Making Eggplant au Gratin — Photos

It has been several months since I’ve done an entry on a recipe from my collection of recipes, mostly just because last winter and spring, I’d run through most of the recipes that I regularly make and which at the time I had considered to be of “sufficient” note to highlight here, save for the recipe which is the subject of this post (but yes, there is a small number more which may eventually be featured!) As such, many of my recipes from my collection of recipes have since been made at least once, and in many cases, several times, over the past few months.

Over the past couple of weeks alone, I did a lot of cooking at the cottage while on holidays, making:

Yes, that’s a lot of potatoes, ground beef, chicken, onions, carrots, eggs, flour, cheese, olive oil, and other secondary ingredients prepared, as well as beer consumed, during the multiple cooking sessions! And, yes, this is how I like to spend winter holidays at the cottage!

Note that this recipe is vegetarian of the lacto-vegetarian variety (basically, meatless) if the tomato sauce used does not contain meat.

Making the Eggplant au gratin:

First, a nice beer was taken out — Brune d’Achouffe, a Belgian brown ale 8,5% alc/vol in a 750mL bottle, brewed under licence from the Brasserie d’Achouffe by Brasseurs RJ in Montréal, Québec.

Beef taken out

Next, the beer was poured into a glass:

Beer poured out

… and of course, right away I had to do a bit of quality control on the beer:

Yes, this is a good beer!

Now to the cooking of the eggplant au gratin, really, this time:

Ramekins were set out — as it turns out, another ramekin was needed to be added later on:

Ramekins set out

An electric skillet was taken out and plugged in:

Electric skillet taken out

The skillet was turned on

Olive oil was added to the skillet:

Olive oil added to skillet

The olive oil was spread out in the skillet with a plastic spatula / egg flipper:

Olive oil spread out in skillet

A couple of eggplants were taken out:

Eggplants taken out

An eggplant was rinsed with water:

Eggplant rinsed with water

The eggplant was trimmed:

Eggplant trimmed

Coins were sliced off the eggplant:

Coins sliced off eggplant

Slices of eggplant were placed in the hot skillet:

Eggplant slices in skillet

After a few minutes of frying, the slices of eggplant were turned over:

Eggplant slices turned over

The fried slices of eggplant were placed in ramekins:

Eggplant slices placed in ramekins

The rest of the first eggplant was sliced, the resulting eggplant slices fried, and the fried eggplant slices were placed in the rest of the ramekins, such that the fried eggplant slices were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:

Eggplant equally distributed amongst the ramekins

Half of the zucchinis were taken out:

Zucchini taken out

The zucchinis were rinsed with water:

Zucchinis rinsed with water

The zucchinis were trimmed:

Zucchinis trimmed

In order to quickly slice the zucchinis, a food processor with the slicing blade attachment was taken out:

Food processor with slicing blade taken out

The zucchinis were fed into the running food processor in order to slice them:

Zucchinis fed into food processor
Sliced zucchinis

Zucchini slices were placed in the electric skillet with more olive oil:

Zucchini slices frying

The zucchini slices were turned over:

Frying zucchini slices turned over

Fried zucchini slices were placed in ramekins:

Fried zucchinis placed in ramekins

The rest of the first half of the zucchini slices were fried:

More zucchinis frying
More zucchinis frying

The rest of the fried zucchini slices were placed in the rest of the ramekins, such that the zucchini slices were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:

Fried zucchinis placed in ramekins

Onions were taken out:

Onions take out

The onions were cleaned and trimmed:

Onions cleaned and trimmed

The onions were sliced in half:

Onions sliced in half

The onions were sliced into thick half coins:

Onion half sliced into thick half coins

The onions were roughly chopped:

Onions roughly chopped

The chopped onions were placed in a bowl:

Chopped onions placed in bowl

About half the chopped onions were placed in the electric skillet with more olive oil, and salt was added:

Chopped onions in skillet with more olive oil and salt

The chopped onions were fried:

Chopped onions fried

The fried chopped onions were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:

Fried chopped onions spread in ramekins

At this point, my beer chalice was empty and needed refiling:

Beer chalice refilled

It was time to repeat the process, and the second eggplant was sliced and fried the same way. When the eggplant slices were placed in the ramekins, the contents were patted down with a fork, in order to get rid of deadspace in the ramekin:

