Thursday, April 14, 2016

Making Cheese and an Eggplant Strata

After not feeling well for quite a while I work up to day that was warm and bright. I felt so much better that I decided to make cheese. An Italian style fresh cheese, to be more precise. After a bit of gardening I headed to the kitchen where I got out my supplies. I needed a pot, thermometer, strainer, cloth to line the strainer, a bowl, some lemons, and fresh goats milk.

I heated the goats milk slowly to 200 degrees then added the lemon juice and a generous pinch of kosher salt. I let it set for ten minutes. When it hadn't coagulated enough I put it back on the heat and added a couple tablespoons of vinegar. I let it heat back to 200 then let set for 10 minutes again. I poured it into the cloth lined strainer. The cloth I originally chose was too fine grained and did not let it drain enough. I went to my craft room and found some cheesecloth. I let the curds drain for about 30 minutes then I gathered the cloth up and pressed more of the whey out.

I ended up with a beautiful fresh cheese similar to ricotta. I saved the whey because tomorrow I am making real ricotta cheese from it.

So, I have cheese. What to do with it? I decided to make something I call Eggplant Strata.

I roasted one sliced leek, a sliced garlic rape and a head of fresh garlic in the oven at 350 for 25 minutes. I drizzled olive oil and sprinkled the with salt before putting them in.

While that was roasting I sautéed in a bit of olive oil a chopped fresh tomato, small bunch of flat leaf parsley chopped, half a jar of roasted red and yellow peppers, chopped and a can of fire roasted tomatoes in a pan. I tossed in a couple bay leaves, about half tablespoon fennel seeds and a teaspoon each oregano and basil. To deglaze the pan I poured in about 1/2 cup good red wine and 1/4 cup thyme and honey balsamic vinaigrette. After simmering for a few minutes I added a jar of Tomato Basil sauce.  While this was simmering I sliced an eggplant, sprinkled with salt and
drizzled with olive oil. That went into the oven with the roasting veggies for the last ten minutes.

I put the cheese in a bowl and mixed in an egg, fresh ground pepper, about 1/4 cup Romano cheese and some minced garlic.

When the veggies were done I added the leek mix to the sauce. I also had some shredded pork leftover so I added that as well. The hubby gets testy when we go too long without meat. This would be good totally veggie though.

In the bottom of my stoneware baking dish I layered a couple cups of sauce with a layer of eggplant, then all the fresh cheese mixture.

I continued with another layer of eggplant, more sauce, Romano cheese then sliced of fresh mozzarella.

I baked it at 350 for about 40-45 minutes until the mozzarella was melted and turning golden.

Waiting 10 minutes for it to cool was torture! 

Ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness. It was so satisfying.
While a dinner like this is a labour of love it is what make life worth living.


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