Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

Picture this: you're standing in front of piles of fresh produce. Gingerly you reach out for the dark purple, almost black, shiny eggplant. You look left and see mushrooms galore. To the right, peppers in a myriad of colors. Green, yellow, orange, red! Colors and springtime smells assault you from every direction. Fresh basil, sage, parsley, cilantro. Tomatoes of every size and shape from huge bright orange beefsteaks to round red beauties still attached to the vine to small grape tomatoes. Mountains of avocados, piles of leafy celery, bunches of carrots that look like they've just been pulled from the ground. And the assault to your happy sense goes on!

If you're anything like me then you will have been throwing things into your basket with reckless abandon. Not a thought for what I could or will make, just knowing that I want all of those veggies.

After a couple times of doing this, Rob said, "Hey, what are you gonna do with all of this stuff? There's too much!" No way! So, I invented my sandwich. Here goes:


1 eggplant, medium size
1 jar fire roasted peppers (you can buy them or roast them yourself)
1 jar marinated mushrooms, sliced (or a nice roasted portobello mushroom)
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes (or nice thick slices of fresh tomatoes)
1 avocado, mashed
4 Tbsn pesto
1 loaf ciabatta bread

*Note: I'm giving you the quick version so that you can try it. If you love it, then try the items that are in parentheses! All of these items are readily available in supermarkets. I get my stuff at Trader Joe's.

First, peel your eggplant. Cut it in 1/2" slabs length-wise.

Now an interesting thing about eggplant: It has a bitter taste that throws a lot of people off. You can get rid of that taste. Liberally salt both sides of your eggplant slices and lay out on a cookie sheet. This process, called "sweating" releases the bitter taste and makes the eggplant easier to roast. (This method should be used with every eggplant recipe you have!) It will take about a 1/2 hour to 'sweat' your eggplant. Rinse the pieces thoroughly when you have noticed that they have released quite a bit of moisture. I like to tilt the cookie sheet in the sink so the liquid runs right off.

Now lay your rinsed pieces on a cookie sheet that you have sprayed with cooking spray or lined with a silicon baking sheet. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Halfway through flip the pieces over.

While that's roasting, cut your ciabatta loaf in half horizontally (like you're making a huge sandwich). Spread your pesto on one side of the bread and your mashed up avocado on the other side. Lay your peppers, mushrooms and finally your eggplant out evenly over the length of the bread. *You'll use about 1/2 a jar of peppers, 4 Tbsn of the mushrooms and 3 slabs of eggplant and, depending on the size of the tomatoes, about 2 regular sized tomatoes.

Put the top of the bread on, wrap in tin foil and put into the heated oven for 15 minutes. Take it out of the oven and carefully cut into pieces. I end up with about 10 pieces and serve 2-3 per person. Great with soup, perfect with chips. There really is no wrong way to have this sandwich!

This is a favorite weekend sandwich in our house! Hope you'll give it a try.

Penne Pesto Pasta with Veggies

Here we go with another great way to bring the taste of spring to your table!


1/4 - 1/2 cup pesto
1 lb penne
Parmesan cheese to taste
Any kind of veggies you want! (I used asparagus, broccoli, zucchini & tomatoes)

Prepare pasta per instructions on package - basically boil til al dente, which means "to the teeth" in Italian.

Steam veggies,except tomatoes, until they are slightly tender. Don't let them get mushy!

Add pesto to hot, strained pasta and mix thoroughly.

Add veggies, including tomatoes, mix again and serve. Top with Parmesan cheese to taste.

Great for summer meals and can be served cold!!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lasagna - It's what's for dinner!

A delicious hearty meal that you just can't get wrong! Trust me? You should on this one!

Lasagna is short for: anything you want, with cheese and herbs, wedged between slats of pasta, drenched in sauce, covered with more cheese and then baked.

The below ingredients will make two 13x9 lasagnas!!!!

*2 13x9" pans
*2 packages lasagna noodles
*2 lbs. part-skim ricotta cheese
*2 lbs. shredded mozzarella cheese
*14 oz silken tofu
*32 oz marinara sauce
(spaghetti sauce.. homemade is better. I promise not to look if
you use jarred.. but don't tell me either! Need a recipe for how to DIY?
Ask me!
*4 eggs (or equivalent in egg whites)
*5 Tbsn rough chopped parsley
*2 Tbsn garlic powder
*3 Tbsn rough chopped oregano
*30 leaves fresh basil
*1 red pepper
*12 oz meatless ground (Yves)or regular chopped meat (turkey or beef)
*2 Portabello mushrooms, sliced thinly
*3 small zucchini, grated

Mix together oregano, garlic salt, tofu, ricotta, egg whites, parsley, 1 lb. mozzarella.

