Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Feta

Eggplant is perfect for the grill - nice big slices don't have much risk of falling through the grates for one thing. It cooks quickly and pairs very nicely with fire-roasted tomatoes, an Italian dressing with roasted red peppers in it and tomato and basil flavored feta cheese for an easy warm side that pairs well with grilled chicken or can be served on toasts like caponata.

The key to cooking eggplant is salting it and letting it stand, sprinkled liberally with sea salt, for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it WELL and then cooking it. The salt will cause small beads of brown liquid to form on the surface of the slices; it's that liquid that can make eggplant bitter! After rinsing, blot the slices dry and continue as below.
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 5-8 plum tomatoes, depending on size
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, flavored or plain
  • 1/3 cup Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing or other Italian salad dressing
Slice the plum tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds and liquid from the inside. Place the halved tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and pepper and garlic powder to taste. Set aside.

Slice the eggplant into rounds, salt, rinse and blot dry as described above. Brush the slices with a little olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper to taste.

Prepare a grill to medium heat, about 250 degrees. Grill the eggplant and tomato halves until lightly blackened and the eggplant is tender, about 5 minutes a side - do not grill the eggplant directly over hot coals - it WILL burn! Let cool slightly and chop the eggplant into roughly bite-size pieces. Place in a bowl.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the eggplant. Add salad dressing and feta. Toss to combine. Let stand a few minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Note: I grilled the eggplant directly on the grill grates but used a basket for the tomatoes. It isn't necessary, but it did make the job MUCH easier when they got really soft and done!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mustard Herb Char Grilled Vegetables

I made these for dinner Sunday night and they were really good. I just bought a grilling basket and wanted to try it out - this is the perfect way to use it! Be sure to cut the vegetables in big pieces so they don't fall through the basket.

I made my own vinaigrette-style marinade for the veggies, but any oil and vinegar type salad dressing could work: Italian, a pesto dressing, raspberry vinaigrette - even pesto thinned out with olive oil and white wine vinegar would work. Just don't use anything creamy or really sugary like ranch dressing or honey mustard because they will burn too fast!

Zucchini, small red and yellow peppers split in half and halved cremini mushrooms were what looked good at Publix Saturday, but other vegetables would be great in this too, including asparagus (cut in pieces if desired), onions, eggplant, yellow squash and seeded, halved plum tomatoes.

For the marinade:
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each dried dill, rosemary and thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Whisk until well-combined.

Cut the zucchini in thick slices and halve those. Halve the mushrooms. Cut the peppers in large pieces. Toss together in a bowl with the marinade. Refrigerate if you are doing this several hours ahead; it can marinate at room temp for an hour or two. If it is refrigerated, take it out 30 minutes before grilling to come to room temperature.

Drain the vegetables and place in a grilling basket, on a perforated grill pan or in a foil packet with several slashes in the top and bottom. Grill over medium heat (gas grill) or over a prepared charcoal grill that is about 300 degrees for 15 minutes, turning occasionally. If desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese before serving.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Crockpot "Rotisserie" Chicken

This is sooooo easy to make and it's perfect for throwing together in the morning so you can come home to dinner already done. The recipe is truly only limited by your tastes and imagination. I've included the basic recipe here plus some variations that I've made. I have a crockpot that has a removeable insert, so I've put this together and refrigerated it the night before, then just put the insert back into the heating element before leaving for work.

Before assembling this, make four or five balls of aluminum foil about the size of your fist. Place those in the bottom of the crockpot. They will elevate the chicken so that the juices drain down and it "roasts" instead of boiling.
  • 1 3-4 pound whole chicken
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head of garlic, sliced in half across
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter
Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Trim excess fat from the tail or cavity areas if needed. Lift the skin over the breast and rub the meat under it with the butter. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the garlic and lemon; if it doesn't all fit, just put the rest into the crockpot. Set the chicken on top of the foil and cook over high heat for 4-6 hours or low heat for 8-10. When done, be very careful trying to remove the chicken from the crockpot - I've had them get so tender that the top comes completely off.

Also try these variations:

Mix 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning with the butter before rubbing it into the breast meat. Sprinkle the chicken with additional Cajun seasoning if desired. Keep the garlic, but skip the lemon.

Italian Salmoriglio
Instead of butter, rub the chicken with 1/4 cup olive oil combined with 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest and 2 teaspoons dried oregano, under and over the skin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff with lemon and garlic as in the basic recipe.

Combine 1/4 cup olive oil with 2 tablespoons of your favorite taco or fajita seasoning mix. Rub the chicken above and under the skin with that mixture. Stuff the cavity with a few cloves smashed garlic, 1/4 yellow onion and a small handful of fresh cilantro. If you like it spicy, add a coarsely chopped fresh jalapeno pepper!