Zucchini Tomato Mozzarella Sliders

July 27, 2012 § 4 Comments

Zucchini. It doesn’t stop.

Turn around for a minute and the long green veggie is 3 inches longer on the vine. Not kidding. Hold off on picking it for a day and … well … it becomes a billy club. Growing up, we’d throw the very large zukes into the pig pen. Healthy, zucchini-loving pigs, that’s what we had.

Lately, thoughts during my 25-minute walk back home from yoga have turned to how to use that day’s zucchini. Pizza. Pasta. Salad. I’ve done them all and wanted something different. Last night, my craving for a burger—really, the craving for something meaty between two bready buns—decided dinner for me. Why should sliders be reserved for meat eaters? Zucchini can play that game, too.

Ingredientszucchini tomato mozzarella sliders
1 5-6 in. zucchini
2 tbs olive oil
1+tbs balsamic vinegar
1 spring oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 small French rolls, cut into top and bottom halves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 tbs olive oil
1 deliciously red heirloom tomato
mozzarella

1. Slice zucchini into rounds slightly thicker than 1/2 in. Discard (or eat!) the smaller rounds. Shoot for using 12 rounds.

2. Combine oil, vinegar, oregano, a big pinch of kosher salt and several turns of the pepper grinder in a medium bowl. Dip your finger in there and adjust seasoning if you’d like (more vinegar? more oil? It’s your food—make it taste the way you like!). Add zucchini slices and toss. Put aside.

3. Smash those garlic cloves with the back of your chef’s knife (on a cutting board, of course) and schmear it together until the garlic becomes kinda pasty. You can add a sprinkle of salt or not. Add this to a small bowl of 1-2 tbs olive oil. Brush this oil onto the bun halves.

4. Set a grill pan onto medium-high heat. When it’s hot, place buns, cut side down, onto the pan and flatten slightly. 10-15 seconds will do. Put grilled buns into a bowl and cover with a tea towel for now. Turn off grill pan.

5. Meanwhile … we’re still waiting for the zucchini to marinate a bit. Take this time to make a small side salad and whip up a quick vinaigrette.

6. Okay, done with the salad? Time to move on. Get that grill pan back up to medium high. Place your zucchini rounds onto the grill pan. Using a brush, dab some of the liquid remaining in the bowl onto each slice. Let them sit for 4-5 min, or until they get some nice-looking grill marks on the bottom.

7. While those are grilling, slice the tomato into 6 slices and add to whatever liquid remains in the bottom of that bowl.

8. Mozzarella. Time to slice it. Slice it about 1/4 in. thick or less, and into whatever size will sit nicely on top of a zucchini round.

9. Back to those zucchinis. They should be ready to flip onto the other side. Do that. Then place a bit of mozzarella on top of each. Let them grill for a minute.

10. Get your buns ready, working with one top and bottom at a time. This part is optional: Make some room in that grill pan and place the buns cut side down into the goodness the zucchini has been cooking in. Only takes a second, and remove quickly. If not doing that: Place one zucchini slice onto the bun bottom, and overlap a second on top of that. Add a slice of tomato. Top it off with other half of the bun. Repeat with the remaining zukes and buns.

Super. Good. I ate one and a half. Coulda had two. Or three.

Enjoy. I’m off to make zucchini bread now.

Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe? Share it in the comments section.

 

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Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 4

October 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Day 4 … halfway through our week of eating and drinking stuff as homegrown and as local as possible. How’s it going? Great. In fact, we might have too much food. Well, we’ll make it to the end, definitely.

Okay, I had promised some scintillating breakfasts. Not happening on Day 4. The morning meal, to me, is utilitarian. I know, that’s the wrong way to think about it. You’re supposed to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. Or something like that. I honestly don’t have the stomach for breakfast until, say, 9 am.

Day 4 was a whole two days ago. Let’s see if I can remember what we had.

Breakfast:
Flat Black coffee. Maine’s Own Organic Milk. And honestly, I may have had an apple. I know it wasn’t much. I was kinda busy and on a role with things, work-wise. Sometimes that happens. Kids, eat your breakfast and don’t be like Auntie Dainty.

Lunch:
Lunch … I have to say what I made for lunch was the best thing ever constructed out of two pieces of bread. Seriously. Some cookbook-writing chef is going to see my delicious creation and will put it front and center in his/her lunch options.

