Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadillas

Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadilla

Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadillas Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper QuesadillasFall has arrived. The leaves are turning, the weather is getting cooler and the days are shorter – but my schedule isn’t – is yours?

Which means I’m not eating as well as I could – grabbing whatever is quick and easy… and while I’m covering the basics (carbohydrates, proteins and fat) I know I am falling short on a number of vitamins and minerals including calcium. How about you? Are you getting enough calcium in your diet? Chances are that you probably aren’t either.  Most adults need about 1,000 – 1,200 mg. of calcium a day – that’s about 4 cups of collard greens, 6 cups of black eyed peas or 2.5 cups of tofu – and I don’t know about you, but I know I am nowhere close to consuming those amounts on a daily basis!

 

Fortunately, consuming dairy products is one of the tastiest ways to meet your daily requirement for calcium – just 3 servings a day is all you need!  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists calcium as one of the nutrients of concern and recommend Americans consume more dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to  provide more calcium in their diet. However, many people who are lactose intolerant think they need to eliminate dairy from their diet – but this is not the case! In fact, health experts agree lactose intolerant doesn’t mean dairy avoidance!

Cheddar Quesadillas with Roasted Red Bell Pepper BC2 Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadillas

At about 20 cents a serving for milk, dairy products are both a budget and nutritional bargain – providing 9 essential nutrients. Plus they are incredibly versatile. One of the things I love about dairy is that it’s ideal for quick and easy eating  – like these Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadillas.  Sharp cheddar cheese is a great choice for those with lactose intolerance because hard cheeses contain minimal amounts of lactose. The addition of Greek yogurt not only mellows the sharpness of the cheese but the active cultures in the plain Greek yogurt can help with the digestion of lactose. Combined with some jarred,  roasted bell peppers, these Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadillas make a calcium packed and full flavored lunch, dinner or snack! These Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadillas can even be assembled ahead of time – and how quick and easy is that!

This post was written while participating in my partnership with the National Dairy Council but as always, the opinions expressed are my own.

 

Looking for more information on lactose intolerance? The National Dairy Council Website is a fabulous place to start! I really like the

Lactose Intolerance Educational Materials from the National Dairy Council as well!

Cheddar and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadilla
 
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Ingredients
  • 8 8 inch flour or corn tortillas
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup roasted rell bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped, roasted green chiles (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine cheese and yogurt in a medium bowl and mix. Spread onto 4 tortillas. Top each tortilla with ¼ of the red bell pepper strips and ½ Tbsp. green chilis if using. Top with remaining tortillas. Heat a griddle over medium high heat. Add quesadillas and cook for 3 - 4 minutes until tortilla is browned. Flip and cook for another 3 - 4 minutes. Serve with salsa and additional plain yogurt if desired.

Rainbow Relish

rainbow chard relish

Rainbow Relish Rainbow RelishSometimes, it seems a bit like Christmas when you write a food blog. Last week, Melissas Produce shipped me one of their new organic produce  boxes to play with – WOOT! Inside were lots of organic goodies – kale, collard greens, rainbow chard,romaine lettuce, italian parsley, carrots, celery pears, apples and oranges – and I lost no time in putting them all to work in my kitchen. After cutting up the chard for a soup, I was left with these beautiful stems which were just too pretty to throw away (and I um, planned to have photos of said box and stems but ahem, I accidently deleted them:-(). Since those stems were simply too gorgeous to toss,  I decided to try this  Rainbow Relish. I know, I know, chard stems? Really? Yes, really. I was skeptical as well, but let me tell you, these little stems make a terrific relish that is great with roasted pork, chicken or a meaty fish like swordfish.. As  they say,  “waste not, want not” – but in this case, you are definitely going to “want” this relish!

