Meatless Monday – Kale, Fennel Salad with Apples, Pecans & Goat Cheese

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Well I’ve finally done it!  I massaged kale. I have always thought kale was just fine the way it is naturally but have heard that massaging kale is a thing and have been wondering if ‘super relaxed’ kale is really worth all the fuss.  So when I spotted this recipe from Vegetarian Times, June 2016 for Fenway Park’s signature salad, I thought I would give it a try – even down to the kale massaging and fennel soaking, (Nope, I hadn’t done that before either).  What could be better than a salad that has been given the ultimate in pampering and spa treatments?  This lucky salad is a delicious combination of sweet and savory on a bed of velvety kale and fennel and drizzled with a Maple, Lemon, Dijon Vinaigrette.  Not bad for ballpark food, don’t you think?  Good on you, Fenway Park!

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Why do we massage kale anyway?  Kale is a slightly bitter green which is also somewhat fibrous.  When it is massaged, it’s tough cellulose structure breaks down (LA Times) making it less fibrous.  You can actually see the difference.  The kale will darken, shrink in size and become silky in texture. The flavor changes as well. That bitterness mellows to a sweet softness. Another benefit is that massaged kale has such a wonderful texture with just the right mix of sweet and bitter flavor, you need to use less salad dressing, thus fewer calories.  That said, this Maple Dijon Dressing is pretty good so don’t skip it entirely.

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So now you probably want to ask why one would soak shaved fennel.  Well that is not quite as clear.  Soaking fennel in cold water seemed to mellow the flavor and soften the texture of shaved fennel while still preserving it’s crispiness. Just make sure the water is really cold. The soaked fennel paired really well with the silky kale so there must be something to this.  You could probably soak your julienned apples too to prevent browning.

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TIPS: You can skip the massaging and soaking if you’re pressed for time or can’t be bothered.  Just make sure you slice thinly.

This recipe calls for dried cranberries but I was planning on using pomegranate seeds instead but I didn’t get the pomegranate seeded before my guests came and I didn’t want the kitchen to look like a tragic kitchen accident with all that pomegranate juice, so I stuck with dried cranberries, which were good.  I think pomegranate seeds would provide a fresh pop of sweet and tart, so next time I will be better organized and give them a try.

If your pecans are raw, just toast them in the oven at 350 for about about 7 minutes and let cool.  Or you can find toasted or candied pecans in most grocery stores.

This is a yummy dressing but it can tend to be too sweet when paired with apples, cranberries and pecans, so try adding one tablespoon of maple syrup at a time to the other ingredients until it is to your preferred sweetness.  The original recipe called for three tablespoons but I used two and next time I will use only one.

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KALE FENNEL SALAD
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips
1 generous pinch of salt
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced and submerged in ice water
1 apple, cored and julienned
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted or candied
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

DRESSING
1-3 Tbsn pure maple syrup (add 1 Tbsn at a time until desired sweetness)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
6 Tbsn olive oil

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  • Place kale in a medium bowl, and massage with salt for a minute or so, or until the greens are dark and glossy.

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  • Thinly slice fennel and place in a cold water bath while you prepare the other salad ingredients

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  • Drain fennel, and add to kale

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  • Stir in apple, cranberries, goat cheese and pecans.

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  • Combine maple syrup, lemon juice, mustard, shallot and thyme in a small bowl.  Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper.

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  • Toss the salad with dressing.

Kale and Fennel Salad with Apples, Pecans and Goat Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips
1 generous pinch of salt
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced and submerged in ice water
1 apple, cored and julienned
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted or candied
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

DRESSING
1-3 Tbsn pure maple syrup (Add 1 Tbsn at time until desired sweetness)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
6 Tbsn olive oil

  • Place kale in a medium bowl, and massaage with salt for a minute or so, or until the greens are dark and glossy..
  • Thinly slice fennel and submerge in cold water while you prepare the other ingredients
  • Drain fennel, and add to kale
  • Stir in apple, cranberries, goat cheese and pecans.
  • Combine maple syrup, lemon juice, mustard, shallot and thyme in a small bowl.  Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss the salad with dressing.

Wheatless Wednesday – Beet and Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese & Pine Nuts

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Citrus is here!  I love eating with the seasons, especially when nature provides such colorful abundance.  Right now citrus is at it’s best and, for a short time, blood oranges are available.  So take advantage!  I paired citrus – oranges from my tree, which are surprisingly sweet and juicy this year in spite of the drought we are having in California, blood oranges and grapefruit – with golden and red beets.  This is the time of year for root vegetables as well, and together they make a spectacularly colorful presentation.  Topped with creamy goat cheese, toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of a savory-sweet balsamic vinaigrette, this salad is a sensory delight!

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Beets are funny little root veggies, rather on the homely side with their tough skins and little ‘mouse’ tails (root end) until you cut them open to find their jewel-like interiors.  The greens, on the other hand, can be quite lovely.  So looking at these gorgeous beet greens, I knew I had to  make something with them.  Often I saute them with butter and garlic for a delicious side dish and if you don’t overcook them, they keep their brilliant colors. This time, however, I wanted to make more of a main course.  When I spotted the 10 eggs on my counter fresh from my next door chickens, I decided to make a frittata which did not disappoint.  Recipe will post tomorrow but here is a preview:

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Okay, back to the Beet and Citrus Salad, which actually pairs nicely with the beet top frittata by the way.  The intense colors of this salad are a visual indicator of how nutritious this salad really is.  Roasted beets are rich and intense in flavor but also loaded with vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants.  We all know that citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C but they also contain an impressive list of other essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

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TIPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS: Beets can be roasted a day or so ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.  I like to sprinkle a bit of micro greens over the top of the salad to add freshness without covering all the bright colors, however, a good alternative would be to place the beets and citrus on a bed of greens. Arugula or baby spinach would be good choices.  Toasted pine nuts add a nice buttery crunch but roasted pistachios would also make a nice alternative. Non goat cheese fans can substitute feta or just omit the cheese and let the vivid colors stand on their own.