Grilled eggplant paninni with tomato and smoky mayo

It’s a grilled eggplant and tomato paninni with smoky mayo. Recall the smoky mayo originally topped the broiled bluefish on Day 2. Imagine that spread not-too-thinly on two slices of homemade sourdoughish bread. And remember the eggplant on the grilled pizza from Day 3? Lay a couple of those grilled eggplant slices down on top. Add some sliced tomato, top with another mayo-slathered slice of bread. Put a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron pan. Lay down the sammies. And add some wait to make them “pressed sandwiches.” In this case, I used a very heavy Dutch oven. Grill both sides to a nice crispness. Smoky mayo+grilled eggplant=the world’s perfect pairing. I wanted to share it with everyone and no one all at once.

Dinner:
We still had two bluefish fillets in the fridge from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share on Tuesday. We did another round of Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo since it was so good on Day 2. And we had a small side salad. See those beans on top? Vermont Cranberry Beans – the best homegrown beans. Ever.

 

Broiled bluefish with smoky mayo and a salad

That was it for Day 4. We won’t tell you if we finish the remaining Topsfield Fair-made kettle corn. We’ll let you think on that.

 

 

Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 3

October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Day 3 on the Homegrown Food Challenge and no fish heads were lopped off on this particular day. But the grill did get lit, and that’s always a fun thing. Here’s how our day progressed.

Breakfast:
Starting to look very familiar. Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic Milk. Stonyfield yogurt with local apple, honey and a crumbled Effie’s oatcake. We’ll get a bit more creative with breakfast on the weekend, no worries.

Lunch:
Jennifer and I both had big salads with local stuff, similar to the one I had for lunch on Day 2. Local lettuce and red pepper, pickled beets, homemade dressing, etc etc. I even made some homemade croutons from homemade bread.

Dinner:
This is where the grill gets lit—finally! We cranked it up for some pizza made with homemade pizza dough. Two pizzas are usually enough to take care of dinner plus give us enough for lunch the following day.

grilled pizza

Pizza #1: Homemade sauce using slightly green homegrown tomatoes (similar to the roasted cherry tomato sauce I make), grilled eggplant (from farmers market) and locally made mozzarella.

grilled pizza

Pizza #2: Homemade pesto using homegrown basil, grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper (from farmers market) and caramelized homegrown leeks.

Can’t have pizza without beer, right? We had some Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. Pretty tasty stuff!

As I am two days behind in posting, I can hint at what awaits you for Day 4: One of the most fabulous creations to ever have been sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Think I over-exaggerate? Oh. No.

Grilled Pizza

August 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Summertime … and the grilling is easy. Cheese is melting, and the pizza is fine.

Okay, I’m no George Gershwin, but what I’m trying to say is this: Pizza on the grill is not only easy, it’s one of the quickest summertime grilled meals possible. What do I like about it most? The fact that I don’t have to deal with my smoke alarms going off. Yeah, that happens whenever we cook pizza inside. The super-heated oven ends up burning the corn meal that remains on our pizza stone. Pizza in January usually means both our front and back doors are open to prevent smoke buildup. No. Kidding.

So, when we can slap that pizza dough on a hot grill, we go there.

And you can go there, too.

I’m not going to tell you what kind of pizza to make. Your toppings are your toppings. You want pepperoni? Have pepperoni. You want smoked salmon? Go for it. Sauce? Yes, please—but don’t go overboard. A little dab will do ya (I’m showing my age with that quote).

My assorted pizza toppings, minus a bowl full of kale-ricotta mixture.

Plus, I’m not the pizza maker. Jennifer is the star when it comes to assemblage. I make the dough, I’ll make sauce. I’ll sous, but she chefs when it comes to pizza time. We’re practiced at this, but the following are our tips, not our must dos. Also, p.s., our grilling is done on a gas grill. Charcoal? A slightly different animal, so adjust as you see fit.

Grilled Pizza Tips

A hot hot grill is good. 500F is good. Clean it really well, not leftover burnt chicken skin, please.

Prep your toppings. I can’t emphasize that enough. Slice, dice, chop, stir. Get ’em ready. AND, pour a small bowl – maybe 1/3 to a 1/2 cup? – of olive oil to have on hand. Put ’em all on a big cutting board or tray to carry out to the grill.

Roll out a nice flat but not too thin dough. Round, square, oblong, whatever.

Here’s a great trick: Lightly oil a section of aluminum foil. Take that dough you just rolled out and put it down on the foil. Now, lightly swab the top of the dough with oil.

