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Eggplant Caprese Sandwich

Eggplant Caprese Sandwich

I recently returned from a mini road trip exploring the beautiful west coast –> Colorado –> Arizona –> Nevada. The adventure was refreshing, filled with mountainous hikes, breathtaking views, wildflowers, and good times with good company. There’s not much more you can ask for from a trip, right?

The journey was also filled with lots of peanut butter & banana sandwiches, whether from the backseat of the car, the peak of a mountain, or on a flat rock sitting at the base while soaking in that crisp, high altitude air. I consumed my weight in bananas and peanut butter, and while I was sad to leave vacation behind, I welcomed with open arms the garden full of tomatoes that welcomed me back home. (Ironically, just two days after landing I found myself eating another PB&B while picnicking at a music festival…I will now be swearing them off for awhile. Tomato sammies from here on out, please.)

With those garden reds, I’ve been whipping up all the summer classics, like tomato and basil salads, fresh salsas, garden omelettes, and caprese sandwiches like the one above. Can you believe that photo was snapped with none other than an iPhone? Just goes to show, tomatoes are so beautiful on their own that they don’t need any fancy equipment or styling to shine. Or to make your stomach rumble. Fresh ingredients make for easy summer culinary dreams, so fortunately the recipe to craft this sandwich is equally as simple as the photo portraying it.

I’ll leave it at that with the recipe to follow, along with a few film and digital snapshots from the trip. Cheers!

Eggplant Caprese Sandwich

Yield: Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 med.-lg. eggplant, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 2 lg. ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • Fresh basil, handful
  • Fresh oregano, handful (optional, but recommended)
  • 5 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh Parmesan, to grate on top
  • 6 slices of crusty whole grain bread, toasted
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, to season
  • Chili oil, to drizzle (Sample recipe)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Layer eggplant slices on top, and toss with olive oil to lightly coat. Scatter garlic pieces across the eggplant, pressing them into the flesh. Sprinkle salt around the pan to season.
  2. Bake 12 minutes, then flip. When you return the eggplant to the oven, line another baking sheet, and place tomatoes on top. Put in the oven with the eggplant, and cook another 5-8 minutes, or until eggplant are tender. Remove both sheets from the oven.
  3. Drizzle toasted bread with chili oil. While still hot, layer eggplant and tomato on top of 3 of the slices, and add mozzarella to melt. Scatter fresh basil and oregano, and freshly grated parmesan. Place remaining 3 pieces of bread on top to complete the sandwich. Enjoy.
http://foodfitnessfreshair.com/2015/07/26/eggplant-caprese-sandwich/

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Spring Nicoise Salad

Spring Nicoise Salad

Spring is made for salads, especially those tossed with asparagus fresh from the farm. Nothing beats a topping of crisp radishes, too, to compliment the butteriness of the season’s lettuce.

Spring Nicoise Salad

This season – which I long to never part – let’s us rethink our salad bowl – which I love. Love. Love. With it, it brings endless light options for lunch that would be a disgrace to label as boring.

Salad can be fun. And this one more than proves that to be so.

Spring Nicoise Salad

Here, asparagus takes the place of the green beans in a classic Nicoise salad. Aside from that, the make-up is pretty straight forward. Hardboiled eggs? Check. Tuna? Check. Thinly sliced onion? Check. Radishes? Check.

For the asparagus, a simple steam actually works well with this salad, given the complexity of the other flavors. However, if roasted spears are your absolute fav., by all means, get the oven going and go for it.

SpringIf you want to get fancy, you could sear some fresh tuna instead and add it on top. Or reserve that fanciness for the olives and bread you may wish to serve alongside this.

Bright, light and easy to assemble, this is spring at its best.  Cheers.

Spring Nicoise Salad

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Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Sometimes, nothing is more beautiful than a simple bowl of pasta.

It’s when I’m really hungry that these words couldn’t feel more true, and this time of year, that means after a long, hot summer run. After one of those, first I want watermelon. And then I want pasta.

Summertime (er, late springtime). It feels so good.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

When the weather is nice, I spend a ton of time outside. More often than not, that means after work, I’m out strolling, cycling, running, or just hanging around until the sun just sets. I could be with my friends. I could be by myself. It doesn’t matter – when it’s warm out, I’m out. And I’m loving every minute of it.

However, this often leaves me locking up my bike at the end of the evening and heading inside with a sudden realization of hunger, and the urge to eat ASAP. Anyone else turn into a monster on occasion, too?