Ramekin contents patted down with a fork

The rest of the steps were repeated with the zucchinis, and the chopped onions, and both were placed in the ramekins in the same order as above, after the second layer of fried eggplant. Note that at this point, another ramekin was added to accommodate what proved to be more ingredients than I originally estimated that I’d had:

Ramekins filled with all fried ingredients

A jar of commercial (meatless) tomato sauce was taken out:

Tomato sauce taken out

The tomato sauce was spread over the ingredients in the ramekins:

Tomato sauce spread over ingredients in the ramekins

A block of mozzarella cheese was taken out:

Mozzarella cheese taken out

Mozzarella cheese was sliced off the block of cheese:

Mozzarella cheese sliced off the block

Cheese slices were placed on top of the ingredients in the ramekins:

Mozzarella cheese slices placed on top of ingredients in the ramekins
Mozzarella cheese slices placed on top of ingredients in the ramekins

Zipper bags were taken out and identified:

Zipper bags taken out and identified

Filled ramekins were individually placed in bags for freezing:

Filled ramekins placed in identified zipper bags

The bags were placed in a freezer (in this case the freezer door) for future eating:

Bagged eggplant au gratin in the freezer

A few days later, an eggplant au gratin was taken out, defrosted, baked, and eaten; of course it was yummy!

Making Vegetable Soup (Big Batch) — Photos

I started making vegetable soup in large quantities several years ago at my church to serve after services, and this weekend I made some for myself to have in the freezer.

Making the vegetable soup instead of another recipe from my recipe collection that I had planned was a bit of a last minute decision, given that the decision to go to the cottage this past weekend was made at the last minute. As such, being at the cottage, I was cooking in a different kitchen using different equipment from usual while making the soup (see pictures).

My 16 quart pot was placed on the stove:

Large pot on stove

A can each of crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes were taken out:

28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes

The crushed tomatoes were poured into the pot:

Crushed tomatoes poured into a pot

The can with crushed tomatoes was rinsed with water, which was poured into the pot:

Rinsing crushed tomatoes can with water, and poured into the pot

The diced tomatoes were then poured into the pot:

Diced tomatoes poured into pot

A can of kidney beans was taken out …

19 oz can of kidney beans

… poured into the pot …

Kidney beans poured into the pot

… and the kidney beans can was rinsed with water, which was then poured into the pot as well:

Kidney bean can rinsed with water and poured into the pot

A 32 ounce (900 mL) box of vegetable broth was taken out …

A roughly 32 ounce (900 mL) box of vegetable broth

… and was poured into the pot:

Vegetable broth poured into the pot

About a kilogram (a bit over two pounds) of mixed frozen vegetables were taken out …

About 1kg of mixed frozen vegetables

… and poured into the pot:

Mixed vegetables poured into the pot

At this point, I started mixing the ingredients:

Ingredients in pot mixed

A 32 ounce (945mL) bottle of multi-vegetable cocktail was taken out …

32 oz (945mL) bottle of vegetable cocktail

… and poured into the pot:

32 oz (945mL) bottle of vegetable cocktail poured into the pot

At this point, the burner on the stove was turned on to start heating up the soup:

Stove under pot turned on

Throughout the following steps, I kept on mixing the soup in the pot to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pot.

Next, a couple of onions were taken out …

Two onions

… then the onions were cleaned and trimmed …

Onions cleaned and trimmed

… then the onions were sliced …

Sliced onions

… then the onions were chopped …

Chopped onions

… and the chopped onions were placed in a mixing bowl:

Chopped onions placed in mixing bow

A potato was taken out …

A potato

… and the potato was cleaned and trimmed:

Potato cleaned and trimmed

The potato was sliced along its length …

Potato sliced along its length

… the potato was then sliced into spears …

Potato sliced into spears

… then the potato was sliced into cubes …

Potatoes sliced into cubes

… and the potato cubes were placed into the mixing bowl with the chopped onions:

Potato cubes placed in mixing bowl with chopped onions

Two carrots were taken out …

Two carrots

… the carrots were cleaned and trimmed …

Carrots cleaned and trimmed

… then the carrots were quartered to make spears …

Carrots sliced into spears

… then the carrots were then chopped coarsely …

Carrots chopped coarsely

… and the chopped carrots were placed in the bowl with the potato cubes and chopped onions:

Chopped carrots placed in mixing bowl with potatoes and onions

Throughout all the vegetable chopping, I mixed the ingredients already in the pot while it was heating up, in order to avoid burning on the bottom of the pot.

