Grilled Veggie Torte Revisited and the Winner of My Giveaway!

Before I get on with my torte I’d like to thank everyone for all your wonderful comments, I loved reading them along with all the nice emails I received. Now I’d like to announce the winner of my giveaway. Drum roll please!
CULINARY CORY! Congratulations Cory, Julie from Blog2Print will be contacting you soon with all the details, enjoy your blog book!

Some things just need to be revisited, they’re worth repeating especially when you change them up a bit, such is the case with this Grilled Veggie Torte. My inspiration for making this first hit me a few years ago when I saw this layered beauty in the case at my local Whole Foods store. I asked them how they made it, was there any cheese between the layers? I was in awe of it’s cake like structure and the beauty of it. It was made in a spring form pan piled high with veggies and feta cheese in between, I instantly went home and tried to recreate it, since then I have made it several times for parties, to bring along to a friends house or just when I want to use up an abundance of veggies like I did here. It’s very impressive looking and it can be made in any size pan, the one in my previous post was a 6 inch pan, the one here was a nine inch.
The more colorful you make it the better it is, that’s what gives it the wow factor. I used green, red, yellow and orange peppers, vadalia onion rings, zucchini, eggplant and portabello mushrooms tossing torn fresh basil in between. Feel free to use any of your favorite veggie combinations.

In previous times I have put feta cheese, shredded mozzarella, parmesan or asiago between each layer and on top. Grilling all your veggies do take some time so feel free to grill them the day before and just assemble it on the day you bake it. Remember to brush them all with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling.

Then the other day my friend Stacey posted a beautiful Grilled Vegetable Torte with a crispy and cheesy breadcrumb topping on it and I was inspired to make her version ASAP! all I can say is that the topping enhanced the over all deliciousness of the torte! Check out her beautiful version here.
I also added sliced garden tomatoes on one layer after seeing hers. I made my crispy topping with homemade bread crumbs, grated romano cheese, snipped basil, salt and pepper, and a generous drizzle of olive oil on the top. The two new additions were incredible!
Bake it at 400F for about a half hour. The key is to let it really cool down before you pop the spring on the pan and you will have no problem cutting it into perfect wedges, just make sure you use a serrated knife and slowly cut through it.
The torte can stand proudly alone as a vegetarian meal along with a salad or it’s a wonderful side dish with any type of grilled meat. I served mine with this chicken above. A great summer meal indeed!
Buon Appetito!

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Open Faced Portobello Burger with Zucchini "Fries"

This burger is so good I promise when you bite into this you won’t miss the meat at all! Portobello mushrooms have such a meaty like texture, the large caps are a perfect replacement for a beef burger. I try to make a few vegetarian meals each week and this has been one of our current favorites.

I like to grill up a bunch of different vegetables over the weekend and then use them in various quick meals during the week. I almost always do onions, red and green peppers, zucchini, and eggplant, however with the portobello’s I like to cook them up right before I assemble this, which I did inside on my grill pan.

For this burger roasting or grilling the vegetables will give you the same results.
I like to remove the gills on the mushrooms but you don’t have to, then just a quick toss in olive oil, salt and pepper is all you have to do to prepare them.

Each component together gives you an amazing end result!

Toasted ciabatta bun
Grilled red pepper
The portobello, gill side up
A dollup of basil pesto
Fresh mozzarella
Grilled onion
Tomato
Garnish with a balsamic glaze over top

You could eat this with a bun top but it was so huge, I would suggest using a thinner bun.

The zucchini fries were made by tossing them in olive oil to coat then dipping them individually in a mixture of panko breadcrumbs and grated parmesan or romano cheese, salt and pepper.

Bake them in a hot oven around 450F turning them as they brown. If you have a convection roast feature use that to brown them up faster.

Have a great week and Buon Appetito!

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Grilled Polenta

Over Memorial Day weekend I grilled a pork roast Tuscan Style and served this grilled polenta as one of my side dishes, it went perfectly together. What makes this polenta extra special in flavor is the addition of shredded zucchini and grated cheese that gets folded in at the end.

Then for even more flavor, a roasted tomato is added on top of each slice so that when you cut into it everything mingles together and makes perfect harmony.

