BAKED COUNTRY VEGETABLES
Tortino Campagnolo


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BAKED COUNTRY VEGETABLES
Tortino Campagnolo
cookbook: Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking
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serves: 6

Think of this dish as vegetable lasagna, luscious seasonal vegetables layered with tomato sauce and cheese, then baked until bubbly and delicious. It could be a main course, a side dish, or an appetizer. The leftovers reheat beautifully and can be used as filling for a sandwich. This dish also keeps well in the freezer. Once it is cold, cut -one--portion squares, wrap, label (and date) it, and freeze it. To reheat, bring to room temperature, and reheat in the oven or toaster oven.
 

Ingredients

1 pound medium eggplant, thinly sliced lengthwise
½ tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for salting the eggplant
Vegetable oil, for frying the vegetables
All--purpose flour, for dredging
1 pound medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter, for the baking dish
8 ounces -low--moisture mozzarella, shredded
1 cup grated Grana Padano or -Parmigiano--Reggiano
1½ cups Marinara Sauce

Directions

Season the eggplant slices liberally with salt. Fan out in a large colander. Set a large bowl inside, weighted with cans, to help press the excess liquid and bitterness from the eggplant. After about 20 minutes, rinse and drain the eggplant, and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat about ¼ inch of vegetable oil over -medium--high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, dredge the eggplant in flour, tapping off the excess, and fry in batches until browned and crisp on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Season the zucchini with the ½ teaspoon salt, and dredge in flour. Fry until browned and crisp on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Drain with the eggplant.

Grease an -8--by--8--inch ceramic or glass baking dish with the butter. In a bowl, toss together the mozzarella and Grana Padano. Spread ½ cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish. Fan out a layer of half the vegetables, like shingles. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Spread another ½ cup of the sauce. Fan the remaining vegetables out, then cover with the remaining sauce, and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and the cheese is browned and crusty, about 30 minutes.

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In Italy, there are many delicious recipes that involve making a crust. Vegetables baked in a crust, bound by some eggs and flavored with cheese and herbs, make a meal that can be eaten hot out of the oven, at room temperature, or reheated the next day and be just as good in each incarnation. These crusted recipes freeze very well, so you can divide them into four parts and freeze them for future use. Make sure you wrap them well; to reheat, pop them in the microwave, or, if you like them even crisper, let them defrost, then set them in the toaster oven to crisp up.

Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking

In her beautifully illustrated new cookbook, Lidia Bastianich lays out a comprehensive curriculum of wise cooking tips--from the cutting board to the kitchen table. Channeling the instructive elements from the companion Public Television series, Lidia’s Kitchen, she teaches us that a good dose of common sense is the key ingredient to a stellar meal. As storyteller and chef, Lidia draws on anecdotes to educate and illustrate. Recalling lessons learned from her mother, Erminia, and her grandmother, Nonna Rosa, Lidia pays homage to the kitchen sages who inspired her. Whether it's Citrus Roasted Veal or Rustic Ricotta Tart, each recipe is a tangible feast. We learn to look at ingredients as both geographic and cultural indicators; in Campania, the region where mozzarella is king, we discover it is best eaten three hours after preparation. In Genova we are taught that while focaccia had its basil origins in the Ligurian culinary tradition, the herbs and flavorings will change from region to region--home chefs can experiment with rosemary, oregano, olives, or onions! When it's time for dessert, Lidia draws on the sacred customs of nuns in Italian monasteries and convents and reveals the secret to Rice Pudding with a Blessing. Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking is a collection of 150 delectable recipes told with common sense cooking wisdom that teaches us how create simple, seasonal, Italian dishes with grace, confidence, and love.

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