Spread enough marinara sauce in the bottom of each 13x9" pan. Lay down 4 lasagna noodles. Three length-wise and one in horizontally across the bottom.. you'll have to break it. Don't squish them all together. The pasta will expand when you cook the lasagna and fill in the space.

"Wait!!!" you cry, "you haven't cooked the lasagna noodles! Are you insane? Did you forget?" You look around dismayed, looking for support from others who you think will help you with this argument.

Ye of little faith! Cook the pasta? Heck no! That's too much darn work and I refuse! And, no, you don't have to buy the no-cook ones either. Having cooked lasagna noodles in the past, I can tell you it's a road you should be thankful that I am going to save you from! (utter nightmare of ripping noodles and cursing!)

Let's start to layer now. Remember: there is no wrong way to put a lasagna together. And you can use any type of veggies or meat(less) products!

For the first lasagna I did (I did them at the same time, but varied the ingredients): First layer: cheese mixture (about 3/4 cup spread out) and a pretty arrangement of all of basil leaves. Then a layer of lasagna noodles, then sauce (about 1/4 cup spread all over noodles - we're gonna call this LLN&S from now on). Second layer: Yves meatless ground. LLN&S. Third layer: portabello mushrooms... LLN&S. Now... a little trick on the last layer. Incorporate the grated zucchini into the cheese mixture. Spread 1/2 of this mixture over noodles. LLN&S. Now cover the top of it with as much cheese as you want. Remember.. there's a pound left for two lasagnas... Bless ya if you can eat that much cheese in a topping!!!

For the second lasagna I did: Cheese mixture LLN&S. Red peppers LLN&S. Portabello mushrooms LLN&S. Zucchini cheese mixture LLN&S. Top with a pile o' cheese.

One final step: As we have omitted the 'cooking of the dastardly lasagna noodles' I like to slowly add, around the edge of the lasagna where there is space, about a 1/4 cup of water to each lasagna. This give the noodles the moisture they need to absorb.

Cover loosely with tin foil (you'd don't want it pressing on the cheese or you'll pull it all when you try to take it off.

Cook at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. You can put these behemoths on cookie sheets for easier lifting! For the last 1/2 hour, remove the tin foil so that the cheese can get all browned and bubbly. Remove from the oven, cut pieces, serve and eat!!!

Final notes: You do NOT have to use tofu.. just add another small container of ricotta instead. You can add meat in place of the meatless stuff. It's all about what makes your taste buds sing with delight. Add red pepper flakes for a nice kick!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fresh 'n Easy Pesto

1 big bunch of basil (takes stems off, wash & dry)
3 cloves of garlic (don't be stingy)
A handful of raw pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is better)
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (cold-pressed)

OK... so I take all of that stuff... and I throw it in a blender and I hit whatever button makes it chop everything into teeny little bits. Maybe liquefy. LOL!

Then I pour it out of the blender into a jar (a ball jar, an old clean jelly jar.. whatever) and I carefully pour a tablespoon of olive oil on top for storage.

How do I use it? On EVERYTHING!!!! I put it on:

*Salmon (Rob makes a mean pesto salmon )
*Sandwiches (I'll make a house favorite this weekend to show you)
*Pork Loin
oh yeah...
*and pasta!

For everything except the pasta you probably only need a tablespoon or two. For the pasta, once your pasta is cooked to your perfection add about a 1/4 cup of the pesto and mix it around. I also like to throw another handful of pine nuts and grated cheese into the pasta for extra yumminess!

(Pesto pictures, including pasta and sandwich to follow!)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Caprese Salad Appetizers

This little appetizer is great for parties of any size!

The below ingredients make 10 skewers. If you have other hors d'oeuvres then 2 per person should do just fine!

You need:

Bamboo Skewers
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella (ciliegine size... that means the little round balls)
10 ounces of grape or cherry tomatoes
8 large basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil

Cut each little mozzarella ball in half. Put a tomato, then a piece of cheese, then a tomato, piece of cheese... etc etc etc. There will be 5 tomatoes and 4 pieces of cheese per skewer.

Once you have done this with all 10 skewers, lay them on a plate, sprinkle basil over all and drizzle with the olive oil. Refrigerate until 1/2 hour before serving. Letting them warm up to room temperature a bit allows the flavors to really come out!

Now a little silly fact: like many Italian dishes this one is made in the colors of the Italian flag. Talk about pride in your country!

Mangiare e possono avere cento anni!!!