Burnt Eggplant with Pomegranate Seeds & Cucumber – or Really Fancy Baba Ganoush

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

31 years ago today – I moved to Los Angeles intending to establish residency & go to a state school (UCLA) for film – hoping to one day direct. I was 19 & did not know anyone else in LA – and – I had never driven a car (and lived here for 2 1/2 years without car or even a driver’s license) and lived for the first week in a creepy, rent-by-the-week motel on Whitley just north of Hollywood Blvd – until I found an apartment at Sunset & Normandie – where I lived for the next 4+ years. 19 and alone – very far from anything familiar and, apparently iron-clad balls because I can’t imagine being that brave now.  And to be honest – I cried almost every day for the first year & had to deflect my mother’s repeated offers to fly out here, pack me up & move me back home.  Honest to God – I have no fucking idea what I was thinking or how my mother let me go in the first place. I look at my friends’ kids who are at or near that age & cannot imagine sending them off to a seedy big city (which Hollywood really was in 1984) – 3000 miles away. I am very, very proud of my 19-year-old self & what that kid pulled off – through sheer willpower. I wish I had the nerve & gumption now that I had then. I am very grateful to live in LA. It is a great town – despite what the haters will tell you. So, anyway – happy anniversary to me & my youthful courage.

See Los Angeles in all its coolness!

Below are some images of me from that general era.  Notice the shaved sides in the top picture that I tried to mask with bangs in my first ever headshot – just below it.  Little did I know that the edgier me was going to be the key to my ever working as an actress.  Conformity – or my attempts at it – fooled nobody.

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So – onto this gorgeous recipe!  I saw it on The Iron You (seen in their photo above) and could not resist the chance to photograph something so gorgeous.  I made a few minor tweaks – in the interest of it being vegan & a little less caloric – but it is really their recipe – and is is CRAZY delicious!   As The Iron You states – “The end result is an addictive, creamy, smoky, tart, sweet, salty, and aromatic dip/spread/salad.  It can stand on its own as a dip or condiment or as a side to meat or fish or it can be served as a refreshing Middle Eastern inspired salad.”

Funny that I often co-opt Iron You recipes because their primary focus is a Paleo diet which – in reality – is almost the opposite of my focus – a vegan diet.  But they use lots of veggies & their photographs (like that one just above) are so inspiring – I am a big fan!

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This is easy & requires no special tools.  I used a food processor but out of laziness – not need.  Chopping the mushy eggplant would be almost as easy by hand.   It is basically a fancified hummus – but using eggplant rather than chick peas.  I think it is virtually guiltless – as far as calories & it really does have a complexity of flavors that is delightful!  And just LOOK at it!  Can you imagine a pretty holiday appetizer?

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Burnt Eggplant with Pomegranate Seeds & Cucumber – or Really Fancy Baba Ganoush

Serves several as an appetizer served with pita wedges

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplant

1/3 cup tahini

1 TBS plus 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp agave nectar

1 garlic clove – minced

3 TBS chopped parsley

1/2 large pomegranate

1/2 cucumber – peeled, seeded & diced

Sesame seeds

S&P

More parsley & maybe olive oil for garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Roast the eggplant by placing it directly on a burner over a high flame.  You might want to protect your stove with foil – but I didn’t.  Turn frequently – and don’t walk away from it – lest it catch fire.  This should take 10-15 minutes & the skin should be charred almost all the way off & the flesh of the eggplant should be soft.  Allow to cool & then rub off the burned skin & stem top under cold, running water.  Allow to drain in a colander for 30 minutes.

Get the seeds out of half the pomegranate.  HERE are some tutorials showing how to do that.

If you do not have a food processor – chop the eggplant as finely as possible.

If you do have a food processor – pulse the eggplant a few times.

In either scenario – then mix/pulse in the tahini, lemon, agave, garlic & parsley.  Then fold in the cucumber & 3/4 of the pomegranate seeds.  Season with S&P.  Salt adds depth to this so definitely use some.

Garnish with the remaining pomegranate seeds, some chopped parsley & some sesame seeds.  Traditionally – olive oil is drizzled on top but I see no need to add those calories.  Knock yourself out if calories are of no concern to you.

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Vegan Spicy Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups (Larb Gai – Laab Gai)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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OK – now we are talking!  These are clean & light & perfectly suited to hot weather – both in the ease of preparation & the lack of anything too rich, dense or filling.  Another nice thing is that these guys come together in less than 20 minutes.  I think lemongrass is a traditional ingredient but I left it out – mainly because I know most people don’t have ready access to it.

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As always, I used Beyond Meat’s chicken because it is, in my opinion, the best vegan chicken on the market.  If you click that link – you can find a store locator & maybe even a coupon!  I also used jarred ginger & garlic but fresh would, clearly, be even better.

