  I got mine from an actual apple orchard, Bechdolts to be exact!  I like to buy their small baskets of seconds which are inexpensive and just as fresh as can be especially compared to grocery store apples.  Plus the taste is the same as the fancy unblemished ones in their display baskets.

I used Annalise Robert’s crust recipe and flour mixture. I think this crust tastes terrific and has a wonderful texture.

These are simple tarts: no need to make them perfect looking.  I used a fork to press around the crust in each tartlet before I lay the fruit in it.  I cut out leaves from the leftover crust to make a sort of a top crust.  The mixing of the two fruits gives every bite a different taste and the spices add a delicate flavor. I wanted the fresh fruit flavor to be the highlight so I didn’t use much spicing. The coarse sugar adds a certain eye apple and crunch.  Enjoy!

Rustic Apple Pear Tartlets


1 c plus 2 tbsp brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe)

2 tbsp sweet rice flour

1 Tbps. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbps. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 lg egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Spray 4 inch metal tart pans or 4 inch mini deep dish pie pans with cooking spray, dust with white rice flour. Set aside.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 15-20 minutes.  I used my pie bag for rolling out the crusts; works so great at making an even thin crust.

Cut it into 4 balls and roll out each ball into a small pie crust in a pie bag or between the two sheets of wax paper, try to get the thickness even, no thick middle! Peel off one side of paper and place in mini tart pan, centered.  Remove other slice of wax paper.  Crimp edges all around.  Do again until you have 4 shells and use all the crumb leftovers to make a fifth tartlet crust.  I actually do two of them side by side and turn them out onto the tartlet pans together. Repeat for other four shells.  I ended up with five tartlets; the last being in an individual tartlet pan, about 5 inches in diameter.


2 medium sized yellow delicious apples

1 large bosc pear

Peel apples, quarter, cut out core, slice into 1/3 inch thick slices. Same for pear except you can leave the peel on if you like.  Or peel!  Mix in a large bowl with:

3 tbsp. granulated sugar (if you like things pretty sweet add another tablespoon of sugar)

1 tbsp. minute tapioca

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

A sprinkle of ground nutmeg.

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Let stand five minutes and then heap the fruit into tartlets.  I mounded mine a bit so they would be still full after baking.  Top with a leaf cut out of the spare crust.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

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Bake 375 for 40-45 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool before serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Brown Rice Flour Mix– for crust
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Eggplant Potato Curry Warm Up

Last weekend I picked all my eggplants as I thought the frost would spoil them. So the frost was minimal and I have a huge bag of eggplants from tiny to large. eggplants

What to do with all that eggplant? I am thinking a curry and later an eggplant stew and definitely a fried eggplant tower of some sort; maybe layered up with zuke and tomatoes with some cheese and my homemade tomato sauce.

Anyway, tonight is for curry.  I used Charmaine Solomon’s recipe for this eggplant potato curry from her fantastic cookbook, Indian Cooking for Pleasure.  I have made many curries out of this thin volume, if you can find a copy you won’t be disappointed except for the breads which are, of course, full of wheat flours.

Charmaine Cookbook

It is a subtly flavored yet addictive curry and I have been making it for a long time.  Even if you are just tepid about eggplant this curry may change your mind.  Great to serve to vegetarian friends and it is lovely the second day for lunch.

I subbed in some fresh kale from my garden for the spinach.  It will just need to cook a bit longer than spinach. For potatoes I used red ones from my potato bin, 2 small onions from the bin and a small red pepper from the garden.  So there was nothing to buy.  My version used mild olive oil, the cookbook said mustard oil but I have never used that ingredient.

I didn’t bother to salt my eggplant as it was really fresh and healthy looking.  I cut it up and then the potatoes.  As the potatoes fried I chopped the kale and then tomatoes.  It went together pretty fast once the eggplant was softening.

eggplant curry

Make sure you add the spices when the recipe says to; they have to be fried a minute before you add anything else so the spice flavors are fully developed.  Please, do not use powdered cumin if you want it to taste great; I have a tiny mortar/pestle in which I crushed my cumin seeds just before using them; a gigantic burst of fresh flavor is created when you freshly crust spices like that; super better in curries!

mortor and pestle

You can serve this tasty curry with rice or some form of bread.  I ate mine plain.   It is naturally gluten free; I haven’t figured out how to make any gf Indian bread.  Someday….

