My favorite thing on Sundays, after the NY Times and Keith’s traditional English breakfast with eggs, fresh bangers (sausage to the uninitiated) from Sickles and toast (I leave all the Heinz baked beans in tomato sauce for Keith), is the Red Bank Farmers Market.
A hop, skip and a jump from our store at the intersection of West Front Street and Shrewsbury Avenue, in the parking lot behind the Galleria, is where you get the best and freshest fruits and veggies from a variety of local suppliers. This is what fresh direct means, from the farm to your table. And when Sunday rolls around it is always exciting to see what new treats are in store.
Because they start slow. Some herbs and lettuces in early spring, next comes the asparagus, some squash and now suddenly, it is in full swing, with nearly every fruit and vegetable you can imagine. It is a great place to schmooze with friends you haven’t seen for a while. And if, unlike us, you have not been properly fed there are some fabulous breakfast options starting with our neighbor Adam’s vegan legend, The Cinnamon Snail…
Or for you gourmands out there, there is that only in NJ classic, the Pork Roll truck!
Although I managed to resist the pork roll, I could not resist the eggplant, so guess what we’re having for dinner tonight?
This recipe is adapted from one in Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano; heaven forbid I ever follow a recipe exactly. But I love Mario for figuring out a way to make this dish without having to fry, or even better–batter the eggplant. Even if you are willing to take on the calories, who wants to spend a 100-degree day with the air-conditioning cranked up so you can sweat for a good half hour or so over a hot frying pan? And then you still have to hang around for another half hour while it bakes.
And don’t sweat that whole pre-salting thing either–it just takes up another half hour, uses more dishes and I can never taste any difference. Just start with the freshest eggplant you can buy. Don’t use the baby ones–go for a nice mid-sizer with some heft and slice it into a little less than 1/2 inch rounds. Put the slices on a lightly olive-oiled baking sheet, add salt and pepper to taste and bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for ten minutes or so. Keep an eye on them–you want them cooked through with some color–but not burned.
And that’s it. Make stacks, with a cheese layer in between the slices–I like to use a mixture of goat cheese and fresh mozzarella because I think the mozzarella is a little bland. Top with your favorite tomato sauce and some grated parmesan and cook for twenty minutes in a 350 degree oven. Garnish with fresh basil if you’ve got some on hand and serve with a fabulous salad, and a warm loaf of that great Italian bread from those guys in the far corner at the Farmers Market and enjoy.