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Eggplant parmigiana, ricotta dumplings


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  • Jonathan Benno
  • Ingredients
  • Broccoli rabe pesto
  • 1 cup blanched broccoli rabe leaves
  • 3-4 broccoli rabe florets per serving
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon roasted garlic puree
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch pepperoncino
  • Finishing salt to taste
  • Gnudi
  • 1 cup Italian ricotta (sheeps milk)
  • 1 cup Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta (cows milk)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pecorino
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch black pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Semolina flour, enough to fill a sealtight plastic container
  • Garlic chips
  • Garlic cloves
  • Cold milk
  • Canola oil for frying



Step 1

For the broccoli rabe pesto, remove broccoli rabe leaves from their branches, reserving the florets. Blanch the leaves in boiling water, quickly, immediately placing them into a bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking process. Blanch the florets, same method, and reserve separately. By blanching, you will retain their beautiful, natural green color in your final product. Dry the leaves once they are cooled. Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Shake the pan to ensure even browning. When they are fragrant and browned, remove from heat and cool. Keep a close eye as they burn easily.

Roast the garlic by heating an oven to 300 degrees F. Place unsalted butter on a double thickness of foil and smash it to make a base for the garlic. Top with garlic heads and sprinkle with kosher salt. Fold over the sides of the foil to make a package and roast for 1 ½ hours, or until the garlic is soft. While it is still warm, scrape the softened garlic through a tamis or food mill, leaving behind the skins. Add the pine nuts to a food processor (you can also use a mortar and pestle). Pulse it to make a thick paste. Add in the garlic and continue to pulse. Add some of the rabe leaves, and pulse, adding in extra virgin olive oil in a light stream. Add more of the leaves, continuing to pulse with oil, and more of the leaves, until you have added them all and you have a thick, creamy pesto.  Finish with the pepperoncino and salt to taste. Reserve.

To make the gnudi, combine all ingredients except the semolina flour in a Kitchenaid mixer. Blend until smooth. Scrape this mixture into a pastry bag. Pour the semolina flour in a thick layer into the plastic container. Pipe each gnudi dumpling into the flour, making even rows to best utilize space. Each should be about the general size of your thumb, but round, about 1 ½ tablespoons each. Once you have all the rows completed, cover the layer with more semolina flour. Repeat until the entire container is filled with layers of gnudi, tucked into the flour. Let sit for 2 days to allow a shell to form around the cheese and hold its shape. When ready, remove each dumpling from the flour. Very, very gently, toss the dumpling between your two hands to shake the flour from it. Place into a bowl, reserve until cooking. Fill a pot of water, season with salt and bring to a boil. When the water has reached the correct rolling boil, add the gnudi and cook. They are ready more quickly than ravioli — as soon as they bob to the surface, they are done and remove.

For the garlic chips, slice the garlic chips as thinly as possible on a mandoline. Place the slices in a small saucepan and cover with cold milk. Bring the milk to a boil, then drain the slices in a strainer, discarding milk, then rinse them under cold water. Return the slices to a pan and repeat the process three times, using fresh milk each time. Pat them dry on paper towels. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan to 300 degrees F. Add the garlic slices to the hot oil and fry for 12-15 minutes, or until the bubbles around the chips have subsided and they are a light golden brown. Drain the chips on paper towels. You can store them at room temperature in an airtight container for 1-2 days.

To finish: Warm the broccoli rabe florets gently in a small saucepan extra virgin olive oil, season with pepperoncino and salt. Then warm the pesto gently. Add the gnudi, toss to coat with the pesto. Serve five gnudi per person. Plate with florets mixed in. Finish with garlic chips and grated cheese.