I confess to having seconds.  Couldn’t help myself; haven’t made it in a year and it was as good as I remembered.  Even better when made with my own eggplant, pepper and tomatoes!

eggplant potato curry 001

Eggplant and Potato Curry

Makes enough for six, four if really hungry


1 eggplant, decent sized

2 large potatoes

2 large ripe tomatoes

1 large onion chopped

½ a green pepper or mild chili

1 bunch spinach or kale

4 tbsp plus 1 tsp. canola or mild olive oil

1 ½ tsp finely chopped fresh ginger

½ tsp. cumin seeds – crushed

½ tsp. ground turmeric

1 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. brown sugar

Cut the eggplant into small ½ inch- ¾ inch cubes, Peel and dice the potatoes.  Chop the tomatoes, the onion.  Seed and slice the chili pepper.  Wash the spinach or kale and roughly chop.

Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a big frying pan, until hot.  I used a non-stick 14 inch pan. Add the potato cubes.  Fry turning occasionally, until golden brown, remove from pan.  Add 2 tbsp. oil, when pan is hot again add the eggplant. Stir, cook until it is soft. I add some water after a few minutes and stir occasionally.  Remove from pan.  Add a tsp. more oil and cook the onion bits until softening, add ginger, cumin and turmeric.  Fry one minute and then add pepper bits, tomato, salt, stir up well.  Add back the potatoes and eggplant and the greens. Add a few tbsp. of water to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Cook 3-5 minutes. Stir well. Cook a few minutes until spinach is soft. Add the brown sugar and stir a bit before serving.

Snack-a-lishious, Low Budget & GF

Snacking is something I occasionally do in the evening when I am bored, watching television or am hungry at work.  Going gluten free kinda put a crimp in some of my favorite chomp foods.  Toast with jam has sort of slipped by the wayside.  Ditto for pasta with garlic salt, butter, black pepper, Parmesan cheese and Worcestershire sauce stirred into it.  Well, I have made that one once.  Quite tasty, even made gluten free if you buy decent pasta and don’t overcook it.  Trouble is GF pasta is so pricey I have to make it a rare treat.  If you are new to celiac you might want some suggestions for safe snacking.  Read on!

There are a few low calorie gluten free snacks I particularly like.  Giant Grocery Store has small and large bags of their own brand of Mini Rice Snacks, I like the cheddar flavor.  They are cheesy, crunchy and cheap.  Seven of them are 70 calories.  I find it hard to stop at 7 chips most times.  Hence the small bag so I tend to stop faster than that big one that is three times bigger. Quaker makes a few flavors of the mini rice chips, slightly pricier.  There are big rice cakes too which are good with jam or peanut butter spread on them.

mini rice cakes

GF crackers can be less than yummy, cardboard like and expensive but there is one new one out there I immediately fell in love with: Nabisco’s Rice Thins.  My favorite, hands down, is the Brown Rice, Sea Salt and Pepper cracker which is a little spicy and a lot tasty, crisp and great with cheese or a dip.

rice thins

When I am thirsty I drink things like green tea iced with chia seeds stirred in for extra fiber and fun!  They slide down your throat and make boring green tea a silly fun time.

Another favorite drink is the chocolate egg cream, see my blog post on this yummy drink which has no eggs and usually no cream.  Light, refreshing and an old school treat which originated in Brooklyn, NY.

Fruit is an excellent snack choice.  I haven’t met one yet I didn’t like.  Buy things in season, eat them at peak ripeness and try to vary your fruits.  Don’t be like a good friend of mine who only seems to eat bananas and an occasional apple.  He is missing out on all the trace nutrients, vitamins and fiber fount in a host of fresh fruits.  It is fall so apples and pears are at the top of my list.  I am still eating honeydew melons and watermelons from my gardens.  Melons aren’t that full of nutrition but they are certainly good for you.  Berries of all kinds rank high.  I have ripe raspberries which are very flavorful and very good for you.  Get some fruit at the farmer’s market, grocery store or orchard stand and eat at least three fruits a day.  Most have lots of beneficial stuff in them, they are low calorie and they often have crunch which can be satisfying when you are in that munchy mood.

Another treat is medjool dates, best purchased in the fall.  They are big, soft, sweet, and best of all, their flavor is amazing.  Far tastier than any other variety of date, they are the queen of dates, even if you don’t like dates you might fall in love with the medjool.  I like the really big ones – they come in several sizes. These dates also contain significant amounts of fiber, potassium, copper and several other nutrients.  Good for you and they are addictive.

medjool dates

Popcorn is low calorie especially if you don’t use a microwave bag variety full of fat and salt. I love to whip up a small bowl of it and enjoy it lightly salted while I read a book.

