We’re taught that the key to maintaining our figure when surrounded by so much food creations is to eat in moderation. But once in awhile, we all encounter a dish that we take a “test bite” of and then just can’t resist going back for more! Before you realize it, you’re making another batch just so you can serve a presentable looking dish to your dinner guests.
The other day, I was bitten by the “can’t stop eating” bug when I made this highly addictive and extremely simple bread pudding.
Looking for inspiration for what to do with my days-old baguette, I came across this scalloped tomatoes recipe from the Contessa herself, Ina. It was, as you might call it, a life changing experience. Who knew such a simple equation of tomatoes + bread + oven = bliss? From that day forth, I recreated variations of that recipe whenever I came home from a long day at work (and had leftover bread from TomKat bakery). This is one of my favorite variations, filled with healthy veggies and bubbling with cheese on top:
- 4-5 Ripe Tomatoes, diced
- 5 cups of bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (I use baguettes, but mostly any bread will do)
- 1/2 of a zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch thick medallions, and then halved
- 1.5 cup of fresh cut corn (frozen/canned will work too)
- 1 cup of sliced mushrooms (I like using a combo of baby bella, oyster & shitake)
- 2 cups of shredded fontina cheese (chedder, mozzarella, monterey jack also work beautifully)
- 1/4 cup basil leaves, cut into thin Chiffonade shreds
- 2 Tbsp Xagave Nectar
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
- 3-4 Tbsp of olive oil
- a pinch of salt & pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- In a frying pan, toast the garlic in olive oil
- Add the bread cubes; toss & toast on medium heat until bread is crouton-like
- In another frying pan, saute the zucchini, mushrooms, and corn in some oil & salt & pepper until just cooked (3-5 min)
- Meanwhile, mix the diced tomatoes and basil with the Xagave nectar until well blended
- Add in the cooked veggies to the tomato mixture and mix well
- Mix in the toasted bread cubes and pour into a casserole baking dish (don’t worry if it’s a little watery – the bread will soak up the tomato liquid when baking)
- Season with some salt & pepper, layer the fontina cheese on top, & pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes until cheese is bubbly and the top is crispy and browned
- Dig in with a spoon and don’t resist the temptation to keep on eating!
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Posted in Casseroles, Vegetable-Centric, tagged Casserole, Eggplants, pepperidge farm puff pastry, Provencal, Ratatouille, smoked mozzarella, Vegetables, vegetarian on October 20, 2010 |
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“Summer has come and passed/ The innocent can never last/ Wake me up when September ends”- Green Day
Sometimes I think the Southern Cali in me will never get used to the changing of seasons in the Northeast. If I could, I think I would wear flip flops and sundresses all year round. But the arrival of Fall, with its crisp refreshing chill in the air, was a wake up call for me. I’ve been immersed in my warm bubble of vacation-traveling and nest-building so long that I’ve neglected this little corner of blog haven.
But before I succumb entirely to Fall just yet, I want to share one more dish that to me, captures the essence of summer sunshine – the Ratatouille. Popularized by Remy the lovable rat in the Pixar film, this veggie-centric dish represents everything pastoral, natural, and simply honest about food. There is no fancy work involved, yet every bite bursts with nostalgic flavor that takes you back to that imaginary country cottage in Provence on a lazy summer’s day.
This is my favorite version after numerous experimentation, inspired by the layered aesthetics of the Ratatouille in the film, and incorporating my favorite ingredients. Smoked mozzarella adds a subtle hit of the unexpected and creates satisfaction as you work your way through the stringy glory; my tomato mixture (which you can’t see) has just a touch of cream to sweeten and a kick of tarragon for warmth; finally the puff pastry crust not only provides a delightful crunch and but holds it all together nicely.
Sneak These Ingredients In:
- 1 small to medium eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch
- 2-3 large zucchinis, sliced 1/4 inch
- 8oz “log” of fresh smoked mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch
- 2-3 bell peppers, broiled, sweated out, and peeled, then cut into strips
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-3 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped (or 1-2 tsp dried tarragon)
- 4-5 leaves of basil, finely chopped, plus some extra for garnish
- 1-2 tsp of dried herb & spice mixture (thyme, oregano, cayenne, paprika) (optional)
- 1/4 cup fat free half & half
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- 2 sheets of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets
- olive oil for drizzling and cooking
- salt and pepper to taste
Smell it, taste it, devour the RATatouille!