Okay, maybe I over-oiled this one. Swab off any extra oil!

Grill’s good and hot. Your toppings are ready to go. Your dough is ready to go. So, go out to the grill and … Quickly flip that dough, oiled top side down, on top searing-hot grill, and peel back the foil.  There’ll be some “yikes!” and “oh, sh*t” moments, I’m not gonna lie to you. Pull the dough one way or the other, make your tweaks QUICKLY, and then close that grill cover. And fast. The sooner heat completely surrounds the dough, the quicker that dough is going to turn into a pizza crust. Right? Right.

Two-three minutes. Peek once or twice to make sure the underside is not burning. Oh, it’ll burn. Believe you me.

Oh damn, I burned the first one. These things happen.

NOTE: The first dough got kinda … well … crispy. I started another. Much, much better.

Get your mise en place in place, ready to go. Open the grill, flip that crust over.

Not using a sauce? Then give a quick brush all over the top with evoo. Using a sauce? Spread it thinly and quickly. Layer everything else on as you see fit. And be quick about it!

Close the lid for another couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the bottom, making sure it’s not burning. When the cheese (if you’re using) and the sauce look melty and hot, it’s time to take it off the heat.

Let sit for three minutes to let the sauce and toppings set. And then cut yourself a slice.

Worth it all, huh?

Eggplant Asparagus Napoleons

April 21, 2011 § 4 Comments

Why these are called Napoleons, I’m not sure. Maybe because they are short squat layered stacks. I’m almost positive it wasn’t because the guy had a tasty complexity of flavors. In my book, these take the victory.

Here’s the idea: Layers of eggplant, ricotta and asparagus. Simple. Delightful. And they do have a mysteriously complex flavor, thanks to grilling.

Giada DeLaurentis, aka food porn queen, made these in a recent show. The recipe is easy enough to recreate. Just a warning, these require some grilling. We have one of those indoor grills that you plug in AND a 16-in. All-Clad grill pan. We used both at the same time for these.

Eggplant Asparagus Napoleons

Eggplant asparagus napoleon

(gives you 4 short stacks)

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-in. slices, at least 12
  • asparagus – about 12 stalks
  • 3-4 tbs freshly chopped thyme
  • evoo
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • ricotta cheese, about 2 cups
  • 1/2 lemon

-Set oven to 200F-250F

-Put about two cups of ricotta in a medium bowl. Add about half of the chopped thyme and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Stir to incorporate. Set aside.

-Put eggplant slices in a big bowl. Dowse with olive oil, sprinkle with two big pinches of kosher salt, a couple of twists of pepper, and the remaining chopped thyme. Get your hands in there (or use tongs) and make sure it is all evenly coated. The eggplant will suck up the oil – that’s okay, don’t overdo it.

-Set indoor grill or grill pan or maybe even your outdoor grill to medium and let it heat up. Place 12 eggplant slices on the grill – reserve the bowl they were in. If it looks like some of the  slices missed a bit of oil, take some olive oil and a brush and brush them up a bit. Let them grill up on that side for a few minutes.

-Meanwhile, chop the woody parts off your asparagus. Place in that bowl, add a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. You can grill these up in a separately as I did, or you can wait until your eggplant is done.

-Speaking of eggplant, check to see how the undersides are coming along. When they get golden grill marks on the bottom, flip ’em over. Maybe some of the ones you just turned over need another wash of oil. Your decision. Give them another couple of minutes to grill up – just take them off before they get limp and burned.

-Grill up the asparagus on medium. It won’t take as long as the eggplant. Move them to get all sides as best you can. 4-5 minutes max. You don’t want them wimpy; pick one up and hold it sideways – it shouldn’t sag. Place them on cutting board when done and chop them in half.

-Here’s the assembly part: On a baking sheet place four slices of eggplant. Spoon on a dollop of the ricotta – not too much, just enough to cover the slice but don’t spread it thinly either like butter on toast. Now add three asparagus sections on top of the ricotta. Add another layer of eggplant. More ricotta. Another three sections of asparagus. Now top it off with eggplant. You should have yourself a nice short stack.

-Pop the baking sheet in the warm oven for about 10 minutes or so – enough time to bring everything up to temperature.

Use one napoleon as a side dish or use two as a meal and serve with some sort of protein. I made a side of quinoa with roasted cherry tomatoes and shallots.

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