Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

On Sunday when Mom came to dinner, she brought me three perfect, lavender baby eggplants from the Farmer’s Market.  I wish I’d thought to take a “before” picture.

I thought of what I had on hand – fresh Michigan tomatoes,  fragrant basil from my herb garden, tart goat cheese and toasted breadcrumbs made from my homemade croutons and came up with this recipe last night.

They were….phenomenal.  And I’m going to share how I did it in case you’d like to make these little melt-in-your-mouth bites of goodness. They would be great for appetizers, side dishes or a meatless entree.

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

  • three baby eggplants
  • 1 c fresh chopped tomato
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • sea salt
  • garlic powder
  • olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 c goat cheese
  • breadcrumbs

Trim the tops and bottoms off each eggplant then slice them in half. Place the eggplant halves on paper towels, flesh side up and salt them. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. After 15 minutes, blot the eggplant and drizzle olive oil over the cut side lightly coating the surface. Place them flesh side down on a grill pan (I used my cast iron one) and roast them for 15 minutes.  Chop the tomatoes, add sea salt and garlic powder to taste, chiffonade then stir in the basil and set aside. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the eggplant over (skin side down), top them with chunks of goat cheese, chopped tomatoes mixture, then a sprinkle of the crunchy breadcrumbs and place them back into the oven. Turn the oven off and remove them after 3-5 minutes until the goat cheese is warmed and softened.

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Simple Entertaining Charcuterie

Spence and I recently had a dear friend staying with us who, among her other great qualities, is a fellow foodie.  I pulled out all the stops (and more than a few bottles of vino).

On our final night, I decided to go with a lighter charcuterie “buffet” style meal and hope sharing it might inspire you on these hot summer evenings.

Pictured: Shrimp Ceviche, Prosciutto, Cappicola, Calabrese Salami, Rosemary & Sea Salt Marcona Almonds, Dijon Mustard, Aged White Cheddar, Fontina, Manchego, Brie, Pickled Okra, Cornichons, Herbed Boursin, Fresh Pineapple, Multigrain & Flatbread Crackers, Strawberries and fresh Italian bread
Pictured: Shrimp Ceviche, Prosciutto, Cappicola, Calabrese Salami, Rosemary & Sea Salt Marcona Almonds, Dijon Mustard, Aged White Cheddar, Fontina, Manchego, Brie, Pickled Okra, Cornichons, Herbed Boursin, Pineapple, Multigrain & Flatbread Crackers, Strawberries & Italian bread

For my Ceviche recipe, click here:

https://www.spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/2015/ceviche

Lunch of Champions


A charcuterie board for lunch with thin sliced filet and lamb, cornichons, cherry tomatoes, salsa Jack cheese, multi grain crackers and bread, marcona almonds, rotisserie chicken spread (chicken, lime, ranch, cilantro, mayo, chopped cashews and fresh cracked black pepper) and shrimp ceviche.

Living the dream, just a Thursday lunch….and a creative take on leftovers. Delicious!

Ceviche

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Two of my passions are travel and food.  I’m always intrigued by the cuisine of the country or region I’m visiting and love to discover those spots that the locals frequent.

Spence discovered Costa Rica twenty years ago. Retired, he decided to escape Michigan, spending winters there instead. Still working, I’d take two weeks of vacation to visit him.  That first year, he’d gotten the lay of the land and sought out a local haunt and a dish we’d never heard of….ceviche. Knowing me as well as he does, he didn’t need to run it by me – I love all food.  Knowing him as well as I do, I trusted I was in for a treat.

From the house he’d rented in a little barrio near Quepos, we walked a mile into town.  Inside a small, congested bus station, we wound our way through the locals and vendor stands until Spence motioned me towards the tiny Ceviche stand where we deftly snagged two of the five stools.

“Dos Ceviche con Camarones, por favor” Spence expertly articulated to the woman behind the counter. I perused the short menu on the wall, still unaware what ceviche was but with my limited Spanish, knew shrimp were involved while other varieties featured fish, calamari or octopus.

As we waited, the husband handed us tiny napkins, forks and a couple of 8 packs of saltine crackers, setting a bottle of hot sauce between us.  The ceviche arrived, in an oval, pyrex-type vessel, vibrant and appealing.  Served very cold, it was not only refreshing but incredibly delicious – the tang of citrus, the crunch of the veggies, the sweetness of the tender shrimp.  I was over the moon.  Spence simply smiled, having anticipated my enthusiastic reaction.