I used roma tomatoes, and after slicing off the tip and a little off the bottom I cut them into thirds, added a piece of shaved garlic on each, along with salt, pepper and dried oregano and then a generous drizzle of olive oil. Roasted in a 400 degree oven on a baking sheet lined with foil until wilted but still juicy. This can be done the morning of.

To shred your zucchini use either a box grater or a food processor as I did.

Next, you have to squeeze out all the liquid from your zucchini, a task I’ve always hated to do until I saw this brilliant way to do it on my friend Debby’s blog.

If you have a potato ricer laying around that you rarely use like I did, get it out and dust it off it will be your new best friend in the kitchen, if not, go out an get one it will make your life so much easier! I was amazed to see how much liquid came out when I used it, the zucchini was practically dry! It sure beats squeezing it with a towel or by hand, she even says it works great for spinach as well.
After your zucchini is squeezed out you’ll need to saute it in a pan drizzled with olive oil, cook it until it’s not raw anymore, it only takes a couple of minutes.

Cook your polenta according to directions and when it’s finished fold in the cooked zucchini and a generous amount of grated parmesan or romano cheese. I used a half a box of polenta and 3 zucchini.

Spread the mixture into a rimmed baking sheet that’s been brushed lightly all over with olive oil, I used a quarter sheet pan and it worked perfectly. Spread the warm polenta evenly all over the pan and smooth it down with a silicone spatula. After it cools down a bit cover with tin foil and refrigerate it preferably overnight. I would suggest doing this all the day before because you really want the polenta to be cold when you go to cut into it.

When you pull it out of the fridge and take the foil off you might have a tiny bit of condensation on top, no worries, just dab it with a paper towel. Now you’re ready to cut your polenta into squares.

Heat up your grill and make sure it’s super clean, then take a paper towel soaked with canola oil or vegetable oil and rub it all over your grates. Place your polenta squares on and wait until you see some good grill marks appear then flip over and do the other side. I have an olive oil sprayer so I sprayed a little on top of each before I flipped them over. I also had my grill on medium heat, you don’t want them to burn!

When done they should look like this! They hold their shape really well and look very nice when put together and placed on a platter.

They taste best when served slightly warmed. Now wouldn’t you like to bite into these?

Happy grilling!

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Cauliflower Sformato

Sformato is a molded dish, usually a vegetable of some sort mixed in with a bechamel parmesan cheese sauce that turns into a light and fluffy almost custard like souffle. In this case I used cauliflower, but you could also use zucchini, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, and mushrooms, just to mention a few. The same thing goes with the sauces, the possibilities are endless!

I saw this awhile back on Linda’s blog and wanted to make it then, but never got around to it until recently when I saw it again in the recent issue of La Cucina Italiana magazine. In the magazine they used a ring mold which gave a pretty presentation but I didn’t have one so I just used my 6″ spring form pan which has deep sides, and that worked out very well.

Essentially you cook up your cauliflower then pulse it in a food processor, mix it in with your creamy savory custard sauce, season everything, place it in your mold and bake. The recipe says to boil your cauliflower, drain it, then squeeze out the excess water, I found that roasting it until tender was easier and I didn’t have to squeeze anything out, just make sure you don’t caramelize your veggies. I roasted mine at 375F but I was watching it often by pulling it out and checking for doneness. Here’s the link to the recipe, also before I placed it in the oven I sprinkled parmesan all over the top. I served mine with a light marinara sauce, it was delicious!

I hope you give this a try, be creative, you’re going to love it!
Buon Appetito!!
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Eggplant Rolatini

This is one of those dishes I haven’t made in ages! I normally don’t fry eggplant anymore, its too time consuming, and it totals out my stove, so roasting and grilling is usually the norm here. But having said that, I think the special quality of this dish comes out with the breading and frying process, so once or twice a year, what the heck, go for it!!

The coating is so very light, you won’t get that heavy tasting feeling at all!

Slice your eggplant lengthwise, and do salt your eggplant to let some of that bitterness come out. Pat it dry. Lightly dredge each piece in flour, shake off excess, and then quickly dip in beaten eggs. I use canola oil, enough to cover the bottom of my pan, med high heat, watch out they cook fast!
Drain on paper towel, season with salt and pepper. You might have to wipe out your pan with a paper towel and start with some fresh oil if leftover brown bits start to burn.

