The.Boy and I have been together for exactly one year and one day now and though this past 365 days contained more hardship than either of us could have ever imagined, our relationship itself did not. I'm sure we could attribute this to many factors - we're both fairly easygoing, family-oriented, good-natured folk - but at the end of the day, what (I'm convinced) it comes down to is that we're also both pretty discriminating when it comes to our parmesan cheese.
And that trumps all.
To put things in perspective, The.Boy has exactly three items in his refrigerator at all times - grape jelly, ketchup, and what looks to be a container of fake shelf stable parmesan cheese. The latter of which, he proceeded to inform me the first time I ever stayed over at his place and he gave me a tour (which included a looksy into his fridge...he knew me too well even then), he purchased just because he liked the container although he promptly through out the contents and refilled it with some serious Parm-Reggiano. You know, the good real non-shelf stable stuff.
This may seem like a trivial point to some of you, but I grew up in a house where we may not have had eggs or bread on a regular basis but we always had a half quart of real Parmigiano in the fridge. Always.
So for me to date someone who did not think there was a difference in flavor between processed cheese substitute and the real deal...
...well that totally would have been a deal breaker.
And given the fact that The.Boy considers canned peas and corn to count for all of his daily servings of vegetables...his discriminating Parm palate is pretty much hard evidence that he and I were meant to be.
This month, Whole Foods is celebrating this undisputed "king of cheese" with their annual celebration on March 9th. This year, to kick it off, they are attempting to reclaim their Guinness World Record for "Most Wheels of Parmigiano Cheese Wheels Cracked Simultaneously". Stop by your local Whole Foods on March 9th at 2pm CST (3 pm EST), to be a part of this and to join in the celebration!
Personally, I tend to celebrate the existence of Parmiggiano-Reggiano on a weekly basis and sprinkle it pretty much all over everything. Here, I've combined it with a fun play on baked pasta where, instead of tossing it with some veggies and baking it in a pan, I've actually baked the pasta inside an eggplant shell. It's a great way to ensure you get a healthy bite every time.
There are TWO giveaways going on here right now - the first, for the latest Aida Mollenkamp cookbook will end on Wednesday (click here to read how to enter) and the second, for some healthy delicious new Engine2 products from Whole Foods will end Friday (click here to read how to enter).
Also, as I mentioned in my last post, I am raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of my dad. Every little bit helps and if you could spare just a few dollars to donate (really - EVERY.LITTLE.BIT.HELPS) I would appreciate it!!
One year ago...Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Two years ago...Red Chile Enchiladas with Chicken and Melted Cheese, Meyer Lemon Bars
Three years ago...Cinnamon Butterscotch Bars
Four years ago...Crockpot Pulled Pork, Grilled Snapper Vera Cruz with Spaghetti
Baked Eggplant Stuffed with Pasta
Serves 4, adapted from Mediterranean Harvest
- 4 small or 2 large eggplants
- olive oil
- 6 oz penne
- 1 1/2 cups Southern Tomato Sauce (recipe to follow)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
For the Southern Tomato Sauce
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- a few sprigs basil
- 2 tbsp slivered fresh basil
For the sauce:
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic. As soon as it begins to color, add the tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and basil sprigs. Stir and turn up the heat.
- When the tomatoes begin to bubble, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring often, until thick and fragrant. Stir in the slivered basil and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove from the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out a small hollow in each half, about 1 inch in from the edges. Use the flesh for another purpose. Salt the eggplant and let sit for 30 minutes. Pat dry.
- Heat the oven to 425. Brush the eggplants generously with olive oil and place cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until tender. Remove from the oven and flip over. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the oven to 350.
- While the eggplant is cooking, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, leaving it a touch more al dente than normal. Drain and toss with 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Place the pasta in the eggplant hollows and top with remaining tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Brush the dull side of a sheet of aluminum foil with olive oil and cover the dish. Return to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the eggplant is tender and the cheese is beginning to brown.