Hosting a get together this fall? Get these two vegetarian dishes on the menu! Sweet and spicy acorn squash is autumn on a plate and saucy, cheesy eggplant stacks are great for sharing on football Sunday.
Today is a lot of things. Really good things. It’s a two-fer, two recipes that is. It’s also my son’s 12th birthday (officially, even though we celebrated last week with his buddies) and it’s the start to one of the best weekends in the northeast. No, it’s not a holiday, but it is prime fall foliage season. We’re slipping into our hiking shoes, strapping on the Camelbaks and heading onto the trails of Mohonk Mountain to celebrate the season. Can’t wait!
You’ve heard me profess my love for the summer season again and again. Every year I think I’ll never stop mourning the loss of warm waves and sandy toes, but then I get swept up into the craziness of September. Before I know it, my mind is all apple, pumpkins and cozy sweaters and my summer allegiance has turned into a fall fixation.
Today I’m sharing two of my fall favorites for entertaining: sweet and spicy acorn squash and eggplant stacks. The acorn squash wedges make for a sweet and spicy side, easy enough for a weeknight and special and tasty enough for the holiday table. The squash is sliced into wedges and tossed in a spicy blend of chipotle, garlic, honey and soy. It’s roasted in a hot oven until it begins to brown and caramelize and can be easily pierced with a fork. My preference is to buy a slightly smaller acorn squash as it’s more manageable to cut. You’ll need a sharp knife and a little muscle as these babies can be stubborn. But once roasted, they are tender and delicious and worth a little elbow grease.
Now it’s on to my husband’s favorite, eggplant stacks. These don’t necessarily scream fall, but they’re one of our go-tos for football Sunday. They’re hearty, saucy, cheesy and perfect for sharing. I started making a much different version of these years ago following Mario Batali”s recipe. He layers mortadella and provolone in between two slices of eggplant, then dips the whole sandwich in egg wash and breadcrumbs and bakes it. We would stack them up on a plate alongside tomato sauce for dipping. But while they’re crazy good, they can feel a little heavy.
I prefer a lighter version using a quick roasted tomato sauce and bright, herb, no-nut pesto. I also use three eggplant rounds, so it becomes more of a tower and less of a sandwich. I find that breading and cooking the eggplant before stacking and baking gives these just the right texture. I love the crispy exterior and melt in your mouth interior of the fried eggplant rounds and sometimes a couple go missing before they can be stacked. Just saying…
You can serve these as a sharable small plate at a party, a first course at a dinner party or alongside a green salad for a vegetarian meal. And don’t be intimidated by all the steps, they’re pretty easy and so worth it in the end.
You can find these recipes and a little story about yours truly <shameless self-promotion> in Matters Magazine this week if you’re local to the Maplewood/South Orange area. I always look forward to receiving my copy in the mail and it’s an honor to be featured this month. So go grab your coffee and take a peak. I’m off to whip up a special dessert for the birthday boy and enjoy this gorgeous fall day!
This sweet and spicy acorn squash is autumnn on a plate, with a kick!
- 2 lbs acorn squash
- 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, plus 1 tsp sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp light brown sugar, packed
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Lightly coat a griddle or grill pan with oil. (Alternatively, Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with non-stick foil or foil sprayed with cooking spray.)
Combine all ingredients (except squash) in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and blend until smooth. Alternatively, mince the chipotle and whisk together with the remaining ingredients until homogenous.
Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash in half inch thick slices. Toss the slices in the sauce well to coat.
Heat the griddle or grill pan on high. Lay the squash slices down in a single layer. Brush with additional sauce. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the underside is well browned and flip. Brush again with sauce. (Alternatively, place on the baking sheet and drizzle with remaining sauce and roast until browned and tender, about 20-25 mins. Brush with sauce once while they roast.)
Continue to cook until thje squash is very tender, caramelized and can be easily pierced with a fork. Serve immediately.
- Acorn squash can be tough to cut through. I recommend buying a smaller squash, about 2 lbs, which will be easier to handle and muscle through.
- Like more heat? Add another chipotle pepper or a couple more spoons of adobo sauce.
- Whether you're cooking these on the stove top or in the oven, a nonstick surface is important so the sauce doesn't stick or burn.
- Use the additional sauce to baste the squash as it cooks for more flavor.
- Be sure the acorn squash is very tender before serving.
- 1 medium eggplant 1 lb, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 eggs plus 2 tsp water lightly beaten
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- Canola oil for frying
- Kosher salt
- Roasted Tomato Puree
- 16 oz grape tomatoes
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
- 2 tsp kosher salt and pepper
- Herb No-Nut Pesto
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves packed
- 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley packed
- 1/2 cup parmesan grated
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella in a ball, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese grated
Eggplant: Line a sheet pan with paper towels and lay eggplant slices in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 15 mins.
Dip eggplant slices in flour, then egg, followed by bread crumbs.
Heat oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) in a large frying pan over med/high heat and lay eggplant slices in a single layer in the pan, taking care not to overcrowd.
Fry the eggplant until golden brown, about 3 mins, then flip and fry until golden, an additional 3 mins.
Remove from the pan and let drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices.
Roasted Tomato Puree:Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a sheet pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
Scatter tomatoes and oregano on the sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and a few turns of black pepper.
Roast until tomatoes are soft and caramelized, about 20 mins.
Puree tomatoes and any juices in a food processor until blended, but still a little chunky.
Herb (No-Nut) Pesto: Combine all ingredients in a food processor or mini prep and blend until smooth.
Eggplant Stacks: Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment.
Place one eggplant round on the sheet. Spread 1 Tbsp of roasted tomato puree on top, sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese and top with one slice of mozzarella. Lay another eggplant round on top and spread with 1 Tbsp of pesto. Lay a third round on top, spread with 1 Tbsp roasted tomato puree, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and top with a slice of mozzarella.
Repeat with remaining eggplant rounds until all stacks are layered.
Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 mins. Serve hot.