Grilled Veggie Naan-wich with Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Spread

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Sandwiches, sandwiches, more sandwiches! This is a great one, and since it’s vegetarian, it makes me feel better about myself. Just a little. Roasted vegetables — it’s the way to go. It adds a meatiness and flavor you’ll never get any other way. This sandwich incorporates portobellos, zucchini, summer squash, peppers and onions together with an awesome combo of goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s a Jeff Mauro recipe. And waaay better than any cold cut sandwich you can get. Trust.

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TW’s Tips

  • I tried a couple of different types of naan for this — really liked the onion naan.
  • If you have a gas stove, it’s easy to warm/grill the naan directly over the burner instead of using a grill pan. Just keep the heat fairly low, use tongs to flip the naan a couple of times and keep close watch.
  • The goat cheese spread is delicious — make a little extra!

Enjoy!

Ingredients

Marinated Veggies:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 large portobello mushroom caps
  • 3 banana peppers, stemmed, seeds removed and quartered lengthwise
  • 2 medium yellow squash, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Spread:

  • 3 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Naan-wich Build:

  • 8 pieces whole wheat naan
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

Directions
For the marinated veggies: Mix the oil, vinegar, thyme, Dijon, honey and garlic together. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Clean the gills of the portobello mushrooms by using a spoon and scraping out the black gills from the underside of the cap.

Place all the vegetables in a baking dish and then pour the marinade over them and toss. Allow the marinade to work its magic for 15 to 30 minutes.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Grill the vegetables, in batches if necessary, until nice grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes a side. Set the cooked vegetables aside until ready to assemble (you can place them back in the baking dish where they were marinating). Once the mushrooms come off the grill, slice them thinly on the diagonal.

For the spread: Mix the goat cheese with the sun-dried tomatoes and season with some salt and pepper.

For the naan-wich build: Lightly brush the naan with oil and grill on both sides, just until some grill marks appear, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Start by schmearing some of the goat cheese spread on each piece of the griddled naan, and then layer the grilled vegetables high and top with a generous amount of basil, closing the naan-wich with the other slice of naan. Slice the sandwich on the diagonal and then enjoy feeling healthier with each bite.

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Goat Cheese Mac & Cheese

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Who’s not a mac and cheese fan, right? Well, I certainly am, and I got the gift of a mac and cheese cookbook for Christmas this year, so I’ve been on a kick. Not healthy, but wow is it delicious. (Gift or curse? I’ve been debating.) This cookbook is by the chefs at Homeroom restaurant in Oakland, California. Their specialty is mac and cheese (obviously). It has all kinds of variations on the original, and they are all amazing. This one features goat cheese, one of my favorites — it’s rich and creamy and tart, and the bread crumbs on top give it a nice crunch.

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The key to this mac and cheese is the béchamel sauce that serves as the base. And the key to the sauce is constant whisking. Add the milk slowly, whisk until incorporated, and add more. This is the perfect meal for a cold night or when you just want some comfort food. It’s amazing!

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TW’s Tips

  • The mac sauce recipe makes three cups, and the mac and cheese recipe only calls for two cups, so remember not to add the whole bunch. I’ve done this several times!
  • Don’t use anything besides whole milk. It won’t work.
  • I use the trusty Le Creuset for this — makes for easy clean-up and really easy to transfer to the oven to crisp the breadcrumbs.

Goat Cheese Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dried elbow pasta
  • 2 cups mac sauce (recipe below)
  • 6 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup grated Jack cheese
  • 4 green onions (green and light green parts), sliced
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until a little less than al dente. Drain, rinse the pasta with cold water, and drain again.

Add the sauce (remember only two cups!), cheese and green onions to a large, heavy-bottomed pot and cook over low heat until the goat cheese is barely melted, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked pasta.

Pour the cheese noodle mixture into a large baking dish. Top evenly with panko and bake until you see the cheese sauce bubbling up the sides, 10 to 15 minutes.

Spoon into bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.

Mac Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

Directions

Heat the milk in a pot over medium heat until it just starts to bubble, but is not boiling, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a separate, heavy-bottomed pot. When the butter has just melted, add the four and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Slowly pour the warm milk, about 1 cup at a time, into the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly. It will get very thick when you first add the milk, and thinner as you slowly pour in the entire 3 cups. This is normal.

Once all the milk has been added, set the pot back over medium-high heat, and continue to whisk constantly. In the next 2 to 3 minutes, the sauce should come together and become silky and thick. Add the salt.

The mac sauce is ready to use immediately and does not need to cool. Store it in the fridge for a day or two if you want to make it ahead of time. It will get a lot thicker when put in the fridge, so it may need a little milk to thin it out a bit when it comes time to melt in the cheese. Try melting the cheese into the sauce first and if it is too thick then add milk as needed.

Herbaceous Beef Burgers

“Is that cheese oozing out of that delicious-looking burger?” you ask. Why yes. It is.

