Putting Market Vegetables to Use: Roasted Eggplant, Marinara, and Mozzarella for Eggplant Parmesan Melts!

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It was eggplant day at my house today!  Remember the baby eggplants that I was so super excited about finding and buying at the farmers’ market this past week?  We put them to use for dinner and made our version of roasted eggplant parmesan sandwiches!  Super simple, super DELICIOUS!  I wasn’t always a fan of eggplant, but over the years it has grown on me and I’ve found ways to cook it that make my tastebuds and tummy happy.  Roasting, for me, is definitely the way to go and breading it also makes for delicious eggplant meals. 

This past Tuesday I bought 6 beautiful baby eggplants at the East York farmers’ market at the East York Civic Centre on Coxwell Ave. and we were hemming and hawing on how we should cook them and what to serve with them.  Should we throw them on the grill?  Mix it with other vegetables?  Eat them alone?  My mum came up with a great idea today: make eggplant sandwiches!  We sliced them to roast in the oven for our melty, cheesy, saucy sandwich melts.  The eggplants were sliced and seasoned and tossed in olive oil with a little bit of black pepper, dry basil, and minced garlic. 

We placed the slices of eggplant on a tin foiled baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for 25 minutes at 400°F.  I can’t even put into words have AMAZING they smelled!  And of course, tasted 😀  They were soft, the skin was nicely blistered and roasted, and the garlic…ahhh.  And then the fun part came: assembling our eggplant parmesan melts!  We loooove English muffins in our house, so we toasted some English muffins, put some mushroom and tomato marinara sauce on the stovetop to heat up, and got our slices of mozzerella cheese ready to go.  I slathered on a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on the bottoms of the English muffins, placed two big slices of roasted eggplant on top, layered it with a slice of mozzerella cheese (which melted beautifully omg yum), placed another slice of eggplant on top, and topped the whole shebang with another generous dollop of tomato sauce.  Eggplant sandwich success! 

I was inspired by a lot of different things in making these roasted eggplant melts: the amazing breaded eggplant sandwiches at St. Lawrence market, Giada’s eggplant and asparagus stacks on her Food Network show, Giada at Home, and the eggplant parmesan at Frankie Tomatto’s!  Even though we didn’t have any parmigiano-reggiano cheese to shave on the roasted eggplant or fresh basil to finish off the melts, we made do with what we had at home and made a great dinner with fresh vegetables straight from the market.  It made me so happy to see my market vegetable purchase go from farm to table and it was such a simple way to make a wholesome, healthy, and hearty dinner.  I’m super excited to see what other fresh and delicious eats I find at my next farmers’ market visit!

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Home Grown: Baby Heirloom Tomatoes and Baby Eggplants! The Farmers’ Market at East York Civic Centre

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Thus far in my farmers’ market series, all the markets that I’ve visited have been pretty central in the downtown Toronto area: Nathan Phillips Square on Queen St. West, SickKids Hospital on University Ave., and Trinity Bellwoods on Dundas and Shaw.  Nothing that’s considered particularly eastern, western, or northern.  You all know how much I enjoy visiting these markets, but you might be wondering how and why I chose to go to the east end today.  I don’t know if you can guess from the title of the post, but there are some keywords in there that will tip you off as to why East York holds such significance for me.  Home grown…baby…East York.  That’s right, baby Deb was born across the street at East York General over two decades ago and the east end of Toronto was my first home for the first year and a half of my life before my family and I moved to Scarborough.  A true blue Torontonian, through and through.  Even though I obviously have no recollection of my early baby years, it felt oddly comforting taking the bus northbound on Coxwell Ave. knowing this was where my roots were first planted.

The farmers’ market at the East York Civic Centre, located at 850 Coxwell Ave., was absolutely amazing!  It was a gorgeous morning out today, sunny with a comfortable cool breeze, and I had such a great time walking from vendor to vendor taking in the large market and all it had to offer.  There was so much to see and I had to do 2 and half rounds around the market before I could fully make up my mind!  This is definitely one of the larger markets I’ve visited and the area is just beautiful and peaceful with lots of lush green grass, trees, and benches. 

The market was set up in the shape of a square and there was a tiki straw umbrella booth selling smoothies, a hot grill getting fired up in the center of the market with hot dogs and sandwiches, vendors sellings homemade cookies, tarts, and bags of granola, oodles of cured meats and fresh loaves of bread and pastries, and table after table of fantastic fruits and vegetables!  I was so excited to see stuff I hadn’t yet come across on my farmers’ market tour and everything was bursting with freshness and colour. 

There were pints of adorable itty bitty baby potatoes, colourful baby heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, little zucchinis, and quite literally, a mountain (or wall!) of fresh strawberries.  I loved seeing the heirloom tomatoes and baby potatoes, but what got me in a tizzy was the BABY EGGPLANTS!  OH.MY.GOD.  Given how much my mum adores eggplant, there was no way I could pass these up.  They were adorable and gorgeous, with the darkest shade of plum.  I bought one container (3 baby eggplants), looked in my bag, paused, and turned back around to buy one more set.  I squealed and walked away with 6 beautiful baby eggplants and skipped away a very happy girl.  I had such a wonderful, refreshing morning at the market here and I’m really happy I made the trek out.  It was well worth the trip to see the beautiful fruits and veggies, and to revisit the place I once called home.

*****

East York Civic Centre is located at 850 Coxwell Ave. at Mortimer Ave.  The East York farmers’ market takes places on the front terrace of the civic centre every Tuesday from 8am-2pm, May 17th to November 1st (excluding statutory holidays).