You can make this as spicy (or not) as you like.  I tend to go heavy on spice so keep that in mind if heat is not your bag.  For my money – the most critical detail in this recipe is the mint – but basil will do in a pinch.

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Vegan Spicy Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups (Larb Gai – Laab Gai)

Feeds 2

INGREDIENTS

Enough large lettuce leaves to make 6-8 individual cups/wraps

9 oz vegan chicken – thawed

1 TBS olive oil

1 jalapeno – seeded & minced

1/2 red bell pepper – slivered

1/2 red onion – diced

1 TBS ginger

1 TBS garlic

4+ TBS soy sauce or tamari

2 TBS brown sugar

1-3 TBS sriracha (according to your taste for heat)

1 TBS peanut butter (optional)

Cilantro

Fresh mint (or basil) – but really try it with mint – the mint is SO GOOD!

Lime wedges

GARNISHES (use as many or as few as you like)

Carrot – cut into matchsticks

Cucumber – cut into matchsticks

Red cabbage – slivered

Chopped peanuts

Scallions

Avocado (I show avocado in these photos but I did not add it to the wraps – though you might like to)

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DIRECTIONS

Set two plates with the lettuce cups on them.

In a food processor, pulse the chicken together with the jalapeno, half the onion & half the red bell pepper until it looks like pulled chicken or ground chicken (depending on the brand you are using) – or chop it all very fine, by hand)

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan & cook the remaining red onion & bell pepper for a few minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter & sriracha & blend until the sugar dissolves.  Add the chicken & heat through.  Tweak the seasonings & divide the chicken between the lettuce cups.  Top with cilantro and MINT (!) & serve with lime wedges & any other garnishes you opted to use.

Serve!

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Vegan Chicken & Mixed Vegetable Pot Pie

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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To be honest – I prepped this thing a few months ago & it has been sitting in the freezer – uncooked – ever since.  I did this because this recipe makes enough for TWO full-sized pot pies.  So – cut everything in half – if you only want to make one.  Or – do what I did.  Make two pies & freeze one for later.

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Vegan Chicken & Mixed Vegetable Pot Pie

Makes TWO pot pies

INGREDIENTS

4 pre-made vegan pie crusts – for the top & bottom of two pies

9 oz vegan chicken – cubed (I always use Beyond Meat)

5 TBS vegan butter

1 onion – diced

1/2 lb mushrooms – chopped

4 carrots – diced

3 small potatoes – cubed

4 celery stalks – chopped

1 cup peas

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups almond/soy/or other vegan milk

2 TBS fresh thyme – chopped (or 1 1/2 tsp dry thyme)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp dry rosemary – chopped

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 1 TBS butter & saute the onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery & potatoes over medium heat – stirring often.  After about 5 minutes – add the thyme, oregano & rosemary, bay leaves & the stock.   Bring to a boil & reduce to a simmer & cook it down util the vegetables are soft & most of the stock boils away.

Meanwhile – melt the remaining 5 TBS butter over medium heat in a stock pot & whisk in the flour.  Once that is combined & thick – SLOWLY add the milk – in small increments – stirring the entire time.  Whisk continuously – until the roux is thick.

Stir the roux into the vegetables & add the peas & cubed chicken.  Simmer until it is thickened & then remove the bay leaves.  Season with S&P.

Press the crusts into two pie pans & divide the filling between them.  Top the pies with remaining crusts & pinch the edges closed.  Perforate the top with a knife of fork so steam can vent.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the crust is the color you desire.  Mine wasn’t browning so I rubbed vegan butter on top & it helped a bit.

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If you are freezing one (or both) of the pies – try to prep the edges tucked into the pan – like mine above.  That way there is no fragile rim to get crushed in the freezer.  Wrap tightly in foil & freeze.  You might want to write the date on the foil – so you can keep track of when you froze it.  To cook it – let it thaw & then just bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.  If you do not have time to thaw it – heat oven to 425 degrees, place the pie on a baking sheet, cover edges loosely with foil and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake 70-80 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown

When your pie is cooked – let it rest at least ten minutes before cutting into it.

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Vegan Tofu Quiche with Chard, Spinach & Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I have never been a huge quiche fan.  Sure – I’ll eat it – but I will eat most things if they are my only option.  I became even less charmed with quiche when I made a few & realized that they really are not mostly egg – but rather – are mostly heavy cream.  They are as rich & decadent as ice cream and, frankly, I’d rather eat a tub of sour cream with spring onion powdered mix in it & gorge on an entire bag of reduced fat Ruffles.

So – I recently discovered the charms of tofu masquerading as egg whites & I am very pleased.   I made Vegan Tofu Scramble Breakfast Burrito with Mixed Vegetables & Cheese & Vegan Tofu Chilaquiles with 5-Minute Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce – seen below, respectively.

