with Great Northern Beans & Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing
Have you ever made something once and thought “it’s good, but it really ought to be better?” Yeah, that’s what happened here. The first time I made it I used a great big eggplant and I tried cooking it on the grill. Except my coals ran out of heat and the eggplant didn’t get properly cooked and it was this awful rubbery texture. I ended up picking all of the eggplant out of my salad that night and just eating the tomatoes with the corn and bread … not that that was a BAD thing, it was quite delightful that way. I just hated wasting the lovely eggplant …
So: take 2. This time I used a couple of my fairy tale eggplant. If you’ve not seen fairy tale eggplant, they are those tiny purple eggplant that look SO adorable because they are about finger sized or a little bigger, maybe half my hand size? You never have to peel them or salt them because their skins are perfectly tender and they are never bitter. If you’re inexperienced with eggplant, fairy tale eggplant are a good place to start. This time was definitely better … but something was missing … oh my gosh! the corn! I totally forgot the corn. Okay, so I went and grabbed some corn from the freezer, cooked it up and added it … ah! much better!
Fairy Tale Tomato, Corn & Bread Salad
Adapted from Williams Sonoma. For one hearty serving or two small “sides”:
- 2-4 fairy tale eggplant (about 1/2 cup after roasting/chopping)
- 1 cup fresh garden tomato, chopped into bite-size chunks
- 1/2 cup cooked white beans, drained
- 1/2 cup cooked corn, drained
- 2 slices of sweet onion, chopped coarsely
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups toasted whole wheat bread cubes (about 1 inch in size … or smaller … to your liking)
- A few fresh basil & tarragon leaves
- A few roasted sunflower seeds
- Tahini yogurt ranch dressing (recipe below)
- Slice the fairy tale eggplant lengthwise in 1/2-inch slices. (You can use other eggplant in place of Fairy Tale, but you may need to peel them first.) Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set the eggplant on the baking sheet. Spray them with cooking spray and sprinkle with a bit of salt or Red Robin Seasoning. Roast the eggplant in the oven or toaster oven at 400 for about 10 minutes or until they are tender.
- While the eggplant are cooking, chop the tomato and onion and heat the white beans and corn up. Also, set the bread cubes on another oiled baking sheet and let them toast in the oven for the last few minutes of the eggplant roasting or until the cubes are lightly browned and toasted.
- Chop the eggplant into bite-size chunks. In your salad bowl, toss the eggplant, tomato, corn and onion till well mixed. Gently fold in the toasted bread cubes, drizzle with tahini ranch dressing and sprinkle with fresh herbs and sunflower seeds.
Tahini Yogurt Ranch Dressing
- 1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons tahini
- 1 Tablespoon light mayonnaise
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup mixed fresh herbs (I used rosemary, basil, thyme, tarragon, oregano, parsley … dill would be wonderful too, but my dill plant has died off)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt (start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste as needed) + freshly ground pepper to taste.
In a handi chopper or food processor, blend all ingredients till the herbs and garlic are well chopped and the mixture is fairly smooth. Taste the dressing and add salt and/or pepper to taste. Store any leftover dressing in a covered container in the fridge.
I’ve been toying with the idea of making a thai-style curry soup with my aubergines … aubergine, isn’t that a fabulous word? It sounds so fancy and cultured to me. Usually I just use the word “eggplant”, but it doesn’t carry the same elegance that these beautiful purple vegetables really deserve.
Anyway, I came home from yoga class the other night STARVING and decided to begin the creation of the Thai curry soup. Somehow thought this would be a quick thing to do … I started up the grill because I’m really loving the smoky flavor from the grill and set a bunch of lovely vegetables on there for their “fire” roasting. Yes, I really did start up the grill just to roast vegetables. It didn’t take long to roast them … but then I got busy with other things and with the kids.
Hours later (just before bedtime), I finally sat down to enjoy a cup of my curried red pepper aubergine soup. It’s not that the soup really takes that long to make … it’s just that … well, I’m a mom … and I’m easily distracted (look! facebook!) … and my kitchen was already a mess so there was a bit of work to do there too … oh well, it got done eventually and I did get a bowl of soup and now I have a delicious soup I can quickly reheat for lunches this week.
Curried Red Pepper Aubergine Soup
Yields a little over a quart of soup.