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BEET AND CITRUS SALAD WITH GOAT CHEESE

1 bunch red beets(3 large or 4 small)
1 bunch golden beets (3 large or 4 small)
1 orange
2 blood oranges (if available, or substitute any other citrus)
1 pink grapefruit
3 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup micro greens (optional)

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey, agave nector or sugar (scant teaspoon or to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil

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  • Cut beet greens from beets leaving a half inch of stem remaining.  Do not cut into the beets.  Rinse, dry and place beets on a square of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and close the foil so no steam will escape.

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  • Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until they are easy to pierce with a fork.

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  • Let cool.  Using a papertowel, peel the skins from the beets and pinch or cut the beet tops to remove.

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  • Cut the top and bottom off of the orange and the blood oranges, then cut  downward to remove the peel and pith and work your way around the fruit.

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  •  Slice into rings

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  • Repeat the process with the grapefruit, except that once the peel and pith are removed, use your knife to separate the tough membrane from the segments.  For my wordsmith friends, these membrane free sections are called ‘supremes’ and they are worth the extra work.

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  • Dry toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until golden brown and aromatic, several minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Slice the beets into rounds and place on a serving dish.  Top with citrus and micro greens.

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  • Sprinkle with goat cheese and pine nuts

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  • Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and drizzle over beet and citrus.

Beet and Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 bunch red beets(3 large or 4 small)
1 bunch golden beets (3 large or 4 small)
1 orange
2 blood oranges (if available, or substitute any other citrus)
1 pink grapefruit
3 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup micro greens (optional)

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey, agave nector or sugar (scant teaspoon or to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil

  • Cut beet greens from beets leaving an inch remaining.  Do not cut into the beets.  Rinse, dry and place beets on a square of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and close the foil so no steam will escape.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until they are easy to pierce with a fork.
  • Let cool.  Using a papertowel, peel the skins from the beets and pinch or cut the beet tops to remove.
  • Cut the top and bottom off of the orange and the blood oranges, then cut  downward to remove the peel and pith and work your way around the fruit.  Then cut into rings
  • Repeat the process with the grapefruit, except that once the peel and pith are removed, use your knife to separate the tough membrane from the segments.
  • Dry toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until golden brown and aromatic, several minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Slice the beets into rounds and place on a serving dish
  • Top with citrus
  • Sprinkle with micro greens, goat cheese and pine nuts
  • Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and drizzle over beet and citrus.

Meatless Monday – Eggplant, Potato & Goat Cheese Gratin

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Looking for healthy comfort food?  Picture yummy layers of roasted eggplant, caramelized onions, buttery mushrooms and creamy potatoes topped with fresh herbs, tomatoes and goat cheese.  This is my favorite kind of food, loaded with flavor and oozing with goodness.  You might ask, what exactly is a gratin?  It’s a fancy name for a dish with a lightly browned crust of breadcrumbs or melted cheese, usually served in the dish in which it is cooked.  The word ‘gratin‘ has an interesting history of evolution, from the original French which derives from the word gratter meaning “to scrape” or “to grate” as of the “scrapings” of bread or cheese. Le gratin evolved to signify the ‘upper crust’ of society and has subsequently been borrowed into the English language , particularly in food terms.

Each layer in this gratin has something to offer.  The creamy white potatoes on the bottom soak up all the lovely flavors and form a delicious bottom ‘crust’.  Regardless of what you have been lead to believe, Potatoes are not worthless fattening carbs.  They are complex carbohydrates which provide energy for our bodies along with significant amounts of Potassium and Vitamin C. The layer of caramalized onions is not only delicious but loaded with antioxidants and vitamins including vitamin B complex. Earthy mushrooms provide nutrients that are also found in meats, beans and grains like selenium, potassium , riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, which makes them a great meat substitute.  Eggplant with it’s gorgeous purple skin offers a host of vitamins and minerals along with it’s delectable flavor.

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TIPS: I really love the tang that goat cheese adds but if you’re not a fan you can substitute your favorite cheese.  Mozzarella, gruyere or parmesan are good choices.  If you are vegan, use breadcrumbs instead of cheese. for a crispy top.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to pre-cook the vegetables before layering them, you can skip a few steps. Instead of roasting and boiling you can bake the mostly raw ingredients which is easier prep but will take quite a bit longer to cook.  You will lose some of the nuances of flavor but it should still be delicious.  Don’t skip the step of salting the eggplant but while it’s resting, chop onions and saute them with garlic until soft.  Slice all vegetables ( I would omit the mushrooms since they make so much water) and layer them raw as per the directions.  You may want to store the sliced potatoes in cold water or slice them last to prevent browning until you’re read to layer. I would wait on the last layer of cheese or it could get overbrown. You may not need as much broth as the raw veggies have so much water.  Cover tightly and bake for one hour. At 30 minutes, using a flat spatula, press vegetables down so juices come to surface. If it seems dry add a bit more liquid. At 60 minutes, uncover, press veggies again and check for doneness. If veggies seem soft sprinkle with cheese and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and juices have evaporated.  Otherwise, cover and bake another 20 minutes or so.

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EGGPLANT, POTATO & GOAT CHEESE GRATIN

1 large or 4 small Japanese eggplants
2 large potatoes
3-4 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion
6 large brown mushrooms (optional)
1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsn or more fresh thyme or 1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz goat cheese
1/3 cup vegetable broth (or more)

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  • Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and spread in a single layer on paper towels.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let sit at least 10 minutes or until you see beads of water forming on their surfaces.

