Autumn is finally here - it's that bizarre time of year here in the South where it could be 60 one day and 90 the next. When, driving around, the A/C is a bit too cold, but it's still a bit muggy to go with just the fan or open windows. The time of year where I put away my smelly summer sandals and live in my favorite boots.
Fall is also my FAVORITE time to cook. I look forward to hearty comfort meals, traditional Southern spreads, and homey Japanese nabe dishes. Today I decided to prepare a nice Italian meal, but without any meat or heavy pasta. There's still enough cheese to give any lactose intolerant nightmares, but omitting the pasta DOES help (a little bit). The only course with meat is the antipasto, which can be EASILY made totally vegetarian by simply omitting the pepperonis.
Though I LOVE eggplant parmigiana, once I came across a recipe that "Southernized" this classic by replacing the fried eggplant slices with green tomatoes, I knew that I had to make it happen. The antipasto is easily made ahead of time, and the recipe is simply a guideline; feel free to make as many substitutions or omissions as you like. Bonus - it freezes REMARKABLY well. Instead of a plain, boring salad, I opted to also include some lightly sauteed spinach, seasoned only with a bit of garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice. Throw in a good red wine, and you've got a meal!
adapted from Budget Bytes
1 jar (7oz) roasted red peppers, drained
1 can (13.75oz) quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 can (6oz) pitted black olives, drained
1/2 jar (16oz jar) spicy pepper rings, drained
2 jars marinated mushrooms, drained
4oz pearl mozzarella (omit for vegan)
3oz sliced pepperoni (omit for vegetarian)
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 tsp sugar
Add the roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, black olives, pepper rings, mushrooms, mozzarella (if using), and pepperoni (if using) to a large bowl.
Fried Green Tomato Parmesan
adapted from Closet Cooking
4 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
Salt & pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp oil for frying
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups marinara sauce (if store-bought, PLEASE use one without added sugar!)
Season the sliced tomato with salt and flour. Add 1/2 cup of flour to a shallow dish. Add the eggs to a 2nd shallow dish. Combine the cornmeal and the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in a 3rd shallow dish.
Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then dip in egg, and dredge in the cornmeal mixture, covering well.
Fry the tomato slices in hot oil until golden brown on both sides, about 1-3 minutes per side. Remove from oil and place in the bottom of a baking dish.
Spread the marinara sauce on top of the tomatoes. Cover with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
adapted from Eating Well
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 lb fresh spinach, washed & trimmed
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute or until fragrant and beginning to brown. Add spinach and toss to coat evenly. Cover and cook 3-5 minutes until wilted.
Remove from heat and add lemon juice, salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Toss to coat and serve.