- 3 good-size Japanese Eggplant (the long skinny dark black purple kind of eggplant … or 1 large globe eggplant) … yielding about a cup of eggplant after roasting (a little more or less is fine)
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 hot red pepper (or if you don’t want your soup to be spicy, use a bell pepper in place of the hot pepper)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, chopped
- 1/2 of an onion, peeled, chopped
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 – 2 Tablespoons Thai red curry paste (to taste)
- 1 – 2 Tablespoons brown sugar (or other sweetener of your choice … to taste)
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- Garnish: plain lowfat yogurt (or Greek yogurt) and fresh parsley or better yet, cilantro!
- Poke the eggplant all around with a fork. Light up the grill and when the coals are hot, set the eggplant and the peppers right over the hot coals to roast. (A gas grill would work fine too … you COULD even roast them in the oven if you prefer …) Here’s a shot of my eggplant and peppers on the grill. I used these 3 eggplant, the red bell pepper, and one of the hot peppers in this soup. The other two peppers I’m going to put in a salsa (I think …)
- You don’t want to burn them, but the skins of the eggplant will turn dark and the pepper skins should turn black. Turn the peppers and eggplant over to make sure you roast all sides. The peppers will be done very quickly. Pull the peppers off the grill and let them cool while you finish cooking the eggplant. Cook the eggplant until it is limp and soft.
- The peel on the peppers and the eggplant should come right off after roasting. Pull off the peel, chop off the top stems from the eggplant, and put the “good parts” of the peppers and the eggplant in a blender or handi chopper. Puree them until smooth.
- In a saucepan, sautee the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, soft and starting to brown. Stir in the eggplant/pepper paste and the remaining ingredients. Stir everything together till it’s well mixed, bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes or until the flavors have had time to “meld”.
- When the soup is done, puree it in a blender (or use an immersion blender). I’ve heard of people cracking the glass of a glass blender with hot soup, so you might want to let it cool a bit before blending it if you are using a glass blender.
- Garnish with a dollop of plain yogurt and a sprig of fresh parsley and serve hot. Store any leftovers in a covered container in the fridge. This soup reheats nicely in the microwave.
My mother grows both green and purple basil every year. This year she gave me a purple basil plant. Mine grew to about 6 inches tall, enough to snip off a couple leaves or sprigs here and there to season a dish. Her basil plant grew to the size of a bush.
If you don’t trim basil plants, they will go to seed and die, having finished their purpose in life. If you trim them, they grow bigger. I went out to trim Mom’s basil plants for her and came in with quite enough basil to make pesto. So I put it in a bag, stuck it in my cooler, brought it home and decided to make purple pesto.
In my box of goodies from the garden, I also had some of these pretty purple Fairy tale eggplant, and since it IS purple, I thought that would be lovely in the pesto. As I was blending up the pesto, it was a bit too thick, so I was looking for a liquid to thin it so that I didn’t have to add too much oil (I want my pesto to be lower in fat too!) and wouldn’t ruin the color. It just so happens I had a bottle of red wine sitting there, so I added a bit of wine too.
I’m freezing my purple pesto for safe keeping. I have plans in my mind to make purple pizzas and purple pasta, purple pesto salad dressings and purple pesto potatoes.
Have I mentioned that my favorite color is purple?
- 6 cups of purple basil leaves
- 1/3 cup pinons (pine nuts)
- 1/3 cup almonds
- 1 cup shredded asiago cheese
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 small fairy tale eggplant, roasted (or 1/2 cup of a larger eggplant)
- 1/3 cup dry red wine
Slice the eggplant lengthwise, set it on a baking sheet and roast it in the oven (or toaster oven) at 350 for about 10 minutes or until it’s tender. Cut it up into chunks and measure it. You should have about 1/2 cup of eggplant.
In a blender or food processor, blend up all the ingredients until you have a fine puree. Whatever you are not going to use immediately, freeze in small containers or ice cube trays.
Use this purple pesto just like you would any other pesto: mix with some pasta water and toss with pasta, spread it on pizza or sandwiches or little toasts.
I had a big beautiful purple eggplant that was starting to fade, so I had to find a good use for it fast. I decided to make it into a dip … at first I was going to make some more baba ghanoush, but then I thought perhaps I could make something different with it … perhaps something with the flavors of Eggplant Parmesan … except creamier. Something you could spread on little toasts and munch on with a good glass of wine.
