Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tale of Three Vegetables - Eggplant, Squash, & Cabbage
A couple of days ago I went into cooking marathon mode. I made some cracked wheat bread, pizza dough, and three vegetable dishes: Eggplant Bake, Summer Squash Casserole, and Braised Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage. The eggplant and squash were purchased from my local farmers market and the red cabbage came from the local grocery store. I made the tomato sauce for the eggplant and pizza from my home-grown tomatoes & basil.
Quick Homemade Fresh Tomato Sauce
I washed, halved, and seeded a pile of tomatoes and set them to cooking over a medium-high heat. I didn’t bother peeling them. As they cooked, they released a lot of liquid, so I took the pot cover off to let the tomatoes cook down. Eventually they began to thicken, and, at that time, I added some extra virgin olive oil, about three large handfuls of coarsely chopped fresh basil, and four minced garlic cloves. I also tossed in a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I used tongs to remove some of the skins. Once the mixture had cooked down and reduced, I used my hand held blender to break up any tomato clumps and puree the remaining skins. The resulting salt-free sauce is perfect for pasta, pizza, and eggplant.
The eggplants I picked were small and firm, so I just peeled them and grilled them on my George Foreman grill. Then I layered the grilled eggplant slices with my tomato sauce and some chopped fresh mozzarella cheese. Fresh mozzarella is much lower in sodium than the regular stuff. I usually buy Bel Gioioso brand; it has only 85 mg. sodium per 1 oz. serving. I ended up with two layers of eggplant and one layer of cheese. Then I topped everything off with some homemade breadcrumbs tossed with olive oil, minced garlic, and a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.
I wanted to try a low sodium version of a squash casserole I’d seen on many web sites. It contains squash, cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and stuffing mix. I had noticed last week that my local grocery store was now carrying the truly low sodium version of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. In the past, if I wanted to use canned cream of mushroom soup, I’d pick Campbell’s Healthy Request with 470 mg. per ½ cup serving. But the ready-to-serve Low Sodium Cream of Mushroom Soup has only 45 mg. for the entire 10.5 oz. can. Before I’d only been able to get it online. Be forewarned, though. Without all the excess salt, the soup is pretty bland. So I livened things up a bit by adding a squirt of Worcestershire sauce.
Most of the squash casserole recipes I looked at called for boiling the squash and onions together until the vegetables were tender. Then draining, mashing, and finally combining with the soup. I decided to just saute the cubed squash with onions in some unsalted butter. I added some sliced mushrooms I had on hand too. Once the vegetables were almost tender, I added the soup and let everything cook over a medium-low heat until the vegetables were completely cooked (but not mushy). I plopped the squash mixture into a casserole dish and topped it with three ounces of shredded cheese – a mixture of extra sharp cheddar and naturally low sodium Swiss. Instead of stuffing mix, I combined some homemade breadcrumbs with melted butter and hefty pinches of thyme and savory and sprinkled the mixture over the casserole.
Sweet & Sour Braised Cabbage
Finally, I followed the red cabbage recipe I wrote about earlier. It was the perfect accompaniment to the other creamy and cheesy vegetable dishes. I baked the two casseroles while the cabbage was simmering on the stove top. The great thing about this vegetable trio is that it made a tasty vegetarian dinner and the leftovers have been great for quick, no-fuss lunches.