Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sandwich on Focaccia Bread- A Meatless Monday Recipe

Roasted eggplant.  Roasted tomatos.  Fresh mozzarella.   Smothered in pesto and rosemary infused olive oil on focaccia bread.  Not missing the meat as much as you thought, huh?

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This recipe was adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe (I was unable to find it online- it’s from one of her cookbooks), but I added some of my own twists to it.  The simplicity of ingredients and the ease of the recipe enticed me to make this easy weeknight meal.  I wanted to share the recipe with you guys as well as my ideas for perfecting it.

Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, and Mozzarella Sandwich

Adapted from Rachel Ray’s “Look and Cook” Cookbook

Yield: 3-4 sandwiches

You will need:

  • One large eggplant, skin on, sliced in 1/2 inch slices
  • 2-3 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into thick pieces
  • One ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • One loaf focaccia bread, or 3-4 hoagie rolls
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp Red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Rosemary (fresh preferred, dried fine as well), 1 tsp
  • 3-4 TBS pre-made pesto (bonus points to make your own)
  • 1 can low-fat tomato soup (optional side, highly recommend Amy’s brand)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Put 2 TBS olive oil in a pan and heat over low-medium heat.  Add the red pepper flakes, crushed garlic, & rosemary and allow the flavors to infuse on low heat for about 5-7 minutes.  IMG_0623
  4. Arrange the sliced eggplant on one baking sheet and the sliced tomatoes on the other.  Season both the eggplant and the tomato with salt and pepper on both sides.  Set the baking sheet with the tomatoes aside.
  5. Using a pastry brush or a spoon, lightly coat the eggplant slices with the infused olive oil on both sides.
  6. Place the eggplant in the oven and allow to roast for 10-15 min minutes, until lightly brown and just beginning to shrivel.  About half way into the cooking time, add the baking sheet with the sliced tomatoes.  [Note: when I originally made this, I added the eggplant and the tomatoes at the same time and the tomatoes were overcooked, so I highly recommend separating them and baking them half way in]

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7.  While the vegetables roast, slice up the fresh mozzarella and cut the bread (if in loaf form).  At this point feel free to toast the bread by sticking it in the hot oven or in a toaster, if this is your preference.  We did not do this for the focaccia bread and wish we had.

8.Spread bread with a nice helping of prepared pesto.  Remove vegetables from the oven, layer on the bread, top with fresh mozzarella slices, and enjoy!

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This recipe was very tasty!  Overall, I don’t think focaccia bread was the best choice- I think crusty rolls would have been more appropriate.  Not to throw anyone under the bus here, but the focaccia bread was my boyfriend’s idea ;)

The original recipe involves making a pistachio pesto with arugula, and topping the sammy with more arugala.  For times sake, we did not do this, but I do feel it could add a very interesting bite.

Also, I highly recommend more than just one layer of eggplant on the sandwich to make it more substantial.  Feel free to add more roasted veggies, as desired.  I think zucchini or roasted red peppers could add an interesting touch.

I am so proud of myself that for almost 2 months now I have been following meatless monday.  It’s such a fun twist on meals that I feel good about.

What are your favorite types of meals for Meatless Monday?

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Cornbread Panzanella Salad w/ Blackened Shrimp

Tonight for dinner I accomplished many things: 1) I tried a new restaurant 2) ordered something unique 3) ordered something healthy 4) ordered something delicious.  These 4 simple goals are not easy to come by, believe me!  This cornbread panzanella salad with shrimp from The Floridian in St. Augustine served all my purposes and left me one happy camper.

For those of you not familiar with Florida geography, St. Augustine is about 4.5 hours north of where I live.  I am here [by myself] for one night to attend a Board of Pharmacy conference tomorrow morning.  What is a girl to do who is alone in a new city with only a few hours to spare?  Three things come to my mind: eat delicious local food, explore, and shop.  Shopping was out of the question because besides the fact that I am broke, I have no interest in buying “colonial” hats, I <3 St. Augustine t-shirts, or magnets with a lighthouse on them.  I explored as much of the historic town as I could, but I arrived at 4:30 and was limited to the few sites still open.  By 7 pm, I was left with one option and one option only: EAT!