If so, you know that’s when simple recipes like this prove themselves to be rather handy.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

Here, a quick saute of some onions, squash and spinach create a light and easy sauce for a meal you can make in under 30 minutes. It’s filling, yet not in the kind of way that will weigh you down on a balmy summer night, and is spruced up with parsley to make it feel extra fresh.

Simple Pasta with Summer Squash and Spinach

I don’t cook with a butter a lot, but I find that adding a Tbsp. to this enhances the inherent butteriness of yellow summer squash. Feel free to use all olive oil if that’s your preference. However, a little browned butter goes a long way to enrich the sauce, and pairs well with the lemony tones of the parsley.

Also, be sure to stick with angel hair or spaghettini when choosing your whole wheat pasta. While this sauce is certainly flavorful, it’s delicate, so to truly experience all of its nuances, a thinner pasta works best.

Pasta_SummerSquash_blog

Pair this with a side salad, and a cold beverage of your choice, and you create a no-fuss summer meal for any night of the week.

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Crispy Brown Rice Cakes with Avocado and Egg

Crispy Brown Rice Cakes with Avocado and Egg

April showers bring May flowers. And rainy rides to work.

Thank god for rain pants, otherwise I would’ve been one soaking mess at the office today. I hate driving, and I hate the majority of Philly’s public transit systems. So unless there’s some kind of lightning zombie apocalypse, you can generally catch me on my bike if I’ve got places to be.

If this sounds like you – invest in some rain pants. I’ve been borrowing a friend’s this week, and they are a savior. You could say they’re kind of like meals like this – good to keep around for when you need to be somewhere quick but still want to treat yourself well.

Okay, so maybe that rain pant / crispy brown rice cake comparison is a bit of a stretch. But both have served me well this past week. Hence, here I am, laying out a thank you to each on my blog today. So be it. I’ll blame the weather on this rambling blog post, if need be.

Let’s cut to the chase. There is certainly no debate around whether or not a ripe avocado is a savior in all lunchtime situations. It is, it is, it is. And if you’ve got brown rice cooked and stored in your fridge, you can use it to turn a breakfast-like combo into an interesting meal like this in no time.

Not dissimilar to avocado toast, this simply swaps the bread for crispy, wholesome rice used as a base and spiced as you desire. Feel free to play around with the toppings, or keep it simple like this. Following April showers, serve with an obligatory side of flowers.

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Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

In the summer, elaborate recipe creations rarely take place in my kitchen. Really, those fancy, multi-hour-long cooking sessions don’t happen with frequency during any time of the year. (What can I say, other than that I’ve got an impatient stomach and an endless list of hobbies to keep in mind. Both apply not only to summer, but spring, fall and winter too…)

However, its summertime when 3-ingredient meals reach their highest occurrence. Fruit, fruit and nuts  — breakfast is served. Tomatoes, mayo, bread — lunch, no stove needed. Dinner — dare I say repeat lunch? But don’t forget the bowl of peaches, blueberries and ice cream on the side. Or maybe a garden salad with tomatoes/cucumbers/red onion/steamed green beans/beets/carrots/goat cheese/walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. I know, that’s a lot more than 3-ingredients going into one bowl. But the three steps it takes to get them there — slice, drizzle and serve — and you might as well file it under the same suit. Simplicity at its best.

When garden-fresh ingredients are around, forget having them shaken or stirred, or even always heated. I want them straight-up. There’s no need for complex preparations. A tomato plucked straight from the vine has all the flavor you could ever wish for, and then some.

Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

If it were summer all year around, I’d have to pull a Rachael Ray. Maybe even out-do her by trimming away 20 minutes and starting my own “10-Minutes or Less” show. Of course that would be pretty boring. “Step one – Wash blueberries. Step two – Eat.”

Obviously I don’t survive off of single ingredients alone all summer long. But I do make a lot of easy dishes like tacos, sandwiches and stir-frys. The kind where all you have to do is put a bunch of veggies with some olive oil/simple marinade on a baking sheet and roast, or in a saute pan, do a quick cook, and let their flavors speak for themselves.

The recipe below is one of my favorites for when tomatoes are at their prime, and basil is up and growing. It elevates my favorite tomato-mayo combo to the next level with the simple addition of cheese and a quick press on a panini maker. Classic and simple, yet totally blog-worthy, considering I could eat this several times a week and still never get bored.

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