So requested a lady on Personal Retreat in our guesthouse. To be honest, I actually was planning something a little more elaborate such as zucchini lasagna, Caesar salad, and herb-buttered Italian bread. But I replied, “Of course!” and conceived a plan. As I picked fresh lettuce from our kitchen’s “Chef's Garden”, ideas came– what about fried eggplant and deviled eggs to add a special little touch! Some avocado slices, sliced ham or chicken, olives, cherry tomatoes.
Once again, the Holy Spirit came alongside and brought ideas fresh and new. Our retreatant was very blessed…as was I!
The crispness of fall is all around us. This past Monday, the Sisters rose early to put our gardens to bed for the winter. It’s always bittersweet for me, as working in the earth, getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits of our labor and God’s creative act are moments that I treasure. We decided not to put our “chef garden” to bed, as the tomatoes, chard, beets and kale are still growing, and a late crop of peas is sprouting their heads above the earth. So, as a tribute to summer, I wanted to share this wonderful recipe with you. You can use any vegetables for grilling, so don’t feel limited by the ingredients here. If you’re anything like me, your grill stays outside until it snows! Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and enjoy.
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Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Grilled Vegetables
Marinate chicken with pesto, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results.
Mix oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl.
Heat a grill over medium-high, be sure grates are clean and well oiled to prevent sticking.
Brush oil on each side of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Put vegetables on 1 large grill tray or directly on grill, and cook, turning constantly until the vegetables are cooked and golden, about 6 to 10 minutes. Set aside on a dish.
Put the chicken on the grill and cook about 4 to 5 minutes on each side until grill marks appear and the chicken is cooked through. If you prefer to finish them off in the oven, I suggest a grill pan or cast iron skillet - cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Transfer the chicken to a platter with the vegetables and pour the balsamic dressing over everything and serve.
Time to get out the grill and put those fresh garden veggies to good use. This is a terrific recipe that makes a lovely party platter in a matter of minutes.
Eggplant, peppers, zucchini, asparagus, and red onions – marinated and grilled till soft on the inside and charred on the outside, then doused in garlicky marinade, and served with whipped goat cheese on the side.
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Marinated Grilled Vegetable Platter with Whipped Goat Cheese
Cut eggplants, onions, and zucchini in 1/4-inch thick slices.
Salt the eggplant slices, and leave in a colander for 20 minutes so the bitter juices drain out. Rinse and pet dry.
Wash the peppers, and leave whole.
Wash the asparagus, and cut the woody ends.
Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, garlic and chopped oregano, with onion salt and black pepper, and brush all vegetables liberally with the marinade.
Grill veggies on medium heat, turning them over once or twice.
Remove the charred outer skin from the peppers by rubbing off- slice the pepper in half, remove seeds and then continue slicing the peppers lengthwise into 1” slices. Set aside until ready to assemble.
Remove the remaining vegetables to a plate and drizzle with the remaining marinade and more fresh oregano. Add more garlic if needed - they should have a distinct garlicky, tangy taste.
With an electric mixer beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the goat cheese, and smashed garlic, and a pinch of salt, then beat until fluffy.
Arrange the vegetables decoratively on a platter and serve with the whipped goat cheese on the side.
Place left over veggies in a container and pour over a marinade of equal parts apple cider vinegar and olive oil, plus lots of pressed garlic and salt. They will taste great the next day, and will keep in the fridge for a long time.
The current revival of iconic American diners stirs my teenage memories, when I spent as much time as possible in my father’s restaurant which had its beginning as a small diner. A local landmark in our town, it grew into a large upscale dining establishment complete with banquet facilities, catering to many special events.
As a diner his menu consisted mainly of American favorites with a sprinkling of Greek and Mediterranean dishes. One of the most popular luncheon specials was a phyllo crusted meat,spinach,feta cheese pie similar to spanikopita, baked and served in an oblong dish. This is a revision of that dish which includes eggplant, fresh tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. The filling can be made and frozen in advance for a time when a quick emergency meal may be needed.
Brown and crumble meat in olive oil. Add onions, eggplant, seasonings and cook till tender 12 to 15 min. Then add spinach, garlic, tomatoes and fresh herbs, simmer for 5 min. Pour in sauce, simmer until all ingredients are well blended.
For the puff pastry topper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Flour a work surface and lightly roll out the puff pastry. Cut the size and shape of 1 large casserole or up to 6 individual bowls or large ramekins, using sharp paring knife. Place the dough on a nonstick baking sheet and wash with egg.
Place the hot filling into selected baking dishes sprinkle cheeses over all- top with crust and bake til golden...
This is the time of year when Eggplants are bountiful.. at least in our garden. I find it funny that you either love eggplant or you hate it. During my time at Villa Via Sacra, one of the Brothers told me that he had his whole birthday menu ready for me… 2 months early! It included his favorite dish, Eggplant Parmigiana – I wasn’t surprised. This Brother, like me, has a real appreciation for good food, cooked well. Every time I made the dish, his eyes would practically well up with tears, he loved it that much. So, I figured EVERYONE would like my eggplant parmigiana and took great pride in making the dish. But, visas expired and we had a new rotation of Brothers from our community at the Villa. I thought I’d make them this special dish for their first night in Italy, and was expectant to hear the “oooo’s” and “aahh’s” emanating from them. One of the new Brothers walked into the kitchen and asked what was for dinner. I tightened my apron strings, smoothed out the wrinkles, stood a little taller and declared “My eggplant parmigiana!”
The brother blanched before me, his usual sunny disposition turned to stone, the room went quiet. He HATED Eggplant. I was devastated, my ego deflated; this was going to be a long three months…
Italians love the concept of involtini… something filled and rolled up. I love it too. The time it takes to make this recipe is minimal, and the presentation is delightful, especially if you take the time to wrap each eggplant with a chive before baking. I didn’t have the chives on hand when making this dish for the family, but I still thought the simplicity was beautiful and a different ‘take’ on “eggplant parmigiana”.
P.S. – this Brother became an eggplant lover and I learned more about the meaning of pride!
Preheat the oven to 400* F. Oil a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place the eggplant slices on the pan and brush on both sides with 4 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Sprinkle on the oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes, turning once. They will then be supple and slightly golden.
While the eggplant is in the oven, make a simple tomato sauce by whirring the tomatoes briefly in a food processor or break up with your hands. In a skillet, over low heat, sauté the onion for another minute in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the tomatoes and cook the mixture briefly, just to blend flavors, about 2 minutes.
Remove the eggplant from the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 350*F.
On each eggplant piece, place a piece of prosciutto or ham, a whole basil leaf, a slice of cheese and a sprinkling of Parmigiano. Roll pieces from the small end forward, and secure the bundle with a toothpick or tie a chive around it.
Slather the bottom of a 9x13” baking dish with some of the tomato sauce, and arrange the involtini seam-side down. Over each bundle spread some more tomato sauce and a scattering of the Parmigiano. Warm well in the oven, about 15 min. Andiamo mangiare!
Recipe adapted from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Last week lamb was on sale (something that does not occur too often), so I happily took advantage of it and bought a nice leg. In general, most people either really like this meat or do not like it at all. Few seem to be neutral about it, mainly, I think, because of its distinctive flavor, which is precisely what makes it appeal to lamb lovers.
I myself prefer it simply roasted or broiled, but for the sake of those whom I knew would like it a little more dressed up I decided to make colorful kabobs with a few favorite vegetables and serve it with Greek rice, the way my father always prepared it.