Which is reason #1 why you need to make these awesome “Herbaceous Beef Burgers” (recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray). You form the burger — beef with a mix of dill, parsley and chives, around a chunk of creamy goat cheese, so when you bite into the burger all of that melty goodness lies in wait inside. The herbs in the burger give it a great, fresh taste, and I love the unconventional burger toppers of cucumber and radish.

I made these burgers with my “Little Sister” through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. It’s a pretty simple, straightforward recipe so it’s great for cooking with someone, and she loved the results! The honey mustard sauce is a great finisher.

TW’s Tips

  • More than 1/4 pound burgers are too big for me — I used about a pound of meat instead of the recommended pound and a half, which makes the burger look sadly small on the huge kaiser roll, but it’s more than enough for a filling meal.
  • I served this with potato salad and fresh corn on the cob from the farmers market — yum!
  • Add on tomato or avocado if you want more veggies involved.

Herbaceous Beef Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef sirloin
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dill (a generous handful)
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (eyeball it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 4 ounce log goat cheese, quartered
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 crusty whole grain kaiser rolls, split
  • 4 leaves green-leaf lettuce
  • 1/4 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices red onion

Directions

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, combine the beef, parsley, dill, chives and Worcestershire sauce; season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into 4 mounds. Press 1 piece of cheese into the center of each mound, then form a patty around the cheese. Drizzle the patties with EVOO and grill for 4 minutes on each side for medium.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sour cream, mustard and honey; season with salt and pepper. Layer each roll bottom with lettuce, cucumber, radish, onion and a burger. Spread honey mustard sauce on the cut side of the bun tops and set into place.

Stack of Heaven: Eggplant, Tomato & Feta Cheese Napolean

I live for the day when heirloom tomatoes appear at the farmers market. I’m a bit of a tomato fiend — I’m sorry, but a sandwich is just not a sandwich without tomato — but nothing beats a fresh, local, funky-looking heirloom tomato. I love them so much that I spent $12 on them at the farmers market. And it will be worth every penny, believe me!

My go-to with an heirloom is a simple caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, but this week I found a delicious-looking recipe for Eggplant, Tomato, and Feta Cheese Napoleans (courtesy of Emeril). Um, yes please!

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, and I found some adorable little purple and white specimens at Whole Foods that I couldn’t pass up. Roasted with balsamic vinegar and stacked with goat cheese, tomatoes and basil oil…oh wow. Not only does it look impressive, I think I could eat this for every meal this week. I opted for goat cheese instead of feta — good choice, if I don’t say so myself.

Seriously — how amazing does that look? I outdid myself on this one.

Eggplant, Tomato and Feta Cheese Napolean

PESTO OIL:

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

NAPOLEONS:

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large tomatoes, cored

To make the pesto oil, pulse the basil and garlic in a food processor or blender until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until well blended. Season with the salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly.

To make the napoleons, preheat the oven to 450°F.

Cut the eggplant crosswise into 12 slices about 1/4 inch thick. Mix 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Add the eggplant slices and toss to coat. Season with the salt and pepper.

Place the eggplant on a baking sheet in one layer and bake until soft, turning once, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

In a small bowl, combine the cheese, basil, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Slice each tomato crosswise into 4 slices about 1/3 inch thick. Place 1 eggplant slice on a salad plate. Top with about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture, then a tomato slice. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of pesto oil over the tomato, then top with another tablespoon of cheese. Repeat with an other eggplant slice, 1 tablespoon cheese, a tomato slice, and 1 teaspoon pesto oil. Finish with a final eggplant slice, another tablespoon of cheese, and a drizzle of pesto oil. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Serve at room temperature, with pesto oil drizzled around each napoleon.

Yield: 4 servings

Farmers Market Love: Squash Blossoms

I did my hippie thing this Sunday and rode my beach cruiser to the farmers market and crammed my hippie bike basket full of yummy finds. This week: heirloom tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, raspberries, pluots, green beans, grapefruit and (cue the angels singing) squash blossoms.

How excited was I to find squash blossoms? Well…very. I’ve been dying to try this recipe from “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard (a great beach read that tells a love story through food and ends each chapter with recipes). Her recipe calls for zucchini blossoms, but seeing how hard it was for me to find ANY edible blossoms, I subbed in my squash blossoms and it worked quite well.

The recipe: Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Mint.

Warning: stuffing the delicate flowers definitely takes some patience so you don’t rip the flower open and ruin the great little pocket it has created for you. Careful! I’m not very patient, but I managed to not make too much of a mess of the process.

After roasting in the oven, the end result, sprinkled with sea salt, was delish. I confess: I ate almost all of them.

Aren’t they pretty? The recipe:

1 egg

3 ounces goat cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

2 packed teaspoons chopped fresh mint

12 zucchini (or squash) flowers

Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly beat the egg, crumble in the goat cheese, and mash them together with a fork. Add salt, pepper and mint.

Stuff the flowers (no need to take out the stamen) with a small amount of the cheese mixture. Twist to close.

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pour a small amount of olive oil onto the sheet and spread it around with your fingers. Roll the stuffed flowers through the oil until lightly coated.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant.