Spice of this week: Basil
Health Benefits: Read more here
Water soluble flavonoids in basil help to protect the body on a cellular level by shielding the cell structure and chromosomes from radiation and oxidation.
The volatile oils in basil act as an antibacterial and also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Basil is also a good source of Vitamin A.
After washing the basil in cold water, dry them very well between paper towels.
When cutting basil leaves, make sure the knife is sharp. Dull knives will bruise the leaves and they will darken very quickly.
Add this herb to a dish towards the end of the cooking process - this helps them retain their color, flavor and aroma.
Often it is the smaller things in life that make the biggest difference; a smile, a hug, a tender caress, a loving glance can all cause a mundane day to becoming meaningful again. There is a ritual in my house that I have come to adore...whether my kids are leaving home for school or I am dropping them off for an extra-curricular they wave goodbye and say “I love you” and I respond the same way. This small action has deep unconscious repercussions - the feeling of being loved not only spreads a warm sensation in my body, it solidifies trust and gives me confidence that no matter what, this bond is eternal. My motto - Smile more, hug often, and love deeply!
In this vegetarian recipe, the ingredients are minimal - tomato, eggplant, and cheese but it’s the basil that elevates this dish to simple perfection.
An classic preparation of southern Italy, this is one of my husband’s favorite dishes to order in a restaurant.
Ingredients for the eggplants:
2 small Italian eggplants, trimmed and cut into slices ¼” thick
½ cup milk
2 Tbsp cornstarch
½ cup white flour
1 cup breadcrumbs
Olive oil for shallow frying the eggplants
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Ingredients for the sauce:
1.1 kg or 2.5 lbs tomatoes (about 8-10)
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup basil leaves
½ Tbsp crushed red pepper
Salt to tast
Procedure for the eggplants:
Procedure for the eggplants:
Salt the eggplant slices and let them sit for 15-20 minute so that they may sweat. Rinse and dry them well with paper towels. This helps to take the bitterness out of some eggplants and also helps them to absorb less oil when frying.
In 3 separate bowls:
Whisk milk and cornstarch
Bread Crumbs and ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Dip each slice of eggplant first into the milk mixture, next into the flour, and lastly into the breadcrumbs (make sure they are well covered on all sides).
Heat oil in a flat bottomed skillet. Taking 2-3 slices at a time, shallow fry the eggplants till they are golden brown. Flip and repeat on the other side. Keep aside.
Procedure for the sauce:
Preheat oven to 400F/190C
Mark a cross with a knife on the bottom of each tomato and them blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes.
As soon as the skin starts separating, remove from heat, drain them and let them cool for a few minutes. Peel the skin off the tomatoes. Puree half the tomatoes and chop the remaining into ¼” pieces and set aside.
Heat oil in a vessel and saute the onions till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes till the strong smell goes away. Now add the tomato puree and the chopped tomatoes and cook them for about 40 minutes. This slow cooking brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. Add the salt, crushed red pepper and basil leaves.
In a baking dish, put some sauce at the bottom and then out one layer of eggplant. Sprinkle them with grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Add a layer of sauce and repeat the same steps till you have reached the last layer of sauce. Finish off by sprinkling a generous helping of cheese.
Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes till the cheese has melted and browned.
Enjoy the dish with some fresh french baguette.