italian marinated eggplant & my whole 30 week 3 recap

melanzane sottolio
Me: I did it!
You: What have you done?
Me: I’ve completed my third week of the Whole 30! I’ve cruised through the half way point, even went out to eat and found something on the menu to suit me without a hitch. I’m feeling absolutely incredible physically, mentally, and emotionally, and now I’m headed to an awesome festival in Costa Rica for the next 8 days and I intend to stick to the plan!

[Screeching halt of breaks. A spotlight centers on the dialogue bubbles.]

You: How do you intend to do that… there?
Me: I don’t really know…
But I’m trying my best to figure out how!
I’ve packed a bunch of nuts and some other Whole 30 approved dry goods, I plan to hit a fruit stand on my way to the event to get some avocados and other tropical deliciousness, and then I hope that they’ll be serving fresh caught fish and other tasty grilled meats once I’m there. I won’t have a way to cook for myself but I have no problem asking for what I need and a majority of the people I will be with eat healthy too.

I just really hope I can resist the nectar of the agave gods while I’m down there. Good tequila is my weakness. Instead, I will drink in the sunrises and sunsets and imbibe the high vibes of all the other party goers. This will be the greatest test of will I’ve ever faced in this lifetime and it will certainly be nothing short of phenomenal. Wish me luck!

Bet you thought I was going to play the tequila song, didn’t you? Psych! I grew up on the Eagles so this is what song comes to mind first when I think about that muy bueno inebriant that makes me feel so muy bueno… lest I digress.

So, on to this week’s recipe!

I’ve been craving a burger and was wondering what I could use in place of a bun, then this recipe came to mind…
When I lived in Italy and worked in the kitchen of Casa Cares, this was a favorite of mine. In Italian, it’s called “melanzane sott’olio” which literally translates to eggplant (or aubergine, depending where you hail from) under oil. It’s simple to prepare yet it takes time, most of which is inactive, but it’s so tasty it’s so very worth it.
marinated eggplant ingredients
Italian Marinated Eggplant (aka Melanzane Sott’olio)

Prep time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Active prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves 4-6

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
¾ cup chopped italian parsley
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups extra virgin olive oil

  • Slice the eggplant into half inch thick rounds. It’s important they’re all the same thickness so they roast evenly. In a mixing bowl, place one layer then salt them, add another layer and salt, and another until all the rounds are in the bowl with salt on them. Let them sit for 2 hours or more to allow the salt to leach the water out of them.
  • When 2 hours are up, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Oil the bottom of a baking sheet (preferably non stick), drain the water from the bowl and arrange the eggplant in a single layer.
  • Roast for 30 minutes then flip each piece and roast for another 10 minutes. During that 10 minute interval, chop the garlic and parsley.
  • Find a dish with a lid and, one layer at a time, add a piece of eggplant, sprinkle with garlic and parsley, drizzle with oil, until you’ve added all the pieces, then cover with oil.
  • Cover and let marinate for at least an hour, then serve.

*Because there is raw garlic in this dish, I recommend eating it within a few days or else it goes bad. No need for botulism here!

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Since I will be in Costa Rica next week through the weekend, I won’t be able to post my regularly scheduled blog but I am going to try to continue making daily updates to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can peep my adventures there.

Hope you enjoy and have fun cooking!

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sweet potato frittata with goat cheese and thyme

sweet potato frittata with goat cheese and thyme
A dish I would often make when I was working in the kitchen of the guest house in Italy was frittata. It’s easy, affordable, protein filled, and can be made using a variety of ingredients.

