To Taste: Shrimp Stuffed Aubergine

It’s apparently the summer of the eggplant. I feel like they’ve shown up in more than half of my Greensgrow Farm CSA shares this season and I long ran out of patience to deal with them. The greatest success (until now) of my aubergine summer was a killer baba ganoush, some of which is still on reserve in the freezer. When I brought these beautiful graffiti eggplants (Flaim Farms | Vineland, NJ) home, I knew I had to think fast to enjoy them before we left town for the weekend.

With little time to spare, I decided to recreate a dish I made last summer but had failed to record the recipe. I did a quick search for a “shrimp stuffed aubergine” and was pleased to see my Flickr pic of the 2010 creation come up on page 1 of the search! That was a start, but I needed more info on what recipe I built it from. It didn’t take me long to dig up this sad recipe… and my tweaks came flooding back to my memory. Seeing that I rarely make the same thing the exact same way twice, I got right to work on making this dish even better… and writing the recipe this time for you to enjoy, too! This dish is so savory, easy to prepare, and offers a beautiful presentation.

Check out my Shrimp Stuffed Aubergine (Eggplant) recipe after the jump! Continue reading

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To Taste: Flavored Finishing Salts collabo w. Sunshine

Sunshine turned me on to this awesome how-to video on how easy and rewarding it is to make flavored finishing salts. Eric Gower, the handsome personality behind Breakaway Cook, introduces diverse suggestions for ingredients to flavor moist sel gris. I’m beyond envious of his spice shelf and could watch his videos over and over and over.

Creative Use of Salts from Eric Gower on Vimeo.

Sunshine suggested and I agreed that this was a great inspiration for a crafty foodie collaboration! She had also found some mini jam jars that would be perfect vessels to store our new seasonings. We chose an afternoon during my week of leisure between jobs and got to planning our approach.

In the video, Eric Gower makes 4 different salts with lavender, matcha, smoked paprika, & saffron. We couldn’t get our hands on any of those ingredients, so we thought of great flavorings of our own. Sunshine finally located the sel gris at Trader Joe’s that is suggested as the base for our blends and we prepared our ingredients for blending. We heated the oven to about 275degrees and started drying our lime wheels, herbs, mango, & bacon:

Lime Wheels, Bacon, Herbs, & Mango

While our fresh ingredients dried in the oven, we set up the food processing attachment to the Cuisinart stick blender Dre got me for VDay. Quickest way to my heart is through a kitchen gadget! First up was some crystallized ginger we located on a last minute trip to the Asia mart. We ground it and added in about 2 T of the sel gris. A few more seconds of blending and we had so simply made our premier flavored salt.

Crystallized Ginger Salt

Luckily, we saved some fresh mango slices to sample the salt on. It was a perfect pairing!

Crystallized Ginger Salt on Mango

We still had some time to kill while our items dried in the oven. Sunshine found some really fun Victorian-inspired banner designs that we printed out as labels for our jars. We cut and arranged them on the lids with pencil-written names. One already filled and four more to go!

Labeled Salt Jars

The fresh herbs were first to be fully dried so we ground up the basil, thyme, oregano, & parsley. The result looked like a bowl of emerald-speckled diamonds and tasted amazing on fresh tomato slices.

Herb Salt

We whirled up our lime batch next, but I somehow missed getting a decent pic of it. Once the mango was crispy, we added it to two separate batches: one with just mango and another with the addition of bacon for a sweet & smokey approach. Both looked and tasted beautiful.

Mango Salt

Bacon Mango Salt

By this point in the afternoon, we’d downed quite a few Absolut Boston (elderflower & black tea vodka) and Arizona Lemonade cocktails. We moved the party to the patio to snack and focus on sampling all of our salts. I pan-fried chicken breast and sliced some more tomato as simple hosts for the variety of salty tastes.

Flavored Salt Sampling

They were all amazing but our stand-out favorite was definitely the crystallized ginger. We finished up our meal with sliced fresh strawberries… with salts, of course! I’m sure our cholesterol levels were staggering by the end of the day.

Strawberry w. Mango Salt

Even the Baby Kitty joined us for a great afternoon on the patio. She loves to stalk flies from the edge of the garden.

Baby kitty stalking flies

I’m so glad Sunshine stumbled upon this project as it is one of my favorites to date. We have alot of fun ideas on using our salts, so keep an eye out for exciting updates.