We finished the A-Z Health Challenge on facebook on Saturday … I still need to make my way through all the Zucchini recipes everyone shared, but I was busy with my Mom and Dad’s Anniversary party this weekend. The party turned out well, but I’m exhausted. I need a day off. How nice that we have a holiday today so I have a day just to rest. Although I won’t really be resting. We’ll be harvesting tomatoes and other garden bounty, packing and driving and unpacking, assembling my new chairs that my aunt and uncle brought up for me.
Eggplant Parmesan Layer Dip
- 2 1/2 cups roasted eggplant (I used 1 large globe + 1 small Japanese eggplant)
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 6 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup fat free greek yogurt
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Your favorite marinara or pasta sauce (I used my crock pot garden marinara sauce)
- Shredded asiago (or parmesan) and mozzarella cheese (maybe a cup of the two cheeses, mixed? I didn’t measure the cheese … use enough to cover the sauce)
- Fresh garden tomato, chopped fine
- Fresh herbs for garnish
- Thin slices of toasted ciabatta or french bread
- To roast the eggplant on the grill, poke the pretty purple fruit all around with a fork, then grill on a hot grill until the outside is black and charred and the eggplant is sagging a LOT … that means it’s fully cooked.
- Pull off the peel and discard, then chop the pulp roughly and measure it. You will need about 2 1/2 cups for this dip (or you can scale down the other ingredients to match the amount of eggplant you have). Put the eggplant, garlic, herbs, and cream cheese in a food processor or handi chopper and blend till smooth. I had to do this in batches because my handi chopper wasn’t big enough to hold it all! Pour the creamy mixture into a bowl and stir in the greek yogurt, then add salt to taste.
- You can serve the dip in individual ramekins or in a larger pie or tart pan. Smear a good thick layer of the creamy eggplant mixture on the bottom of the dish, cover with a layer of marinara or pasta sauce, then top with shredded cheese and some chopped tomato on top. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with thinly sliced toasted ciabatta or french bread.
This recipe was shared at Weekend Potluck, Melt in your Mouth Monday, Manic Monday, Talent Show Tuesday. Trick or Treat Tuesday, Newlyweds Recipe Linky, Cast Party Wednesday, Thursday’s Treasures and Fit & Fabulous Friday.
This is a super simple, but super fun and delicious recipe. You can make this up as a big sandwich if you like too, using a bun or a ciabatta roll instead of the toasts. I did that for lunch one day with ciabatta and totally loved it. I was originally going to post this recipe as a sandwich … but I do so love little toasts.
The smoked Havarti cheese was a gift to me from Dofino Cheese. I have always loved their Havarti, but I really really love their smoked Havarti. The tomatoes and the eggplant for the baba ghanoush were from my mom’s garden.
I’m not giving amounts here because you can make a few up for a snack (like I did!), or a bunch for a crowd … whatever suits you!
- Ciabatta bread, sliced thin and lightly toasted
- Baba Ghanoush (It’s easy to make! … here’s my recipe for Baba Ghanoush)
- Smoked Havarti cheese, sliced
- Slices of fresh garden tomato, cut to match the size of the bread slices
- Fresh parsley, for garnish
Spread the ciabatta toast slices with a thick layer of baba ghanoush, top each with a slice of havarti, and set on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 F. for 5 – 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top each crostini with a slice of fresh tomato and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.
and a Mushroom Cherry Tomato Quinoa Pilaf
Ever since I made Baba Ghanoush, I’ve been wondering: what else could you do with eggplant puree? And then I picked up these HUGE chicken breasts at the store and was marinading them in buttermilk for my daughter and I for dinner … and it occurred to me that these babies would be really good stuffed with something wonderful and creamy. Eggplant puree, with cream cheese! and fresh tarragon and basil! Ah yes! How wonderful would THAT be?
Um yeah, completely wonderful … especially when you serve it over a pilaf of nutty quinoa with garlicky sauteed mushrooms and fresh garden cherry tomatoes.
Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Eggplant Tarragon Cream
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Marinade: buttermilk + seasonings
Eggplant Tarragon Cream Filling:
- 3/4 cup chopped roasted (or grilled) eggplant
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 oz light cream cheese
- About 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped mixed basil & tarragon leaves
- Put the chicken breasts in a bowl and add enough buttermilk to cover them completely. Add seasonings as you like: I added a couple teaspoons of Mrs. Dash and a couple teaspoons of a basic rub seasoning I like to use. Let the chicken marinade in the buttermilk for at least an hour … I left mine in there overnight.
