Cranberry Salsa

I’m always thankful for simple, easy dishes that please everyone!  Several years back I made this salsa on a whim to add another appetizer for Thanksgiving.  I thought I’d throw in one more little something that didn’t require a lot of time or effort to prepare.  And imagine that, the most simple of the appetizers became the hit!  Over and over again I was asked for the recipe and requested to bring it for holiday parties. Continue reading “Cranberry Salsa”

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Pecans and Parmesan

Ever since roasting or braising of brussels sprouts became popular, this veggie has gained a lot of attention.  Prior to it being boiled (to death) these little balls of mini cabbage were not pleasantly taken to.  They certainly have earned their place on the table now, especially when prepared with pancetta or bacon, seared to a golden crust and topped with toasted nuts and a soft melting cheese.

When selecting your brussels sprouts always look for tightly closed sprouts.  I prefer those on the smaller size as cut in half they cook quickly becoming tender on the inside as well.   I find that the larger ones do have a tendency to be bitter but if only larger sprouts are available, I will cut those in quarters.  I vary my preparation year to year depending on whether or not my oven has room to roast them or use the stove top for quick sauté and braising.  Sometimes I’ll use a stronger cheese to top them like gorgonzola or smoky Gouda but with my menu this year, I’ve opted to use shaves of parmesan that will lightly flavor and soften.

They are best served hot.  To prep ahead for this dish I’ll have my nuts toasted ahead of time and set aside.  The brussels sprouts can be trimmed and lightly drizzled with olive oil and kept in the refrigerator until needed.  On a side note, I’m always excited to learn new things.  If you happen to grow your own brussels sprouts, David at The Gastronomic Gardener braises the large leaves as greens.  Talk about using every part of the plant!

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Pecans and Parmesan 

¼ cup diced pancetta

2 lbs. fresh Brussels sprouts, stem cut off and trimmed of outer leaves

2 medium shallots, chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup turkey stock or low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Shaved Parmesan Cheese

In a large skillet, sauté the pancetta until crisp over medium heat.  Remove and set aside.  Add in the Brussels sprouts and allow to sauté until golden before turning.  Do not cook over high heat to avoid burning.  If pancetta did not release enough fat, add a bit of olive oil.   Add in the shallots and garlic and continue to cook a few minutes until the shallots are soft.  Pour in the turkey stock and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes or until a knife inserted in the sprout feels tender.  Finish by adding in the 2 tablespoons of butter and the pancetta.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove to a warmed bowl and top with the toasted pecans.  Serves 8-10.

These brussels sprouts are part of my Thanksgiving Countdown.  If you’d like to share your favorite veggie recipes for Thanksgiving, please use Linky Tools below.

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Eggplant Meatballs…and an Award!

I almost titled this Award Winning Eggplant Meatballs but aside from the fact that they do taste awesome, the award was not presented to me because of my meatballs.  John from the Bartolini Kitchens hasn’t tasted my meatballs but did think enough of my blog to include me in his five pics to forward on the Liebster Award!   While I cook mostly Italian and recipes from my mother, John has the real deal, Italian family recipes that always bring back so many memories to me!  Reading his posts on his family and traditions brings a smile to my face and that month of ice cream making had me wishing I was his neighbor!!

I was a bit intrigued on what this Liebster Award was about and googling it I found out that it orginated in German.  It was designed to bring recognition to those that are nominated and I’m assuming as the word means “beloved” that those blogs selected are loved by their readers!   At least that’s where I’m going on this when I select those blogs I love.  But then again, that’s not going to be easy as I do love reading
so many and if I don’t list your blog, it’s not that I don’t love you!!! Just that I can only pick 5!!