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  • Peel and slice potatoes, slice into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a pan filled with cold, salted water.  Heat the potatoes to a boil and cook for about five minutes, until slightly soft but not losing it’s shape.  Drain and rinse with cold water. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a baking dish.  Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the dish.

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  • Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange eggplant circles in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and roast in a hot (450 degree) oven for about 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat and let sit.

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  • Peel and slice onion into 1/4 inch rounds.  Brown them in a frying pan with about a Tablespoon of oil over medium high heat.  Flip to brown the other side, then break circles apart and add garlic.  Let sit for a few minutes of lower heat until softened. Layer the onions over the potatoes.

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  • Clean the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and slice in half horizontally. Add a bit more oil and saute until golden on each side.  Layer over the onions.

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  • Dot the vegetable mixture with about half of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.

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  • Add a layer of eggplant slices.

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  • Pour the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant and dot with the rest of the goat cheese.  Pour vegetable broth over the top.  Add sprigs of thyme, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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  • Bake at 425 degrees for about a half hour, covered.  Check after 15 minutes, if it’s not starting to bubble add a bit more broth.  Then uncover and let bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

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Eggplant, Potato & Goat Cheese Gratin

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 large or 4 small Japanese eggplants
2 large potatoes
3-4 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion
6 large brown mushrooms (optional)
1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsn or more fresh thyme or 1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz goat cheese
1/3 cup vegetable broth (or more)

  • Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and spread in a single layer on paper towels.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let sit at least 10 minutes or until you see beads of water forming on their surfaces.
  • Peel and slice potatoes, slice into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a pan filled with cold, salted water.  Heat the potatoes to a boil and cook for about five minutes, until slightly soft but not losing it’s shape.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a baking dish.  Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the dish.
  • Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange eggplant circles in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and roast in a hot (450 degree) oven for about 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat and let sit.
  • Peel and slice onion into 1/4 inch rounds.  Brown them in a frying pan with about a Tablespoon of oil over medium high heat.  Flip to brown the other side, then break circles apart and add garlic.  Let sit for a few minutes of lower heat until softened. Layer the onions over the potatoes.
  • Clean the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and slice in half horizontally. Add a bit more oil and saute until golden on each side.  Layer over the onions.
  • Dot the vegetable mixture with about half of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Add a layer of eggplant slices.
  • Pour the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant and dot with the rest of the goat cheese.  Pour vegetable broth over the top.  Add sprigs of thyme, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for about a half hour, covered.  Check after 15 minutes, if it’s not starting to bubble add a bit more broth.  Then uncover and let bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

Merry Christmas – Festive Holiday Tart

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Ho Ho Ho!  If you are looking for an easy but festive appetizer for your holiday guests, how about this version of my Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart that was updated for the holidays by my friend, Karen Schroeder.  The red and green just screams Christmas! This could be the perfect appetizer to serve your vegetarian friends but, be warned, your meat eating friends will love it too.   It’s not too late to pick up some phyllo dough, or maybe you have a box lurking in your freezer.  Click HERE for full recipe and complete instructions.  Just add cherry tomatoes! Check out some other recipes made by GMD readers on my You Made It! Page.  If you send me YOUR photos of GMD recipes, I will post them.  Love my readers!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Of course in my house it’s also HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my son, ERIC, who turns 26 tomorrow! xoxo

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Photo Credit: thecreationzstudio.blogspot.com

Wheatless Wednesday – Root Vegetable Tian with Goat Cheese and Crispy Shallots

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Root vegetables are like your underappreciated friend  who is super smart and really fun but maybe a bit socially awkward and not classically attractive. Root vegetables grow in the ground, have tough skins, which are sometimes ‘hairy’ (egad!) and are often a bit misshapen.  They have none of the allure of ‘popular’ vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant or the reigning queen of greens, kale.   Yes, root vegetables are not very pretty on the outside with their dusky, tough skins, but cut them open to find a treasure trove of jewel tones and lovely, often intense flavors. Since they are grown underground, they absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil. They are packed with a high concentration of antioxidants, Vitamins C, B, A, and iron.. They are also filled with slow-burning carbohydrates and fiber, which make you feel full, and help regulate your blood sugar and digestive system. This factor, plus the high-octane nutrients and low calories, make roots excellent for people who are trying to lose weight, or simply stay healthy. Read more at Oh My Veggies.

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This summer I made a beautiful Summer Vegetable Tart featuring summer produce like zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and fresh tomatoes with rounds of fresh mozzarella arranged into a gorgeous flower pattern.  It was definitely a family and a fan favorite so check it out if you still have tomatoes and zucchini left in your garden!  With fall vegetables crowding the bins in markets right now, I wanted to rework the tart into one featuring fall veggies, root vegetables in particular.  Whereas summer veggies have a lot of water in them, root vegetables are more dense, so I opted to make a tian which is a mixture of roasted vegetables cooked in a shallow dish, usually layered or arranged with cheese or au gratin but without a crust which seems unnecessary for these already hearty vegetables. A tian is actually the earthenware cooking pot used in Provence, France, although the name Tian now serves to include the food cooked inside.  Most people, like me, don’t have a special tian dish but use any low glass, ceramic or earthenware dish available. I topped the vegetables with thinly sliced shallots, fresh herbs, garlic and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese for a slightly crispy finish.