After performing a very thorough search of St. Augustine restaurants and eateries, and consulting Yelp, Urbanspoon, and the like, I decided to try this restaurant called The Floridian.  This place was totally my kind of spot: cozy, homey, outdoor seating available, and decorated with local beachy trinkets in the cute, not tacky way.

This place is known for lots of gluten free and vegetarian options, as well as their seafood, but they have plenty of things for everyone on the menu.  Everything here is made with locally grown/raised/made  produce/meats/cheeses, which I find so wonderful.  I had a hard time deciding what to get, but I was in the mood for something on the lighter side, so I opted for the Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp.

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp

If you are not familiar with a panzanella salad, it is typically made with croutons (preferably home-made), tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and mozzarella cheese with a vinaigrette type dressing.  The main caveat  being that there is no lettuce or leafy vegetable included.  The panzanella salad I got tonight had many twists to it.  They used cornbread to make the croutons, there was fresh arugula included, I opted to add blackened shrimp, and they served it with a homemade basil-buttermilk dressing.  Additionally, the salad included heirloom tomatoes, strips of red bell pepper, and freshly made tomme cheese.

The salad was really great.  Everything, from the produce to the cheese to the bread, tasted so fresh!   The cornbread added such a sweet taste and comforting aspect to the meal.  The only downside to using cornbread is that it naturally does not get as crispy as other bread types.  Not to say that it was soggy, but it was definitely softer than expected.  The shrimp was a bit on the salty side in my opinion, but still tasty.  Lastly, I prefer the traditional vinegerette to the buttermilk dressing they used (and I forgot to ask for it on the side), but that is just my personal preference.

Because this was a “me” night (did I mention the glass of wine I enjoyed?), dessert was a requirement.  I knew from the moment I walked in and spotted the homemade pecan caramel bars that I would be ordering one, and that is exactly what I did.

Pecan Caramel Bars with Whipped Cream

Pecan Caramel Bars with Whipped Cream

My foodie experience at the Floridian in St. Augustine was wonderful.  It made this undesirable, lonely trip way better.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone in the area, as well as the specific dishes I ordered.

Now, it’s off to bed for an early conference in the morning.  If only the complimentary breakfast were half as exciting as my dinner tonight.  A girl can dream!

XO

Fried Mac n Cheese: What Heaven Tastes Like

I wouldn’t normally be one to blog about a dish from a run-of-the-mill chain restaurant such as the Cheesecake Factory, but I have the itch to blog and this appetizer was a-maz-ing.

What brought us into the Cheesecake Factory in the first place was the fact that we had a $75 gift certificate from the holidays to use and a free slice of cheesecake (admit it- their cheesecake is to die for).

Fried Mac n Cheese

Fried Mac n Cheese

We started off with this fried mac and cheese appetizer that was seriously delicious.  The fried portion was perfectly crispy and seasoned, and the inside was ooey and gooey macaroni and cheese.  Not questionable cheese filling with a piece of pasta, but actual macaroni and cheese that would have been awesome on its own.  Equally as delectable was the sauce served on the bottom of the plate.  The best way to describe the sauce is creamy tomato sauce meets romesco sauce.

Our entrees were ok but nothing to write home about.  Our cheesecake of choice was the Oreo cheesecake which is not pictured because it wasn’t around long enough to capture a photograph :)

I highly recommend that the next time you are in the mood for a drinks and appetizer type night with your friends or hunny, hit up the Cheesecake Factory and order t0 this fried Mac and Cheese.  We have $10 left on our gift card (don’t you love it when that happens),and our plans literally include a return trip for Fried Mac n Cheese and wine.  And maybe cheesecake…

We all know that chain restaurants are not quite as exciting as home cooked meals or fancy dinners out, or even hole-in-the-wall foodie finds, but sometimes we just end up at one of these places for a meal and are pleasantly surprised.  Similar story? Share!

Chicken In A Pastry

Finally, after a week of hectic schedules and grab-and-go food, we were able to cook a nice dinner last night: chicken in a pastry!  Before I blog any further, I must tell you guys that I am aware the pictures of this meal are rather unappealing.  There is only so much Instagram and Photo-toaster can do for an un-photogenic meal.  However, I promise you the taste makes up for the appearance!