- Preheat Oven to 350-375. Defrost the puff pastry sheets and spread over baking dish.
- Make the tomato sauce: Cook the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, and garlic over medium heat until sauce thickens. Add water or more paste as necessary. Add in salt, pepper, tarragon, basil and stir. Slowly incorporate the half & half and agave and adjust until you reach the desired balance of acidity and savory.
- Precook the eggplant. I find this step extremely important unless you’re using Japanese eggplants which cook more easily. Saute the eggplant slices in olive oil over medium to high heat and flip on other side until cooked and soft.
- Spread the tomato sauce into the baking dish on top of the puff pastry. Then layer the veggies and cheese on top (eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, cheese, and so forth).
- Drizzle or brush with olive oil and sprinkle the mixed herbs & spice mixture on top.
- Bake for about 40-50 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown and vegetables and cheese are bubbly without being overcooked.
- Be transported into the French countryside
And on this note, I give Summer one last forlorn glance and spring forward to welcome Fall in all it’s glory. Hello to pumpkins and squashes – can’t wait for what comes next!
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Once in awhile, you experience that magical feeling. Your eyes grow big with wonder, your heart beats slightly faster with anticipation, and your mind soars high up with unbridled imagination. I’m not talking about the Abracadabra kind of magic. No, this is the kind of magic found in childhood wonder. Like the first time you flew a kite and watched it sail across the sky, the time you lit up sparklers on 4th of July, your first home run, or the first time your tongue makes contact with the most exquisite sip of wine (hopefully, this was a bit past your childhood). You become raptured by the moment, bewitched by its spell.
And that’s the kind of magic I found in these Enchiladas. My heart sang cheery songs while I chopped and mixed, my feet danced a happy jig as I sprinkled and seasoned, and my tummy did cartwheels and somersaults as my mouth savored the fusion and harmony of flavors.
Spicy Seven Pepper Sauce:
- 1 Poblano Pepper – broiled, peeled, and chopped finely
- 1-2 Jalapeno Peppers – broiled, peeled, and chopped finely
- 2 Chipotle Chiles
- 1-2 Tbsp Ancho Chile Powder
- 1 Tbsp Cayenne Chile Powder
- 1-2 Tbsp Red Chili Pepper Flakes
- 1 Tbsp Smoked Spanish Paprika
- 1 can/1 large Diced Tomato, with juice
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1 handful of Cilantro, finely chopped
- Juice of 1-2 Limes
- Combine all ingredients (except Cilantro) together in a pot. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the smoky aroma fills the air, and the spice stings your eyes . Add Cilantro.
- Take a hand blender and pulse until desired smooth/chunky texture achieved.
For the Enchiladas:
- 1 package of corn tortillas (about 10 pcs)
- 8-12 oz of cheese (I used Monterey Jack, but Cheddar/Harvarti (sharper taste), or Mozzarella (milder taste) would work just as well)
- 2 handfuls of Cilantro, washed, and chopped
- 1 can/1 large Diced Tomato
- 1/2-1 pkg of Baby Bella Mushrooms (or any other that strike your fancy)
- 1 large Zucchini, chopped into little square cubes
- 1 handful of Sweet Corn
- 1 Poblano Pepper, broiled, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 Bell Pepper (Orange/Yellow/Red), chopped into little square cubes
- 1/2 White Onion, finely chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
- Pinch of dried basil
- Pinch of dried rosemary
- Pinch of dried oregano
- Pinch of dried parsley flakes
- Pinch of Chili Pepper Flakes
- Some Chives
- Butter, for cooking
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Now Get Enchanted:
- Make the Filling: In a pan, saute onion in butter. Add in Bell Pepper, Poblano Pepper, Jalapenos, Mushrooms, Corn, and Zucchini. Season with Salt & Pepper.
- Add in the Tomatoes and cook until all the flavor of all the vegetables blend together in perfect harmony
- Season with herbs and spices above (Parsley, Basil, Rosemary, Oregano)
- Finally, stir in 1/2 of the Cilantro and all the chives. Drain any excess liquid
- Now, assemble the Enchiladas. Spread some of the Enchilada Sauce (above) into a baking pan. Spoon some filling into a tortilla
- Tightly roll each filled tortilla and place side by side in baking dish
- Repeat until dish is filled and top with the remaining Enchilada Sauce. Sprinkle generously with cheese and stick in oven
- Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the rest of Cilantro on top
- Now, take a fork and dig in!
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