So, here are my five and I could certainly pick so many more…

Sweet and Crumbly

Rufus’ Food and Spirit Guide 

Tales of Ambrosia

Smart Food and Fit

Ginger Coutier

And, now here’s the eggplant meatballs that are winners in my home!  Roasted eggplant, garlic, bread crumbs and parsley processed together to form the most moist and tender meatballs!  Calling these “meat” balls is misleading but it gets the point across as to what this is.  I’ll never give up my traditional meatballs, but when I’m looking for a vegetarian version this is my go to choice.  Instead of using the breadcrumbs, pureed cannellini beans can be substituted.

Eggplant MeatBalls

1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 roasted garlic

1 egg, beaten

1/4 – 1/3 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil

Marinara Sauce for serving

Place the eggplant cubes in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes.  Rinse and pat dry.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix the eggplant cubes with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast the eggplant on a large baking sheet for about 30-40 minutes or until lightly brown and creamy.  Remove and refrigerate overnight  if desired or proceed with the recipe.  Combine the eggplant and remaining ingredients (except Marinara Sauce in a food processor and lightly process allowing the mixture to be creamy but still slightly thick.  Shape into a golf ball size.  They can be either fried or
baked.  I prefer to bake on a rack lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, turning once.  They should brown slightly but remain creamy inside.  Serve with marinara sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Makes about 12, depending on size.

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Pine Nuts

Friday night pizzas have been a long time tradition for my family.  And the funny thing is regardless if anyone is even going to be around to eat the pizza, I continue to come home from work and prepare one!  It’s so routine for me, as a relaxing finale to my work week.  With a glass of wine in hand and my dough has been prepared the day before; my pizza comes together within an hour.   It will be there for my son at any time and leftover slices for lunch over the weekend.  

My son is strictly a meat lover; pepperoni or sausage and frowns and picks off anything other than that!  I, of course, love to experiment and make different types.  While I grew up on the Sicilian thick pizza which my mother made in large rectangular baking sheets, I prefer a thinner crust pizza.  Grilled pizzas are a summer favorite I adore having that extra crispy grilled crust!  But mostly my oven does its magic, using a pizza stone at times, or simply this fantastic pizza screen which is basically a mesh surface that has little barrier for heat, like using nothing at all so the pizza cooks faster than in a pan.  

This veggie topping of roasted cauliflower is first slightly roasted in the oven to soften the cauliflower and then finish roasting on the pizza.  I’ve added in pancetta at times and varied the final topping of fresh herbs from parsley to sage to rosemary.  It’s not an overly cheese pizza, the pine nuts and bread crumbs add a tang and crunch to the pizza.  For a bit of spice, I like to add in crushed red pepper or a drizzle of hot sauce; but that’s just me and my spicy habit.

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Pine Nuts

For the roasted cauliflower and garlic:

1 Cauliflower head, cut into florets – about 2 cups of roasted florets are needed per pizza

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 whole garlic, cut in half (should roast quicker cut directly in half)

For the bread crumb topping:

2 tablespoons pine nuts

¼ cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the pizza:

Pizza Dough – see recipe below

2 cups fontina or mozzarella cheese, grated

2-3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley, or rosemary or sage

Optional topping of 1/3 cup chopped pitted green olives

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place the cauliflower florets on a large baking sheet, drizzle over the oil and salt and pepper.  Place the garlic halves cut side down on the sheet.  Roast for 25 minutes, until lightly browned and soft but still crisp as the cauliflower will continue to roast when baking the pizza.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, oregano, parmesan cheese and olive oil mixing together well.  To make the pizza, layer the pizza dough with the Fontina or Mozzarella cheese, then the cauliflower florets.  Squeeze the roasted garlic bulbs around the pizza and top with the bread crumb mixture.  Place in oven and roast until golden brown approximately 10-17 minutes depending on the heat of the oven.  Remove from oven and sprinkle on fresh herbs. 

Pizza Dough

1 envelope dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons / ¼ oz)

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 cup warm water (110 degrees)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

3 cups flour (I have used all purpose white flour, whole wheat white flour, or bread flour or a mix!)