Chicken in a Pastry

Chicken in a Pastry

This is seriously the easiest meal to make- you only need 3 ingredients!

  • Puff Pastry Sheets (I used Pillsbury)
  • A soft, spreadable herb/cheese mixture, such as Rondele, (I used the light variety)
  • Cooked, cubed chicken, either baked or cooked in a pan until just cooked.

I apologize for not having step-by-step pictures- we were a bit pressed for time.  Next time I make this I will inset the photos into this post.  But, no worries,  this recipe is fool-proof.

Chicken in a Pastry

  1. Season chicken with salt and freshly cracked pepper and cook in the oven or on a frying pan until just cooked through.  *It is important not to dry out the chicken by overcooking now, as you will bake the chicken once more for about 15 minutes.  Once cooked, dice the chicken into small chunks. Set chicken aside.
  2. Defrost pastry sheets according to directions on box.
  3. Cut the sheets into desired sized squares.  In the Pillsbury sheets, you get two full sheets that each break into thirds.  I then cut each third into thirds again to make one square (this is your desired pastry).  This will yield 18 total squares which equals 18 filled pastries when done.  Depending on the brand you use, and whether or not this is a meal/appetizer etc.., you will need to eyeball the appropriate size you want your pastries to be.
  4. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the herbed cheese onto a square and place about 3-4 small chunks of chicken on top of the cheese.  Bring the four corners of the pastry square up and press them together, forming a pocket so that all of the filling is enclosed.  Repeat for each square.
  5. Lay all of the pastry squares on a foil-lined baking sheet (dull side up) and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry shell is just turning golden brown.
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Chicken in a Pastry

This is seriously one of the most comforting and simple meals ever.  I served it along with a nice fresh salad of spring mix lettuce, diced pairs, blueberries, and walnuts dressed with oil and vinegar.

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Salad with pear, blueberries, and walnuts

I know this is not really a “recipe” necessarily, as the idea of stuffing puffed pastry sheets with cheese and filling is not new.  But, I hope I at least planted a seed in your mind for the next time you need an easy yet comforting dinner that leaves you both full and satisfied :)

I just wanted to mention the addition of my “Best Thing I Ever Ate” section to the blog.  This section will be documenting my absolute favorite foods in different categories. It is a work in progress, but please check it out.  I would love to hear any feedback anybody has to offer.

Now, off to enjoy a very not homemade but equally satisfying dessert: girl scout cookies!  It was brought to my attention the other day that most types of girl scout cookies can actually be found year-round in the grocery store from other brands (i.e. Keebler “grasshoppers” = thin mints).  However, I feel that there is a certain nostalgia/special element to girl scout cookies that makes them so special, even if they are not necessarily the best, most unique cookies ever.  What do you guys think?  Worth the $3/ box for a bite of your childhood?  I think yes!

Fresh Spinach Konafa

Since the image of this glorious appetizer is most likely what lured you in, I must admit right off the bat that I did not cook this!  This fresh spinach konafa is from a Greek restaurant, Taverna Yiamas, in Hollywood, Fl.

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This dish is very similar to spanakopita.  It is made with shredded phyllo dough, feta cheese, and spinach, all sandwiched together and grilled (fried?) to perfection.

Now, over the past year or so I have developed somewhat of an obsession for Greek Food.  I have tried numerous Greek restaurants and have strong, unwavering opinions of who makes the best kebobs, saganaki, tzatiki, hummus, spanakopita, etc.. Let me tell you, Taverna Yiamas makes the best konafa/spanakopita I have ever had.  Period.  The service/ambiance at this place leaves much to be desired, but that becomes irrelevant as soon as you bite into the konafa.

What makes this dish outstanding and different from other spanakopita-type dishes I have had is the crispiness of the shredded phyllo paired with the creaminess of the abundant feta cheese and fresh spinach.  We always order the exact same thing (konafa appetizer with schwarma pitas), so that is the only food I can vouch for from this restaurant.

Ironically, we stumbled upon this place via Groupon, and it was definitely one of those places that surprised us for the better.  Like I said, the ambience and service is sub-par at best, but the konafa is so good I would eat it off the floor if that were my only choice (kidding.. kind of).

Anybody else obsessed with Greek &/ Mediterranean food?