9/09/2014

eggplants stacks with couscous and lemony chard

Yum

I love summer. CSA-season in the warmer months is the best, at least around here. And while last year we were lucky enough to have the family plan from Honeybrook Farm (thanks sister and brother!), we quickly realized how difficult it was to use up our beautiful bounty before it started all over again: every week! I remember one particular Tuesday having enough tomatoes and potatoes to cover an entire counter. We made a lot of sauce. And ate a lot of potatoes.


Listen though, I'm not complaining. There is nothing more exciting than picking up your weekly share. It's like the lottery and Christmas all rolled into one. Will we get melons this week, or squash or greens or all of the above? Will there be berries and hot peppers and herbs to pick? And of course always (once July-ish hits), tons of beautiful flowers.

This year, we opted for the smaller, medium-sized share. Perfect for two people who both happen to vegetable lovers and vegetarians. We get a lot, but we're usually able to use it up just in time to start the new week. Which is why every Monday evening becomes a what-can-we-make-with-what-we've-got-left meal. We usually don't have to get too inventive, since there is often still a variety to work with. And more often than not, meal-planning has been our friend. It's also a great chance (or, challenge?) to incorporate more veggies than usual which is 1. always great for you and 2. surprisingly easier than you'd think.



Even as a vegetarian (going on five years!), I'm not always sure what the correct serving of vegetables looks like. The Kitchn has this handy pictorial guide: totally manageable, right? And here I was, stuffing extra greens and fruits into anything I could think of. Chances are, if you're eating mostly right, you're meeting your goals!

So for this particular clear-out-the-CSA meal, I went with eggplant stacks (similar to eggplant parm, minus the parm), whole wheat couscous and Swiss chard sautéd with lemon, onion and garlic.

For this recipe, you will need:

2 medium eggplants, sliced, salted and sweated for 1 hour
1 1/2-2 cups of homemade marinara sauce (I made this the night before, but you can make far in advance and freeze; just remember to defrost the morning of!)
1/2-3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat couscous or whole grain of choice
1 large bunch of Swiss chard, any variety
1 medium onion
The juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Fresh oregano, if available
Fresh basil, if available
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes (or any small variety), sliced
Thin slices or shreds of any sharp cheese, optional

The first thing you'll want to do is prep your eggplant. These purple beauties are a little bit finicky, but totally worth the trouble if done right. My trick is to lay a single layer of paper towels on a large, preferably rimmed baking sheet. Salt the sheet generously, then put down a single layer of sliced eggplant, about 1/4-inch thick. Salt the top side of the eggplant, then cover with another layer of paper towels. Using something as a barrier in between (I usually use another same size baking sheet), put something heavy on top of the eggplant. The added weight will help the sweating go along faster: I usually use a stack of my thickest cookbooks. Does the trick! Set aside for 30 minutes to one hour -- the longer you wait, the better they will be!


If you don't have any sauce on hand, now would be a good time to make the sprint version of this sprint or marathon sauce.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. When your eggplant has been properly sweated, wipe off any excess salt with a dry paper towel. Lightly dredge both sides of each slice in a bit of flour. On two large baking sheets, lightly greased with some olive oil, place your eggplant slices in a single layer and bake for 10 minutes on each side. After they've been cooked on both sides, in a small casserole dish, starting with sauce first, layer eggplant slices between spoonfuls of sauce, alternating until all of the eggplant is covered in sauce. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until thoroughly heated through (sauce bubbling is usually a good indicator).


Meanwhile, you can prepare your other ingredients. What I love about couscous is that it's a super quick option that I've turned to LOTS of times when feeling crunched on time. Its ratio is one-to-one, so you can imagine that quickly boiling one cup or water or stock takes no time at all. Perfect!

Cook your couscous (or grain of choice) according to the package instructions. It's always great to add a little seasoning while cooking, just to give it a little extra flair.


In a large pan or work, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add your onion and smashed garlic cloves and sauté until softened. Add your chopped chard and continue to sauté until wilted. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and continue to stir together. About one minute (no more!) before removing from heat, add your fresh oregano. Fresh herbs are best added in at the last possible moment. They retain all that fresh flavor without overpowering the dish.


To serve, you can be cute and layer up your ingredients in any way you'd like. I went couscous, chard, then eggplant on top. Top your eggplant with fresh basil, sprinkle your smaller tomato slices over the top and add fresh cheese, if you'd like (Uh, are we friends?)

I love not having any food go to waste. It's the least we can do, considering what we're given. These meals can sometimes start out a little haphazard, but they always end up being the best of the whole week. What are you making with your fridge leftovers?