Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant

Giant fluffy snowflakes are drifting out of a grey sky this afternoon. It’s one of my favorite kind of days really, when everything gets canceled because of the snow and all I have to do is do whatever I feel like doing.

But today I’m feeling that wanderlust itch. Today, I’d happily give up my beloved snowflakes to be transported to Gimmelwald in the Swiss Alps, Haarlem’s bicycle busy cobbled streets in the Netherlands, or the Cinque Terre along the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy.

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On snow days I read blog posts like this and this and the gorgeous pictures of far away places make me smile and cry at the same time. Maybe it helps cure the travel bug bite… maybe it makes it worse.

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It’s funny how the senses can take you back in time to a specific place. Pictures, food, music, and smells – they all do that to me. I love it. The smell of Torani Hazelnut syrup takes me right back to the counter of the Rocky Mountain Candy Factory in Georgetown, CO. Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Not Home Yet” finds me driving in the wee hours of the morning on lonely highways through Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. And the combination of kalamata olives, tomatoes and feta cheese? Well, you know where that’s headed…

I found these adorable mini eggplants at the market for 10 cents a piece, that’s right, 2 bucks for all 20 of them…

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…And I thought to myself (Well, I don’t know, maybe I said it out loud right to the produce guy placing them in the bins), these would be perfect stuffed.

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Slice in half and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle on the olive oil, salt and pepper and roast @ 375 for about 20 minutes.

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Scoop out the insides with a spoon (I used my melon baller-dilly-wopper-thing.). Place the shells back on the pan.

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Chop the flesh into small pieces and put in a bowl. Add some chopped tomatoes, green onions, kalamata olives, feta cheese and cooked quinoa.

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How about some fresh oregano if you have some? Oregano is pretty tough stuff. Mine is living through it’s second winter.

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Season with olive oil, pepper and more salt if needed.

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Spoon into eggplant skins and top with Parmesan cheese.

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Bake at 350 until the cheese is melted on top and it’s warm throughout – about 15 minutes.

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May the flavors transport you to your favorite Mediterranean getaway!

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And where would that be?

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Rosemary Roasted Beets with Honey Balsamic Reduction

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I’ve always wanted to like them. Their brilliant fuchsia color made me pick them up again and again. Surely if I try it enough times, in various different recipes, surely, I’d grow to like beets. I even tried making a beet and cherry cake last year…eh, wasn’t so great. The color was muted and the beet flavor was not. I just couldn’t get past that “dirt” taste…until this year.

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2012 will go down in history as the year I discovered beets with balsamic vinegar…

and that was that!

When I saw these ruby and golden beets at the produce stand, I knew what my next post would be – Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze. You’ve got the sweet and the tang and the earthy tones (not to be mistaken for “dirt taste”)  in between. Yum!

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You may, of course, roast the beets in the oven whole, but I wanted to soak up as much color as I could get by quartering. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and rosemary leaves.

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An hour and a half or maybe two, at 350 degrees, makes them soft enough to stick a fork in them. Let cool slightly before removing skins.

Meanwhile, combine 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar and 1 T. honey in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

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Stir until is begins to thicken. Remove from heat and drizzle on sliced beets.

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Enjoy as a side dish on it’s own or serve in a salad of fresh greens and a sharp Vermont cheddar.

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What favorite beet dish would you serve someone if you were trying to convince them to like beets?

Loaded Tortilla Soup ~ Minus the Tortilla…

So remember when I said the wind would start blowing from the North at any moment now? Well, I was right! It’s been below freezing the last couple nights and the days have been gorgeous – crisp and cool and so refreshing!

We joke around about how one must grow gills to breath in the South because it gets so humid in the summer you can cut the air with a knife. Needless to say, one starts feeling rather fishy with gills. Every autumn I feel like I’m coming back to life – morphing into the nose breathing human I was the spring before. Yay! Hello world! I’m alive again!

And AND, get this! It’s soup season!

Tortilla Soup has been a long time favorite of ours. Well, that is, this recipe for Tortilla Soup has been a long time favorite. I’ve never tried another version that beats it.

So my friends, today, on this deliciously chilly evening, I share it with you. I hope you love it as much as we do!

To start off, I give you a very unappetizing picture of a whole chicken, which is the base for our soup. Yep, that’s right, just throw a whole chicken (frozen or thawed) into a pot, add some salt, a couple bay leaves and a dried chile pepper, if you have one on hand, and simmer away for a few hours until the chicken falls off the bones.

Strain the broth and pour back into pot.

Remove meat from bones, shred or chop into pieces and reserve for later on in the recipe.

Chop one onion, mince some garlic and add to broth along with the spices and a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes.

Give it a stir.

Now, here’s where things get weird, but I’ll explain, so you understand why I do what I do. (And no, it’s not because of the gills, or lack thereof! :)

Toss a handful of organic cornmeal into the broth. Go ahead, do it!

Tortilla soup recipes call for corn tortillas, right? And they get all soggy and unrecognizable and turn to mush, right? And if you’re avoiding GMOs (to avoid becoming ill) and buying organic corn tortillas that are expensive, why on earth would you want to waste good tortillas in soup if you can use cheaper organic cornmeal instead?

So there ya go! Makes all the sense in the whole wide world. Aren’t you proud of yourself for being so thrifty?

Bring the soup to a low simmer and cook covered for an hour or two.

The recipe we use calls for straining the solids out of the soup and throwing them away, but I blend it all up in the blender and return it to the broth. It makes a thicker and more hearty base.

Saute reserved chicken in a little olive oil and season with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin.

Cut some of those organic corn tortillas into thin strips, toss in olive oil and fry in a skillet with a little salt and pepper until they start getting crunchy.

Shred some cheese.

Chop some cilantro.

Cube some avocado.

Cut a lime in wedges.

Open a carton of sour cream.

It’s time to dig in!

Pile everything into a bowl…

Ladle the hot broth over the top…

…and enjoy!

Here are the details for you –

Tortilla Soup

1 whole chicken

water to cover chicken

2 bay leaves

2 t. salt

1 onion, diced

1, 28oz can diced tomatoes

1 T. cumin

2 T. chili powder

1/4 c. cornmeal

more salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes –

  • chicken
  • avocado
  • corn tortilla strips
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • cilantro
  • limes