Tonight that's what I'm making. It's my second time making Giada's Veggie Parm. I first made it last week, when all I had was one measly japanese eggplant. I halved the recipe and it worked out fine. Tonight, though, I've got enough for the whole recipe, including a big fennel bulb I nabbed at Meijer in Sandusky for $1.
I had never used fennel before this recipe. It's a white bulb with fern-like leaves at the top and also goes by the name of anise. It looks a lot like bok choy once it's cut. You do that by chopping off the leaves (they aren't edible) and taking off the outer covering of the bulb. Then you cut off the bottom end of the bulb and cut out the hard heart center. Then, you chop it. What you'll notice while chopping is that fennel smells heavily of licorice, but don't worry, it has a very mild taste.
To pre-cook the veggies, I roasted them in the oven for 20 minutes before layering them like lasagna and cooking them again in the casserole (for full recipe, click the link above). I added a chopped red pepper (first one from the garden!) to the fennel layer for a little something extra.
When it was all cooked and cooled, I plated it and served it with a side of salad, complete with red lettuce and cherry tomatoes from the garden. Overall, this is one decadent veggie dish. All that cheese melts into everything else, so that every bit is infused with mozzarella, parmesan, and (because I used a mixed Italian cheese blend) provolone, romano, and asiago. The three 3/4 cups of sauce add just enough moisture and tomato-y sweetness, while the fennel adds a slight crispness to the otherwise mushy consistency.
At this point, I would kiss my fingers and fling them outward like an Italian Chef in a cartoon, but you wouldn't be able to see the gesture anyways.
For dessert, consider that innocent reminder of childhood campouts, the s'more. While at Meijer, I also picked up a bag of strawberry marshmallows. I didn't have chocolate, but I wanted the melted marshmallow/graham cracker combo, so I melted the mallow on a fork over one of the burners on my gas stove. Then, I smeared some peanut butter on half a graham and smooshed that and the mallow onto the other half of the graham. There's something delightfully simple about peanut butter and marshmallow. Even better when that marshmallow tastes like fake strawberry.