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And, when I am working, I scramble a quarter of a block of tofu with S&P and some spinach or veggie sausage & wrap it in an 80 calorie tortilla & dip it is salsa & call it breakfast.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I am now completely off eggs.

So – I thought – why not make a tofu quiche?  Cruelty-free & way less rich than a traditional quiche.  I used chard & spinach & vegan cheese in mine but you can adapt this to reflect whatever quiche ingredients you prefer.  A little veggie sausage would be nice.

I used 5 slices of this Field Roast Chao cheese – below.

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I really, really like that cheese – in all three flavors.  The texture is believable & it tastes yummy.  I pulsed mine into the tofu so that it might melt more effectively and, no matter what kind of cheese you use – I recommend this method.

The real secret to a delicious-looking quiche is the depth of it – so be sure to pack yours with ingredients.  I could have added sausage or other veggies – like broccoli – to this & it would still have fit into the crust – so err on the side of too much stuff in the crust rather than too little.

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Vegan Tofu Quiche with Chard, Spinach & Cheese

INGREDIENTS

1 prepared vegan pie crust

1 lb extra firm tofu

1 head chard – hard ribs removed – chopped

2 cups fresh spinach – chopped

1/2 onion – diced

1/2 red bell pepper – diced

1 carrot – diced

5 slices of vegan cheese (or 1/2 cup or more of your cheese selection)

2 TBS tahini (optional)

1 TBS miso (optional)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 TBS fresh basil – minced

Olive oil

Smoked (or other) paprika

5-10 cherry tomatoes – halved

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Press the crust into a pie pan.

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a large saute pan.  saute the onion, carrot & red pepper until soft.  Add the chard & spinach & basil & saute until the greens wilt.  Season with S&P.  Set aside.

In a blender or food processor – pulse the tofu & cheese together with the Dijon and the miso & tahini (if using).  Season with S&P.  Add to the vegetable mixture & combine.

Pour into the crust & sprinkle with paprika.  Arrange the tomatoes on top.  Pinch your crust edges – if you like.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is browned to your taste.

Let sit 10 minutes & serve.

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Vromage – A West Hollywood Vegan Cheese Shop

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015 (except some here I took from Vromage’s site)

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

OK – so – I am about 75% vegan – in that I eat vegan about that often or more.  I have not had a hard time giving up meat or fish (except for sushi) but the one thing that I still occasionally indulge in is cheese.  I have been experimenting extensively with vegan cheeses with mixed results.  I reviewed these cheeses below HERE.

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NOTE – THIS LISANATTI CHEESE  (below) IS NOT VEGAN!  IT CONTAINS CASEIN!

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And these from Miyoko’s Kitchen.

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You can read that blog post for my opinions of those cheeses but if you live in LA and you are vegan – have I got news for you!

Behold!  VROMAGE!

(PS – Vromage SHIPS – so you can get it – even if you are not in LA – VROMAGE online store.)

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I had long heard there was a vegan cheese store in West Hollywood but I always imagined it on Santa Monica Blvd in an area with heavy traffic & non-existent parking.  While I wanted to try the cheeses – I loathed the idea of driving west of La Brea & circling West Hollywood for hours – looking for some non-resident parking.

Then, last Friday, I had a photo session for a 90210 interview.  Here I am with the make-up artist, Noa Bolozky, and alone in a selfie in my bedroom afterward.  Noa does the MOST beautiful make-up!!!!  I will show some images from the session once the article runs.

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Anyway – as I looked out the window from the photo studio – I spotted Vromage!  It is in the strip mall – a block east of the mall at Sunset & Crescent Heights – the one with a Crunch.  It is in that plaza on the left (NOT The Crunch mall) – and it nestled near the elbow of the mall.

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So – as soon as I got out of that photo session – I headed directly to Vromage!  Noa beat me there & left swinging $70 worth of vegan cheese & a wearing a huge grin.   I braced myself for what promised to be a vegan adventure.

My mom & I were greeted by Youssef (seen below – in a photo I took from his site).

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Isn’t he cute?  He was so excited to let us try his cheeses – it quickly became overwhelming.  In a good way!  If you look at the second picture from the top  – that was the selection he had available that day & we still must have tasted 7-8 cheeses.  Once I had that many flavors going on – I lost my ability to keep them straight.  I THINK – I left with a mozzarella, a truffle brie, a pepper jack and a Gorgonzola (Veganzolla below).

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I added this video so you can see how outrageously creamy & spreadable Vromage’s cheeses are.  The truffle brie (the top picture – first in this post) came the closest to matching both taste & texture (as this Gorgonzola was way creamier than real Gorgonzola – but I am not complaining!).  The mozzarella – seen center, below – was mild & light & creamy & Youssef advised that, if I was making a pizza, to add this cheese at the very end & just flash-bake it.  I did not make a pizza but I will soon & I will report back.