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So what are common root vegetables? Potatoes are probably the most popular, followed by carrots, sweet potato and yam, turnips, parnsips, beets, rutabaga, celeriac and many that are unrecognizable without a chart.  For more info, here is a List of Root Vegetables and their characteristics. Surprisingly, everything in the onion family, including garlic, is actually considered a bulb not a root vegetable.  There are also tubers, rhizomes and corms, but don’t get me started. My lack of a botanical degree is showing…

TIPS:   Utilize any combination of your favorite root vegetables or whatever is available, even carrots. Try to buy vegetables that are similar in diameter so they cook evenly and make the layering easier. Don’t worry to much about it though.  If anything is significantly smaller, just double up the smaller rounds or tuck them in wherever.  I used goat cheese because I thought it’s tangy flavor would combine best with the earthy veggies but non goat cheese lovers can omit or substitute any cheese. You have the option of tucking it in between layers like I did or crumbling it all over the top for a bubbling, crispy, cheesy crust.  If you are pressed for time, you can skip the marinating of the shallots, they just might not get as crispy but they will be delicious. You can’t really go wrong.

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ROOT VEGETABLE TIAN
1  large russet potato
1 large sweet potato
2-3 other root vegetables ( parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, etc)
4-5 oz goat cheese (optional)
2-3 shallots
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsn parmesan cheese, Grated (ootional)
1 Tbsn fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme Leaves (or other fresh herbs)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsn  olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth (optional)

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  • Slice a shallot into thin rings and put in a small bowl. Add the minced garlic and 1 tsp fresh thyme (or other fresh savory herb like oregano, rosemary or marjoram.  Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and combine to coat.  Set aside.

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  • Peel the sweet potato, parsnips and other root vegetables (except the potato which can be peeled and placed in water but not sliced until the last minute because it browns so quickly) and slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a baking dish with olive oil. Peel the potato and slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds.

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  • In the baking dish, arrange the potato, parsnip and sweet potato slices in a single layer, overlapping them as you go. Tuck in a round or crumbles of goat cheese, if using, every 3 or 4 slices or you can sprinkle them overt the top or both.  The shape of your dish will determine the pattern you use for your veggies. Think rows, circles or even pinwheels.

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  • Sprinkle the garlic mixture evenly over the top. Drizzle the top with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. if you like softer veggies you can pour a half cup of vegetable broth in the bottom of the pan (optional). For firmer veggies, omit the broth. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.
  • Place the root vegetable tian in the preheated oven and bake for  about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are starting to become fork tender. Remove foil and sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese over the top, then continue baking until cheese turns golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. If you like the top really browned, broil for a minute or two but watch it closely as it can overbrown quickly.

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Root Vegetable Tian

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1  large russet potato
1 large sweet potato
2-3 other root vegetables ( parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, etc)
4-5 oz goat cheese (optional)
2-3 shallots
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsn parmesan cheese, Grated (ootional)
1 Tbsn fresh or 1 tsp dried Thyme Leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsn  olive oil

  •  Slice a shallot into thin rings and put in a small bowl. Add the minced garlic and 1 tsp fresh thyme (or other fresh savory herb like oregano, rosemary or marjoram.  Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and combine to coat.  Set aside.  Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and combine to coat
  • Peel the sweet potato, parsnips and other root vegetables (except the potato) and slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Lightly grease a 9″x11″ baking dish with butter
  • Peel the potato and slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds.
  • In the baking dish, arrange the potato, parsnip and sweet potato slices in a single layer, overlapping them as you go. Tuck in a round or crumbles of goat cheese, if using, every 3 or 4 slices  or you can sprinkle them overt the top or both.  The shape of your dish will determine the pattern you use for your veggies. Think rows, circles or even pinwheels..
  • Sprinkle the garlic mixture evenly over the top. Drizzle the top with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. if you like softer veggies you can pour a half cup of vegetable broth in the bottom of the pan (optional). For firmer veggies, omit the broth. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.
  • Place the root vegetable tian in the preheated oven and bake for  about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are starting to become fork tender. Remove foil and sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese over the top, then continue baking until cheese turns golden brown, about 5-10 minutes.  If you like the top really browned, broil for a minute or two but watch it closely as it can overbrown quickly.

 

Meatless Monday – Char-Roasted Eggplant and Bell Peppers with Olives, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

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The end of summer means Back to School, Last Little Get Aways and Glorious Sunsets which herald more sunny days ahead. I have always loved this time of year, which has always seemed like the ‘real’ new year to me.   The beginning of each school year has always been filled with excitement and the anticipation of something new and better.  When I was young I was always sure that this was going to be the year I made the team and got straight A’s as well as the cute boy, ever the optimist. Fall also serves as a marker for where we are in our lives, sort of a  growth chart in time.  When my boys were young I  met each new school year with the disbelief that they were one grade older, each new grade a momentous step, coupled with an almost giddy joy that they were going back to school and I could finally get something done-call it a guilty pleasure.  Now that I am less married to the school calendar, since my kids are in college and beyond, I am still reminded of the season by my garden which is  abundantly rich with bounty but showing some signs that summer is ending.  It’s almost time to prepare for the cold of winter, but not quite yet…still many beautiful days ahead.

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This lovely salad started with a Martha Stewart Living recipe for Blistered Eggplant with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta which I stumbled upon while thumbing through the September, 2014 issue.  I was immediately drawn to the colorful assortment of some of my favorite vegetables and decided to give it a try but, as they say on American Idol, ‘make it my own’. Those of you that know me well, understand that, unless I’m baking, I consider recipes to be merely suggestions and I tend to cook a bit on the fly with what I have on hand.  The original recipe calls for only a drizzle of olive oil with salt and pepper but I opted to let garlic and fresh herbs rest in the olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar while I prepared and roasted the vegetables.  I also roasted red and yellow bell peppers because I thought they would enhance the other flavors with their natural sweetness. The combination of charred eggplant and peppers with sweet, ripe tomatoes, tangy olives, fresh herbs and creamy goat cheese is a wonderful taste sensation. The goat cheese is optional, in fact my husband doesn’t care for it so I placed the goat cheese in a corner  of the tray so vegans or non-goat cheese lovers don’t have to pick through the salad for something ‘safe’.  Sprinkle some freshly chopped basil for a final fresh garnish.

