Thursday, August 4, 2011

Webb City Sentinel column - 8/5/11

Last week I mentioned that eggplant seems to thrive in hot weather, so given the current temperatures, it seems like a good time for an eggplant recipe. This one is from a cookbook by Matt Moran, a well-known chef in Australia. The resulting dish is rich and satisfying and, for the vegetable-loving family I’m currently staying with, serves well as a main course.

Many of our growers have the eggplant and tomatoes called for in this recipe. Chris Sharpsteen of Rocky Horse Ranch who sells at the Tuesday market has shallots and a good selection of garlic. Fredrickson Farms has oregano plants for sale.

Eggplant Parmigiana

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
3 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
Salt and pepper
1/2 bunch fresh oregano leaves, picked and chopped
2 medium Italian eggplants, cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the shallots and garlic until soft. Pour in the white wine vinegar and simmer until the liquid has evaporated. Take 1/2 of the tomatoes, remove seeds and roughly chop the flesh, and add to the shallots. Stir in the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, then add the chopped oregano and check for seasoning.

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with a little salt and leave for 10 minutes to remove the bitter juices. Pat the slices dry with a cloth or paper towels. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan, add the eggplant and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain the eggplant on a paper towel to remov
e excess oil.
Cut the remaining tomatoes into slices about 1/4-inch thick.
Spoon some sauce over the base of individual gratin dishes or a large earthenware dish. Add layers of sliced eggplant, tomato and sauce until everything is used up, finishing with a layer of sauce. Top with the grated Parmesan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown. Serves 4.

While I’m away wonderful volunteers have once more stepped in. Carolyn Foat will take care of the Sentinel columns after today. You’ll see new volunteer managers at the market. We are still looking for volunteers to take donated produce to Joplin for the volunteers working in the tornado disaster area. Suzanne’s prepares them a vegetarian lunch and our generous farmers donate produce, but we do need to get it from here to there. We’d love to have an experienced griller for Tuesdays so we could put hamburgers back on the menu.

Jake Foos recently discovered what my children have known for years. Come home to visit? Be prepared to “volunteer”. Jake’s mother Ann is helping with the market in my absence so when Jake came home from Kansas City last weekend, guess who was dragooned into driving the market cart Friday? Yes, Jake Foos. And I hear he had a blast.

So if you would like to be part of a special community and volunteer at the market, just stop by the information table. I expect we could find something you’d enjoy doing.

Today Patrick Byers, horticulturist with the University of Missouri Extension, will be at the market answering gardening and growing questions. Ask him for me how to grow anything besides okra and egg plant in this weather! Lunch is a market favorite – all-you-can-eat ham and beans, plus cornbread, brownies and a drink for $6. Jack and Lee Ann Sours play traditional music.

Tomorrow breakfast is served by Lafayette House, our regional domestic violence shelter. This special place has touched many, many families for the good. Not only do they provide shelter and safety for women escaping violence, but they also provide alcohol and drug rehabilitation for women, many of whom would otherwise have to leave their children to go into treatment. And often without any support system, that would mean giving the children up to foster care. Unlike most treatment facilities, at Lafayette House they can live in a safe drug-free environment with their children while working towards a healthier, more productive life.
Drywood Bluegrass will play from 9:30 to 11:30 tomorrow.

Daniel Sherman, our birdhouse crafter, will be at the market tomorrow. He uses materials salvaged from the tornado disaster area to make his handsome birdhouses. Twenty percent of his sales go to the Salvation Army. Apparently lots of folks are doing their Christmas shopping early at his booth.

Next Tuesday Cooking for a Cause benefits the Joplin School Foundation Snackpack program. This program makes sure that low-income kids who receive their breakfast and lunch at school, have something to tide them over the weekends. Rob Pommert will play from 11 to 1.