2 tablespoons olive oil (basil or rosemary flavored if available)

Cornmeal or semolina as needed

Using a stand up mixer with dough attachment, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water.  Yeast should begin to foam which means it is “alive”.  Should the yeast not begin to foam, toss and begin again as the yeast is not “alive” to proof.  (Make sure the temperature of the water is also not too hot or too cold as this will affect the yeast as well.)  Mix in 2 cups of flour, salt and olive oil.  Knead with the dough attachment for about 5 minutes while slowly adding in the remaining one cup of flour.  Mix for another few minutes as the dough becomes smooth and elastic.    Remove the dough from the mixer and form into a ball with your hands on a floured surface.  Coat with oil and place in a large bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.  If using quick rise yeast, the dough will rise in about 1 hour.  At this point, I normally place the dough in the refrigerator overnight and bring out the next day to rise for 2 hours.  I find that the texture is better when refrigerated overnight as well as finding it easier making pizzas when I prepare the dough ahead of time. 

Preheat oven to 425 – 450 degrees.  If using a pizza peel to slide the pizza into a baking stone, place the baking stone on the bottom rack now to heat at least 15 minutes.  When dough has risen, punch down and let dough rest 10 minutes.  Flatten dough and gently stretching and pulling into shape.  If dough is resistant, wait 5 minutes and begin again.  If using a pizza peel, lightly dust the peel with semolina or cornmeal and place the pizza on the peel.  If not using a peel, place pizza on a lightly oiled pizza pan or pizza screen.   Brush edges with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal (optional).  Add toppings.  Place in oven and bake for approximately 10-17 minutes – depending on the heat of your oven and thickness of your pizza.  Remove and allow to cool at least 5 minutes before cutting.

* When making 2 pizzas, I increase the flour to 4 cups, the water to 1 ½ cups, salt to 1 ½ teaspoons and olive oil to 2 ½ tablespoons.  I do not increase the sugar.  After the dough has risen, divide the dough into two and proceed as above.

Fresh Tomato and Basil Spaghetti with Ricotta Salata

If I told you I make this at least once a week through the summer months, would you think I was kidding?  I kid you not.  This to me is summer on a plate.  My memories of garden fresh tomato salads simply dressed with basil, salt, pepper and olive oil and served with fresh baked Italian bread for mopping up the juices brought me to this simple pasta dish.  I cannot imagine this any fresher tasting, unless I made the pasta myself.

I’ve seen many versions of this dish; Maris (In Good Taste) recently did a similar no cook pasta sauce, and I’ve seen cheeses ranging from feta to parmesan to mozzarella.  I prefer to use ricotta salata as the taste is very gentle and mild and does not distract from the aromatic fresh tomatoes.   Recently I have switched to corn spaghetti instead of semolina or wheat.  The corn spaghetti works amazingly well as it layers another dimension of flavor to this dish.  Think of a fresh tasting corn, tomato, scallion and basil salad!

When I find a variety of heirloom yellow, orange and red tomatoes, the dish really pops with flavor and color!  I prefer to not remove the tomato seeds as I don’t mind the appearance of the seeds and I like to have as much juice as possible in this “sauce”.  A truly light, great tasting olive oil also works best since the olive oil’s flavor is not heated or altered in any way.   The tomatoes are only marinated for about an hour; just enough time for me to change out of my work clothes, play with my pups, pour a glass of wine and get the pot of water boiling for the pasta.  In that one hour, the flavors marry, the salt brings out more juice, the basil remains bright and a perfect fresh sauce is ready.

The “recipe” should be prepared based on the quantity to serve as this is not a dish that stands up well for leftovers.  Therefore, based on appetite and guests, roughly chop up the tomatoes (about 2 small, 1 cup per person), seeds and all, season with chopped fresh basil, thinly sliced scallion (white part and just a bit of green), minced garlic (optional for raw garlic lovers), Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Drizzle on great tasting light olive oil and allow to marry and marinate for at least one hour, but no longer than 2, at room temperature.  Pour the marinated tomatoes over just cooked al dente corn spaghetti, sprinkle on crumbled ricotta salata, adjust to taste with a finishing of freshly ground pepper, sea salt and a light drizzle of olive oil!

