A new spin on Eggplant Parmesan

I know that a lot of people cringe when they hear the word eggplant but I am hear to tell you that it can be very good. This past weekend I decided that it had been way to long since I had eaten eggplant and that I wanted to come up with a new recipe for you all to enjoy. So with that mindset I went to work brainstorming ideas and came up with one for my very own version of Eggplant Parmesan. Before you go any further I will tell you that this is not your traditional recipe for this dish, but that is after all what I do. I try and come up with new ways to look at making food so that the average person that wouldn’t normally like something like Eggplant Parmesan may actually give this a try. This is also something that long time lovers of eggplant are sure to love as well. It’s a really a good meal that I think most people will like and for you parents out there with picky kids, just go ahead and make it and don’t tell them what it is. I bet they will like it.

So here is what you need.

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Ingredients:

1 Large eggplant

1 large white onion

1 red bell pepper

Extra Virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup)

all purpose flour (about 2 cups)

Salt/Pepper

non stick cooking spray

mozzarella cheese (3 cups)

grated parmesan cheese (2 cups)

1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce ( I used RAO’s marinara)

sliced pepperoni (about 15 slices)

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

Prep and cooking:

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It would be good to go ahead and get every thing that you need cut up and prepped before you start cooking, since there are a few steps involved in making this dish.

Start by removing the skin from the eggplant (this is optional), and then cut the eggplant into slices about a quarter inch thick and then lay them out on paper towels to soak up the excess moisture. Eggplants are a pretty wet vegetable and soaking up some of the water helps with the cooking process.

Cut the onion and red bell pepper into nice thin strips and set aside. You can also chop the garlic and add it to the onion and pepper since they are all getting cooked at the same time.

Put your flour in a bowl large enough to fit the eggplant slices and set near the stove.

Now you are ready to start cooking. Add the olive oil to a large skillet (frying pan) and heat to medium high heat. Take the eggplant and piece by piece cover in a thin layer of flour and then add to the frying pan. You want to brown the eggplant slices on both sides, adding salt and pepper during the process. Once they are browned on both sides remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain the excess oil.

When you have all of the eggplant cooked add the onion, peppers, and garlic to the pan and cook until the onions start to turn clear. Once those are done remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain excess oil.

Now you are ready to assemble this concoction and bake it. Go ahead and preheat an oven to 375/400 degrees.

In an oven safe casserole dish you will want to spray with non stick spray and then put down a thin coating of your marinara sauce. Now you will need to put down a layer of eggplant making sure that all of the sides are touching and that it covers the entire bottom of the container. If you have slices left over that is fine, you can just overlap them making a second layer. Just be sure to space them out evenly. Now using about half of the mozzarella cover the eggplant and then cover that with about half of the remaining sauce. Now lay out the onions and peppers across the top in an even layer and cover that with the rest of the mozzarella cheese and then cover it with the rest of the sauce. Now cover the top with the parmesan cheese and a thin layer of bread crumbs and then add the pepperoni in a nice even layer to the top of that.

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Now stick this in the oven uncovered and bake until the cheese is melted and the pepperoni starts to crisp up (about 20 minutes).  Once it is done, remove it and let it cool a little before serving. Then cut yourself  a nice big piece and enjoy.

Thanks for reading

James

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Mellow Mushroom

Great ***

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

 

If there is one constant in this ever changing world it is that pretty much everyone likes pizza in some form or fashion. This is evident by the giant frozen pizza section in your local grocery store or by the fact that you cant hardly drive down a commercial street without seeing at least one pizza place. While I enjoy making my own pizza at home I also enjoy going out to a restaurant and getting a really great pizza from time to time. I discovered a great little place that makes excellent pizza a while back on a trip up to Austin TX and then found it again while on a trip to Fl. I was happy to see that it was a small franchise and doing well but was disappointed that they did not have a location in San Antonio. Well I found out recently that is no longer the case and a new location has in fact opened up here in SA. This of course made me very happy and got me out to the north side of the city near Stone Oak just off of 1604 to check out the latest location of the Mellow Mushroom.

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Walking in the door I saw that this newest location was a little bit nicer than the two I had been in before, not that those were bad by any means but you could definitely tell that this was a brand new restaraunt. It still has the same quirkiness of the older locations and even has a statue of the Mellow Mushroom mascot out front (a giant mushroom holding a slice of pizza). The inside is set up nicely with booths along the outer walls and plenty of tables in the middle that are nicely spaced and not crammed together. They also have an outside patio area for those that like to eat outside during the warmer months of the year and for those of you that love beer, you will not be disappointed with the selections at the bar. Throughout the restaurant are flat screen TV’s showing the latest games going on and they have music playing in the background to keep the mood upbeat.

