Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Such Bounty!

I opened my front door the other day to find my father stacking vegetables on the trunk of my car.

This isn't as odd as it seems. For all my adult life, food has "magically" appeared on my doorstep from time to time. When I first moved out of my parents' house, I was POOR. I worked three jobs and went to school part time. And had NO money. So after my radio shift sometimes, I would come home to find a bag of soup and crackers, paper towels, shampoo, canned vegetables and catfood or some other odd assortment of things sitting in front of my door.

The food didn't show up as much as I became more financially stable, until finally, it didn't appear at all any more.

Then, my parents bought the farm. It wasn't really a working farm, but it has a nice pecan grove in the front of the house, a large field, a pond, and a large expanse of land behind the house. An old red tractor came with the house, and my father rubbed his hands together with glee at the thought of turning over the earth and growing his own food. The first three or so years, each spring would start out gangbusters... tilling, planting, watering and finally beginning the harvest as the first plants began bearing fruit. Squash, collard greens, tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower. Weeds. It's a valiant fight every year, but eventually the weeds win and the game is called on account of exhaustion.

The garden wasn't planted year before last. My father was ill, my mother weak - both with illnesses of such vagueness that no one really knew what was happening. Only that they both spent inordinate amounts of time sleeping in their respective recliners. Eventually, Dad was diagnosed with sleep apnea so severe that he was actually on the brink of sudden death. And mom's ailment turned out to be diabetes. With firm diagnosis' and treatments underway, they both had a new lease on life.

So did the garden.

Last fall, Dad built large raised beds with fencing to keep out the armadillos and the deer. The deer actually have their own garden full of forage for them and many happy hours are spent just watching them come through the yard and stopping for a snack or a drink.

The raised beds are a huge success. Tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, corn!!! Lots of it. And the magic vegetables have been making their appearances in my life again. The stacked veggies on my trunk were eggplant and corn. Some of the first ears of the year and oh, my, they were sweet and plump and needed NO enhancement to be enjoyed! The eggplants grew like crazy this year. Mom is sensitive to them and Dad's not quite sure what to do with them other than a couple of dishes. And there were so many! We got three good-sized ones.


I also went shopping that day, which is where the spinach, broccoli and bananas came from.

My husband looks at things like this as a challenge. WHAT can he make with this? We perused the cupboards and decided to try making an eggplant lasagne.

He made thick slices of eggplant, dipped them in eggs, dredged them in italian-seasoned bread crumbs and did a quick browning in olive oil.

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We decided that skin-off would work better. In a small baking pan, I first put in spagetti sauce to cover the bottom, then a layer of "oven-ready" lasagne noodles. A layer of browned eggplant, more sauce, and some mozzarella cheese. Then more noodles and so on in the same order three times. The last layer of cheese was pretty generous, but it looks like more than it is.


I covered it with foil (trying not to touch the top layer) and baked in a 375 oven for 30 minutes. Foil was removed and baking continued for another 15 minutes. Then the lasagne was pulled out and allowed to "rest" for 5-10 minutes.

Then we ate it. After everyone had had a piece, I remembered to take a picture. Then Darling Man said the picture wasn't complete without a wine bottle in it.
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1) Slice the eggplant thinly. The thick slices were a bit unweildy and didn't want to layer well. We had great gaps where there was no eggplant.

2) Don't use "oven-ready" lasagne noodles. They suck. They were tough and chewy and I don't think they ever actually cooked... just softened a little in the middle. I'm looking for the regular cook-them-before-you-use-them noodles next time!

3) Make a cheese mixture for this kind of lasagne rather than just using mozzarella cheese. Ricotta, parmesean, mozzarella and egg make a very nice mix for this sort of thing.

4) I think I'd cook it a little longer. But the real noodles and the thinner slices of eggplant may make that unnecessary.

The next time I find vegetables on my trunk, I may just have to try this again.


noelle said...

Eggplant- one of my all time favorites. We love baba ganoush, my husband makes it and we eat it with toasted pita. I can't find his recipe, but this one's close. He grills the eggplant outside with the garlic stuck in it.

We also make eggpland lasagna, super yummy. Have fun with the summer bounty your dad's leaving. Zuchinni and yellow squash are more than abundant here...sigh... maybe too abundant.

OneFullHouse said...

First I want to say kudos to you for remembering to take pictures every step of the way, and documenting your story so well. Nicely done!

Second I love eggplant (my mom, has an old romanian recipe of some way to make an eggplant spread -sorta like a vegetable spread - to put on toast, or crackers, it's delicious.

I have always wondered about 2 things: How eggplant would taste other than the way I eat it, which so far has only been in that spread. And second thing, how well the ready to eat noodles will taste in a lasagna.

Now, thanks to you, I have a better understanding of both :-)


Jeff said...

I'm hungry now. Thanks so much. ;)

nikki said...

I love eggplant, but sadly I am the only one in the house that does. You could always make eggplant parmigiana. Also try mixing ricotta with some parsley and garlic for some layers.

Great, now I am hungry and it's still an hour and a half before lunch.

Babzy said...

Believe it or not I have never tried eggplant.

You lucky girl, Sayre. You have a man who likes to cook and looks like he does a fine job, too.

Liane Michel said...

This sounds great. I love eggplant but don't eat it often because I never know how to cook it. I bet that eggplant lasagne would be good with spinach and onion added.

Oh, The Joys said...

The Smiles Family always has the good food!

HoosierGirl5 said...

Oh, that eggplant lasagna looks so good. Can I come visit? Soon?


apricoco said...

Oh... that looks so d-lish. I wish the huz liked eggplant. I hope you enjoyed!

ablondeblogger said...

What a sweet story! I'm so glad your mom and dad got the proper treatment they needed.

Nikki said...

Thank you for posting this!

We don't eggplant at my house because we simply don't know what to do with it....I've had it once in my life.

Recently, I've been looking up recipes for veggies to expand our palates ... I think I may give this a try.