In the years that followed, we made many trips to this area and specifically to that bus station.  Having sampled ceviche in countless places, all with more ambiance (and higher prices), I can say without question, none were better than what we found at the bus station.

After much research, here is my recipe which tastes as close to my memory of that Ceviche.

CEVICHE 

serves 8-12        Weight Watchers Smart Points  1 point per 1 cup serving

  • 1 lb fresh, uncooked shrimp
  • 1 c lime juice
  • 1 c medium red onion – finely diced
  • 2 c medium tomatoes-diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper – seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 c green bell pepper -diced
  • 2-3 T chopped cilantro (more or less to taste)
  • 3 T fresh orange juice
  • 1 t salt

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Peel and clean the shrimp, removing the tails. Chop the raw shrimp into small pieces. Add the finely minced jalapeño, remove the seeds and ribs if you wish to keep the heat in check.

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Add the green pepper and red onion next.

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Juice your limes and pour over these ingredients.

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Now add the tomatoes, orange juice, cilantro and salt. Stir and refrigerate for four hours (stirring periodically to insure that the citrus “cooks” the shrimp evenly.

Ready to
Ready to “cook”
Ready to serve, notice the shrimp are now white and opaque.
Ready to serve, notice the shrimp are now white and opaque.

Serve and enjoy!

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Chef’s Notes:  You can substitute the shrimp with grouper or sea bass, just cut it into uniform small pieces.  Substitute a sweet white onion for the red.  I’ve seen recipes that add cucumber and/or celery diced as well as avocado and if fresh tomatoes are in season, you could add more. While I’ve served this as an appetizer to guests, Spence and I find it a refreshing, chilled entree on a hot night. 

 

Arancini

I was looking for a recipe that would work with my leftover Butter Baked Rice. I’ve seen Giada make Arancini and so I scoured Pinterest for a version that would work with what I had on hand. It turned out better than I could have imagined. Here’s what I did:

2 c leftover Butter Baked Rice (see below for link to recipe)
3/4 c Parmesano regainno
1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix together the rice, Parmesan and egg, using your hands.

Block of mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese cut into small chunks (think sugar cube size)

Take a large spoonful of rice mixture into your hand, press a chunk of cheese into the center. I used a small ice cream scoop to form the rice mixture into well packed balls.

2 eggs, lightly beaten
Italian breadcrumbs

Line a platter with wax paper. Take each ball, gently roll into the egg, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Place on the wax paper.

Heat vegetable oil in a deep fry pan. Place the balls into the oil, once browned on one side carefully flip them and brown that side. Remove from oil onto a paper towel.

Serve immediately with marinara sauce. This made 10 balls. As you can see I served these as a side with an oven baked herbed chicken breast but these could be appetizers or a vegetarian entrée.

Here the link for the recipe for Butter Baked Rice:

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/butter-baked-rice

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Hot from the fryer with melted cheese in the middle.
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Plated with marinara sauce and served alongside herbed oven baked chicken.

Olive Tapenade (for Bruschetta)

This is one of my favorite go-to recipes for appetizers. I had this years ago in a restaurant and it was so tasty I wrote down everything I could identify and have made it ever since.  I’ve even had numerous guests who at first said “oh I don’t care for olives” but trusting enough in my culinary skills to try it and viola! Everyone loves it – not a crumb left at the end of the party.  And this is actually better if you make it ahead – 24 hours minimum or even better a few days.  I serve this atop little slices of baguette, first drizzling a bit of extra virgin olive oil on the slices, giving them a few minutes in a 350 degree oven, then adding a spoon of the tapenade on each slice, then back for 5-10 minutes. I’m making this today for a party on Saturday so thought I’d share it with my followers.

Olive Tapenade 

Weight Watchers Smart Points 1 (serving size 1/2 tablespoon)

  • 1 5.75 oz jar green olives with pimento
  • 1 6 oz can black olives (any size)
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 t coarse black pepper
  • 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

Finely chop both kinds of olives and garlic cloves.  I use a hand-chopper (Pampered Chef) to achieve a very fine texture.  Stir olives and garlic together.  Add oregano and black pepper to olive mix, stir to blend.  Add the olive oil and give a final stir.  Place in a covered container to refrigerate for 24 hours or longer.

Note from Spence’s Girl:  If you have more tapenade than bread, this is excellent tossed into a pasta sauce or used as the olive salad component of a muffalletta sandwich!