ADVOCATE-TESTED RECIPE

All kinds of vegetable casseroles and stuffed vegetables fill St. Joseph's Altars. This eggplant recipe, stuffed with shrimp, is perfect for an altar or your dinner table. Bake it in the shells or in a casserole dish. It originated in Marrero and is featured in the “Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found” cookbook by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker.

Stuffed Eggplant

Makes 8 servings

½ cup olive oil

2 cups minced onions

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup minced celery

½ cup chopped green bell peppers

1½ pounds small to medium shrimp, peeled, chopped

4 medium eggplants, halved, boiled 10 minutes, drained

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crumbled

¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 bay leaf

⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ cup fine dry breadcrumbs, plus extra for sprinkling

Salt (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a large baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, celery, bell peppers and shrimp. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft and golden, about 10 minutes.

3. Cut cooked eggplants in half lengthwise. Scoop out most of the flesh into the shrimp mixture, leaving a sturdy shell. Set shells aside. Stir into the mixture the Parmesan cheese, oregano, thyme, cayenne, bay leaf, parsley and breadcrumbs. Mix well and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt if needed. Remove bay leaf.

4. Fill shells with the stuffing mixture and sprinkle with extra breadcrumbs. Place in the prepared baking dish and bake until browned, about 20 minutes or until browned.

VARIATIONS: Put filling into a buttered casserole dish and bake or use filling for bell peppers or squash. You can substitute ground beef, ham or bacon for shrimp.

Cauliflower Frittata

This frittata is typical of those found on St. Joseph's Altars, and is also an easy meatless dinner. Experiment with other vegetables, such as broccoli, to fill it. The recipe makes a large amount but halves easily. The recipe is from Nancy Tregre Wilson’s “Louisiana’s Italians, Foods, Recipes & Folkways.”

Makes 10 servings.

2 heads cauliflower

1 gallon water

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 eggs

Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

1. Clean cauliflower and cut each into 4 pieces. Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add salt and cauliflower. Cook until tender, but not too soft. Drain on paper towels.

2. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch frying pan. Add cauliflower and fry 5-10 minutes. Remove and drain. Place in a large clean skillet or an oven-safe dish coated with nonstick spray.

3. Beat eggs and pour over cauliflower. Cook in the skillet, covered, over low heat, or bake in the oven at 350 F until eggs are set and done. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce as desired.

4. To serve, place a large platter over the cooked cauliflower and invert so the casserole will be evenly spread on the dish. Serve hot.

Filled Fig Cakes

This is a traditional cookie recipe adapted from "Mama’s Kitchen: Three Generations of Italian-Creole Home Cookin’ in New Orleans" by Donna D’Arcangelo Perry. The rich fig filling makes this a special treat and a labor of love.

Makes 48.

FIG FILLING

1½ pounds dried figs

½ pound whole almonds, toasted

½ pound candied mixed fruit and cherries

¼ pound semisweet chocolate morsels

1 cup raisins

2 tablespoons orange zest

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ cup honey

DOUGH

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup vegetable shortening

½ cup sugar

1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)

ICING

2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons evaporated milk

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

FIG FILLING

1. In a large bowl, add enough warm water to cover figs and let stand until softened, 2 hours or up to overnight. Remove stems from figs.

2. In a food processor, process figs until very smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. In the food processor combine almonds, candied fruit, chocolate, raisins, orange zest, vanilla and cinnamon. Process about 2 minutes, until very well blended, stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl. Add honey and process until combined.

4. Stir nut mixture into fig mixture until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.

DOUGH

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add shortening. With your fingertips or a pastry blender, combine until it resembles coarse meal.

3. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar in 1 cup warm water.

4. Add sugar-water to flour mixture; stir to combine. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead about 3 minutes, until dough is smooth.

5. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each into a long strip 3 inches wide and ¼ inch thick. If needed, trim dough to the 3-inch width. Lengths can vary.

6. For each dough strip, form fig filling into a 1-inch-thick log as long as the dough strip. Place filling on top of dough. Moisten edges of dough with water and fold over filling. Roll dough a few times to completely seal seam around the filling. Cut into 2-inch pieces and place on prepared baking sheets.

7. Bake 20 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottoms. Let cool completely on pans.

ICING

1. In a medium bowl, whisk powdered sugar, milk and lemon juice until smooth.

2. Drizzle cooled cookies with icing.

3. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Variation: Sprinkle just-iced cookies with colored nonpareils.


Send "the best" recipes and correspondence to Judy Walker at JudyWalkerCooks@gmail.com with “Roux Believer” in the subject line. Please include a phone number.