Well, this morning when I awoke I was hungry and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make today but then it came to me in a flash (and perhaps slightly influenced by what I had in my kitchen pantry) – sweet potato frittata with goat cheese and thyme. Super fast to make and filling, it’s a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates to balance blood sugar.

eggs lemon zest thyme

Sweet Potato Frittata with Goat Cheese and Thyme

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 20 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1 medium sweet potato
4 pastured eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons of thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ cup goat cheese crumbles

  • Peel and slice the sweet potato into ¼ inch rounds (about 1½ cups) and steam over high heat for 6 minutes until slightly tender but no where near falling apart.  Meanwhile zest the lemon, separate the thyme leaves from their stems.
  • Whisk the eggs together and add the zest, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  • Heat a heavy non stick pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil and sweet potato slices in a single layer. Fry on each side (about 2 minutes each side) then add the egg mixture and evenly sprinkle the goat cheese over it.

Here comes the fun part, FRITTATA FLIPPING!!!  If you’re feeling bold, you can try doing it like this guy or you can try it by using a plate to flip.
sweet potato frittata with goat cheese and thyme mixture in pan
How I do it:

    • After I pour the mixture into the sizzling hot pan, I make a few breaks in the bottom of it using a spatula, in order to get as much of the egg cooked on one side as possible.
    • When the edges are golden brown and peeling away from the pan, cover the top of the pan with a large plate or lid and holding it firmly, in one fell swoop, flip the pan and plate over and slide the other side back into the hot pan.
    • Cook for another couple minutes, pushing the edges down to make sure they fully cook then transfer to a clean plate, slice, and serve.

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Buon Appetito!

As always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.

strozzapreti aka amaze balls

Amaze Balls In Your Mouth

Strozzapreti is an Italian dish I learned while working in a Tuscan guesthouse under the direction of an amazing cook. These spinach and cheese dumplings make great appetizers and as I found out this past weekend, a spectacular brunch item. I brought this dish to a ladies potluck brunch and as you can see from the picture above, it was a hit! All the ladies loved them and they have aptly changed the name from strozzapreti to “amaze balls”. I have to agree, they are pretty amazing. You can’t help but want to put at least one or two of these balls in your mouth. Speaking of which:

Strozzapreti literally translates to “priest choker”. I cannot confirm the story behind their name other than the possibility that they are so delicious, if eaten too quickly, one might choke. Or perhaps it’s because they are sinfully delicious? Oh yes, that could definitely be it…

For this recipe, I use frozen spinach and I have been asked if fresh spinach could be used instead. I’m sure it can be however I’ve personally never done it. The recipe calls for 3 pounds which is quite a voluminous fresh amount. Also, the spinach mixture can’t exude too much moisture or else the balls will fall apart before they make it in your mouth! I have tried making these gluten free, using rice flour, and they paled in comparison to the original. If anyone successfully adapts this recipe using fresh spinach or finds a comparable gluten free alternative, I’d love to learn your strategy!

For the sake of ease, I use three 1 pound bags of frozen spinach and take them out of the freezer to thaw at least 8 hours before I start prepping. This recipe is really quite easy and fun, especially if you like getting your hands covered in gooey goodness!

prepping the strozzapreti

Strozzapreti aka Amaze Balls

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 35 amaze balls

3 pounds of thawed (previously frozen) spinach
3 cloves chopped garlic
15 ounces fresh ricotta
1 pastured egg
½ cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup chopped fresh sage
8 ounces grass fed butter
2 cups fresh shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put thawed spinach into a colander and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Transfer the spinach to a large mixing bowl and add the chopped garlic, ricotta, egg, bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Using a spoon, stir until well combined.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish and using your hands, roll the mixture into 1¾” balls and place them in pan. Usually, I can perfectly fit about 35 balls in a dish.

After all your balls are rolled and ready, put the dish in the oven and set your timer to 35 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the sage, shred the parm, and cube the butter. When about 10 minutes remain, add the sage and butter to a saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter is melted.

After the 35 minutes is up, remove the dish from the oven, spoon the sage butter mixture evenly over the balls, and then cover with shredded parmesan. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes.

When time’s up, remove the dish from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

You can enjoy them as is or eat them atop a slice of ciabatta bread. Either way, enjoy them to the last buttery drop!

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strozzapreti out of the oven