Rainbow Relish 2 Rainbow Relish

So, what exactly is this produce box from Melissas Produce? Genius, I tell you, genius! Between 7 – 11 lbs of organic produce shipped right to your door – you can choose a 50/50 box (50% fruit and 50% vegetables) a green juice box and an all vegetable box –  and since the folks at Melissas are experts at shipping fresh  produce, everything arrives fresh and ready to eat! I love these boxes for a couple of reasons  – each Melissas box has a wide  assortment of fruits and vegetables unlike some CSA boxes. Of course the contents will change from week to week depending upon on what is in season – and to me that is one of the best parts.  These  Organic Mixed Vegetable and Fruit boxes encourage me to think outside the box – to try a new vegetable or a new preparation – like using the chard stems in this Rainbow Relish. As I have always told my boys “you weren’t born knowing you liked chocolate – you had to try it to figure that out”! Well, the same applies to vegetables! Who knows what treasures await you inside one of these Organic Mixed Vegetable and Fruit boxes!  Right now, the boxes are available from Melissas for $25.00 each for delivery within Southern California! Live outside Southern California? You can still order a box – however, shipping charges will be higher.

So what did I do with the rest of the fruit and vegetables – read on for some inspiration!

Carrot Salad with Moroccan Spices

Carrot Salad with Moroccan Spices3 200x300 Rainbow Relish

Pickled Celery

Pickled Celery 300x200 Rainbow Relish

Chicken, Barley And Kale Soup

 Chicken Barley and Kale Soupbc 200x300 Rainbow Relish

 

Rainbow Relish
 
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Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine. This relish goes wonderfully with roasted pork (loin or tenderloin), sauteed pork chops or roasted chicken. It would also make a great appetizer served on crostini with some good goat cheese!
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, mincd
  • 2 cups rainbow chard stems, cut into ¼ inch dice
  • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
  • ½ cup dried fruit mix ( I used sultana raisins, dried cranberries and dried cherries)
  • 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of white pepper
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, chard stems and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes. Add the fruit mix,vinegar, honey, ½ of the mint and salt and pepper. Cook and cover for 1 - 2 minutes until chard is crisp/tender. Uncover pot and remove from heat. Cool. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with remaining mint.

 

 

The Madness Continues… Caramelized onion and bacon crostatas

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Crostatasbc

I honestly thought I’d conquered my obsession with appetizers.. sadly I have not. So please bear with me, this is the last one for a while .. I think icon smile The Madness Continues... Caramelized onion and bacon crostatas The other night I was lying in bed and instead of visions of sugarplums I had visions of appetizers – mini crostatas to be exact. This idea took hold and would not let go. So,   I got up  and scribbled a few notes in my notebook and then  fell back asleep  – with no further visions of anything, thank you very much.

After  a little experimentation I came up with these  – mini crostatas with caramelized onions and bacon – a creation based more upon the contents of my pantry and refrigerator than divine inspiration!! This concept though would lend itself to lots of different filling ideas – caramelized onions and blue cheese, sauteed apples with a little maple syrup and toasted nuts, raspberry preserves spiked with a little chambord… the possibilities are truly endless.

So, here you go.. my recipe for Mini Crostatas!!

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Mini Crostatas with Caramelized Onions and Bacon

  • 4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced with slices cut in half
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup shredded cheese ( I used fontina, mozzarella and parmesan)
  • Pie dough sufficient for a 10 inch double crust pie

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized skillet, cook the bacon until it is browned but not crispy. Remove bacon from the pan, reserving 2 Tbsp. of the drippings in the pan.
  2. Heat the pan to medium high heat and add the onions. Reduce heat to medium and cook the onions until nicely browned – about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove onions and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks with the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Dust a cutting board with flour and roll out the pie dough until its about 1/16 inch thick. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut circles out of the dough. Collect scraps and re roll, cutting out additional circles.
  5. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. On a parchment lined sheet, place the dough circles, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart.
  6. Place 2 tsp. of cheese on center of dough circle and top with about 1/2 tsp. caramelized onions. Fold edges of dough circles over filling, pleating as needed.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Top with a few pieces of bacon and return to oven and bake until crusts are golden brown – about 5- 8 more minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and serve.

