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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Stacks

So my theme for this summer? Garden vegetables, and tons of them. Well, actually, that goes for pretty much every summer after I reached driving age and finally developed a taste for the ground-grown powerhouses. I mean, what’s better than a tomato straight from the vine? Maybe a peach plucked straight from its mothering tree, but let’s not compare summer fruits and vegetables. They all consume a large part of my diet during the warm seasons. Here in the North East, there’s no better time to take advantage of fresh produce. It’s during these times when the garden stands by to provide massive amounts of culinary inspiration.

My weapon of choice for butchering up all these garden-grown veggies? As I relayed in one of my more recent posts, roasting’s gripped my kitchen this summer, which unlike the veggies I’m firing up, hasn’t always been a summer trend of mine. Maybe if I came across this technique earlier, I would’ve found an adoration for vegetables at a younger age. Sure, it heats the up kitchen, which isn’t always ideal, particularly when a lack of air conditioning is in the picture. But it draws so much sweetness out of veggies, you’d swear they were moving on over into the fruit kingdom. After this Roasted Veggie Sandwich, only a ton more roasted vegetable creations were to come churning out of my oven. And as it moves into fall, there’s absolutely no reason not to fire up the oven.

Equipped with eggplant, tomatoes, and basil from my weekend farmer’s market gig, I decided on making these Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Stacks. I was out of cheese due to the mass amount of tomato, basil, and mozz. sandwiches I’ve never-endingly been consuming, so I swapped out the typical veggie stack cheese with a layer of onion instead. Cheers to effortlessly making a dish vegan. There’s no need for cheese when sweet, caramelized onions are up for use. These stacks make for a fresh, but full-flavored appetizer or side, packed with flavor in every layered direction. Bon appétit!

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Mexican Roasted Green Beans

One of the most prominent caveats I find as a food blogger is that when I want to make something ordinary, I tend to feel like I should be cooking up something more exotic instead. However, sometimes I want nothing more than chili, or spaghetti, or scrambled tofu, or standard recipes I’ve made over and over again. Like tacos, which are a three or four times a month happening in my house purely for their taste, simplicity and quick ability to fill me up.

Luckily, the urge to keep churning out new and noteworthy recipes has its benefits too. The ordinary recipes, due to lack of use, rarely become boring, and the new additions to my diet are nearly always a surprising delight. Having variety keeps food exciting. And cooking. And food blogging. And while yes, sometimes I find myself in a recipe rut, overall the push towards creativity is a welcomed one that more often than not produces fruitful results.

So after my latest craving for tacos, my food blogging hobby motivated me to whip up something a little less conventional on the side. I still stuck with the simple theme because that’s one aspect of consistency in my weekday cooking regiment. Again, the results were stimulating, both for my taste buds and perseverance to keep cooking away. Below, my latest recipe. Roasted green beans with a garlicky, spice-filled flair. Two thumbs up from both my roommates.

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Vegetarian Gumbo

I’ve been happily continuing my summer job with the CSA once a week while I’m back at school. Every Saturday, I become one of the first kids on campus to see the morning sun, as I hop a train over to my CSA’s spot at the Glenside farmer’s market. It’s not quite the same as working on the farm, but I’m still dealing with veggies for hours at a time and tons of interesting people while I’m at it. The weekly gig makes me feel like I get to carry a little piece of summer with me. And since I dread the winter months, any part of summer, work-filled or not, makes me happy. Better yet, I also get to carry a huge bag of early fall produce with me as I catch the train that takes me back home.

Last week, the star ingredient in my bag was okra. I was never fond of the slimy stuff as a kid. But now okra gets me excited because it means only one thing –  Gumbo. All its sliminess gets dissipated when swimming in a hearty stew of gumbo goodness. Instead, the diced circles of okra add a smooth thickness to the flour-traced broth. For this gumbo, I added a bunch of other garden veggies I once helped plant and pick at the farm, like peppers, green beans and corn, making it my epitome of garden gumbo. Feel free to add other veggies you have on hand, like eggplant or mushrooms. Serve it up alongside a thick slice of bread, or a flavor-soaking grain of your choice. A nice ale would do it justice too, but none of that college crap that keeps people in bed till Saturday afternoon.

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Vegan Eggplant Stuffed Peppers

Looking back over my last few meals (and posts), I’ve realized roasted has trounced the classic steam in my kitchen, and has become my new go-to for veggies.  The oven becomes a miraculous tool in terms of drawing flavor from veggies.  It’s not only the mastermind behind metamorphosing batter into sweet confections of sugar and flour.  The oven is also the ultimate sugar-engineer of vegetables.

Take a bite of raw garlic, and your taste-buds might scream from its pungency.  But give the bulb a roast, and each creamy, sweet clove will graciously go down with ease.

Olive oil, heat, and a little salt.  It’s that simple.  And this trick holds true for eggplant, onions, peppers, and a slew of other veggies, including beets, which when even when raw one wonders how they could become any sweeter.

So here we go again, another roasted vegetable inspired meal.  I’ve gone back at it with roasted eggplant and garlic, sealing them all up with a few other ingredients inside a pepper.  Then, I put the oven to use once more, and baked the whole dish.  Topped with Daiya, this was yet another satisfying, vegan roasted meal.

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Roasted Veggies- Take 2

I roasted up some more veggies, and this time I added portobello mushrooms and basil to the mix.  My basil has finally kicked into high gear, so I have more than enough to use in my favorite dishes like pesto, and in new ones like this too.

Basil’s fragrance alone gets me all giddy.  I’d rather smell like a bouquet of basil than some $100 bottle of perfume.  It reminds me of a cold shower, but even cleaner.  But moving away from bathing and basil comparisons…

Like other herbs, basil’s not just a compact ball of flavor, but of nutrients too.  It specifically boasts of significant levels of vitamins A and K.  Can you believe that in just 2 Tbsp. of basil, you’ll get 27% of you daily value of vitamin K?  And that’s within just the one mere calorie you’ll be consuming.  Hence why they say if you’re looking for a slim way to boost your dishes with flavor, turn to herbs.

And while I love the smell, it’s the flavor of basil that keeps me hooked.   Here, it added an extra Italian emphasis to my original marinade, distinctively changing the original taste of the dish.  I found both results to be equally delicious, so you can try it both ways if you have basil on hand.  Make sure to add a generous handful of basil if you’re looking for a switch up from the original recipe.  This way that clean flavor will really shine through.

For me, roasted veggies never get boring, especially when there are so many simple ways to play with their resulting flavor.  The cooking method is also a good way to take advantage of all those summer items coming in season at once.  Which includes eggplant, a veggie that took a good roasting to make me fall in love with it.