Gigi’s “Enlightened Eggplant Parmesan” Recipe

Gigi Eggplant Parmesan

July’s hot and humid weather has tapered off into gorgeous August days, warm, sunny and just hot enough for Hudson Valley summer gardens to thrive. There are buckets of ripening tomatoes, zucchini, beans, melons and a Gigi favorite – eggplant. Eggplants are gorgeous plants with lovely leaves, delicate flowers and elegant vegetables ranging from a nearly black purple to a glowing white streaked with rose. This ‘food of the sun’ flourishes here, a living link to the great number of Italian immigrants who farmed this land throughout the last century making this ‘foreign’ food beloved and common. The last thirty years has seen the growth of Asian eggplant varieties, long and lighter in color with fewer seeds and perfectly amenable to stir fries and braises.

EggplantAt Gigi, we are loyal to the Italian varieties since we are all fanatics about eggplant Parmesan. In fact, there are few dishes the staff and I enjoy as much as a “plate of parm”.  This wasn’t always the case. It took a trip to Sicily to convince me to reconsider Eggplant Parmesan, a typically heavy dish relying overly on breading and cheese. But the Sicilian treatment uses a lighter hand and results in a deeply satisfying eggplant flavor. A perfect dish for the season. Salute! – Laura

Enlightened Eggplant Parmesan – Makes 8 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1¼ Cups Fresh Bread Crumbs
  • ¼ Cup Finely-Grated Fresh Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 Medium Eggplants – About 3 Pounds – cut Lengthwise into ¼- to ½-Inch-Thick Slices
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Plus Additional for Brushing the Dish
  • Salt and Freshly-Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Cups Gigi Pomodoro Sauce, or Your Homemade Recipe or Favorite Brand
  • 1¼ Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1¼ Cups Shaved Parmesan or Grana Padano Cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the broiler.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Set aside.

Brush the eggplant on both sides with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange them in a single layer on 2 liberally greased baking sheets (non-stick is best). Broil in batches, until the slices are tender, lightly browned, and softened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Spoon ½ cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a lightly oiled 9x13x2-inch baking dish. Layer one third of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping them slightly. Spoon ½ cup of sauce over the eggplant, spreading it evenly, and sprinkle with ½ cup each of the mozzarella and the shaved Parmesan. Top the cheese with another one third of the eggplant slices, another ½ cup of sauce, and ½ cup of each cheese. Top the cheese with the remaining one third of eggplant slices, ½ cup of sauce, and ¼ cup of each cheese.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in middle of the oven until sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over top, and continue to bake until the crumbs are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy as an appetizer, side dish, or entrée.

Grilled Chicken with Blueberry-Maple BBQ Sauce Recipe

Gigi Grilled Chicken with Blueberry-Maple BBQ Sauce

Gigi Grilled Chicken with Blueberry-Maple BBQ Sauce.

Chef’s note: This blueberry maple version of Gigi Market’s barbecue sauce has a smoky, spicy kick to contrast the sweetness. We’re serving it on our specials with grilled chicken, pork and lamb at Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck and providing it retail at Gigi Market and Café in Red Hook throughout blueberry season.

Blueberry-Maple BBQ sauce – Makes 3 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Large Shallots, Minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • ½ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Pints Fresh Blueberries
  • 1/3 Cup Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Cup Ketchup
  • 1/3 Cup Rice Wine or Sherry Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium saucepan, cook the shallots over medium heat, stirring, until softened, two to three minutes. Add the spices and cook another 30 seconds. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir in the blueberries. Partially cover to prevent splattering when the berries burst and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until they soften. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is velvety and slightly thickened, about 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in butter and remove from heat.

 

Grilled Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) Broiler Fryer Chicken, Cut Into Quarters or Eighths
  • Olive Oil to Drizzle
  • Salt and Freshly-Ground Pepper
  • Note: If using a charcoal grill, evenly distribute the hot charcoal to one side of the grill. If using a gas grill, turn one side to medium-high setting.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Lightly coat the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side down on the grill grate. Turn the chicken pieces a quarter turn every two to three minutes. Adjust the heat, if necessary, to prevent charring. Once the chicken is nicely grill-marked, move it to the cool side of the grill. The chicken, at this point, should roast in the high heat and not have direct contact with flame or hottest portion of grill. After about 20 minutes total cook time, check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted in the deepest part of each piece. The pieces should reach 155 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now slather the chicken with the Blueberry-Maple BBQ Sauce and return to the heated portion of the grill to crisp. Do not leave over flame for too long, the sugar from the blueberries and syrup will caramelize quickly and could burn. Serve immediately with a side of extra sauce for slathering.