Leaning Tower of Eggplant

I’m a big fan of the caprese salad in every way it’s presented.  From uniform overlapping slices or stacked like an Italian flag, to a jumble of tiny mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes or roughly rustic chopped.  Summer is the perfectly ripe time for this salad and I could truly enjoy a simple caprese salad with a chunk of ciabatta bread for dinner any night!  But when I’m looking for a bit more; it’s this tower of crispy, melting, cheesy delight I go for!

Eggplants are always in my grocery basket.  Usually I have no specific plan for their use while also knowing they will find their way into something within the next few days!  Lately, I’ve been obsessed over making them into eggplant fries, which I now totally prefer over zucchini fries hands down!  Following the similar method of roasting the egg white/breaded eggplant slices instead of frying; the slices are then topped with a slice of tomato and mozzarella.  A drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar is drizzled over and served warm; totally a melt-in-your-mouth explosion of flavor!

Just recently Chicaandaluza posted her eggplant stack layered with marinara.  This too is a great idea; check it out also!

Roasted Eggplant Caprese Tower

1-2 eggplants (depending on amount to be served)

1 egg white (or 2 depending on amount of eggplant)

½ cup panko/bread crumbs (or more)

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon dried oregano or basil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Olive oil for drizzling

1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cut in ¼ inch slices

1-2 tomatoes (size to match the eggplant), cut in ¼ inch slices

Fresh basil leaves, enough for each slice

¼ cup Balsamic vinegar (see below to reduce to a glaze)

Slice eggplants about ½ in thick and layer with salt on a plate for 1 hour.  Drain well and press down to release any liquid.  Preheat oven to 420 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet with a rack on top.  Spray the rack well with cooking spray.  Beat egg white well in one bowl, in another mix the bread crumbs, cheese, dried herbs, salt and pepper.  Dip eggplant slices in the egg white and then in bread crumb mix.  Place on prepared rack over the baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Turn the eggplant, top with a slice of tomato, basil leaf and a slice of mozzarella.  Return to the oven and roast an additional 10-15 minutes or until cheese has begun to slightly brown and soft.  Remove from oven and stack.  Drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve.

Balsamic Glaze:  In a small saucepan, gently simmer the balsamic vinegar until reduced by 2/3.  Cool and set aside until needed.

Grilled Polenta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

The versatility of polenta is endless and why it ends up in so many of my dishes.  Made creamy and soft, it’s a wonderful side to meat or fish, swirling in different herbs, cheeses or veggies to compliment the dish, or as a “pasta” base for topping ratatouille.  Made firm, polenta can be easily substituted for bread and as an appetizer crostini topped with a tapenade.

I really do keep a simple pantry.  My condiments are fairly basic and I can be creative with a variety of oils, vinegars, herbs, salts and spices.  In other posts it may have appeared that “you name it, I have it”, but no, not so!  It’s like gadgets in the kitchen; I keep those to a bare minimum!  Because I cook fairly Mediterranean style my pantry holds just that.  I always keep cornmeal in bulk (no, not an overload, but just enough) for polenta, or as a thickener for soups or stews and in breading and baking.

Preparing the polenta the day before and grilling the next day, I served a light dinner of Italian sausages with peppers and onions, pared with the grilled polenta.  Easy and yummy!

Grilled Polenta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

3 cups boiling water (or water and chicken or veggie broth), adding additional liquid as needed

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1 zucchini, grated and squeezed dry

2 oz goat cheese

Olive oil for grilling

To prepare the polenta:  Simmer water in the bottom pan of a double boiler.  Add 3 cups boiling water to the top pan.  If not using the double boiler, use a large saucepan bring the 3 cups of liquid to a boil.  Add the salt and slowly whisk in the polenta, pouring the polenta like “rain” to prevent any clumping.   Reduce to low and continue to cook and, switching to a wooden spoon, stir occasionally on a double boiler, more frequently in a saucepan for about 45 minutes.  The polenta should be soft and creamy, pulling away from the bottom.  If the polenta appears to cook too fast or less creamy, add in small amounts of hot water or broth.

Meanwhile, sauté the shredded zucchini in a heated skillet with olive oil until lightly cooked.  Remove from heat and set aside.   When the polenta is done, stir in the sautéed zucchini and goat cheese.   Pour into a greased 13 x 9 pan, spreading evenly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

To grill the polenta:  Heat a clean grill or indoor grill pan, lightly brushing with oil.  Cut the polenta into squares or desired shapes and lightly brush with oil to prevent sticking.  Grill until light marks appear, turn and grill other side.  Plate and serve!

Eggplant Fries with Spicy Mayo

On the morning of the arrival of my weekend guests, I ran out to my favorite Italian market and stocked my frig, that is two refrigerators, with plenty of fresh fruit, veggies, meats and fish for grilling, appetizers and morning breakfasts.  I had my thoughts for what I would serve but I also knew that being in the kitchen with Ayesha we would pull the “ingredients” and come up with lots of combined ideas.  And that is exactly how the weekend played out!

On Friday we took the boys to the beach.  It was really a weekend for the little guys to experience Florida; the blue skies, sunshine, sand and ocean.  For lunch that day we ordered zucchini fries.  And here is where the story begins.  I see the fries.  Kinda greasy, overpriced, but tasty.  I think… I’ve done these many times, I’ve got zucchini at home, I’m adding this to one of our grilling meals.  I make the zucchini fries, Ayesha makes up a spicy mayo dipping sauce.  We absolutely love it!  Crispy from the oven, not greasy and the sauce she made was perfect with just enough heat!

The next day we are still talking about the zucchini fries, but we are all out of zucchini.   I mention we have an eggplant but never made eggplant into fries.  I think it might not be a good idea… and then I change my mind.  And, OMG, I’m so glad we tried it out!  The eggplant fries were meatier, crisped up on the outside and tender on the inside.  Totally not bitter and we did not salt them beforehand.

We served the Eggplant Fries with grilled Florentine Veal Burgers that I adapt from my Florentine Veal Loaf recipe.  Basically I use the same ingredients from the meatloaf but omit the ricotta cheese.  The meatloaf and the burgers always turn out juicy and flavorful!  Though I didn’t take food photos of the entire weekend; we had the Grilled Tuna Salad with Roasted Peppers and Zucchini, Grilled Pizzas, No-Fail Kale Caesar Salad, grilled t-bone steaks and grilled chicken sausage spirals and for breakfast one morning a trio of pancakes with rum syrup.  Thank you to Geni from Sweet and Crumbly for the inspiration on the trio idea.  I made a trio of granola, chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes, topping the “adult” pancakes with her rum syrup!

In addition there were (soon to be posted) Jello shots, key-lime ice cream bites, a secretly filled cookie jar and probably a few others I’m forgetting… weekends just go by too quickly!

Eggplant Fries with Spicy Mayo

For the eggplant fries:

1 large firm eggplant, peeled and cut in half, then in slices and then into sticks

2-3 egg whites

2 cup mix of seasoned Italian bread crumbs and Panko

¼ cup parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Olive oil to drizzle over eggplant

For the spicy mayo:

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce

Prepare a baking sheet with a rack on top.  This allows the “fries” to bake all around and not get soggy.  Preheat oven to 420 degrees. 

In a medium size bowl, mix together the bread crumb/panko mix, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Rather than dip each “fry” into egg white then bread crumbs, I place all eggplant fries into a large bowl and pour over egg whites mixing gently.  Using my hands I grab a few sticks and drop them into the bread crumb mix bowl and gently coat each “fry”.  Place the eggplant evenly onto the rack, close but not overlapping.  Lightly drizzle olive oil over the eggplant.  Bake for 20 minutes, turn the “fries” and bake until crisp about another 10 minutes.  For extra crispiness, turn on the broiler for just a few minutes, about 2 minutes.