Flavored Finishing Salts

Check out Sunshine’s blog post on our crafty flavored finishing salts project on Blog Full of Jelly!

To Taste: Baked Toni

I prefer to cook what my dinner guest craves, so I indulged Dre’s request for baked ziti. I was low on spaghetti sauce and had some veggies that needed to be eaten. I blanched broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, onions, & garlic, opened a large can of crushed tomatoes, and warmed them together with seasonings in a saucepan.

Fat Rigatoni

While the sauce simmered, I decided on large rigatoni and boiled them until al dente in salted water. I like fat noodles when making baked pasta dishes as they tend to fill with your sauce when tossed. The jumbo macaronis for my Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese worked great! I folded ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella into the warm sauce, tossed it with the cooked rigatoni, and dumped it into a greased casserole. Once the sliced mozzarella I tiled on top began to brown & bubble, I pulled it from the over and served Dre a big, hot scoop of Baked Toni.

Baked Toni

Baked Toni

  • Crushed Tomatoes – (1) large can
  • Broccoli – (0.5) head, trimmed into small florets & blanched
  • Mushrooms – (1) cup, sliced
  • Garlic – (1) T, minced
  • Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
  • Dried Basil – (1) T
  • Red Pepper Flakes – (1) tsp
  • S&P – to taste
  • Ricotta – (1.5) cups, part skim
  • Shredded Mozzarella – (1) cup, low moisture – part skim
  • Fresh Mozzarella – (6) oz, sliced (or enough to cover most of the dish)
  • Grated Parmesan – to taste
  • Rigatoni – (1) lb, cooked al dente & tossed w/ olive oil
  • Olive Oil – as needed
  1. Heat about (2) T of Olive Oil in a saute pan. Add garlic & onion and cook until caramelized, about (5) min.
  2. Add mushrooms & saute until browned on both sides, about (3) min per side.
  3. Dump entire contents of the canned crushed tomatoes into a sauce pan. Add cooked mushrooms mixture, blanched broccoli, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and S&P. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  4. While sauce simmers, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about (10-12) min.
  5. Drain rigatoni and return to stock pot. Add a bit of olive oil & toss to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove sauce from the heat and dump into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Fold in ricotta & shredded mozzarella cheeses unti combine.
  8. Add rigatoni and toss to coat completely.
  9. Pour the rigatoni & sauce mixture into a greased casserole dish.
  10. Tile sliced fresh mozzarella on top.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for (25) min or until the cheese is browned & the casserole is bubbling.
  12. Let cool for about (3) min and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

To Taste: Roasted Tomato, Mushroom, & Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breast

I love Thanksgiving! Family, friends, turkey/stuffing/gravy-filled meals, and four days to fill with whatever I felt like doing. I went Black Friday shopping, but dodging salespeople & shopping bags got old pretty quick. I just wanted to be in my warm kitchen cooking yummy food!

The grocery store was pretty empty (whew!), so I quickly grabbed my ingredients… and some Stoli to get me thru a long evening in the kitchen. I’ve got nothing to do tomorrow! I kicked off my prep work at 4pm-ish to have the meal almost complete when Dre got done work. The components of the main dish took up most of my time: roasting grape tomatoes with garlic & fresh basil; sautéing mushrooms with minced onions & butter; and, gleefully pounding chicken breasts to a 1/4 inch thick. Every smokey, juicy morsel of the resulting Roasted Tomato, Mushroom, & Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts reminded me that  it’s always worthwhile.

Tomatoes with Garlic, Basil, & Olive Oil to be Roasted

Just Stuffed

Roasted Tomato, Mushroom & Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Roasted Tomato, Mushroom & Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Roasted Tomatoes

  • Grape Tomatoes – (1-2) pints, halved
  • Minced Garlic – (2) T or more
  • Fresh Basil – a few chopped leaves
  • Olive Oil – (3-4) T, to grease dish & coat tomatoes
  • S&P
  1. Coat baking dish with olive oil or line with non-stick sprayed foil.
  2. Add all ingredients and toss with olive oil.
  3. Cook 30-40 min in a 400 degree oven. Stir a few times until tomatoes are bubbling, but not burnt.
  4. Make a big batch, leftovers are great on French bread and added to pasta sauce