Recipe: Eggplant parmigiana

Jonathan Benno
2 medium Italian eggplants
1 ball fresh mozzarella cut into 1/4" slices, or pre-grated
1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, rinsed and chopped coarsely
1 small piece parmigiano-reggiano, or pre-grated
All-purpose flour for dusting the eggplant slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Tomato sauce
1 28 ounce can San Marzano Tomatoes, passed through the food mill or food processor
1/2 red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 basil sprig
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
For the tomato sauce, preheat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the 4 quart saucepot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic, season with a pinch of Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Sweat stirring occasionally until translucent. Increase the heat to medium and add the remaining ingredients. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and reduce the heat to low. Let the tomato sauce cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the sauce from the heat and taste for seasoning. Use your judgment and decide whether or not you need to add another pinch of salt and pepper and a drop of red wine vinegar. Reserve the sauce until assembly.

For the eggplant, rinse the eggplant under cold water. Using your chef's knife, cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices. Lightly season the slices on both sides with Kosher salt and lay in a layer on the rack for 30 minutes to draw out some moisture. Over medium-low heat, warm enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of the 12" sauté pan. Pat the moisture off of the slices with the paper towels and dredge them in the all-purpose flour to evenly coat each slice, shaking off the excess. In a few separate batches, gently sauté the slices in a single layer, until they are a light golden brown on each side. Upon removing the eggplant from the pan, lay them out to cool on the rack in a single layer. Reserve the eggplant until assembly.

To assemble the parmigiana, start by spreading a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the 8" x 8" baking dish. Lay down one even layer of eggplant followed by another thin layer of tomato sauce and enough parmigiano-reggiano and chopped parsley to evenly cover the tomato sauce. Another layer of eggplant, tomato sauce, the mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano and chopped parsley. Follow suit with 2 more layers comprised of eggplant, tomato sauce, parmigiano-reggiano and chopped parsley. The top layer should be tomato sauce, parmigiano-reggiano, and chopped parsley evenly distributed from edge to edge and corner to corner.

To complete, bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes. The top should take on a light golden color, and when a knife tip is inserted into the parmigiana, should come out hot to the touch. When the parmigiana is finished baking, remove it from the oven and let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before attempting to portion and serve. The longer it sits, the more stable it will be when portioned.

Recipe: Mixed roasted mushrooms

Jonathan Benno
2 pounds mixed mushrooms (hen of the woods, oyster, shiitake, trumpet royale)
4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add just enough mushrooms to loosely cover the bottom of the skillet. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 2 minutes, then gently turn the mushrooms over as they brown and soften. Add a little chopped shallot and garlic, some butter, and some thyme and parsley. Continue cooking the mushrooms until they are tender, about 2 minutes more, then transfer them to a paper towel. Wipe out the skillet and repeat the process, cooking the mushrooms in small batches. Just before serving, add a bit more butter to the skillet and warm the mushrooms over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe: Focaccia

Jonathan Benno
1 2/3 cups water
4 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rosemary
2 teaspoons black pepper
Ice cubes for steaming
2 tablespoons pork lard, warmed
1 1/2 tablespoon Maldon sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, finishing oil
Using a hook attachment with a tabletop mixer, add the water first and then the next four ingredients (bread flour, yeast, extra virgin olive oil, salt). Mix on low speed for 3 minutes. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil (make sure that your bowl is 4 times larger than the dough) to start bulk fermentation. Cover with plastic wrap for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Keep at room temperature. After the bulk fermentaton is done, place back into the mixer and add rosemary and black pepper. Mix for 4.5 minutes on low and 2 minutes on medium speed.  Place into an airtight container coated with olive oil (again make sure container is 4x larger than the dough for proofing).

Proof at room temperature for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Knock down, fold and re-cover. Proof for another 1 hour and 45 minutes. Place on a sheet pan with olive oil, spread out and lightly poke using your fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and continue this process 2-3 times if needed. The dough should double in size. Pre-heat the oven to 550 degrees F. (Place an empty sheetpan on the rack below) allow the sheet pan to get hot.

Then place the focaccia in the oven and drop temperature to 425 degrees F. Add 8 ice cubes to the empty sheet pan below. This will create steam. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until golden brown. When it's hot from the oven, brush warm pork lard on top and season with fresh black pepper and Maldon sea salt. Cool and cut.

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