Not. Even. Once. …instant eggplant addiction happens.

Pretty sure I just accidentally cooked meth…with eggplant and bacon and goat cheese. And some other stuffs too. We’ve all seen the commercial and I think it just happened in my kitchen. Here’s what happened–

I was starving. This is how these things always start. Scavenged through my fridge and garden and pulled together a grouping that looked nice together. Yes, I do put together foods like other people put together outfits.

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The color combo pleased me, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with what I had in front of me. I thought about ditching the bread because I didn’t want a sandwich for dinner, but I hadn’t had a good baguette in so long, I decided to work it in somehow. Going through a few options in my head, I started with chopping up the eggplant and bacon, tossing them in olive oil, and roasting them. While those were cooking, I bit off the butt of the bread and decided I’d do an open-faced type sandwich after all. I sliced up the red pepper along with white onion and caramelized them on my cast iron griddle with some of the now rendered bacon grease from the roasting sheet poured on top.

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If you think you don’t like eggplant, roast it on a pan with bacon. You’ll change your mind. The eggplant soaks up all that smokey, salty flavor and gets crispy on the outside while staying soft on the inside. The bacon turns into morsels of perfection.

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While all of that worked itself into what would become the meat of the meal, I mixed together the goat cheese with some olive oil and fresh English thyme, making a spread for the bread slices. When the red pepper and onions were almost done, I threw on some chunky pieces of one big garlic clove until it was ever so slightly browned. Moving that to a bowl, I used the leftover bacon grease and flavors on the griddle to toast the baguette slices.

Cooking is much easier for me than baking. I can time everything and this meal came together all at once, just like it needed to. The bread was heavily slathered with the goat cheese spread, covered with the eggplant and bacon, topped with the onions and peppers, and garnished with sliced fresh basil and scallions. The deep purple skin of the eggplant with the bold red of the pepper, the bright green of the herbs, and the cream of the cheese all came together into a thing of beauty. It was stunning. It was like the “whatever is a high-end brand of clothing” of the dinner plate world.

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I mean, really? Yes.

And then I took a bite and realized it was, in fact, crack. Worse. I had cooked meth. I wanted this meal every damn day. The flavors, the textures, the colors…I couldn’t handle it. I’m telling you, if you think you don’t like eggplant, you’re wrong. This meal right here will become an instant eggplant addiction for you. I’m warning you though, like the commercials, if you don’t want to spiral into a world of fiending for your next eggplant fix…NOT. EVEN. ONCE. Close out of this page right now and never look back. Or stay and try it and cry on your shower floor this winter because eggplant isn’t in season anymore. Either way.

Ingredients and such:

one medium eggplant, chopped with skin left on

3 slices of uncured bacon, chopped

half a large red pepper sliced

half a white onion sliced

one large garlic clove cut thick

1-2 ounces goat cheese

olive oil

about a tablespoon each of fresh thyme, basil, scallions

baguette

Toss the eggplant and bacon with about one tablespoon of olive oil and roast on the middle rack at 425 for a total of 25 mins. turning about every 7-10 mins.

Slice the pepper and onions and use some of the poured off bacon grease from the roasting pan to caramelize them. Add the chunky garlic near the end.

Mix the goat cheese with a tablespoon of olive oil and the fresh thyme until it is easily spreadable.

Toast the bread on the griddle with the leftover bacon grease.

Slice the basil and scallions as a garnish.

Stack and serve immediately. This is one you’ll need to time right so nothing gets mushy.

Tomato Tart Time

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Heirloom tomato season is in full swing and I can’t deny loving those ugly maters. I personally don’t see them as ugly, but I’m also the one that will pick out the one damaged looking beta fish to bring home as a pet and name him Meatball–so there’s that.

The tomatoes from my summer veggie garden ran out a few weeks ago, so I found these locally-grown beauties at the store and gathered fresh basil, English thyme, and chives from my yard for a tomato tart I wanted to bring to friend’s house for lunch.

After slicing, you can tell why I can’t see them as ugly…

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The usual southern tomato tart recipe calls for a simple ingredient list of fresh tomatoes and herbs, cheese, and mayo. I stuck to that simplicity with mine as well, starting with the basic tart dough and switching it up by using an herbed mayo and goat cheese.