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Now when it comes down to the food they have a nice selection of “munchies”, calzones, hoagies and even salads but the real draw for me is the pizza. They have a number of playfully named pizzas such as the Kosmic Karma, Mighty Meaty, Magical Mystery Tour, or Bayou Bleu to name a few.¬† You can also choose to build your own if you have kids that don’t like a lot of toppings with you.

This trip I opted to start out with the bruschetta which is pretty amazing. They take a great garlic toast and top it with fresh tomatoes and basil and the drizzle it with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. The combination of these ingredients comes together wonderfully and will hold you over until your pizza gets to the table.

I only mention this because it does take a little time to get your pizza. It is called “Mellow” Mushroom after all. So don’t expect to run in for a quick bite. Sit back and relax and enjoy yourself. The pizza is well worth the wait.

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This brings me to the pizza. I ordered the Mighty Meaty. As you can guess this is a pizza loaded with meat and not just any meat but the best of the best. It has Pepperoni, Sausage, Beef, Ham and Applewood smoked bacon. Mmmm… Bacon… The crust on this pizza is one of my favorites and is one of the few crusts I actually eat at the end of a slice. Usually crust is too doughy and flavorless and ends up pushed to the side when the cheese and toppings are all gone but this one is nice and crunchy and is coated with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkle. The sauce is very flavorful but not overpowering and does not taste liked a generic canned sauce like a lot of pizza places tend to taste. All in all it is one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten and without a doubt plan to eat again.

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Overall I really enjoyed the Mellow Mushroom and will be going back in the near future. It is a quirky little pizza joint with a great atmosphere and great food. So the next time you are in the mood for pizza and want to get out for a nice dining experience go and check them out. You wont be disappointed. They are starting to pop up more and more with quite a few locations in the south east.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Great ***

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

 

Let’s talk pizza this week. I know there are a lot of different places to choose from out there and that we all have our favorites whether it be the local corner pizza place or a big chain like Pizza Hut but I like to find the ones that stand out and give me something a little more different than just the standard pizza. This is why I am so glad to have discovered Grimaldi’s. Grimaldis is a New York style pizza place that not only has great food but has a nice atmosphere for dining with family and friends. Since it is a New York Style pizza place you can imagine that the interior of the restaurant yells out New York when you walk in the door. When you walk in the door the first thing you see are all of the black and white photos of the Big Apple hanging everywhere. These tie in nicely with the checkerboard style table cloths and give it that Italian restaurant feel. The other thing you will notice when you walk in is a slightly different smell in the air. This is because Grimaldi’s uses coal ovens to cook everything. These ovens get very hot and only take minutes to cook a pizza to perfection. The coal ovens give the pizza a unique flavor that you don’t get from the big chains or even from most of the local guys and because they cook so hot you also get a nice crisp crust.
For this trip I ordered a pepperoni, onion, and meatball pizza using the classic sauce. You can actually order one of three different types of sauce for the pizza (white, pesto and classic) but while I have been tempted to try the other two, the classic is so good I just cant seem to break away from it. I also ordered a caesar salad to start out because I just love a great caesar salad. I would put Grimaldi’s caesar at number two on my all time favorites list of caesar salads. I will be telling you about the number one in a later review,so stay tuned.

One thing to keep in mind when you order at Grimaldis is that everything is big. If you order a small salad you can share it with a friend. the small pizzas are also about the size of a medium at most places so order accordingly unless you like taking home left overs. The salad is made with nice crisp fresh lettuce, just the right amount of a nice mild yet tangy dressing. The best part though is croutons. These look to be made in house and are the perfect compliment to the salad.

The pizza is a nice thin crust pizza cooked with crisp outer edges and topped with strips of real mozzarella cheese. None of that processed shredded stuff here. The pepperoni is not to thick and not to thin and has a nice little spice to it but the wow factor for me is the meatballs. First of all they taste great and have that homemade flavor and texture to them. Some times the meatballs at restaurants can come out dense and hard or have an odd texture to them that screams frozen mass production. They slice them in thin slices and place them around the pizza like the pepperoni. I was surprised at how well they complemented the pizza and added to the overall flavor. For me they are a must have any time you visit Grimaldi’s. The sauce is a very nice homemade type of sauce that is just thick enough to keep everything held together. You can tell that a lot of thoughtfulness was put in to getting just the right flavor. Now when you combine all of these ingredients and slide it in to the coal oven you get one heck of a pizza that makes you want to come back again and again.

Thanks for reading,
JMW