Open-faced Grilled Eggplant and Burrata Toast

Because we spent exactly one week bopping about French cafes and chowing down in patisseries, I very badly wanted to call the following recipe “Eggplant Tartine” and get all fancy and French on you.  However, since tartines usually involve some sort of buttery, rich, spreadable topping, and more importantly, since Husband actually executed this recipe and would definitely not prefer to be known as the tartine-man, I will settle for calling these “open-faced.”  (Note, though, in the picture below that I did bring back a cheesy Paris metro map placemat, much to the Husband’s chagrin.)

You could substitute burrata for some sort of smoky gouda or mozzarella and really amp up the flavor here.

IMG_3830

Open-faced Grilled Eggplant and Burrata Toast

  • 1 eggplant, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 ball burrata
  • 2-3 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 big handful fresh basil
  • handful arugula
  • thick sliced toast or bread
  1. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and spray with a little cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter and garlic together in a microwave; brush the mixture over the eggplant slices.  Season with salt and pepper and grill the egglplant about 3-4 minutes per side.  (You can grill your tomatoes, too, for extra points.)
  3. Meanwhile, toast your bread and brush with any remaining butter/garlic.  Place the burrata over the warm bread so that it melts, top with eggplant, tomatoes, basil and a little bit of arugula.  Drizzle with olive oil and season as appropriate.  Serve with a side salad.

IMG_3825

The Verdict:

A few reasons you should make these.  1: They’re ridiculously easy (see: Husband made these). 2. They take about 20 minutes, total.  3. They’re delicious.  Like, really, really good.

Advertisements

ALL the Go-Tos…AKA Showering Sasha.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the epic bridal shower my mom threw for one of her BFF’s daughters.  She made lobster paella and smoked salmon canapes.  We drank champagne and rose.  I left home feeling happy, full, and totally in awe.

So, it was sort of a hubris-filled idea to host a bridal shower for one of my BFFs this past weekend.  You will note from the picture below what was not on the menu: lobster paella or smoked salmon canapes.  (Obvi on the champagne and rose, though).

IMG_3833For everyone’s benefit (and so that I’d actually have something to feed 15 people), I stuck to some tried and true standards.  These are truly the go-tos in our house: I realized as I was posting this that every single item is something I’ve already posted about here.  Which tells you I’m either really uncreative, or just totally confident in these recipes.  Probably both.

(I think) it turned out beautifully.  And most important, my friend Sasha seemed really touched.

IMG_3844 I hope everyone went home happy and full.  Unfortunately, I was already home, which means I was also in charge of cleaning up.

Good thing I had lots of leftover champagne and rose.  And basil vodka lemonade.  (Main idea: create a basil-infused simple syrup by boiling 1 part water, 1 part sugar and 1 big handful basil.  Add to lemonade, another handful basil and a big old splash of vodka.  Start showering/TPing the bride/asking the embarrassing “how well do you know your future spouse” questions.)

Villa Pasta

I did not want to graduate from college.  College = three years (because the first one was a bust) of nonstop hanging out with my friends, beers on a Tuesday night, and late night pizza with ranch dressing.  What could be better?

Answer: Graduating, and recreating my college experience in an apartment building two miles from my university.  Only this time, I had a little bit of money in my pocket and no homework.  Plus I started (not so secretly as we imagined) dating my future Husband.

Unfortunately, post-college college life was only relevant Friday through Sunday.  In order to stave off Monday mornings, future-and-now-current husband, his roommate, my roommate (still one of my BFFs and now married to Husband’s BFF, life is grand) and I used to get together for “family dinners” on Sunday evenings.  Because a few bottles of wine will definitely make Monday feel a lot better.

My roommate had “studied” abroad in Florence, where she learned from her hosts at the Villa how to make this ridiculous pasta.  At the time of family dinner, it was the best thing any one of us could ever imagine making.  It is still ridiculously good.  Only last night, I added a few “healthy” things.  Because now that I’m old, I top my pizza with extra veggies instead of ranch dressing.  I am not nearly as cool as I was once.

IMG_3809

Villa Pasta

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • about 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • about 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • s+p
  • one small handful crushed red pepper
  • handful basil, chopped
  • 1 carton mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 bag pre-washed spinach
  • freshly ground pepper
  • approximately 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese (I used mozz, but I PROMISE it’s better with Swiss)
  • 1 pound rigatoni or other tubular pasta
  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil and butter.  Cook onions for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from burning.
  2. When lightly browned, add both forms of tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.  Give it a toss and then cook, covered, for 25 minutes over low/medium heat. Toward the end of the 25 minutes, get (salted) water boiling for your pasta.
  3. Add mushrooms and spinach, recover, and cook for another 5-8 minutes, or until mushrooms have cooked through.  Cook your pasta in the meantime.
  4. Add cream to the sauce and adjust seasoning.  Toss hot pasta with sauce and cheese.