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Why it really isn’t all about the Turkey – Greens with Pomegranate Braised Figs

Greens with Pomegranate Braised Figsbc

TV cooking shows, magazines and food blogs for weeks have been stuffed to the gills (or should I say drumsticks?) with recipes and stories about Turkey. To brine or not to brine,to use a wet rub or a dry rub, to deep  fry or roast, to stuff or not to stuff, to truss… or not  truss – those are the questions we constantly ask ourselves at this time of year.  It seems pretty clear though  that all this endless experimentation with techniques and recipes is  symptomatic of our eternal  obsession quest to find the one … you know, the one that goes perfectly with all the  other dishes we make!   I think this  is the reason Turkey has survived as the meat of choice for this day. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows. , candied yams,, cranberries and , Can you really see pairing  sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cranberry sauce  and candied yams with.. beef ? And stuffing? Where on earth would you put that in a roast and where are you going to find a wishbone on one??   All of this of course  goes to prove my point  –   it really isn’t  about the turkey at all – it’s about the sides!

On the subject of sides, salad is not the first dish that comes to mind – which is a shame really since a good salad definitely deserves a prime spot on the Turkey table. Cool and crunchy, salads  provide a  great counterpoint  to all of the potatoes, squash and cooked vegetable sides that are an integral part of the traditional meal. The best part though is that  there is no jockeying for oven space  with salads.  Figs and pomegranates aren’t traditional flavors associated with Thanksgiving but the tang of  pomegranate and the  sweet, intense  chewiness of the figs paired with  a  light white wine vinaigrette and crisp greens   works beautifully with turkey.. whether you use a brine, a rub, deep fry or just rub it with a bit of butter and  roast it in the oven.

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Greens with Pomegranate Braised Figs

Serves 4

  • 1 cup pure pomegranate juice (such as POM)
  • 1/2 cup dried black Mission figs, cut lengthwise
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 cups baby salad greens
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecans

Directions:

  1. . In a small saucepan combine the pomegranate juice, honey  and the figs. Bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for approximately 8 minutes or until the pomegranate juice is reduced to a thick glaze.
  2. Cool and set aside. Taste and add a bit more honey if desired.
  3. Place the greens in a large bowl. In  small bowl, whisk the olive with the white wine vinegar. Season with salt and white pepper. Drizzle dressing over the greens and toss.
  4. Place  a mound of greens on 4 plates. Place several figs on the greens and sprinkle with the cheese and pecans. Drizzle a bit of the pomegranate syrup over the greens. Serve

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Reading Food Blogs Can Be Dangerous to Your Health – Crab and Mushroom Cheesecakes

Crab and Wild Mushroom Cheesecakesbc

Reading food blogs can be dangerous to your health. Seriously, after perusing my favorite food  blogs I often become obsessed with dishes – they keep me up at night thinking about them, they invade my dreams and  I spend hours in kitchen experimenting with them. In short, they have the ability to drive me a bit insane (and hence the reasonthey can be dangerous to your health). Such was the case recently when I was drooling reading a wonderful dessert blog – Bakers Royale and came across these amazing   little individual  cheesecakes. They are cute if not downright adorable and the flavor combinations/possibilities are endless (hence the reason I was up all night thinking about them). My musings though took a  turn and I started thinking about – what else? Savory cheesecakes!! A perfect individual sized portion brimming with tender and sweet crab and earthy mushrooms. Paired with a small mound of lightly dressed greens, it the perfect starter for an elegant meal – or if you are feeling really indulgent, a luxurious brunch entree.  Like all perfect starters, this one can be made and baked in advance and then re warmed slightly before serving.

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Miniature Crab and Mushroom Cheesecakes

For these cheesecakes, I used the Chicago Metallic Mini Cheesecake Pan that is available from Sur la Table

Serves 12

Crust

1  1/2  cups ground melba toast rounds

3/4  stick butter, melted

Filling:

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1/2  cup minced shallots

1/2  cup minced roasted red bell pepper

2  cups assorted wild mushrooms, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

2 Tbsp. dry sherry

2 – 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature

2 large eggs

1/4 cup whipping cream

1 cup crab meat, drained and picked over

1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

1/4 cup minced fresh chives

1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. white pepper

Directions:

For these cheesecakes, I used the Chicago Metallic Mini Cheesecake Pan available from Sur la Table.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, mix melba toast crumbs with melted butter. Place 1 Tbsp. of the crumb mixture in the bottom of each cup. Tamp down the crumbs with your fingers or a tart tamper if you have one. Bake crust until golden brown – about 10 minutes.