The filling is made with ricotta cheese, a handful of shredded mozzarella, grated romano or parmesan , s&p, chopped fresh basil or parsley, and an egg to bind it all. Mix it all together, spread it on the eggplant slice and roll. Place them single layer in a baking dish a top them with a light fresh marinara sauce, and more grated cheese.

Bake 375 for about 20 mins. The last couple of minutes I like to stick the whole pan under the broiler, and crisp it up a bit. But don’t walk away!! Keep checking so you don’t burn them!
No doubt we will be growing eggplant in our garden this year!
UPDATE ON OUR GARDEN
The hubby’s going all out! He cemented 4 poles in the ground and took some chicken wire and made a fence around it to keep out the rabbits. He also threw some compost on the dirt. Next week he will make a small gate on the right side so we can get in and out.
He’s getting pretty fancy, he even put 4 finials on top of the posts for a little decorative touch!
Watch out Martha!!!

Buon Appetito!
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Spaghetti Squash w/ Basil Brown Butter, Fontinella Cheese, and Toasted Pecans!

When was the last time you had spaghetti squash? For me, it’s been ages! I actually forgot how good it was. I actually got reminded of spaghetti squash while flipping through a magazine a few weeks ago. The recipe used brown butter sage, but seeing that I’m a basil kind of girl, I thought I’d change it up!

You could use toasted walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, whatever you like. Same with the cheese, romano, parmesan, provolone, I happen to have fontinella on hand which tastes like provolone so I used that, which was excellent, nice and sharp!

I had this for lunch today all by myself, and I can honestly say, I enjoyed every bite!
Here’s what you do, it’s so easy!

1. Take a spaghetti squash, cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, lightly oil it, and add salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a baking sheet in a 350F oven, for about 30 minutes or until knife goes through.
2. Toast your nuts in a saute pan, remove.
3. Melt your butter, toss in the basil, and cook till it browns.
4. When squash is done, take a fork and fluff up all the strands.
5. Pour your butter sauce all over, sprinkle with the nuts, and garnish with your favorite cheese.

It was so good I think I’ll have the other half tomorrow!

Buon Appetito!!

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Veggie "Wraps" Caprese Style!

Even though it’s the dead of winter here in Chicagoland, and the weather forecast says blizzard conditions here tomorrow with frigid temperatures, I still crave grilled veggies!

Thank goodness for an indoor grill pan! There’s no way you’d catch me out there grilling anything!

Grilling eggplant and zucchini indoors is so quick and easy. Get your grill pan nice and hot, brush your veggies with olive oil, cook till tender, and then while they’re still warm, layer with fresh basil, a ripe tomato slice, and a small bite size ball of fresh Bocconcini. Drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with pine nuts. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Add a salad, and have a great lunch, or a light dinner!

Nothing extraordinary, just simple, good food!
Buon Appetito!!!

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ANTIPASTI

Spring has definitely sprung here in Chicago! finally!! So long winter! See ya! Ba Bye! Arrivederci! Ciao!!

Time to open up the windows, crank up the grill, clean off the lawn furniture, and enjoy the sunshine! And thats just what we did!

Heres a couple of appetizers we enjoyed over the weekend. CAPRESE EGGPLANT TOWER

Grilled eggplant
Fresh mozzarella
Ripe and juicy tomatoes
Red onion
Fresh basil
Brush eggplant with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill. You can either grill the red onion slice or just keep it raw. Stack in any order you want.

Drizzle everything with your best extra virgin olive oil, and don’t forget a couple slices of good bread. I like the holes you get with a chiabatta, it’s not doughy at all. Oh, and don’t forget to open up your favorite bottle of wine to enjoy with this.

GRILLED ZUCCINI WITH PESTO AND PINENUTS

Grill your zuccini, and spread on your favorite pesto! so simple, so good!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! 🙂

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BREAK OUT YOUR SPRING FORM PAN!!