Next, olive oil was added to the bowl of chopped vegetables …

Olive oil added to the chopped vegetables

… then the chopped vegetables and olive oil were mixed together to fully coat the chopped vegetables:

Mixed vegetables and olive oil mixed together

A cast iron skillet was preheated on the stove:

Cast iron skillet preheated on the stove

… and the mixed chopped vegetables and olive oil were transferred to the skillet:

Transferring mixed chopped vegetables and olive oil to the cast iron skillet
Mixed chopped vegetables and olive oil in the cast iron skillet

Salt was added to the frying chopped vegetables:

Salt added to the frying chopped vegetables

Once the chopped vegetables started to brown in the skillet, they were transferred to the soup pot that was continuing to be heated up:

Fried vegetables transferred to the soup pot

The skillet was deglazed with water …

Deglazing hot skillet

… and the deglazing liquid was added to the soup pot:

Deglazing liquid added to the soup pot

Half a cup of rice was measured out:

Half a cup of rice measured out

… and the rice was added to the soup.

Rice added to the soup

Water was added to the soup pot to bring the liquid level up to the eight quart mark:

Water added to soup pot to bring it to eight quart mark

The soup was continued to be heated:

Soup heating up

… and brought to a boil:

Boiling soup

The heat was reduced and the soup was simmered for over half an hour:

Simmering soup

I continued adjusting the salt level in the soup until it was to my taste.

While the soup was simmering, plastic containers (in this case, reused yoghurt containers) were laid out:

Plastic containers laid out

Once the soup had simmered for over half an hour (probably coming on to an hour), the soup was taken off the stove, and transferred to the containers with a ladle (the golden sheen is the olive oil reflecting the camera flash):

Soup transferred to plastic containers

And the containers were covered, and placed in the freezer:

Containers of soup placed in the freezer

Of course the soup is tasty!

In the modern world of prepared foods, it must be challenging to be vegetarian. Vegan, extremely difficult.

For the past several years during my summer holidays, I have been visiting the grounds of a Buddhist monastery near my cottage as an activity. Normally, my visit centres around going about mid-day and bringing a picnic lunch to be enjoyed on the grounds, as well as walking the grounds and admiring the scenery, the various Buddhas throughout, and of course the temple.

At the gate, there is a sign with a crossed-out pictogram expressly, at least on a literal level, forbidding chicken, steak, and eggs to be brought onto the grounds. Obviously, the pictogram more widely means “no meat or animal products”. Underneath, it says “only vegetarian food”. The specific use of the word “vegetarian” confuses the matter.

As per my understanding of vegetarianism, generally eggs, milk, honey (surprise — made by bees, it’s an animal product!) and a few other animal products are acceptable; the interpretation to which I personally subscribe is “no animal flesh”. I assume, given the inclusion of the egg in the pictogram, that the policy is actually veganism, as in no animal products whatsoever. (If I am incorrect on this point, then that is only somewhat beside the point I am trying to raise here. Update 20180805: See notes at the end.)

I typically eat three meals a day of the meat and two vegetables variety, although peanut butter, pickled eggs and cheese are central to typical breakfasts. However, especially since in the past I have flirted with vegetarianism of the meatless-but-eggs-and-cheese-and-other-animal-products-are-fine variety, I don’t have a problem with the sign; I consider myself to eat a wide enough variety of foods that it isn’t an issue. Further, I do not have any food allergies or particular dietary restrictions — for instance, I do not have any dietary requirement to eat, let alone at every meal, certain foods; certainly for the purpose of this post, foods which contain animal products.

And of course, the monastery is clearly and very well within its rights to place such a condition on the guests it invites to visit its grounds: One does not need to visit the grounds if one is opposed to the condition. In any case, when I have visited, I have never had my picnic lunch bag verified at the gate. Once, I noticed a gentleman eating his lunch on the road just outside the gate; I imagine that he didn’t know in advance about the condition, and his lunch presumably contained some offending ingredient. I can only imagine that based on my personal experience, the gentleman saw the sign, and complied of his own accord without any intervention from the monks.

Nonetheless, planning my picnic lunch for these visits has proven to be quite the challenge over the years.

I bring foods which I enjoy and which I assume are vegan. I even now somewhat plan in advance for this lunch, including when I go to the grocery store on my way up to the cottage. I usually check ingredients lists. As revealed below, obviously not well enough.