Filling:

Heat 1 Tbsp. of canola oil in  a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are brown. Add the shallots and saute until shallots are soft – about 2 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until sherry evaporates. Set aside and cool.

In a mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the whipping cream and beat until thoroughly combined. Mix in the mushroom mixture, bell pepper, crabmeat, gruyere and chives. Spoon filling into each cup about 2/3 of the way full. Place pan on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cheesecakes cool on a rack. To remove, run a knife around the edges of the cheesecakes and remove.

If making ahead, refrigerate cheesecakes in the pan and remove when cold.

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Ricotta and Artichoke Fritters- It’s Appetizer Week!

Ricotta and Artichoke Frittersbc

Phew!! Alright folks, now that Halloween is over you know what that means…. yup, the official countdown to the holidays has begun. But don’t panic (at least not  yet) – I’ve got  you  covered – lots and  lots of great entertaining recipes and tips are coming your way!!  So, we are going to start with…starters or appetizers if you will.  It’s that course you “start” with and  is often  an overlooked  part of the menu  which is a shame. To me these are the most fun dishes to make and serve – because the portions are smaller than the main course, you can use stronger flavors and incorporate more expensive ingredients.  Now, I know what you are thinking – “starters, appetizers ?? Are you nuts?? I can barely get the main dish together let alone some fancy appetizer!!!’ But fear not, with a little planning this is completely doable and it is definitely worth it. The fritters  have a light texture  and are a  bit rich which is exactly what you want a first course to be!!  This is a great way to use some of that homemade ricotta you’ve been meaning to make  Of course you could just use that ricotta for some crostini and serve it with cocktails  but….why??? This is much more interesting and fun … and isn’t that the point??

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Ricotta and Artichoke Fritters

  • 1 /2 cup diced, canned artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese*
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. flour plus additional flour for dusting
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 jar roasted red and yellow bell peppers
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tsp.  champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 preserved lemon, flesh discarded, minced (or substitute 1 tbsp. finely minced lemon zest)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. minced shallots
  • 2 Tbsp. nicoise olives, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped italian parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. minced chives
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh tarragon
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 2 cups assorted baby greens, rinsed and dried

Directions:

  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a simmer. Line a  sheet pan with paper towels.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and 1 Tbsp. flour. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the egg yolk and artichoke hearts.
  4. Using two large serving spoons form the mixture into 12 oval shapes.
  5. Add the fritters to the simmering water and cook until they rise to the surface, about 1 minute.
  6. Using a slotted spoon carefully remove them from the water and place on the sheet pan  lined with paper towels. Blot the fritters with paper towels, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold – approximately 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day before).
  7. Remove one red and one yellow bell pepper from the jar. Blot dry and mince. Set aside.
  8. In a small saucepan, combine  4 Tbsp.  olive oil with the lemon juice, water and 3 tsp. vinegar. Boil over medium high heat until mixture is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time.
  9. Stir in the lemon rind, shallots, olives, parsley, chives and tarragon. Stir in the roasted peppers and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  10. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch canola oil over medium high heat until the oil is shimmering but not smoking.
  11. Lightly dust the fritters with flour and add to the hot oil. Cook over medium high heat until they are golden brown all over about 4 minutes.
  12. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  13. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2  Tbsp. olive oil and 2 tsp. vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Add greens and toss.
  14. Spoon the sauce on a shallow plate or bowl. Arrange the fritters on top of the sauce and mound the greens alongside. Serve.

Notes: For this dish, use freshly made ricotta. You can find this in gourmet grocery stores or make your own!! For a great explanation on how to do this, see this post by Brian at A Thought for Food.

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Hamachi with Coconut Green Curry Vinaigrette

Hamachi with Green Curry Vinaigrettebc

Ok.. I know, this isn’t a typical “fall dish”  – but after gorging myself on all things “fall” I needed a  break.  Recently, I received a rice cooker from Zojirushi the to play with and so my thoughts took a bit of turn – and pointed directly towards the east.  I  started thinking about asian inspired dishes – and with a dinner parties looming on the horizon “menu development mania”took over.  So this week, I’ve  got an Asian inspired menu to share with you!!!

