August 20, 2015

Grilled Eggplant Caprese

August’s ingredients for the Improv Cooking Challenge are Tomatoes & Herbs. Which is unfortunate for my garden, ‘cause those items  burnt  were ruined  expired at the end of June with our extreme heat! (Actually, I do have one basil plant left, so I used that with tomatoes from the market…)EJ-grilledcaprese
First off, I made what would be kind of a pesto salt.EJ-herbsalt I chopped (and chopped and chopped and chopped…)  a cup (lightly packed) of basil leaves, 5 cloves of garlic, and half a cup of kosher salt. EJ-dried saltThe mixture was spread in a baking pan and spent the day  at the spa  dehydrating under the oven light. The finished salt was then bottled to await its ultimate purpose. (BTW -- that stuff is awesome on olive-oil-popped popcorn!)
The morning of “recipe day” I put together the drizzle for the salad. EJ-sweet basil drizzleInto the pitcher of my Blendtec went 1 tablespoon red wine, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, a clove of garlic, 2 cups (kinda sorta packed) fresh basil leaves (weighed about 2 oz.) and a couple grinds each of Himalayan salt & black pepper (to taste). When that became all nice & relatively smooth, 1/3 cup of olive oil was trickled in to blend up a sweet basil vinaigrette. Sooooooo tasty -- mmmmmmm!
I sliced an eggplant and brushed both sides of each slice with olive oil. Then I lightly sprinkled on some of that pesto herb salt. EJ-eggplant roundsThose pretty little rounds got grilled until they had some lovely stripes criss-crossing their surface. I put them in a covered dish to chill until the ultimate assembly before dinner.
I’ve had my share of good caprese salads at restaurants (I’ve had at least one not quite so good caprese…) But let me tell you -- the addition of those grilled eggplant slices sends this salad into a whole different stratosphere!EJ-grilled eggplant caprese salad
The subtle flavor just melds so deliciously with the tomato and fresh mozzarella slices.
…and the drizzle -- ah, that sweet basil drizzle…
the endIt was good to the last, ummmmm, drip… (you probably can’t tell I spooned some more on, right?)

Check out what my friends created with tomatoes & herbs:

July 16, 2015

Bacon-studded Honey Mustard Snaxx

titleThis month’s Improv ingredients are pretzels & mustard. I love making mustard (like I did here) but one must do that not-at-the-last-minute for a challenge!

Anyhow, the wonderhubs has a life-long aversion to pretzels, & I am currently (involuntarily) participating in an aversion to gluten. My solution was to come up with a gluten-free snack mix, where he could pick around those nazzzty pretzel pieces.EJmustpretzel (3)

I’d been seeing “Muddy Buddies” & “Chex Snack” mixes done in the crock pot on various blogs. That sounded so much more exciting to me than heating the oven/house for an hour or two while toasting the mix. (If your slow cooker, like mine, does not have a vent, you will need to use a towel to absorb the “perspiration” that comes off the mix as it cooks.)EJmustpretzel

Here’s my recipe:

¼ cup mustard powder

¼ cup water

½ cup butter

½ cup honey

3 cups Corn Bran Crunch™ cereal

3 cups Rice Chex™ cerealDSCN2878

3 cups Honey Nut Chex™ cereal

3 cups gluten free pretzels

2 cups gluten free rice crackers

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup bacon crumbles

Mix mustard powder with water and let sit to thicken 10-15 minutes. Melt butter and stir in honey. Add thickened mustard and whisk until smooth.EJmustpretzel (6)

Combine remaining ingredients into crock. EJmustpretzel (7)Pour over honey mustard mixture and stir gently.EJmustpretzel (13)Cook on “Low” for 2 hours, carefully stirring every 30 minutes.

Pour onto parchment paper to cool.EJmustpretzel (15)Devour!

EJmustpretzel (19)This makes you wish for a larger crock…

…because you want to TRIPLE the recipe!

Check out what my friends did with their pretzels & mustard: