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July

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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Beet Soup with Tahini and Pine Nut Za’atar

Beet Soup with Tahini and Pine Nut Za’atar

Does soup get any more gorgeous than this? I knew immediately after seeing this on Dishing Up the Dirt that I needed to whip up this vibrant creation for my own spoon and bowl.

Beets always yield such beauty.

Beets

Beets really do lend themselves well to easily dazzling up a dinner. Here are a few past favorites that deck out the kitchen table in red: Pickled Beets, Smoky Black Bean and Beet Burgers with Herb Yogurt Sauce, Purple Summer Tabbouleh.

I’m adding this soup to the list.

Beet Soup with Tahini and Pine Nut Za’atar

Beyond feeling decadent from pure looks alone, this soup has a nice earthy flavor that gets complimented by some rather stellar toppings. First, there’s the tahini. You can almost always count me in for tahini-topped anything, and it’s creamy combination with beets is no different. This particular sauce adds a slight lemony-tang to the sweet beets, and is absolutely perfect with the specks of parsley you’ll catch on most bites. Feel free to omit the allspice from the sauce – it’ll add subtle, but not mandatory, notes of flavor.

Beets

Then, there’s the za’atar, a traditional Middle Eastern herb and spice blend that is speckled with sesame seeds. Toasted in a pan with pine nuts, it takes on this woodsy flavor that’s hard to describe as anything but unique. Here, it adds an easy punch of flavor that allows this soup to remain simple to make, and to rely on the freshness of its garden ingredients.

Beet Soup with Tahini and Pine Nut Za’atar

But enough words already. Likely, if you’re going to make this soup, it was its visual representation that snagged your eye. Bring its beauty to your own bowl, might I suggest alongside a crusty, toasty slice of bread.

Beets

P.S. Stop by Andrea’s blog, Dishing Up the Dirt, if you get the chance. It’s a winner.

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Roasted Strawberry and Fennel Coconut Ice Cream

Roasted Strawberry and Fennel Coconut Ice Cream

Is there anything better in the summer than homemade ice cream? When it’s topped with seasonal berries, I think not.

Heaven in a bowl. Spoon, please.

Summer Berries

This past weekend, my roommate and I got the ice cream machine churning with not just one, but TWO coconut ice cream creations. (You can find the other recipe here: Vegan Cardamom Coconut Ice Cream with Blueberries.)

Afterward, my roommate declared, “I think I actually like coconut ice cream better than the regular kind.”

I may have to agree. Although, this roasted strawberry-fennel combination could be skewing my opinion. These two vibrant ingredients are a match made to be. Yum.

Roasted Strawberry and Fennel Coconut Ice Cream

Fennel has a mild licorice-like flavor that adds that refreshing punch of flavor you get from an herb, yet without becoming overpowering like often happens with herbs. This is good news, since the real star in this ice cream should be the strawberries.

Caramelized in the oven so that their flavors condense, strawberries take on a new and appreciated meaning once roasted. The fennel allows for this sweet flavor to shine, while acting as the perfect, complimenting partner in crime. Teamwork.

Roasted Strawberry and Fennel

This recipe’s not vegan like the other one, but you could certainly omit the eggs if you wish. They are there to amp up the creaminess that’s already inherent in the coconut milk. Without the eggs, you’ll achieve an ice cream that’s still creamy on its own, but will be slightly more condensed upon removing from the freezer. The solution? Simply let it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. That little bit of melt will revive the cream of the coconut.

Roasted Strawberry and Fennel Coconut Ice Cream

Do you have a favorite ice cream recipe? I’m in the market for something chocolaty and/or peanut buttery, but am also loving the uniqueness of various herbs/spices. Would love to hear what you’re coming up with!
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Cardamom Coconut Ice Cream with Blueberries

Cardamom Coconut Ice Cream with Blueberries

Ice cream – it’s a universal pleaser. This recipe especially because it’s dairy-free and tastes so ridiculously delicious you’ll want to celebrate with seconds. And your body won’t totally yell at you for doing so.

Cardamom Coconut Ice Cream with Blueberries

My roommate and I spent a good 30-minutes on the couch over the weekend brainstorming on what to make for the 4th of July. We wanted to celebrate, and I wanted to blog about. Another typical Saturday.

Her: “Cheesecake?” Me: “Because that’s totally fitting for my blog…”

Her: “Champagne and pie for later on the roof.” Me: “Perfect, obviously.” Both of us: “Too much work.”

Me: “Ice cream?” Her: “Roasted Strawberry?” Me: “Can we make it vegan.” Both of us: “FIREWORKS!”

As I said, ice cream – the perfect pleaser – especially when it’s coconut and able to be shared with all. Boom.

Summer Berries

This vegan version of ice cream gets its creaminess from coconut milk with an extra boost of flavor from cardamom. Together, it has an Indian-kind of vibe going on, which pairs phenomenally well with blueberries. Don’t skip them from this equation, as they’ll really complete your bowl.

Plus, I don’t know where you live, but where I am, it’s full-fledged blueberry season. Again, cue those fireworks in the air.

Cardamom Coconut Ice Cream with Blueberries

For best flavor and creaminess, allow your ice cream to sit for at least 5 minutes at room temperature prior to eating once you remove it from the freezer.

P.S. My roommate and I got a little carried away and made not just one, but TWO coconut ice creams. Check out the 2nd recipe here: Roasted Strawberry & Fennel Coconut Ice Cream.

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Watermelon, Basil and Feta Salad

 

Watermelon, Basil and Feta Salad

I woke up on Saturday morning realizing August was just 2 weeks away. Woah, woah, woah, hold the phone! But by all means, don’t hold the melon.

It wasn’t until I then realized I had went this far into the summer without buying my first full watermelon that the panic set in. That’s like living in the city without a bike — practically a crime, at least in my world.

I love watermelon, and how I let this much of summer slip by without eating a full half to myself is beyond me. Summers are made for meals of watermelon, right?

So of course, Saturday morning, straight to the market I went. And breakfast become none other than a huge slice of sweet, juicy summer. My favorite.

Watermelon, Basil and Feta Salad

It’s a miracle that the other half of the melon ended up in this salad. Like a just-picked heirloom tomato, or a perfectly ripe avocado, there are some things in life that I often feel, “Why bother doing anything more than adding a fork.” Although it goes without saying, a little bit of salt can entirely enhance those first two items, and it appears a little bit of feta and basil can do the same for watermelon. Sliced watermelon is great, but so is this melon salad.

On Sunday, I also happened to be heading to a friend’s b-day brunch, so the opportunity to make something special couldn’t be passed up. If you’re a food blogger, sliced watermelon isn’t all that great when fun, food-related occasions arise. Although, the few slices you’re munching on while cooking — those speak of excellence.

Needless to say, this was a hit and a totally worthy use of an impressively ripe and ready melon. Salty feta plays off the sweetness of the melon, while a minty basil takes its natural refreshingness to a whole other level. If you want your watermelon to feel fancy, in an effortless sort of way, this is it. I’m already ready for brunch, round 2, and of course, watermelon round 2, too.

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