Sautéed Mushrooms

  • White Mushrooms or Creminis or Baby Bellas -(2-3) cups, cored and sliced
  • White Onion – 1/2 med onion, chopped
  • Butter – (2) T
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan on Med. Add onion & cook about 2 min.
  2. Add mushrooms and give them room to breath. Julia says so.
  3. Stir and cook until tender.
  4. Use leftovers on a quick pizza or in pasta sauce, red or alfredo.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast – (3-4) breasts – trimmed, sliced lengthwise, & pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
  • Smoked Mozzarella or Gouda – 1 oz per breast
  • Roasted Tomatoes
  • Sautéed Mushrooms
  • Chicken Stock – (1) cup or so
  • S&P
  • Stovetop to Oven Sauté Pan
  • Long toothpicks or Bamboo picks
  1. Pound filleted chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness between sheets of plastic wrap.
  2. Add a few spoonsful of tomatoes & mushrooms onto half of each chicken breast.
  3. Layer slices of smoked cheese.
  4. Fold chicken breast in half and secure by sewing a toothpick or bamboo pic to secure. S&P each side of the breast.
  5. Pan sear breast in olive oil on Med-High until golden brown, about 5 min on each side.
  6. Add chicken stock to pan and bring to a boil.
  7. Cover pan with lid or foil and tranfer to 375 degree oven.
  8. Bake for 20 min, let cool for 5 min, and serve with pan jus.
  9. Leftovers make one KILLER sandwich!

Leftover Lightning! Hot Pockets!

Sarah was kind enough to leave behind some Pizza Dough for us to experiment with after our “Build Your Own Pizza Night”, describing it as the “weird batch”. Dre & I decided to give its “weirdness” a whirl with some Sunday night stromboli & calzone.

Sarahs Weird Delicious Dough!

Sarah's "Weird" Delicious Dough!

I fulfilled my new addiction to the sweetness of Roasted Tomatoes by popping a batch in the oven while I began filling the dough. I opted for leftover Roasted Yellow Peppers & Zucchini from our “Build Your Own Pizza Night” with Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, Mozzarella, Asiago, Tomato Sauce, & Fresh Basil. Per my lactose intolerant boyfriend’s nonsensical request, I filled his with “just cheese” including Mozzarella, Asiago, & Ricotta with a swipe of Tomato Sauce, a layer of Roasted Tomatoes, chopped Fresh Basil, & extra Minced Garlic. They weren’t too pretty going into oven once folded and likewise once they were baked, but they were delicious! The “weird” dough created a flaky crust a la a homemade Hot Pocket, versus a traditional stromboli/calzone crust. Yum!

My Veggie Hot Pocket

My Roasted Veggie "Hot Pocket"

Dres Cheesey Tomato Hot Pocket

Dre's Cheesy Tomato "Hot Pocket"

Family-Style: Build Your Own Pizza

Last season of Top Chef, we started a tradition of “Family Dinners” at my house to watch each week’s episode along with a home-cooked meal! Tom, Dre, & Lex were the regulars at last season’s dinners, but couldn’t be happier to add Sarah to this year’s season. She brought along her homemade pizza dough for the return of Top Chef AND the return of “Build Your Own Pizza Night,” my favorite dinner theme!

The original plan was to do grilled pizzas, but after a summer of cooking and roasting Grape Tomatoes (via The Bitten Word’s amazing recipe) & Yellow Bell Peppers for pizza toppings, my grill ran out of gas. At least we always have the oven for back-up. I also prepared sauteed Zucchini, Chicken Andouille Sausage, Crab Meat, & Creole Shrimp, along with shredded Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda, Asiago, & Ricotta Cheeses, as topping options. Can’t forget some tomato sauce, as well! We all got to loading our shells with Dre opting for a Crab White Pizza & Tom piling on just about everying!

We were 3 episodes behind with all of our busy schedules, so we got together on a Thursday night to cook & recap via the DVR while the pizzas baked to perfection…

Dres Crab White Pizza - Pre-Baked

Dre's Crab White Pizza - Pre-Baked

My Pizza w/ the works

My Pizza w/ the works

Build Your Own Pizza Night

Homemade Pizza Dough a la Sarah

Roasted Tomatoes, Yellow Bell Peppers, & Zucchini

Chicken Andoille Sausage

Crab Meat

Creole Shrimp

Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda, Asiago, & Ricotta

Fresh Basil & Lemon-Thyme