Main Dishes

Ratatouille Napoleon

I received several fantastic cookbooks around the holidays and I have been so over-the-top excited about each of them that I can’t believe I have waited this long to share them with you. I have spent the last couple months cooking away and trying different recipes from each of the cookbooks. But one of the ones I was most thrilled about diving into, The Southern Vegetarian, was one that began as a gift to someone else. I purchased this book for Christmas for my fellow foodie friend and once it arrived I determined that I needed my own copy right away.

Thankfully my parents got it for me for Christmas so I could start drooling over all the pages without dirtying someone else’s copy. This book proves, if you didn’t believe it already, that eating vegetarian can be exciting, surprising and absolutely drool-worthy delicious. Matt and I previously ate vegetarian about once a week, although it was mostly for cost-saving purposes.

After the holidays were over, a scale had been purchased and we both had picked our jaws up from the floor (ok, it wasn’t that bad, but still a minor reality check moment), we decided to increase our vegetarianism for health concerns as well. Reduce your grocery bill and slim down? No, I’m not talking about starvation, I’m talking about eating (partly) vegetarian!

This ratatouille napoleon is an easy and delicious multifaceted meal that will undoubtedly impress your family and friends. The layering of the crunchy phyllo dough, hearty sautéed vegetables, savory olive tapenade, refreshing ricotta and slightly sweet balsamic reduction will perform a cohesive symphony of flavors on your taste buds. So veggie lovers and meat snarfers alike: make this dish, eat it, repeat, but don’t forget to share.

Ratatouille Napoleon
 
Yield: 6 stacks
Ingredients
for the napoleon
  • 2 cups peeled and diced eggplant
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 5 ounces crimini mushrooms, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 8 sheets phyllo dough
  • ¼ cup olive tapenade, plus 2 tablespoons
  • ¼ cup reduced fat ricotta cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper
for the balsamic reduction
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet then spread the eggplant, peppers, onions and mushrooms in an even layer. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat then lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake for 16 minutes then remove from the oven.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. Carefully lay a sheet of phyllo on a clean work surface. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Top with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat the process until all 8 phyllo sheets have been laid on top of one another. Using a pizza cutter, cut the phyllo stack into 12 equal squares.
  5. Place half the squares on the baking sheet. Use a medium ice cream scoop to place ¼ cup of the vegetable mixture on half of the phyllo squares. Bake the squares for 18 minutes or until they are golden brown.
  6. Repeat with the remainder of the squares.
  7. Spread olive tapenade on each of the un-topped squares.
  8. To serve, scoop a spoonful of the ricotta onto a plate then layer a tapenade square followed by ratatouille square. Follow with a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.
for the balsamic reduction
  1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it has been reduced to a couple tablespoons.

Recipe adapted from The Southern Vegetarian.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

I often get inspired by dishes I have out at restaurants. Sometimes it is because the dish was so fantastic that I dream about it day and night. I develop an obsessive nonstop craving for it and must recreate it myself to satisfy this craving. Sometimes the dish wasn’t all that great, but in theory it sounded amazing. That is when I know I must recreate it to help the dish live up to its potential. The later was the case with this salad. A spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts. The minute I saw it written on the menu my mouth started watering.

I have an affinity for goat cheese with its creamy texture and tangy taste so the thought of adding a crispy exterior had me over the moon with delight. Then adding pears for sweetness balanced by the toasted walnuts for crunch and an earthiness? Genius workings of a perfect salad in my eyes. But then it came to the table and the first bite was a serious letdown. The dressing was bland and the fried goat cheese was overpowered by breading. I knew the salad was meant to be amazing so a week later I set out to help it reach its full potential.

This spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts with a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette exceeds expectations beyond what my wildest dreams had imagined. The fried goat cheese has a very light yet crunchy exterior which pairs perfectly with the refreshing spinach, pears and toasted walnuts, but what really makes this salad sing is the pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Sweet and tangy this dressing packs a punch and is anything but bland. You only need a small amount so make sure you don’t overdress the spinach.