- To cook the eggplant, I took a couple of the little purple tender eggplant from mom’s garden, sliced them lengthwise, sprayed them with cooking spray and set on a baking sheet that I’d sprayed with cooking spray. (If you’re using a larger eggplant, you probably want to peel it and slice into 1/4 inch slices.) Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and tender. Chop the eggplant roughly and toss them into a handi chopper with a couple cloves of garlic, the cream cheese and some fresh tarragon and basil leaves. Pulse to mix it all well and make a good creamy filling.
- Now, take the chicken breasts and slice into them horizontally with a small knife, not cutting all the way through so you make a little pocket in each chicken breast. Fill each pocket with half the filling, then close the open end with a toothpick.
- Heat up your grill and sear both sides of the chicken breasts on the hot part of the grill, then move them to the cooler part of the grill to cook until they are cooked through.
- Serve over a bed of the mushroom cherry tomato quinoa pilaf (recipe below), garnished with a few fresh basil or tarragon leaves.
Mushroom Cherry Tomato Quinoa Pilaf
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup of mushrooms sauteed with red wine, garlic, and bruschetta seasoning (see my Chardonnay Mushrooms recipe for instructions)
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
- Roasted sunflower seeds
Sautee the mushrooms with a couple cloves of garlic and a splash of red wine like I did with my Chardonnay Mushrooms. Add the hot, cooked quinoa, then the cherry tomatoes and stir gently to mix. Cook for just a few minutes to let the cherry tomatoes heat up. Serve the pilaf sprinkled with a couple tablespoons of sunflower seeds for a nice salty crunch.
I dreamed of this tart for days but I was too busy to make it … I could picture it in my mind: a lovely summer tart filled with garlic and herb-infused Ricotta and Asiago cheeses, topped with rows of beautifully overlapping garden fresh tomato and tender little purple eggplant slices. Finally I could not stand it any longer. I had to make it. It was nearing twilight, so I rushed to finish it in time to have enough light to photograph it. I was using these lovely little purple eggplant from mom’s garden and some of those little tomatoes that pretty perfectly matched the diameter of the eggplant.
It turned out beautiful … but the cornmeal crust I had thought would be so good was just awful (re-confirming my irrational fear of pie crust). It looked perfectly lovely … I tried eating it, but ended up eating the topping and leaving the crust … I stuck the tart in the fridge overnight while I considered what to do … the next night I went and bought some puff pastry at the store, scraped the topping off the old crust, roasted some more eggplant and re-made the tart, again rushing to beat the impending darkness. This time, it turned out MUCH better, taste-wise, but not quite as pretty. I had used up all the tomatoes that matched the size of the eggplant so I couldn’t get that perfect layered effect. I used one of the darker Japanese eggplant in hopes that it would match the size of the larger tomatoes, but it didn’t at all. And this tart was square, not round. I don’t think I allowed the puff pastry enough time to thaw because the crust really wasn’t as puffy as it should have been. But despite all that, it tasted oh so wonderful. Almost as good as my dream tart.
Tomato Eggplant Ricotta Tart
- 1 sheet of puff pastry (or a pie crust would work if you are not afraid of such things like me)
- About 2 small, tender eggplant
- Several small tomatoes (with a diameter that roughly matches the eggplant)
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese + a few extra tablespoons for the top
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- Several sprigs of fresh tarragon and basil, chopped
- Thaw your puff pastry or prepare the pie crust.
- Slice the eggplant thinly (about 1/8 inch thick) and place on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and dust with Red Robin Seasoning or your favorite seasoned salt. Bake eggplant at 350 for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant slices are tender. (These little tender eggplant don’t require any peeling or salting.)
- While the eggplant is cooking, slice the tomatoes thinly and set them aside.
- Mix the ricotta, asiago, garlic and about half of the chopped herbs.
- Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay out the puff pastry (or place the pie crust in your tart pan). Spread the ricotta filling almost to the edge of the crust, then arrange alternating layers of the eggplant and tomato slices on top. If you are using puff pastry, roll up the edge of the pastry just a bit and pinch the corners. Sprinkle with a little asiago cheese and bake at 400 for 20 minutes or so or until the pastry has browned on the edges and the cheese is all melted.
- Sprinkle with the rest of the fresh herbs. Slice and serve immediately.