For the dipping sauce:  combine the mayonnaise and sriracha sauce and mix well.  Adjust spiciness to individual taste.

Black Bean and Mango Salad

I live in an area that was once very rural; known for cattle raising and horse ranching.  While the rural feel is becoming a bit more urban as developers have changed the landscape of the community, it still has the status of a “western” town.  Riding my bike through the back roads, old farmhouses with broken fencing and overgrown land mix in with newly built homes.  Grazing horses can be seen in yards and occasional riders on horseback trot along the road.   

The mango trees are full of ripe fruit and I can smell the sweetness as I pass by.  Some trees are so loaded with fruit that many have fallen before their owners can collect them all.  I’m so tempted to save a few from their rotting future, but I keep peddling by because although I do not have my own mango tree, I am very lucky to have some coworkers that do!

Salads are my summer meals especially those that can be prepared ahead of time and keep for a day or two.  Using canned black beans makes this really quick and easy.  The mango flavoring is in the salad and in the dressing.  I served this along with grilled tuna, but it is great on its own for lunch.

Black Bean, and Mango Salad

Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Boy Meets Grill

2 14 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained

2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 scallions, thinly sliced including the green

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and chopped

1 large tomato, seeded and diced

Mango Dressing, below

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the beans, garlic, scallions and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Toss with the mango dressing and season with salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.  Serves 4.

Mango Dressing:

1 mango, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the mango, lime juice, garlic, onion, ciltantro and cumin in a blender and blend until smooth.  With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper.  Can be refrigerated for 1 day, serve at room temperature.  Makes more than enough for the salad above.

Grilled Eggplant, Fontina,Tomato and Arugula…Sandwich?

With the burger grilling season upon us I like to include some grilled veggie options for my veggie loving friends.  I find it hard to call it a grilled “sandwich”.  The eggplant slices do function as the “bread” but it’s not a “sandwich” you’d want to hold in your hands to eat.  Okay, maybe, if you don’t mind getting a bit messy.  But then again, if Bobby Flay refers to this as a “sandwich”, then by all means, it is a sandwich!

I have followed his recipe using goat cheese and basil oil  but this time I made it with fontina cheese and sage.  It’s quite versatile and I find myself returning to this recipe often switching around the cheeses and herbs.  When I have used a smaller, thinner eggplant, the stacks are more appetizer-like though I will serve this as a side, an appetizer or an entrée’.   It’s wonderful served warm but just as good room temperature.

 Grilled Eggplant, Fontina, Tomato and Arugula Sandwich

Adapted from Bobby Flay, Boy Meets Grill

For the herb oil:

½ cup olive oil

½ cup chopped fresh sage or fresh basil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the eggplant sandwiches (for 8 sandwiches):

2 medium eggplants, cut crosswise into ¼ – ½ inch slices, 16 slices

2 tomatoes cut into ¼ inch slices, 8 slices

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

8 ounces fontina cheese, thinly sliced


1/4 cup packed fresh sage or fresh basil, chopped or chiffonade the basil

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For the herb oil:  Combine the olive oil and herbs in a food processor, season with salt and pepper.  Process until pureed, about 5 minutes.

For the sandwiches:  Combine the olive oil and garlic in a large bowl or ziplock baggie.  Add the eggplant and allow to marinate for 1 hour, refrigerated.

Preheat grill or grill pan to high.  Remove eggplant from marinade and shake off any excess.  Season with salt and pepper, grill until golden brown and cooked through about 3 minutes per side.  Place 8 eggplant slices on a work surface.  Top with a slice of tomato, slice of cheese and a few arugula leaves.  Cover with the remaining eggplant slices.  Place on grill until cheese has softened about 1 minute.  Arrange on a platter and drizzle with the herb oil and sprinkle on fresh chopped herbs.