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TIP:  Eggplant is usually sliced and then salted (a process called ‘degorging’) before cooking to remove any bitterness and to help draw out the extra water which prevents the eggplant from acting like a sponge and absorbing great quantities of oil or marinade or releasing unwanted water into the dish.  However, with this method of cooking, sometimes called blistering or charring (i.e. dry roasting), salting is not as necessary if the eggplant is fresh, as the high heat of the broiler dries the slices out enough.  Older, tougher eggplants will really benefit from salting though.  So if you have fresh eggplant and don’t have time, skip the salting process.  Adding the oil after roasting gives the eggplant a nice texture and enhances the slightly smoky, charred flavor.

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For those eggplant lovers, you might want to try some of my other eggplant favorites.  Just click on the photo for the recipe.

Eggplant Parm5

Eggplant Parm Minis

Eggplant Tart1

Summer Vegetable Tart

Eggplant1

Roasted Eggplant with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

Roasted Eggplant and Bell Pepper Salad with Tomatoes, Olives and Goat Cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 large globe eggplant
2 bell peppers, any color
1-2 lbs mixed tomatoes
1/2 cup mixed olives
6 oz goat cheese (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsn fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Slice eggplant into thin rounds.  If you have time, spread the slices on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.  Wipe moisture off the slices before roasting.

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  • Combine olive oil, garlic and thyme in a small bowl. Set aside.

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  • Halve bell peppers and remove core and seeds.

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  • Preheat broiler and place rack 6 inches from the heat source.  Broil eggplant and peppers until they are blistered and deep brown on the top, about 10 minutes.

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  •  Turn and repeat on the other side.

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  • Immediately transfer eggplant to a large bowl, slice the peppers into wide strips and add to eggplant.  Toss with half the oil to coat all slices.

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  • Cover with a plate and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes.

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  • Slice larger tomatoes into thin rounds and cherry tomatoes in half.

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  • Arrange eggplant and peppers on a platter.

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  • Add tomatoes and olives and drizzle with remaining dressing.

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  • If using, sprinkle with goat cheese or serve in the corner of the platter or on the side. Top with fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Serve family style or prepare individual plates.

 

Meatless Monday – Roasted Beet Salad with Ripe Peaches and Goat Cheese

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Is it a coincidence that fresh tomatoes ripe from the vine or juicy, just picked peaches taste especially good in summer or is it nature’s design to give us what we need?  I was thumbing through some cooking magazines admiring gorgeous photos of carmelized tomatoes and 10 ways to use fruit when I came across an article, “In Season For a Reason:”, by Ellie Krieger in CookFresh Magazine that claims our bodies are ‘calling for them’, meaning seasonal veggies.  “Not only do summer vegetables taste better and have a higher nutritional value, in season produce is in sync with our nutritional needs; it contains specific nutrients that replenish and protect us in the hot summer months”. Summer’s juicy fresh fruits and vegetables help keep us hydrated (20 percent of our water intake comes from the food we eat) and are rich in anti-oxidants, just when we need them most. Specifically, antioxidants like lycopene, vitamin C and beta-carotene help protect our skin from the sun by neutralizing damage to skin cells caused by the sun’s UV rays. Potassium, which we lose when we sweat, is also found in many summer vegetables. I wonder if winter vegetables give us what we need in winter too?

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I like combining seasonal fruits and vegetables, especially in salads.  I often toss orange or grapefruit sections into my salads to give them  a sweet and tangy boost. Today’s salad combines fresh, roasted beets, ripe peaches and arugula topped with goat cheese and pistachios. If I had them I would have added a few halved dark red Bing cherries or strawberries which are also in season. There is something about the combination of sweet and salty is really satisfying.  Right now with peaches in season, they are plentiful, delicious and less expensive at the height of the season! If you have the grill going, you can just halve and pit them and stick them on the grill for a few minutes to slightly caramelize them or just cut them up fresh and delicious.

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Like their intense color would suggest, beets are big on antioxidants, and have cancer and heart disease-fighting properties, as well as a host of vitamins and minerals. including iron.  Roasting them brings out a more intense flavor and gorgeous color since nothing is released into water, as happens with boiling.  If you slice them vertically, you  may get heart shapes, which if you’re my pinterest friend, you know I collect hearts found in nature so couldn’t resist this picture.  Too pretty!  Don’t throw away the beets tops.  They actually have more flavonoid antioxidants and vitamins than the beet roots themselves, including Vitamin A.  They can be chopped and sautéed with a bit of olive oil and garlic for a delicious side dish similar to chard or mustard greens.  The beets can be roasted a day or two beforehand and stored in the refrigerator until you need them.  Other than roasting the beets (which is easy but takes time), this is a very fast and easy meal to throw together, nice and colorful too!

Roasted Beet Salad with Ripe Peaches and Goat Cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2-3 raw beets
1-2 peaches
1 bunch baby arugula
1/4 cup pistachios (or toasted pine nuts)
2 oz fresh goat cheese (optional)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsn fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay beets on aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Don’t remove the stem or tail.  Wrap foil into a pouch and bake until the beets are fork tender, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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  • Let the beets cool, at least enough to handle, and remove the skins, stem and tail.  I like to use paper towels so my fingers don’t turn red.  Set aside and let them cool to room temperature, then slice.  I would recommend using a non-porous cutting board, since the juice from the beets stains everything it touches, including your hands.

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  • Wash, remove the pit and slice the peaches.  I like the skin but if you don’t, then remove the peel before slicing.
  • Coarsely chop the pistachios.

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  • Place the arugula in the bottom of  a large serving bowl or platter. Add the sliced beets and peaches.

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  • Top with pistachios and goat cheese.

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  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper and pour over the salad before serving.

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Wheatless Wednesday – Arugula Salad with Roasted Corn and Edamame

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What does it mean if you see a groundhog in the summer?  A couple of days ago, I spotted a fat, furry little creature stealing strawberries from my garden.  It scurried off into the woods as soon as it saw me but not before I got a good look.  It took me a couple of days to figure out what kind of animal it was since I have never seen one before and I have to admit that I became a bit obsessed.  It looked like a beaver but with a fluffy, bristle brush-like tail.  I finally spotted an internet picture of my new little friend, who turns out to be a groundhog, although here in Maine they are called woodchucks.  I know that Maine had a brutally long winter and Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog Day dooming the East to six more weeks of winter, so I hope that this means six extra weeks of summer.   Perhaps the fact that the little guy is a Mainer, and therefore, only a woodchuck, maybe it doesn’t mean anything and he is just a cute little neighbor who likes my strawberries…

groundhog

Photo Courtesy of http://www.teacheratlas.com

So what does my groundhog/woodchuck have to do with Wheatless Wednesday?  Nothing, except that I was carrying all the veggies I just bought into the house when I spotted him and almost dropped them in my excitement.  This week in Maine has been hot and humid so we are eating lots of salads.  You might say I overthink food, and perhaps I do, but here is my take on a Green Salad, which is green (arugula) on green (edamame) on green (snowpeas) on green (avocado) on green (scallions) with just an accent of color (corn and maybe a sprinkle of goat cheese).   The variety in this salad comes from the flavors and textures rather than most summer salads that are generally pretty colorful.

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Corn is just starting to come into season and I have had trouble finding organic, non-GMO corn here in Maine, perhaps its just too early or maybe it’s an indication of how much of our corn is now GMO. 😦 It’s hard to pass up the bins of 10 ears of corn for $4.00 but I just did that yesterday.  Instead I bought 3 hard to find ears of organic white corn for $3.00.  Call me crazy but I really go out of my way to avoid GMO’s!  Since corn was my accent in this salad, I decided to rub it with butter, salt and pepper(and maybe just a tad of Creole Seasoning.  I like Tony Cachere’s) and roast it until it turns golden brown.  I let it cool and then sliced the kernels off into the salad.  Delicious!

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Although this salad is light, it is also pretty hearty. Arugula is a great choice for a green salad. Arugula contains about eight times the calcium, fives times the vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, and four times the iron as the same amount of iceberg lettuce.  The Edamame provides protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals (including calcium and iron). and the Avocado is nutrient dense and a source of good fat (which we need to absorb the nutrients so don’t hold back).  Sugar Snap Peas are also a good source of vitamins and minerals including calcium and Vitamin C.   Corn gets a bad rap but is actually pretty loaded in antioxidants and fiber.  The best thing about this salad though is that it’s simple but delicious-a perfect hot summer meal!

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Arugula Salad with Roasted Corn and Edamame

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3 cups baby arugula
1 cup edamame (fresh or frozen, thawed)
1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced lengthwise
1 avocado, peeled and diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2-3 ears of fresh corn, shucked
2 tsp butter (olive or coconut oil)
salt, pepper & creole seasoning (optional)
2 Tbsn goat cheese (optional)

Arugula Salad

  •  Wash corn and remove any remaining strings.  Rub 1/2 teaspoon butter onto each ear (I used my hands which was messy but effective) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  I also like to add a bit of Creole Seasoning.  Put in a roasting pan and broil for 3-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Let cool.

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  • Place arugula in the bottom of a large bowl.  Add snowpeas, avocado, edamame and green onions.  Slice the kernels off the cobs and add to the salad.

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  • Top with crumbled goat cheese or serve on the side, if desired.
  • To make a simple vinaigrette, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsn lemon juice, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Drizzle with vinaigrette or serve on the side.

 

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Quinoa Crust Pizza with Goat Cheese, Meyer Lemon and Basil

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QUINOA CRUST PIZZA – YOU HAD ME AT PIZZA!  Those that have been following GMD, know that I am in constant search of great pizza recipes, especially those whose ingredients stretch conventional thinking (read not white flour). My Meyer Lemon tree outside is still loaded with lemons and I now have two pounds of freshly made goat cheese (click HERE to learn how to make goat cheese which is surprisingly easy), so when I saw this recipe from Cafe Johnsonia using quinoa instead of white flour for the crust, I knew we had a new Wheatless Wednesday contender.  The quinoa crust is fantastic!  I really like it and will make it again and again.  Its less heavy than a cornmeal crust and has a great consistency.  In fact, I experimented with thick vs thin crust and think this recipe would also make a great cracker, so you may be seeing Quinoa Crackers in a post coming soon.

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You could top this pizza crust with your favorite toppings if lemon and goat cheese are not your thing.   It will hold up well, even with wet toppings like tomato sauce or heavy cheeses.   The combination of tangy goat cheese and tart meyer lemon, topped with fresh basil and shallots is a wonderful explosion of flavors.  If you want the same flavor combination but a less intense version, substitute strips of lemon zest in place of the lemons.  My favorite variation includes thinly sliced zucchini circles, garlic and lemon zest cooked with the lemon goat cheese, then topped with fresh basil, shallots (or scallions) and a handful of arugula.  Delish!

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Quinoa is one of the reigning superfoods, but do you know why?  According to Forbes, quinoa is one of the most protein rich foods available and has twice as much fiber as other grains.  It is rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron and vitamin B2 and gluten free.  Making a crust out of quinoa is not only way more nutritious than one out of white flour, it is easier as it doesn’t have to rise or be handled in any way.  The quinoa does have to soak for 8 hours or overnight but other than that, it only takes about 45 minutes and the prep is easy. For those that also like alternative pizzas, check out some others I have done in the past with good results:

Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Margherita and Pesto Chicken Pizzas on White Whole Wheat Crust
Zucchini Crust Pizza with Grilled Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper

 

Quinoa Crust Pizza with Goat Cheese, Meyer Lemon and Basil

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Quinoa Pizza2

 

1 cup quinoa
water, for soaking and blending
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons avocado oil (or another high-heat oil)
5-6 ounces fresh goat cheese (chèvre)
1 Meyer lemon, very thinly sliced (seeds removed)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, thinly sliced
small handful fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
2 Tablespoons pine nuts ( toasted)
coarse ground black pepper
coarse sea salt
olive oil, for drizzling(optional)

  • Place quinoa in a medium bowl and cover with water by several inches. Let stand at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Drain the pre-soaked quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse well to remove the bitter saponins (a naturally occurring residue). Place in a food processor or blender with a little water (about ¼ cup), garlic clove, and salt. Puree until smooth. Add more water if needed. The mixture should be the consistency of thick pancake batter but still pourable.
  • Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet into the hot oven. Allow to heat for 5-10 minutes. Carefully add the 2 Tablespoons of oil to the skillet and heat for another 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven carefully. Tilt the pan to evenly distribute the hot oil. Make sure pan and oil are hot or quinoa will stick.

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  • Pour the batter into the center of the pan and tilt it to create an even layer on the bottom. Place back into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove pan from oven, turn crust over, and place back in oven for another 10. Remove from oven and transfer the crust to a pizza pan, if desired. (At this point you can also place it on a cooling rack and let it cool completely, then prepare the pizza at a later time.)
  •  Mix the goat cheese with the lemon juice. If the cheese is very crumbly, add a little milk or water to make it spreadable.

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  • Spread the cheese evenly over the crust. Layer the Meyer lemons evenly over the cheese.
  • Place in the 450 degree oven and let bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and turned golden, and the lemons are tender. (For a crispy top, place under the broiler for a few minutes.)
  • Remove from oven and top with the remaining toppings. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

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  • MY FAVORITE VARIATION:  For a less lemon intense pizza, replace lemon slices with lemon zest,  thin zucchini circles, and add a clove or two of garlic, that has been thinly sliced.  After cooking add a handful of arugula on top of the other ingredients.  Yum!

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Meatless Monday – Roasted Eggplant with Goat Cheese & Pine Nuts

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Eggplant is a colorful fruit with a colorful past.  Did you know that ‘at one time it was considered poisonous and dubbed the ‘mala insane” (raging apple) because it was believed to cause insanity?  Did you also know that eggplant is related to the potato and tomato but it is actually a fruit, specifically a berry?  (Food.com) I hated eggplant as a kid and would have been happy to rely on the insanity theory to get out of eating it but, alas, my mother was too smart to get that past her.  Now, however, eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables.  Even though I know it’s actually a fruit, I’m too used to thinking of eggplant as a vegetable and can’t wrap my brain around that concept. Eggplant is very versatile.  It can be baked, braised, boiled, fried grilled, stuffed, roasted, sauteed and stewed.  You can swap it out for the meat in most recipes for a delicious meatless meal that is still satisfying and nutritious.  Eggplant is loaded with vitamins and minerals and contains important phytonutrients, thanks in part to the glorious purple color of  it’s skin.    Foods come in vibrant reds, yellows, blues and whites and each color provides different nutrients for our bodies to use.  The concept of Eating By Color or Eat The Rainbow, encourages eating foods every day from the entire spectrum of the rainbow for optimum health.  The deep purple in eggplant is good for longevity and keeping our brains sharp, so dig in!

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Roasting eggplant is easy and delicious.  I like it even just drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper before roasting.  This time though, I added paprika, cumin, garlic, honey and apple cider vinegar which add a bit of savory with just a hint of sweet and pairs nicely with the tang of goat cheese and the buttery toasted pine nuts.

Roasted Eggplant with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds
Kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsn cider vinegar
1 Tbsn honey
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup flat parsley leaves, roughly chopped(optional)
1/4 – 1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled and divided (optional)

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  •  Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and let sit.

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  • Dry toast the pine nuts, if using, in a small pan over medium heat for a few minutes, until fragrant.  Let cool on paper towel.
  • Whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, honey, garlic, paprika, and cumin.  Dry the eggplant with paper towels and toss with the marinade.
  • Spread the eggplant in a large glass pan, and roast in the oven at 400°F for 40 – 45 minutes, or until fork tender. (Stir every 15 minutes and check after 30 minutes to make sure it isn’t burning.) Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
  • Top with crumbled goat cheese, pine nuts and parsley, if desired.

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Wheatless Wednesday – Layered Beet Salad with Glazed Pecans & Citrus Vinaigrette

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I have a love affair with all food towered, stacked and layered, the taller the better.  There is something artistic and beautiful about the stark color contrast of the layers, each with it’s distinct flavor and character.  I know, I know,  food is to be eaten and not just looked at.  I also know that my creation will be destroyed the second it’s put on the table.  I’m okay with that.  I actually like the deconstruction process almost as much as the creative.  A certain amount of satisfaction can be derived from wrecking cool things, perhaps harkening back to our childhood days when we spent time building elaborate sand castles and then stomping them into oblivion.