The Verdict:

I forgot how long this pasta takes – nearly an hour, all said and done.  But jeez louise, it is still the best thing ever.  Seriously.  Try it.  Love it.  Tell me about it.

Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken

We are home.  And we are stuffed.

For the past week, we have eaten nothing but baguettes, cheese, croque madame, pain au chocolat, croissants, steaks and frites.  We have consumed bottle after bottle of champagne and red wine.  We bought ice cream cones for the express purpose of passing the time, standing in line for museums.  We were gluttons and we are not sorry.

Paris and London were in a word, amazing.  We climbed all the monuments (sort of atones for the food? maybe?).  We took boat tours down the Thames and the Seine, and toasted each other as the Eiffel Tower lit up the sky.  We looked at crowns and wandered through gardens.  We saw close friends and family; I wandered the grand flower store at the foot of our old apartment, where my father took me the day I turned 8 and let me pick out any flowers I wanted for a birthday bouquet.

We are stuffed – food-wise, but also joy-wise.  (I know, I’m cheesy, but it’s just the truth.)  In that honor, some stuffed chicken breasts I made before we left.

IMG_3447

Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 large ball mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • large handful fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons or so sundried tomatoes, julienned
  • about 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of water
  • about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  1. After you rinse and pat dry chicken breasts, rub with a little bit of olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper.  Use a small knife to carefully make an incision in each chicken breast; take care not to cut it all the way in half (you want to create a little pocket for all your goodies).
  2. Place each chicken breast under a sheet of parchment and pound with a mallet or small pan.so they are each less than an inch thick.  Insert a layer of basil, mozzarella and a few sundried tomatoes into each “pocket” of the chicken breast.
  3. Dredge each chicken breast individually in the flour, shake off excess flour, coat in the beaten eggs, and then dredge in panko.  Repeat for each chicken breast.
  4. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Without crowding the pan, cook each chicken breast for about 3-4 minutes on one side.  Lower the heat and use tongs to carefully flip to the other side, cooking an additional 3-4 minutes.  Keep chicken warm while you cook the additional breasts.
  5. Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread.

The Verdict:

This is a go-to in our house: that panko crust keeps the chicken juicy and crispy at the same time, while the cheese just oozes on to your plate.  And no one argues with oozing cheese.

Sausage and Veggie Calzones

Tomorrow, Husband and I are jetting off on a very big vacation.  For me, vacation means eating, drinking, and eating some more.  Husband is a little more taken with hiking and outdoor things.

However.  This vacation is my kind of vacation.  Destination: London and Paris.  In other words, by this time tomorrow, I will be chowing SO MANY baguettes.  (OK, to be technical, by this time tomorrow I will be drinking wine courtesy of Virgin Airlines.  But I digress).

Of course, we had to practice our eating, so last night, I made these calzones.  Just to forewarn: this is quite an endeavor – almost two hours.  But this recipe makes so many that unless you’re a member of the Duggar clan (YIKES), you’ll have leftovers, which you can freeze.  Which we have, and will eat the second we get off our return flight to DC.

IMG_3460

Sausage and Veggie Calzones

  • 2 pounds premade pizza dough, brought to room temperature
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped and divided in half
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • large handful fresh basil
  • 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • about a pound (4 or so links) hot Italian sausage
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • about half a pre-washed bag of arugula
  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add half of the diced onion, cook down a few minutes before adding garlic and tomato paste.  Cook down another few minutes and add tomato, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and sugar.  Stir together and cook for about ten minutes.  Add basil and thyme and keep the sauce warm over low heat.
  2. As the sauce cooks, prepare your filling.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and the other half of your diced onion.  Cook down a few minutes and add bell pepper, salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper (after all, we like it spicy around here).  Cook for a few minutes before removing sausage from casings; make sure to break it up in the pan.  Cook until the meat is completely brown.
  3. Divide your (room temp!) dough into eight sections and roll each out on a lightly floured surface – so they’re about 6 inches across and as close to round as they’ll get.  Let’s be honest: this is the hardest step.  Because my kitchen is tiny, I found it helpful to layer the rolled out rounds on a plate between sheets of parchment paper.
  4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and assemble the calzones: top each pizza dough round with a layer of sauce, sausage mixture, a sprinkling of mozzarella, and a small pinch of arugula.  Fold over and crimp the edges of the calzone together.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees F for 25 minutes and serve with an additional spoonful of sauce (and some salad, let’s keep it healthy!).  If you want to freeze any calzones – pull them out at the 15 minute mark, let them cool completely, and then wrap in aluminum foil before placing in a ziplock bag in your freezer.  To reheat, bake the frozen calzones at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.

IMG_3462

The Verdict:

We love our calzones/stromboli around here – the Husband is a pro.  But as he carefully admitted last night, “these gave [his calzones] a run for his money, and that money is still running.”

PS: I won’t be posting for the next week or so.  There are just TOO MANY baguettes to chow!