Typically, a salad is the last meal choice on my list, but that week I ate this salad every day, oftentimes for lunch and dinner. Now if that testament isn’t enough to get you to make this salad right this minute, then I’m not sure what is.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
 
Yield: 4 servings, 1 cup dressing
Ingredients
for the fried goat cheese
  • 8 ounces goat cheese or goat cheese with honey
  • 2 egg whites
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
for the dressing
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
for the salad
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 pears
Directions
for the fried goat cheese
  1. Place a small cooling rack over a baking sheet small enough to fit in your fridge then set aside.
  2. Beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the goat cheese into ½” thick slices. The best way to cleanly cut goat cheese is with a small piece of dental floss.
  4. Carefully dip each slice of goat cheese into the egg white mixture then the breadcrumbs before placing on the cooling rack. After all the pieces have been dipped let them chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  5. When the goat cheese rounds have chilled, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. Cook 2-3 minutes per side then remove from the heat.
for the dressing
  1. Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, mustard and honey until combined. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
for the salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Evenly place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  2. Thinly slice the pears.
  3. Toss the spinach with some of the salad dressing. Divide dressed spinach onto 4 plates then top each plate with the ¼ of the toasted walnuts, ½ of the sliced pears and 2 pieces of warm fried goat cheese.

Vinaigrette from Bobby Flay.
Fried goat cheese from Ina Garten.

Roast Chicken with a Pomegranate Molasses and Apricot Glaze

The first time I made a whole roast chicken was all due to a happy accident. Vehicle-less and not wanting to lug groceries on the T, my college roommates and I decided to test out Peapod online grocery delivery service. After the roommates and I added all our items, Matt added a couple of his own before completing the order. When it arrived a couple days later I pulled out an entire ten pound chicken. What college student buys a ten pound chicken? Especially in an apartment where we were living on grilled cheeses, frittatas and pasta! Turns out in his haste Matt accidentally ordered a whole chicken instead of chicken breasts. So we stuck it in the freezer until we could work up the courage to tackle the bird.

But when we finally did and took the first bite out of our labor of love we had seasoned, buttered and basted for hours, it was absolutely glorious. There is something so delicious about a roast chicken. It could be that the anticipation goes to your head while you’re waiting for it to cook. It might be that you get overwhelmed by a sense of accomplishment at having completed such a monumental task.

But if I was to really try and put my finger on it I’d have to keep it simple: from the juicy white meat to the tender thighs to the crispy skin a whole roast chicken is just damn tasty. This pomegranate molasses and apricot roast chicken is certainly no exception. The meat is moist, flavorful and fragrant, while the exterior is sweet and sticky. Finger-lickin’ great chicken.

You will wish you had five ovens so you could whip up a whole bunch of these bad boys at once. If you have never made roast chicken before don’t be shy! I promise you that if a couple of grilled cheese making college kids can do it then so can you. And if you have made a whole roast chicken before then you will regret not giving this one a shot. So go ahead, use some of that precious pomegranate molasses and tackle that bird.

Roast Chicken with a Pomegranate Molasses and Apricot Glaze
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 4-6 pound chicken, giblets removed
  • 1 orange, cut in slices
  • 1 lemon, cut in slices
  • ½ onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Rinse the chicken inside and out and dry thoroughly.
  3. Salt and pepper then inside of the chicken the stuff the cavity with the orange slices, lemon slices, onion pieces and garlic cloves.
  4. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together, tucking the wings under the body of the chicken. Place the chicken breast-side down on the roasting rack in a deep roasting pan.
  5. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes. Use the melted butter to baste the chicken allover. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and continue to cook for 45 minutes. After 20 minutes baste the chicken again with butter.
  6. While the chicken is in the oven make the glaze. Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, orange juice, apricot jam and lemon juice until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. After the 45 minutes are up flip the chicken so the breasts are up then coat allover with the glaze. Cook for 30 minutes, basting with the glaze again after 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or when the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh.

Recipe adapted from The Global Jewish Kitchen.

Grilled Pineapple and Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas

Oddly, quesadillas are a food quite dear to my heart. It’s not as though they are a family favorite we used to have every week or a dish I always requested on my birthday. Nothing like that. My food memories with quesadillas come from a variety of places. Like how my grandma and I would order them as an appetizer, along with the chicken noodle soup she loves, if we were extra hungry during our weekly Friendly’s trips. Or how my stepmom would always make them for me, with extra sour cream, if my dad wasn’t home for the night. Or how they were the first meal Matt and I ever cooked together in his summer college dorm with tortillas and cheese picked up from the local convenience store, just excited to have a kitchen to cook in for the first time.

Whether or not you have loving food memories with quesadillas like I do, their cheesy goodness and ease of preparation is undeniable. I love seeking out interesting combinations for this great dish and when I stumbled upon a grilled pineapple and barbecue chicken version I knew I had to try it for myself. It certainly did not disappoint.

The beauty of barbecue sauce is you can veer this dish in any direction you prefer. Spicy, sweet, tangy, it’s up to you. The sweetness from the pineapple, the smokiness from the grill and the flavor from the barbecue sauce will have you chowing down silently, minus the moaning escaping from your lips between bites. And when you dip these into the grilled pineapple guacamole and some sour cream then take a bite? Well this meal might start sounding R-rated.