Once I had the dough in the tart pan, I spread a thin layer of the mayo, that I had previously mixed with finely chopped fresh basil and a few dashes of garlic powder, over the bottom of the tart dough. I put that back in the fridge while I sliced, salted, and set the tomato slices on paper towels to draw out some of the liquid. Then I packed the pan tightly with the tomatoes, filling all spaces, drizzled with olive oil, covered with chopped basil, thyme, dried oregano, and salt & pepper, then added the sliced goat cheese, little more olive oil and it was ready for the oven. This is an easy dish to pull together when you need to bring a dish on the spot.

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They come together quickly, the recipe is easy to tweak to your liking, they bake in 30 minutes, and they are always a hit regardless of your personal tastes and adjustments. And…they are kind of pie like. PIE.

What’s not to love about a tomato tart during heirloom tomato season?

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Tart Filling

One unbaked tart dough (recipe below)

3-4 large heirloom tomatoes

2 tablespoons mayo

2 tablespoons fresh basil

1 tablespoon other herbs of your choice (I used English thyme, scallions, and dried oregano)

2 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces fresh goat cheese

Salt & pepper

Tart Dough

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, chilled

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

2-3 tablespoons cold water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and add to flour. Use your fingers to break into the butter until it is crumbly.

Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons of the cold water and whip together. Make a well in the flour and add the beaten egg, mix until the dough holds together. Add the extra tablespoon of water if needed (I needed it).

Roll dough out on floured surface until it’s big enough to fit the tart pan and press in tightly.

Preheat oven to 425 F

Spread the mayo on the tart bottom and set it aside (I put it back into the fridge).

Slice, salt, and set out the tomatoes (note: I should have let mine set out longer because my tart was still quite juicy at the end).

Chop the fresh herbs and goat cheese.

Fill the tart with tomato, olive oil and herbed layers until full, and top with the goat cheese.

Drizzle a little more of the olive oil on top and pop into the oven for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the cheese is browned. If your cheese isn’t browned at that point (mine was not), run it under the broiler for a few minutes. Keep an eye on it though! Goat cheese browns fast.

Garnish with sliced scallions and smile satisfyingly at all the mmmmmms and aaahhhhs from your guests.

Boatloads of Flavor

Calling all vegetarian friends! Tonight, I decided to try a recipe that I saw somewhere online this past week.  Here’s the catch: I did not save the recipe. This didn’t deter me though because I remembered it being simple enough and I knew I would have adjusted it to my liking anyway. So I set out to replicate this mysterious zucchini boat recipe.

SavedPicture-2014711211848.jpgStarting with the ingredients, I used tofu crumbles instead of ground beef. I have been avoiding red meats for personal health concerns and with enough of the right seasonings, I knew these crumbles would work. The goat cheese mozzarella is also a switch up. Otherwise, I think the rest is pretty darn close to that missing recipe.

I drizzled about two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan with the diced onion, I cooked those for a few, threw in the thin-sliced garlic and let that ride while I opened the can of fire-SavedPicture-2014711211854.jpgroasted tomatoes and organized. Next I poured the canned tomatoes into the pan and added half a can of water, bourbon-smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, red-pepper flakes, and black pepper. Set that to a simmer while I prepared the boats and toppings.

I found some dark green, fat zucchinis that were locally grown and knew they would be perfect. After spooning out the seeds and soft flesh from the center of each half, I very lightly sprinkled them with sea salt and set them aside. Then I got to work quartering the plum-sized, yellow tomatoes, grating the cheese, and chopping the chives for a garnish.SavedPicture-201471121192.jpg

The filling had simmered long enough to heat the crumbles through and allow the seasonings to permeate, so it was time to fill build the boats! I started with a little cheese at SavedPicture-2014711211918.jpgthe bottom, then the filling, a layer of tomatoes, and a healthy coating of cheese on top. Popped those babies uncovered into a 350 degree oven for 25 mins. While they were baking, I cut the fresh corn off a couple cobs and cooked that in a frying pan with a little water, butter, and black pepper.

Ding! It was time to pull it all together. I plated up half the corn and one zucchini boat on my favorite bunny plate, snapped one last picture, and dug in. All of the flavors really did come together beautifully. Here’s where I want to reassure all my meat-loving friends that this recipe could most definitely be done with ground beef, turkey, or chicken. Likewise, I feel it could easily be adapted for vegans.

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It really is versatile and overall healthy in any variation. If you try it, let me know           what you do differently and tell me how it goes!

Enjoy!