AND MAKE A ROUND LASAGNA!
For some reason, don’t ask me why, I like curved objects! I know it’s a bit weird but my eye always goes to curved things, arches, rounded windows, scrolls, I can go on and on. Give me a choice between a straight line and a curve, and guess what I’m picking? So it’s no wonder that I sometimes like to make a round lasagna, it’s out of the norm, I know, but it’s fun to change it up sometimes. Just make your favorite lasagna, this one was made with ricotta and spinach, and do it exactly how you make any lasagna, just trim up the pasta to fit your spring form pan. This was made in a 10″ pan, and I’ve even made it in the smallest one, for an individual size, you can be very creative!! The only thing I would suggest is to bake it on a cookie sheet in your oven.
AND A ROASTED VEGETABLE CROSTATA!
This is a great way to use up any vegetables you might have laying around. Cut them up and lay them on a cookie sheet with olive oil, and seasonings of your choice, I used a tuscan dried herb mix I have, plus salt and pepper. Roast them till al dente in a 400 degree oven, you do not want to overcook them!For mine I used, eggplant, zuccini, red pepper, onion, and a little fennel I had. Next, roll out one piece of puff pastry so its big enough to line the bottom of a 10″ springform pan, just push down the sides and make a little crust. Place your veggies on top, sprinkle with a generous amount of Romano cheese, about a cup of Provolone cut in chunks,( the real stuff). Beat 2 eggs with a little milk, pour all over, and finally, grated Fontina sprinkled all over the top. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 mins, or until everything is golden and crisp.

 

Don’t cut it while its hot, let it cool down to room temp, that’s the best way to eat this! If you wait, it won’t fall apart when you cut into it either. Besides the flavors come out even more at room temp. This is great with a salad for dinner, or fancy enough to serve at a party! Only you will know, you were just using up your leftover veggie’s!!!BUON APPETITO!!

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FAGIOLI !!!

CECI STUFATI ( stewed chickpeas)

Beans and greens,what a perfect marriage!! And if you like chickpeas and a little heat, I’m certain you will like this. I actually used dried beans this time and I have to say I liked it better. It’s easy if you prepare them in advance. The other night before I went to bed, I put them in a pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches, and let them soak overnight. When morning came I drained them, and when I was ready to cook them, I covered them with enough water to cover 1 inch. Let water come to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hrs.

In another pot, saute some garlic and onions in olive oil, along with red chile flakes. Cook for about 5 mins. then add drained beans and about a cup of water, salt and pepper. Cook about another half hour till all the flavors blend, then add some roughly chopped Swiss chard. Cook till wilted. Taste for more salt or pepper, and give it an extra drizzle of olive oil.

This is simple food, with great flavor!!!

Buon Appetito!



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SLOW-ROASTED BALSAMIC GLAZED ONIONS

Although this takes about 2 hours to make, I guarantee you wont mind it, because it fills your home with a wonderful aroma, and besides, the oven is doing all the work!

I got this recipe out of an Italian magazine a couple of years ago and loved it because it goes great with any kind of grilled or roasted meats. Simply brush some thickly sliced onions with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, place in a shallow pan and cover with foil. Roast for 45 min. at 350 degree’s F. Then uncover and roast them for another 40 min.

You’ll want to use a good balsamic that has been aged for at least 10 yrs. If you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a bottle Trader Joe’s has a great one( another plug for TJ’s!!) but I’m certain you can find some readily available other places.

Once the onions are tender transfer to a platter, and pour your vinegar right into the pan on top of the stove, and on medium heat let it simmer till thick, always moving it with a rubber spatula to scrape up the brown bits.
It didn’t take very long to become rich and syrupy. because of the quality of the vinegar.

Stir in some toasted almonds to add a little crunch, and spoon it all over the onions. The flavor is unbelievable!!!

Buon Appetito!!!

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I’M IN A "VEGGIE" SORT OF MOOD!!!


As I looked through my Frig today, I took stock of all the Veggie’s I had in there, and I decided I better do something fast before they all go to waste!! So I whipped up some Pasta with some of my favorites, and that was dinner! What’s better than eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, red peppers, red onions,peas, sun dried tomatoes, plum tomatoes, sauteed in some olive oil and garlic, topped off with some good pesto and lots of grated cheese! Yum!!!!

Buon Appetito!

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