Eggplant Bruschetta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Fresh Chevre

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I love summer fruits and vegetables, so I am ecstatic that I am now cleared by my doctor to carry heavy bags of produce from the farmers’ market to my house. I made a trip last weekend to the South of the James market and I went a little overboard with vegetable purchases. Everything wonderful is in season right now!

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The haul:

  • Goats R Us roasted red pepper chèvre (so flavorful!)
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Jalapenos
  • Green bell peppers
  • White peaches
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow crookneck squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumbers

I made a ton of great seasonal meals last week, and doing a lot of meal prep (washing, chopping, blanching, etc.) on Sunday helped me out so I could get healthy home cooked meals on the table around a busy schedule. The roasted red pepper chèvre and eggplant inspired me to throw together a quick and easy appetizer on Sunday afternoon.

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This is a flavorful, summery dish that you can put together in about fifteen minutes, which is great for those impromptu summer porch sitting sessions. You know what I’m talking about. When a conversation with friends that starts with “What are you doing tonight?” and “I don’t know, what are you doing?” ends with two friends and a bottle of wine on your patio.

I used oval-shaped eggplant slices in place of baguette slices to make this summer “bruschetta” a bit lighter (and gluten-free, if you’re into that kind of thing). I guess technically that makes it not bruschetta, but I don’t bother with technicalities on sunny summer weekends. If you’re unlike me and you’re getting hung up on the semantics, have another glass of wine and throw some quotation marks around the word “bruschetta.”

Eggplant Bruschetta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Fresh Chèvre

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Chinese eggplant
  • 2 small heirloom tomatoes (I used Green Zebra and a red-green variety I couldn’t identify)
  • 1 oz. fresh chèvre goat cheese (I used roasted red pepper)
  • 1 small handful of fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Slice the eggplant on a diagonal to make oval-shaped slices, about a 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Heat a grill pan, indoor counter top grill, or outdoor grill. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil, then grill for a few minutes on each side, until eggplant is tender and grill marks appear. Do not overcook or eggplant will get mushy; you want the slices to still be firm enough to hold the toppings.
  3. While eggplant is cooking, slice tomatoes. Stack and roll basil leaves, then slice into a chiffonade.
  4. Remove eggplant slices from grill and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  5. Spread each eggplant slice with chèvre, then top with a tomato slice and basil. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

So are you curious what we made with all of the rest of that produce? Here is last week’s meal plan. At the end of the week, when there is still produce left over, I chop it all and throw it in a stir-fry or on homemade pizza.

Breakfast: Blanchard’s Dark As Dark iced coffee, Peach Oatmeal Bars

Lunch: Mediterranean salad with baby greens, cucumber, tomato, olive, and hummus

Dinner:

Noodleless Zucchini Lasagna and baby greens salad

BBQ Tempeh, Green Beans Almondine, and Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Tomatillo Gazpacho with Fresh Corn Salad (recipe coming soon!) and Black Bean Quesadillas

Yukon Gold White Bean Basil Burgers and Roasted Yellow Summer Squash with Sage Pecan Pesto

 

What tasty seasonal recipes are on your meal plan for this week?

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Veg:ology Turns Two!

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Last month, Veg:ology turned two years old. Kyle, the Weber grill, and I celebrated with a backyard bash at our new home. It was a star studded event, featuring several local celebrities who were able to make the short trip from the farmers’ market to our house:

  • Excellent Eggplant
  • Zany Zucchini
  • Heirloom Tomato
  • Beautiful Basil

We entertained them with fun facts about the growth of Veg:ology, the little vegetarian cooking blog that could. Some things haven’t changed much since year one. Zucchini is still one of the top search terms that lead people to the blog.

Top 3 Search Terms

  1. Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
  2. Vegology
  3. Zucchini

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Cupcakes have taken over the top spot from my beloved zucchini. I think we all know what needs to happen next. Zucchini cupcakes, anyone?

The most viewed post on Veg:ology is Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache. (Warning: these are seriously addictive.)

The most popular advice post is How to Save a Crumbled Cake. (I still owe this girl a proper birthday cake… maybe next year.)

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Our honored guests roasted in the hot sun while I reviewed some pretty major events that occurred over the last year.

We moved to VegologyBlog.com.

We joined Facebook.

We attended our first blogger conference:

We had our first food photo published in National Geographic Traveler (iPad edition).

We joined Eating Richmond and Virginia is for Bloggers.

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While sipping my celebratory glass of old vine zinfandel, I realized that my favorite part of cooking out is drinking and waiting. There is a whole lot of waiting involved in grilling, and who could resist a nice beverage while he or she waits? Grilling is not just a man’s sport; women can play too! With wine!

After my revelation, I wrapped up the sentimental bit of our trip down memory lane, and then removed the eggplant and zucchini from the grill for plating.

I don’t always eat my dinner guests, but when I do, I prefer to grill and stack them.

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In lieu of a birthday cake, we had vegetable napoleons. I couldn’t imagine a more festive way to mark the occasion. Thank you to all the friends and family of Vegology who read, comment, cook, and share their experiences here. I have learned so much from the food blogging community, and the support I have gotten from other bloggers and from readers has been incredible. I wish I had more to give you to express my gratitude; for now, this recipe will have to do. Enjoy!

Grilled Vegetable Napoleons

Serves 4

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 – 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed (Great Northern, or Cannelini if you’re fancy)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided (see directions for measurements)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1 cup basil leaves, divided
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Heat the grill.
  2. Brush both sides of each slice of eggplant and zucchini with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. When grill is ready, arrange the eggplant and zucchini slices directly on the grates. Grill until grill marks appear and vegetables appear cooked throughout, about 5 minutes per side on a charcoal grill, then remove.
  4. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil, white beans, and garlic to the pan. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, then over low heat for 15 minutes, then remove from heat.
  5. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over low heat. Chop 1/2 cup basil leaves then add to pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes, then cool and transfer to a food processer. Coarsely chop, then drain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Set basil oil aside.
  6. When the white beans are done cooking, transfer to a food processer. Add 3 Tbsp olive oil, 3 Tbsp water, and the lemon juice and oregano. Puree until smooth then add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. On a round plate, add 1/4 of the white bean puree. On top of the puree, build the following layers, in order: tomato, eggplant, mozzarella, zucchini, 2 leaves basil, then repeat. There should be enough to make 4 plates.
  8. Put a toothpick or skewer through the center of the stack to hold in place. Insert a rosemary skewer next to the toothpick and through the stack from the top to the bottom.
  9. Drizzle each stack with basil oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

SOJ Chef Demo 06.23.12

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This week the South of the James market saw the beginning of another seasonal change. We are just starting to see more of the vegetables that most people associate with summer. On the farmers’ tables this week, I saw the first piles of corn, a greater variety of peppers, and some green tomatoes with a few red ones mixed in. I feel that we are about to turn a corner, and around that corner is an abundance of tomatoes, eggplant, corn, and zucchini.

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However, the weekly cooking demo is all about appreciating what we have now, rather than what we have to look forward to in the future. What can we do this week with the produce we have now? How do we resist the temptation to pick up next month’s Virginia produce a few weeks early – produce that was grown by a farmer located 3,000 miles away, and shipped to our neighborhood grocery store?

We learn to love green tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and fresh herbs. That’s what we do.

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Inspired by the season, Chef Sam “Rude Boy” Baker created a green tomato salad made with gorgeous green tomatoes from Norma’s Produce, cucumber, purple carrots, lemon basil, garlic, herbs de Provence, sea salt and black pepper, and dressed with apple cider vinegar. These ingredients are delicious and easy to love.

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Alongside the green tomato salad, Chef Sam served pan seared dry scallops from Barham Seafood. The Chef explained to the audience why dry scallops are worth the extra cash, as he seasoned the scallops with sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. He prepared seared eggplant the same way, for the vegetarians in the house. I had never seen eggplant as a vegetarian stand-in for scallops before, but it seemed to work.

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The Veg of the Week was eggplant, a vegetable that started popping up at several farmers’ stalls this week. I think that most people associate eggplant with Eggplant Parmigiana or Ratatouille. The Chef set out to show people that there are plenty of things you can do with eggplant and basil before the tomatoes ripen.

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Eggplant from Norma’s Produce and Amy’s Garden played well with Tuscan kale and lemon basil from Victory Farms in many of the dishes this week.

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For the second round of the demonstration, the Chef did a stir fry two ways: one vegetarian version and one with scallops and fish sauce. He fried some kale chiffonade in a pan with oil and fish sauce and sampled the kale to curious passersby. Most people had not used fish sauce in their homes so Chef Sam answered a lot of questions about this mysterious ingredient.

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The spicy stir fry included purple and white eggplant, white onion, mushrooms, green tomatoes, sweet peppers, Thai chili peppers, Tuscan kale, sorrel and basil. The second version differed from the first by the addition of seared scallops and fish sauce for flavor. The Chef explained that a stir fry can be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand, during any season, and he urged home cooks to get creative in the kitchen with their favorite vegetables.

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Then came the curve ball.

The final dish for the demonstration showed some real creativity, inspired by a shortage of forks at the demo tent following several rounds of samples. When we ran out of forks and were left with only skewers and toothpicks, the Chef had to come up with an interesting way to prepare the remaining pile of produce for his last challenge. I suggested that we sauté the veggies and roll them up in the kale leaves for a vegan and vegetarian finger food. Locally famous for his North Carolina Tamales, which utilize steamed collard greens in place of the traditional corn husk, The Chef agreed to give it a try.

These kale rollups featured eggplant, mushrooms, green tomatoes, lemon basil and Thai chilies, seasoned with rice wine vinegar and sea salt, wrapped in a steamed Tuscan kale leaf and pierced with a toothpick.

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In the ultimate challenge of working with what you have (and not with what you don’t have), he pulled off a healthy and delicious finger food that highlighted the flavors of the season.

Thanks to Amy’s Garden, Barham Seafood, HaaShrooms, Norma’s Produce, Phal Vong, Victory Farms, Village Garden, Walnut Hill Farm Produce and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.