Every so often, I come across a recipe that I know is going to work – I know exactly how it’s going to taste and I know that I am going to love it – this is one of those recipes. It’s is a perfect first course for an asian inspired meal and would work equally well as an  hors d’oeuvres  or even as an amuse bouche. All the components can be made in advance so that all you need to do is dress the hamachi with the vinaigrette and serve … and wait for the accolades!!!!

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Hamachi with  Coconut Green Curry Vinaigrette

(Adapted from Mark Franz, Farallon Restaurant)

Coconut Green Curry Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tsp. green curry paste
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass – trim ends and remove rough outer leaves and chop
  • 1 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine (such as a sauvignon blanc)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red hawaiian salt (optional)
  • Hamachi
  • 8 oz. fresh sushi grade hamachi or sushi grade ahi tuna

Directions:

1.Heat 1 Tbsp. of canola oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat until oil is hot. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent – about 8 minutes. If starting to brown, reduce heat.

2. Add the garlic, curry paste and lemongrass and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until reduced by 1/2, about 20 minutes.

3. Stir in the cream and remove from heat. Let cool about 15 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and discard.

4. Transfer mixture to a blender and blend. Add 2 Tbsp. lime juice and blend until smooth, about 1 more minute. On low speed, add remaining canola oil in a slow, steady stream and process until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead – cover and refrigerate

To serve – thinly slice hamachi and overlap slices on a small plate. Drizzle vinaigrette over fish and garnish with lime zest and red hawaiian salt.

Note: I used scallop shells to serve the hamachi. To steady the shells, pour a few tablespoons of salt on a small plate and place the shell on top.

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Roasted Eggplant with Walnuts, Pomegranate and Mint

Eggplant with Pomegranate, Walnuts and Mintbc

Harvest season is in full swing and food blogs are full of stories and recipes about fall food. Two of my favorite blogging friends have  recently returned from harvest tours and I’ve been enjoying  “tour tweets” and am looking forward to hearing all about their tours!! Rachael, of La Fuji Mama, just returned from a pomegranate harvest tour,  hosted by POM Wonderful. Robyn, from the Earthbound Chronicles, just returned from a a Walnut Harvest Tour  hosted by  California Walnuts. Well, all this talk of pomegranates and walnuts made me even more impatient to try a recipe I recently found in the Wall Street Journal by Daniel Rose – chef and owner of Spring restaurant in Paris, France. This young chef has taken Paris by storm and his restaurant is extremely  popular – so popular that when I visited a couple of years ago, I was unable to get a reservation –  which was ok, since it gives me  a legitimate reason to return (like I need a reason – ha!!) However, since I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon, I was very excited to come across a few of his recipes that were published in the Wall Street Journal.  I couldn’t wait to try them – and they  didn’t  disappoint!

Walnuts and pomegranates are a natural pairing and are common ingredients in Middle Eastern cooking and are two of my favorite ingredients.  They are paired here with smoky eggplant and result in a dish that  is earthy and yet light… and truly delicious.  This dish  would be wonderful paired with a  roasted red pepper soup, or served alongside roasted meat or chicken- or as Rose recommends, serve over roasted mushrooms instead of eggplant.

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Roasted Eggplant with Walnuts, Pomegranate and Mint

(Adapted from Daniel Rose’s “Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate Vinaigrette”)

  • 1 eggplant (1 – 1/2 lbs) – I used about 8  baby eggplant
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large pomegranate, seeded
  • 1 small green apple, peeled and diced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup California walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup mint, sliced (you could use cilantro and/or parsley)
  • salt and white pepper

Directions:

1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place eggplants on sheet pan, skin side down.

2. Brush sliced eggplant with  1 Tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with salt and white pepper. Roast eggplant in oven until tender – about 45 minutes for large eggplant and about 20 -25 minutes for small eggplants.

3. Remove eggplants from oven. While eggplants are roasting, combine the  pomegranate seeds, apples, shallots, 1 Tbsp.  lime juice, remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil and walnut oil. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

4. Just before serving, add the walnuts. Spoon pomegranate and walnut mixture over the eggplants and serve.

Note: Rose’s recipe calls for the addition of 1 oz. of cured chorizo which I omitted.

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