Italian Happy Meal Monday Vegetable Parmesan with Arrabbiata Sauce

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“The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living…”—Dione Lucas

At least once a week I head to “my favorites” file or cookbooks for a much-loved recipe and today I have two favorites for dinner tonight.  I love-making vegetable parmesan especially since it is so versatile when it comes to the vegetables that are available year round and for a little bit of a twist I finished off previously made arrabbiata sauce instead of a marinara sauce, but pick a favorite homemade or ready-made sauce for your own version.  Fabulous for a special Christmas dinner and an exceptional dish for your vegetarian guests…Wonderful with a Tuscan style roasted pork roast or fresh ham and I love it with roasted chicken, capons and game hens.

Years ago I made a version that Giada made at Christmas and more or less have followed the basics she recommended, but there are other veggies to consider, one of which is grilled Portobello mushrooms for another great layer.  Certainly you can roast the veggies in an oven or grill them, but since I have a rather large grill pan I ended up using it, oh and by the way I did cut the recipe in half and it was enough for two and some left for lunch the next day.

My second recipe is a chicken mountaineer from one of my oldest Italian cookbooks and I prefer the smaller chickens for this dish one chicken 3-3 1/2 pounds cut into serving pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper.

2 large eggs beaten and add 2 tablespoons water
2-3 tablespoons melted butter
about 2 cups Italian seasoned fine bread crumbs garnish chopped fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges
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Allow the chicken pieces to bathe in the beaten eggs, turning now and then for at least an hour, melt the butter in a casserole large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces and roll the chicken pieces in the bread crumbs to coat.  Lay the chicken in the buttered pan, cover and bake at 350º for 45 minutes (the original recipe says 1 1/2 hours must have been a tough old bird) and then remove cover and basted the chicken with the butter and finish uncovered for another 15 minutes.  If the chicken pieces do not brown in that time place them on a rack and put under low broil to brown.

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Vegetable Parmesan the basic recipe from Giada, slightly adapted

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Butter, for greasing the baking dish
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper cut into quarters and grilled
Olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce, divided
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1 cup plain or Italian fine seasoned bread crumbs
*optional fresh shredded basil leaves for each layer

Directions
Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.
Drizzle the eggplant, fennel and zucchini slices with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables until softened, 3 to 4 minutes each side. (The vegetables can also be baked in a 375 degrees F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until soft).

Spoon 3/4 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Arrange the fennel slices in a single layer on top. Spoon 3/4 cup of marinara sauce over the peppers. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Arrange the zucchini on top and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Scatter the bread crumbs over the cheese and drizzle liberally with oil. Bake until the top is golden and forms a crust, 30 to 35 minutes.Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/vegetable-parmesan-recipe2/index.html?oc=linkback