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The pepper jack is the yellow cheese with the red on it – not sure what spice(s) that might be but the cheese is peppery & yummy!

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Those are kiwi berries, by the way.  They are about the size of large grapes & are just like tiny, hairless kiwis.  I recommend trying them if you ever come across them.

Youssef also offers sandwiches etc.  See below.  My mom tried the caprese sandwich & raved!

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Because my photos do not do Youssef’s whole situation & products any justice – here are some photos I nabbed from his site.

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So – for my money – Vromage has produced the best vegan cheeses I have tried, to date, and by a wide margin.  Most will not fool a real cheese eater (though the brie really might) but these guys are SO fucking creamy & bursting with flavor – I think they really hold their own.  And if you are a long-time vegan – these cheeses will make you lose your shit.  They truly are creamy & decadent & just BEG to be spread on a crusty baguette with some jam or veggies & basil.   Treat yourself and run – don’t walk – to Vromage.  And be sure to engage with Youssef – the owner.  He is kind & accommodating & very proud of his product & will let you sample anything you want.

And remember!  Vromage SHIPS – so you can get it – even if you are not in LA – VROMAGE online store.  Whatcha waiting for?  Get your ass some cruelty-free cheeses!

Vegan Beef & Sausage Breakfast Hash

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

This is a very easy & very forgiving recipe.  I used what I had around – but you can add or subtract things as you wish.  It is basically a breakfast stir fry.  If you eat eggs, a poached egg would be lovely on top.  Or serve this alongside a tofu scramble – or wrap it all up in a tortilla.  Easy & yummy!

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Vegan Beef & Sausage Breakfast Hash

Serves 4 as a side dish

INGREDIENTS

5 red potatoes – cut into 1/2″ small cubes

Olive oil

1/2 onion – diced

1/2 bell pepper – diced

1 jalapeno – seeded & diced (optional)

2 (or more) sausage patties (I used Morning Star sausage patties – which I just discovered on 10/30/15 – are NOT vegan – see ingredients list in the COMMENTS below.)

1 cup (or more) beef crumbles (I used Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 TBS dry parsley

S&P

Fresh parsley as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a saute pan.  On high – cook the potatoes until they are softening & about 1/2 browned.  Add everything else (except the fresh parsley) & saute until the onions & bell pepper are soft & browning.  Season with S&P.

Serve with fresh parsley.

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Caramelized Cauliflower & Creamy Pasta Caprese Casserole (Vegan or Not)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

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Photo – The Iron You

So THIS recipe for the CREAMY CAPRESE CAULIFLOWER CASSEROLE (seen above) showed up in my email box & I could not resist.  Apparently, they were inspired by another of my favorite food blogs – How Sweet It Is – but I was unable to find her recipe.

I would have been happy to make this with cauliflower only but once I roasted my medium head of cauliflower florets – they shrunk to a portion too small – so I added leftover pasta from my Vegan Pasta with Sausage, Arugula & Tomatoes – seen below.

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I will confess to using half real cheese & half vegan cheese in this.  I used the leftover mozzarella from my Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Avocado Caprese Salad with Olive Oil Caviar – seen above – as the topping cheese (and a few shreds of real Parmesan) – but I used a lot of this cheese below – that I gave a bad review to yesterday.  I did not want to waste the tastier vegan cheeses I have & I felt this stuff seemed most likely to melt into a binding element in this casserole – and I think I was correct.

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This is not a complicated recipe & is likely to be a crowd pleaser – whether you make it vegan or not.

Caramelized Cauliflower & Creamy Pasta Caprese Casserole (Vegan or Not)

Feeds 6

INGREDIENTS

1 large head of cauliflower – cut into florets

2 1/2 cups tomato sauce

4 TBS tomato paste

1 cup almond (or soy) milk

1 cup grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative)

2 cups shredded or fresh mozzarella (or vegan alternative)

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes – halved

2 large handfuls basil – shredded or chopped

Olive oil

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper

3 garlic cloves

3 cups cooked pasta (about 1/2 lb dry)

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower with olive oil & some S&P.  Bake for 30 minutes – tossing once at the 15 minute mark.  Set aside.  Lower oven temperature to 350.

Meanwhile – heat a TBS olive oil in a stock pan on low heat.  Add the crushed red pepper & the garlic & cook one minute.  Add the tomato sauce (being careful not to get splattered) & the tomato paste.  Heat through.  Add the milk, 1/2 the mozzarella, all of the Parmesan, 1/2 the halved tomatoes and a good handful of shredded basil & combine.  Season with S&P.

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Add the cauliflower & pasta & toss well.

Put into a greased casserole pan & top with the remaining mozzarella & tomatoes.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven to 500 degrees & cook another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese begins to turn golden.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes & then garnish with shredded basil.

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