We are just back from our summer vacation, parts of which I hope to share in future posts. Although organized and able to schedule both Tomato, Feta & Preserved Lemon Salad and Double Chocolate Loaf Cake before we left, I was not prolific enough to also write this week’s post! Thanks to a Facebook message from a friend, I had in my mind what I would write about. Ideas do come from all directions! Shopping, making, photographing, eating and of course, writing about the eggplant has made for a busy week (on top of 14 loads of laundry and sending off my college girl). But, I was so grateful to come home to my blog – something that is keeping me motivated, focused and even on the edge of my seat at times as I try to figure out what will make for good reading.
But, it wasn’t always that way.
Six summers ago, my family and I had the good fortune to take a trip to Armenia with our church. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to visit the land of my ancesters. My husband, who is not Armenian but loves to travel, was incredibly supportive and embraced the mission. Two previous attempts had been thwarted, first by a devastating earthquake that occurred there in 1988 when I was just out of college, and secondly a few years later when tensions from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between ethnic Armenians and neighboring Azerbajian made travel to the area unadvisable. In 2008, forty-eight parishioners from our church travelled to Armenia as individuals and returned as one big family – it was so incredible. Although we didn’t visit the province where my family is from (which is now in Eastern Turkey), we visited sites critical to our ethnic and religious histories, including the Armenian Genocide Museum and our religious capital, Holy Etchmiadzin. We ate, prayed, laughed, cried and danced.
And then we came home.
So if you’re anything like me, then you know what the word slump means? Yes, I returned from having fulfilled a dream, and while I had some meaningful things to do with my time, I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired about them. I needed some motivation, some focus, some edge of my seat work to do.
So, I did what any girl would do, and called my friend Astrid who knows everyone in town.
Local, non-profit organic farm, Gaining Ground was working on a cookbook and I wanted in! But, I didn’t know anyone at the organization and felt as though I needed an introduction. I had no idea what the scope of the project was, who was involved or how far along they were, but I figured I could maybe test recipes or something like that. It combined my love for philanthropy and my culinary background so it would be a good fit. Astrid was more than willing to help, as she always is. The rest is history.
As it turned out, the committee only consisted of two people at the time and the project was barely off the ground! But, a year and a half later together with a large group of volunteers, we published the first edition of The Gaining Ground Table, Inspirational Recipes Season by Season which is now in its 4th printing! It is a community cookbook that emphasizes whole foods recipes, about 80% of which we were able to test prior to publication. The over 300 recipes in the book are like little treasures and there is something for everyone. The best part? Proceeds from the sale of the cookbook go to support Gaining Ground’s mission of hunger relief.
This recipe for Roasted Eggplant Parmesan is one I wrote specifically for the cookbook, although I’ve tweaked it just a bit here for the blog.
It’s a perfect dish for late summer when eggplant is still in season and the evenings are getting a little cooler. This Roasted Eggplant Parmesan can be served as a starter, a main course for vegetarians, or even as a side dish alongside grilled steak.
The recipe is very flexible too. You can grill the eggplant slices if you’d prefer, add more or less garlic, add or subtract herbs and the red pepper flakes. You can even use a light tomato sauce in place of the fresh tomatoes if need be, or add a layer of pesto under the tomatoes to boost the flavor of the dish. Leftovers can be chopped up and served with some pasta – just toss with additional olive oil and some more parmesan cheese. Or do what I did and make one into a sandwich with some jarred sun-dried tomato pesto – yum! You can really make this dish suit your palate.
To learn more about the incredible work that Gaining Ground does on behalf of hunger relief, I invite you to visit their website at www.gainingground.org. Copies of the cookbook are still available for sale at The Cheese Shop in Concord, Massachusetts and Kitchen Outfitters in Acton, Massachusetts, or by contacting the Gaining Ground offices.
For me, I suppose slump-management means finding something I really love to do – I hope that can work for you too. I will be sharing more recipes from the cookbook from time to time. In the meanwhile, please let me know what you think below in the comments! Enjoy!
Slices of eggplant on parchment…
Drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and ready for the oven…
The rest of the ingredients ready for assembly…
All the eggplant, topped with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, parmesan and panko…
Drizzled with more olive oil to help with browning…
Light, yet delicious and satisfying comfort food – Roasted Eggplant Parmesan!
Here’s a shot of The Gaining Ground Table cookbook!