And, so far, I realize after the fact every year that I have failed to bring only vegan foods.

One year, I made a peanut butter sandwich on Challah bread. That’s the braided bread often found in delicatessens and jewish bakeries. Challah bread nornally contains eggs.

Another year, as I was planning my lunch, I looked at the ingredients list of various products I wanted to bring: One cake contained eggs. Another commercial snack cake also contained eggs. Two favourite varieties of flavoured potato chips and similar snacks contained milk products (sour cream and onion, and cheese flavoured snacks). Pleased with myself, I did not bring either of the cakes nor the chips / snacks. However, I failed on the sandwich I’d brought: I made my peanut butter sandwich on the bread I make at home in a bread machine. I later remembered that the bread recipe I use contains milk.

This year, I thought I was really well prepared: My peanut butter and jam sandwich, on a very plain bread that did not contain milk nor eggs. Dried pineapple, which I had dried myself. Caramel popcorn, whose ingredients list did not contain any animal products. Juice boxes. And a few other items, which I deal with in the following paragraphs.

To my amusement, though not surprise, I learned after the fact that the roasted and salted cashews I brought may contain milk, along with peanuts and other tree nuts. This is in a grey zone, as the warning’s purpose is to inform that the cashews were prepared in a facility which prepares other items which may contain the offending items, and that cross-contamination might have occurred, not to indicate that the cashews actually contain the offending items, at least by design.

The following items were also brought, and which I later realized were not allowed under the above-mentioned presumed vegan food condition:

– a brand of salt and vinegar potato chips, whose “seasonings” contain lactose, and whose label states they contain milk, to my great surprise: I had bought the chips on the presumption that they contain potatoes, vegetable oil, salt, and vinegar;
– a variety of chocolate buttons candy, whose label states it contains milk (this should have been a no brainer, since they are in the milk-chocolate range of chocolates);
– a store brand of a swiss-type chocolate bar, whose label states it contains milk and eggs (again this should have been a no-brainer, at least for the milk);
– a chocolate-coated granola bar, which contains honey and multiple mentions of milk and milk products (once more, this should have been a no-brainer).

As such, I guess I will yet again have to plan better for my visit during my holidays next year: I will have to buy fruit cups and fresh fruits, while excluding the various above-mentioned items. These aren’t a real problem for me, but I do admit that these items are not always the first things that come to mind when I go shopping or make a last-minute grab for food for my lunches, be they regular daily lunches, or my visit to the monastery grounds.

In the past, I have subscribed to the mostly-meatless form of vegetarianism, for environmental reasons, principally in that meat consumes enormous amounts of water to produce. (As a side bar, one complaint I had was that prepared frozen pasta dishes could have been made in one extra variety: In addition to the vegetable lasagnas that are made, why not make traditional meat lasagnas exactly as usual, save that the meat hoppers are not filled during some runs?)

However, I am generally typical of North Americans in that I eat meat very regularly. Lately, for health reasons, I have been somewhat, mostly only very slightly, cutting down on my meat consumption; the environmental reasons of water requirements and carbon footprint in the form of methane production (21 times as efficient as CO2 as a greenhouse gas), have also been present in my mind.

But this little exercise makes me wonder how a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, or for that matter, someone who is lactose-intolerant, suffering from celiac disease, allergic to eggs, nuts and peanuts, or seafood, or who has some other intolerance to some food ingredient, is able to navigate commercially prepared foods, restaurants, and even dinner parties serving only foods “made from scratch” but in kitchens with the following ingredients, given the omnipresence of meats, milk, eggs, honey, other animal products, wheat, nuts, peanuts, seafood and any other I consider to be common and basic foods, and which in and of themselves are mundane, at least to me.

Yes, I am aware of various commercial foods and food management systems, such as nut-free candies and gluten free foods, and restaurants catering to the various issues raised above. I am also aware that making foods “from scratch” present options for my picnic lunches. My point here lies in the insidious degree to which certain common ingredients are used in food products not purchased for the presence of said ingredients.

Update 20180805: I have done some cursory checking into Buddhism and vegetarianism, and according to the wikipedia page on Buddhist Vegetarianism, (here’s my archive), the traditions of the particular monastery I visit likely fall under the “no meat, eggs and dairy” category, although strict veganism does not seem to be the case.