Lately, I’ve been seeing a variety of eggplants and figs at our local farmer’s markets. They are in season at the same time during late summer/early fall, so naturally, I began to wonder how to combine them. Ultimately, I decided to roast the mini eggplants and use them as sort of an edible spoon filled with other complimentary ingredients and crowned with fresh beautiful fig slices. Turns out, not only are they pretty, they are simple to make and taste amazing. The one ingredient which may prove difficult to find is the Meyer lemon marmalade. Britt and I brought a jar home from an organic Meyer lemon farm in Malibu that we stayed at for our last anniversary. Thanks Bibi! Anyhow, the dish needed some acid and seeing the jar sitting there, I thought – let’s give it a shot. Turns out, it was better then balsamic glaze or fresh lemon juice! I bet quince paste would be amazing as well and easier to find. However, if you can’t find either, balsamic will suffice.
3 fresh figs
12 mini eggplants
bacon (cooked and crumbled)
tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 leeks (cleaned)
Meyer lemon marmelade (or quince paste)
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place 4 strips of bacon on a baking sheet and place on the top rack of the oven for 17 minutes. Next, halve the mini eggplants and score flesh with a tic-tac-toe pattern. Place flesh side up on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Roast for 30 minutes or until eggplants are tender and golden in flesh area. While eggplants are roasting caramelize sliced leeks over medium heat until just barely golden. Adding a pinch of salt will help this process along and bring out the flavor of the leeks. Finally, remove the eggplants from the oven and spread a very thin layer of the meyer lemon marmalade on the flesh side. Now add a teaspoon of the caramelized leeks, sprinkle with bacon, goat cheese, pine nuts and fresh thyme. Finally, top with a slice of the fresh fig and serve. These end up being bite sized and great for a party appetizer.
What I drank…
I tried these aubergines with a 2012 Failla unoaked Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast (which I happened to have open), as well as, a 2012 Jules Taylor Pinot Gris from the Marlborough, which, my friend Sam of The Wine Country recommended. Because of the creamy nature of the eggplant flesh and goat cheese, the crisp Chardonnay paired fairly well, much to my surprise. However, the star of the show was definitely the New Zealand Pinot Gris with its bright fruit and crisp acidity. It not only held up to the creamy rich flavors but it commingled with the meyer lemon spread as well while exhibiting a super pleasant and long finnish. I agree with Sam that this is going to be a successful new varietal for that region. Personally, I’d be happy to see the overproduced vines of Sauvignon Blanc in that region become a thing of the past. By the way, if you haven’t checked out Sam’s blog and you are into wine, you should! She’s a great writer with a passionate palate for old world wines.
During the summer and early fall eggplants are fresh, inexpensive and abundant. They are super versatile and unique in both flavor and texture. They can be blended into dips or eaten as a meat substitute. Here’s a recipe for a tasty dip I made last week:
2 medium eggplants skin removed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 yellow onion cut in half and quartered
2 tomatoes quartered
1 pepper of your choice (I used Anaheim for it’s mild heat)
3 cloves garlic
4 thyme sprigs
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Preheat oven to 400°F. Add eggplant, onion, tomato, chile, garlic and thyme to a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 35 – 40 minutes tossing every 10 minutes. In a food processor add the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 full minute. Scrape the sides of the the chamber and process again for 30 seconds. This is known as creaming the tahini. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper and process for 30 more seconds. Remove the roasted veggies from the oven and discard thyme branches. Add the roasted ingredients to the processor. Process until ingredients begin to combine. Continue to pulse for desired constancy. Finally, place in a bowl and stir in another tablespoon or so of olive oil. This dip goes great with pita or any other cracker and can be served hot or chilled!
The other day, after visiting the farmer’s market, I ended up with a bag full of peaches and no clear idea of what to do with them. Last year, we grilled and ate them with burrata, so we knew they were delicious with soft mild cheese. Brittany suggested that we put them on a pizza, so, we did. I decided to use ricotta, thyme and olive oil to keep it simple and let the peaches shine. Turns out it was a great call and a really nice, light, summer recipe.
I didn’t bother making my own dough this time but usually prefer to. You can often purchase dough from your favorite local pizzeria. This time we used the pre-made Fresh n Easy brand and I have to say – its not bad.
The biggest factor in making pizza at home is heat. Conventional ovens just aren’t hot enough to do the trick. To compensate, I use a piece of seasoned metal called a “pizza steel.” This is heated at 500º F for 1 hour. You can, of course, use a pizza stone. While this is happening, I leave the dough out on a lightly flowered surface and cover it with a damp paper towel. A pizza peel is also helpful for getting the pizza in and out of the oven. Sprinkle the pizza peel with semolina flour and and place hand stretched dough on it. Brush the rim of the pizza with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Next, using your fingers, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on the surface of the pizza. Then, lay thinly sliced peach on top of the ricotta and bake in oven for 6 to 10 minutes. The outer crust should begin bubbling and browning. If not, turn up the heat to broil for another minute to brown up the edges but be careful not to burn it. Finally, remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle it with fresh thyme and sea salt. I’m sure the addition of a balsamic reduction or honey drizzle would be excellent too but I loved letting the peaches do the talking. What a perfect way to use up the last of the season s peaches!
What I drank…
I chose a bottle of Quivira grenache, which, we purchased on our recent trip to Sonoma, CA. Probably not the best choice as it overpowered the delicate nature of this particular pizza. I think a pinot grigio would have paired much better, but hey, sometimes you have to deal with what’s on hand!
This has become one of my favorite recipes of the summer. It’s ridiculously quick and simple and it can be modified to cater to your guests or menu. If you’ve got a vegan in the group, simply leave off the pancetta and creme fraiche. This chilled soup is healthy, delicious, refreshing and holds up on its own! However, I believe it is elevated with the addition of the pancetta and creme fraiche. It’s sort of a riff on melon with prosciutto. Additionally, it can be made spicy by adding cayenne or slightly smokey by adding smoked paprika. Experiment with it and tell me what you like.
1 cantaloupe (flesh only)
1 small cucumber (peeled)
1/3 cup of water
1/4 small red onion diced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
sprinkle of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika
1/4 cup diced and fried pancetta
Using a blender liquify the first 5 ingredients until you have a smooth consistency. Then slowly add the olive oil while the blender is still running. Adjust with salt and white pepper. You can blend in a couple of dashes of cayenne if you want a spicier version of this soup. Chill soup in blender until ready to serve. Simply blend it again for a few seconds when you are ready. Ladle soup into bowls and top with pancetta, creme fraiche and cayenne or smoked paprika. Should serve about 6 people.
What I drank…
I enjoyed my soup with a glass of 2012 Woodenhead French Colombard that we picked up on our recent trip up north. I love crisp dry whites with a dish like this!
Ever get tired of tuna salad? Try salmon salad instead! It’s probably healthier given the lower mercury content in addition to all the omega 3 fatty acids salmon contains. I’ve found the perfect way to quickly poach salmon and use it in a salmon salad sandwich. The results are undeniably better then anything you will ever have out-n-about town and far tastier then the tuna alternative.
Poaching Made Easy:
2 salmon fillets with skin removed
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups white or apple cider vinegar
two sprigs fresh dill
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
3 whole allspice
2 garlic cloves smashed
1 large lemon cut into discs
Combine all ingredients in wide bottomed pot and bring to a boil for two minutes. Submerge salmon fillets in poaching liquid, cover and turn off heat. In 5 minutes, carefully remove salmon with tongs to a plate and allow to cool. At this point, you could use them on a salad as is or follow my recipe for a salmon salad sammy.
Salmon Salad Sammy
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 poached salmon fillets cooled to room temp
3 heaping tablespoons of mayo
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh dill
1/4 red onion finely diced
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon caper juice
1 small stalk of celery heart with leaves finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large heirloom tomato
your favorite bread slightly toasted (I used everything bagels)
Combine all ingredients in the first category in a good sized bowl and mash together with a fork. The fork helps break apart the delicate salmon and integrate the other ingredients. Next, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. At this point you can refrigerate for up to 3 days without losing any flavor or enjoy immediately. Finally, add a generous portion of salmon to bread, add sliced tomato and avocado. This is great with a salty dill pickle! Enjoy, we sure did!