This colorful salad was inspired by my cousin (by marriage), Joey, who is a fantastic and creative cook.  At a recent event, we were swapping kitchen stories, as people who like to cook are wont to do, and he passed along this clever method for layering beets and goat cheese.  Any soft cheese, even cream cheese, will work if you don’t like or have goat cheese.  I like to roast beets, rather than boiling or steaming them, as roasting intensifies the color and the flavor.  After roasting you have gloriously colored beets which can be sliced up and served in salads or simply drizzled with oil and vinegar and eaten alone.  Layering the beets with soft cheese elevates two simple ingredients into a beautiful and delicious work of art.  If you don’t have the time, or the inclination though, just combine all ingredients and toss with vinaigrette.  I love the salty, sweet crunch that the glazed pecans add to the salad.  For this dish I cooked them to almost burning to add a slightly  smokey flavor that complements the goat cheese.  When combined with the light citrus dressing, the flavors are divine!  The  beet slices would make good appetizers on their own, if made with small beets, as would the glazed pecans.

 

Layered Beet Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

 Beets7
2 large or 3 small beets
1/4 cup olive oil
8 oz goat cheese or cream cheese (plain or herbed)
3 cups mixed greens
glazed pecans (recipe below)
citrus vinaigrette (recipe below)
 
Herbs for Goat Cheese(optional)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 

 

  • Rinse beets and pat dry. Do not remove tops or stems (you don’t want to lose any juice). To roast, you can either wrap them in aluminum foil or place in a covered glass dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and cook at 425 degrees for about an hour (or until you can easily pierce with a fork).  Larger beets may take longer.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

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  • When the beets are completely cool, peel the skin with a paper towel and remove the top and tail with a knife.

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  • Goat cheese should be at room temperature for best results.   If you would like you can add parsley, chives, thyme and black pepper to the goat cheese and mix to combine.
  • To assemble the beet towers, slice beets crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds, keeping them in order.
  • Place the bottom round on a platter and spread with spoonful of goat cheese.  Cover with a beet round and repeat until the beet has been reassembled.

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  • Wrap the beets tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

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  • Remove beet towers from the refrigerator and carefully unwrap.  Slice each tower vertically to get lovely striped slices. Wipe knife between each slice and use a spatula to transfer them to plates.

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  • Toss greens in vinaigrette and divide greens evenly onto four plates.
  • Arrange a couple of slices of beet on each plate.
  • Top with pecans if desired.

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Glazed Pecans

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1/4 white sugar)
1 Tbsn butter or coconut oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 Tbsn water
1 1/2 cup pecan halves (or walnut)
  • Combine sugar, butter, water and salt in a large skillet and stir over medium heat until butter is melted.
  • Add pecans and cook, stirring constantly,making sure pecans are evenly coated,  for 5-7 minutes.
  • Spread pecans in single layer on parchment paper and cool completely.

VARIATIONS:  To make pecans for snacking add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for a spicy kick.  For a sweeter, dessert topping add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or dash of cinnamon.  You can even substitute the white sugar for brown sugar for more of a carmely ‘turtle’ type result (great over ice cream!).

Citrus Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 1 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
1/2 cup avocado oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Whisk all ingredients together.  Drizzle over salad and toss.

Meatless Monday – Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart

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Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart5

Looking for a simple and quick appetizer?  It’s asparagus season and I wanted an appetizer that would show case this perennial spring favorite.  This tart  recipe which I adapted from HuffPoste Taste has only four ingredients plus olive oil and a few fresh herbs and spices.  It takes less than 10 minutes to assemble and about 12 minutes to cook.  Slice into squares and you have an elegant and sophisticated hors d’oeuvre to serve your guests.  This is a very forgiving appetizer which doesn’t have to be served piping hot.  It’s just as good at room temperature which makes it perfect for a dinner party.  Just make the tart ahead and it will sit and wait until you’re ready to serve.  You can also halve the recipe to make just one tart, which is enough for 2 to 4 people as an appetizer.

This is not a typical recipe for me since I try to avoid white flour, however, I was intrigued by it’s simplicity and wanted to give it a try.  I am a newbie to phyllo dough, which can be tricky to work with since it’s so thin and dries out quickly.  Just make sure everything is ready before you unwrap the phyllo dough.  Don’t worry if it rips as you handle it because the rips will be hidden within the layers.  This is a fairly thin crust (2 sheets of phyllo dough folded in half per tart), just enough to provide a beautiful backdrop for the asparagus and give a satisfying salty, crispy, crunch.  If you like a more substantial crust, just add more layers of phyllo.  Thin asparagus spears work better than thick which may not end up fully roasted when the phyllo is done.  If you don’t like goat cheese, substitute ricotta or gruyere.  Fresh herbs are a nice accompaniement but dried herbs will work just fine.  If you make it, let me know how it goes!

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart

  • Servings: 2 thin 8x12 tarts
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
1/4 cup olive oil
6 oz goat cheese (ricotta or gruyere)
1 bunch slender asparagus
2 Tbsn grated parmesan (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme, rosemary and/or basil (optional)

 

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Trim the asparagus spears to fit the width of the folded phyllo, leaving room for a one inch border on each side.  Toss asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil.

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  • Lay 2 sheets of phyllo dough on a baking sheet so half is hanging over the edge. Brush the half sheets of pastry in the pan with olive oil, and fold  the other halves, one at a time and brush each with oil.  Repeat with other 2 sheets of phyllo.  You should end up with 2 rectangles.  You may need two baking sheets if you don’t have a jumbo one like I do.
  • Crumble the goat cheese on top, leaving a border of pastry. Add the asparagus in rows.

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  • Season with salt, pepper, parmesan and fresh herbs, if using. Bake for 12 minutes, until the pastry is golden-crisp and the asparagus just tender.
  •  Top with freshly chopped or sliced basil, if desired.

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