I happen to love muffins and there are many great GF muffin recipes out there. I just baked some carrot muffins this weekend, with walnuts and golden raisin in them.  I also make a mean banana nut muffin that is almost cake like. Muffins are filling, yummy and very portable to take to work.  I freeze most of them as they only stay fresh 2-3 days and let the treat thaw in a baggie until I am hungry.  Mine are made with canola oil, one percent milk, lots of carrots and a low amount of sugar so I think the calorie count is not that extreme.

Then there are cookies; I have blogged on cowboy cookies as well as a few other tasty gf choices you can whip up.  The store ones are kinda pricey and not as delish as ones you make yourself but any port in a storm!

I love Stonyfield Smooth and Creamy Organic Yogurt especially the whole milk, plain, sold in a big 32 ounce container.  I put a few big dollops in a small Tupperware with a spoonful of jam and stir it in just as I eat it for a snack or side dish at lunch.

strawberry and stonyfield yogurt

Celery sticks alone or with peanut butter are satisfying. So are florets of cauliflower with some creamy salad dressing.  Red pepper strips are tasty to munch on too.

See, there are many healthy yet gluten free snack choices available and a few decadent ones too.  Just because you are gluten free doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a snack when you get the munchies!

Gluten Rant 2014….

I just have to rant for a bit and then I will be okay again….so bear with me….. First and worst! I am tired of asking what is in the recipe you are making for me; is there wheat, rye, barley, farro, spelt, flour in it? Or asking about the spice mix, the food starch or the rice mixture you are creating for supper.

Plus, I am exhausted in the grocery store reading every freaking label! But I do, I must, I am the crazy lady reading the tiny print of ever box/can/jar in sight…

I am sick of explaining again and again to waiters what wheat free means.  I get stressed out every time I eat out for my fears of your unsafe (for me) professional kitchen crammed with gluten despite your GF menu options.  I deeply fear your sticky, gluten covered colanders.  Please, please hear me restaurants…….

Colanders just for gf pasta are absolutely necessary!

The flip side of the eating out coin is when my boyfriend says he won’t eat at our old (pre-gf) restaurant because he thinks their kitchen is too small to safely make gf food for me; I then feel like running screaming into the night!  I want what I want and it stinks to not be able to enjoy their amazing food anymore.

One day, I was subbing in a school about 3 months after I went GF and someone asked me about what I was eating and replied they would rather be dead than have to eat GF…that sort of statement does not help us celiacs!

Then, there was the time last year when I went to a social function with a 40 foot long table of baked goods and the only thing I could put in my stomach was plain bottled water; I felt crazed. And depressed for a week or two.

It is emotionally exhausting when I have to go into great detail about how you need to cook for me and what you should never make.  It makes me nearly insane when I arrive for supper and find you did exactly what I begged you not to do…damn that spice rub on those crazy good barbecued ribs!

I despise people who write articles trying to debunk celiac, to make it seem like it is not real.  I find myself grinding my teeth as I read that tripe.  “Idiots” is the word I mutter under my breath.

But then…there are great times: there are the meals I make for my family that are still so yummy and they are all safe for me.  Those are happy moments I treasure.  The cowboy cookies people begs for another to munch on, the apple streusel tart I created from scratch that is banging good, the gf angel food cake my mom still adores and the zucchini yeast bread my goddaughter and her mom gobbled down as though it was the best bread ever!  Which it was!  Good times.  And safe for my consumption.  Yes, very good times.


Those are memories to hold on to when I am trying to figure out something I can make for lunch in a hurry or when I am faced with a meal for company I have to throw together in an hour from stuff I have on hand.  GF of course and they expect it to be darn tasty, regardless of my requirement to avoid gluten in any tiny amount.

This is the stuff that most people with celiac go through.  So keep that in mind when you have dealings with those who eat gluten free. This is to help you wheat eaters understand us gf peoples!

Nothing I can do but keep trucking on.  Baking my heart out in a safe, gluten free manner.  Making tasty chicken pot pie, fantastic meatloaf with my gf bread crumbs, best ever brownies (wheat or not!) and otherwise preparing food that is delicious and safe.  That keeps me sane….that and this blog which I often find myself writing late at night for your reading pleasure.  There…I do feel better!