After the long road-trip from the farm in Southern Maryland (for my annual canning pilgrimage) back to Cambridge, I usually take a gander through the garden before unloading the car and making my way inside. Have the tomatoes started to blush? Did I have a cucumber explosion? How many eggplants grew to full-size?When I left the soil was dry and the tomatoes were floppy. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the tomato cages to stand up straight, the weight of the plants was too much. My neighbor Craig, who I entrusted to water the garden, did a yeoman’s job. Not only did the plants look well hydrated, but he brought in new stakes and garden twine to ensure the tomatoes flopped no more.
The cucumbers had already sprawled across the back fencing. I discovered several cukes that were so overgrown they turned yellow. I was curious if they’d be palatable, so I cut one open. The seeds were large and fibrous and the skin was tough and bitter – definitely not salad material. I could scoop out the seeds, peel them and then use them for a chilled cucumber soup. I will save the seeds for next year as I think they are sufficiently mature.
The lettuce finally succumb to the heat. As soon as I dig it up, I will add compost to the soil and replant for a fall harvest.
And the eggplant plant produced 3 beautiful specimen.
I returned from the farm this year with 68 jars (not as impressive as last year’s 72). But given that I still have 20 jars left from last year, it would seem I have enough for this year as well. I decided to use up a jar of last year’s stash with my dinner.
“Parmesan” dishes derive their name not from the namesake cheese but from the region where the dish originated: Parma. In fact, the tradition dish has a layer of Parma ham (prosciutto) and is traditionally made with veal. Breaking fully from tradition, I served this with shrimp. Any self-respecting Italian would never serve fish with cheese, but clearly I’m not Italian.
1 eggplant, sliced into ½ inch rounds
1/2 tsp. salt
½ cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. canola oil
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small chili, minced
½ pound shrimp
¼ cup white wine
2 cups stewed tomatoes
Basil, salt and pepper
1. Toss eggplant with 1/2 tsp. salt and let sit for five minutes. Brush off excess salt.
2. Prepare the breading: in 3 separate bowls, put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Beat the egg with 2 tbs. of water until homogenized. Dip each eggplant slice first in the flour. Shake off any excess. Then dip into the egg to completely coat, and finally coat the eggplant in the bread crumbs. Repeat this process until all eggplant slices are breaded.
3. Preheat the oven to 375F. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs. olive oil and canola oil. Fry the eggplant slices until brown on both sides. Don’t worry if they are not cooked all the way through.
4. Remove eggplant from skillet and put on a cookie sheet. Top each slice with a slice of mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, wipe out the eggplant pan. Add the remaining olive oil, garlic and chili and return to heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they begin to turn pink. Add the wine, and then add the tomatoes. Remove the shrimp from the pan as they are cooked through, but continue cooking the tomatoes until they reduce to a desired consistency (I don’t like thin sauces). Season to taste with salt, pepper and basil.
6. Serve shrimp with sauce and eggplant.
From the Garden: garlic, basil and eggplant
From the Farm: tomatoes and egg
Garden to Table: 45 minutes