Of course, in-season tomatoes are the preferred choice, but in the dead of winter—in our neck of the woods—it’s near impossible to source them. So roasted tomatoes become a good choice because it’s the best way to boost flavor from an otherwise bland vegetable.
After purchasing six locally grown slicing tomatoes for grilling purposes, we happened to be the recipient of additional slicing and small heirloom tomatoes. Not wanting any of those to go bad, I opted to roast all of the ones given to us, which we then used on some cooked pasta, OMG, so good!
If you’re not going to use them right away, the tomatoes will keep in an air-tight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or for up to 6 months in the freezer
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley; more whole leaves for garnish
Prepare a grill by adjusting it so that the grate is 4 to 5 inches from the-flame or heat source.
Heat a gas grill to high and a charcoal grill to medium hot (the coals should be covered with light ash, and you should be able to hold your hand just over the grate for no more than 3 seconds).
Remove the green stem from the tomatoes but don’t core them. Cut each tomato in half horizontally. Gently loosen the seeds with your fingertips. Turn the tomato over and shake to discard any loose seeds.
Sprinkle the cut side of the tomatoes well with salt. Set them cut side down on a wire rack and let them drain for 30 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic, and the shallot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Lightly oil the drained tomatoes with the remaining 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange them cut side down on the grate and grill (turning halfway through) until the skins begin to blister and soften, 6 to 10 minutes.
Just before serving, add the chopped parsley to the vinaigrette. Transfer the tomatoes from the grill to a platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Garnish with the parsley leaves and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Italian Sausage is described by Food & Wine as over-the-top stuffed dreamboats. Well “dreamboats” may be a stretch, but they were very good indeed! Ripe tomatoes and roasted eggplant come together to yield a hearty filling, made even better with the addition of Italian sausage (sweet or hot, your choice). Combined with a bright and lemony breadcrumb topping and a quick-fix tomato sauce jazzed up with fresh herbs, this makes a stunning summer main dish.
OK, first glance at the list of ingredients and I hear a few of you sigh an audible groan. But please don’t despair, yes the process is a bit time-consuming, but so worth it! Just be sure you have enough time on hand. It’s rare that we ever follow a recipe exactly due to inability obtain the needed ingredients, or because the amounts of some of those ingredients just don’t seem adequate.
For example, the smallest eggplants I could get were 10 ounces each, while the recipe called for smaller ones. Then, the original amount of sausage was only a 1/4 pound—barely a tablespoon per serving, so we doubled the amount to a 1/2 pound. Finally, the marinara sauce at only 8 ounces again seemed inadequate, so a 14-ounce jar was our choice; in which case the fresh herbs were increased to counterbalance the adjustments.
When it came time to cooking the eggplant and onion, I increased those cooking times because as noted at only 2 or 3 minutes, the veggies weren’t as far along as they should have been. All of our changes are noted below.
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about 2 cups), plus more for garnish
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano, divided
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, divided
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
14 oz. jarred marinara sauce
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add breadcrumbs, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside.
Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Chop pulp into 1/2-inch thick cubes. Sprinkle eggplant shells with 1 teaspoon salt, and invert onto a clean, dry towel. Let stand 30 minutes to drain.
Preheat broiler to high with oven rack 5 to 6 inches from heat. Pat eggplant shells dry, and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Place eggplant shells, cut side up, on a baking sheet, and broil just until tender, about 5 minutes. (I did this in two lots, 3 at a time.)
Remove from oven, and reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Place in a single layer in a 10- x 14-inch baking dish.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage, and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon to break up large pieces, until sausage is browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a large bowl. Reserve drippings in skillet.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook reserved eggplant cubes in hot oil, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer tomato mixture to the large bowl with sausage. Add feta, 1/2 cup breadcrumb mixture, egg, 2 tablespoons oregano, 2 tablespoons mint, 2 tablespoons parsley, and vinegar; toss until combined. Divide mixture evenly among eggplant shells. Top evenly with remaining breadcrumb mixture, and place stuffed eggplants in oven. Bake at 375°F until filling is golden and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. (Because our eggplant were larger, I cooked them for 40 minutes.)
Meanwhile, stir together marinara sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of the oregano, mint, and parsley in a small saucepan. Heat over low just until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Drizzle over baked stuffed eggplant just before serving. Sprinkle with remaining sauce and additional feta, if desired.