Grilled Pineapple and Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 sections of whole pineapple (see note), or 4 rings of pineapple
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 4 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • ½ cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup shredded colby jack cheese
  • ¼ of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sliced scallions, sour cream, guacamole and salsa for serving
Directions
  1. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat and lightly coat with cooking spray. Grill the pineapple 2-3 minutes per side, or until light grill marks appear. Once grilled, cut the pineapple into ½”- 1” chunks.
  2. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Lightly coat the same grill or grill pan over medium-high heat and grill the chicken breasts. Cook for 6-8 minutes per side or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. During the last couple minutes of cooking coat both sides of the chicken with barbecue sauce. Remove and cut into 1” pieces.
  3. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and add the olive oil. Place 1 of the tortillas in the pan then top with ¼ cup of the cheddar cheese. Arrange half of the grilled pineapple chunks, half of the chicken pieces and half of the red onion on top. Drizzle with a little extra barbecue sauce if desired then top with ¼ cup of the colby jack cheese and a second tortilla.
  4. Cook until the cheese has melted and the bottom tortilla has started to brown, about 6 minutes. Flip the quesadilla then cook until the other side lightly browns, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  5. Cut into 6 wedges and serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa and scallions.
Notes
If using fresh pineapple follow these instructions:
1. Cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple.
2. Sitting the pineapple upright, cut it in half, then into quarters.
3. Standing each quarter upright, cut it in half to make 2 wedges.
4. Standing each wedge upright, cut the point off down the entire length of each wedge to remove the thick core, about ½” - ¾” into the pineapple.
5. Still standing each wedge upright, cut the skin off each wedge.

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

Roast Cauliflower and Garlic Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and a Balsamic Drizzle

Hang onto your hats folks, we’re in for a whirlwind! My excitement over this soup is bursting out of me and it cannot be contained. The best thing for you to do is to hold on, take it all in and then get cooking. I first cooked this soup a couple years ago, but every time I make it I wonder to myself why I wait so long in between whipping it up.

I love creamy vegetable soups, but they are usually laden with heavy cream and high fat milk. A creamy soup that is low in calories and fat, but high in nutrition and flavor? Definitely a win. But a soup that also has added protein? Now that is the ultimate trifecta! A tasty tender trifecta.

Roasted cauliflower and garlic soup topped with kale chips and a balsamic drizzle. No, you don’t have to go to some fancy farm-to-table restaurant to enjoy this cozy dish; you can make it in your kitchen right this minute. Cauliflower is roasted to add depth to its flavor and tenderize it. Roasting the garlic mellows it and causes it to develop a creamy texture. While the vegetables are roasting a light roux is created then mixed with onions, carrots, celery and seasonings.

The sautéed vegetables brown and release their inner juices just before being combined with rich vegetable stock and white wine. The roasted vegetables are added to the pot and everything is pureed to a rustic creaminess. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt lends to the creaminess and provides a very subtle tang. Finally the soup is topped with kale chips for crunch and an easy balsamic drizzle for continued depth of flavor. Go make this. Now. I’ll be running to the kitchen for more leftovers before I pass out from excitement.

Roast Cauliflower and Garlic Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and a Balsamic Drizzle
 
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ⅛ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 ounces fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 batch crispy kale chips
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Directions
for the soup
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil and set aside.
  3. Cut the cauliflower into similar sized florets and evenly place on the baking sheet. Toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cut the tops off both heads of garlic so that almost all the cloves are exposed. Place each head of garlic in a little square of tinfoil and curve up the sides. Lightly drizzle the garlic heads with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Seal up the tinfoil to make little packets of the garlic heads.
  5. Place the cauliflower and garlic packets in the oven. Let the cauliflower roast for 25 minutes then remove from the oven. Let the garlic continue to roast for another 10 minutes.
  6. While the cauliflower and garlic are roasting, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk until the mixture is light brown in color, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the celery, onion and carrot. Stir to combine and cook until the onions have started to brown and the vegetables have started to soften.
  8. Add the salt, pepper, italian seasoning, paprika, oregano and chili powder, stirring to combine. Add the wine and water. Bring to a slow boil then cook for 5 minutes.
  9. When the heads of garlic have cooled, squeeze out the garlic cloves and add them to the soup along with the vegetable broth. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  10. Add the cauliflower and cook for 5 more minutes. Using a food processor or immersion blender puree the soup until smooth. Add the greek yogurt and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
for the garnish
  1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Continue to heat until it has reduced to a 2-3 tablespoons.
  2. Top each bowl of soup with kale chips and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.

Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef.