Grilled & Baked Eggplant Pizza Towers with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil Chiffonade – A CONTEST! – and Downtown Los Angeles!

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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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BathingandthesinglegirlCover vromans back

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Uh-oh!  Wouldya look at that!  The AMAZING make-up company, Too Faced, has selected my book to give away in the summer essentials giveaway!  All you gotta do is go on Instagram, follow me at @christineelisemccarthy and then navigate to @TooFaced on Instagram, find this image on their wall & follow the rules to enter.  DO NOT enter on MY Instagram page.  Only entries on the Too Faced page will be considered.  A signed copy of my book, a bikini & Too Faced’s ENTIRE summer line!  CRAZY!  And the contest ends tomorrow (June 23, 2015), winner announced June 24, 2015 – so enter NOW!  And remember – go follow me on Instagram, then go follow Too Faced there & enter through their page.  Good luck!

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So – I had jury duty today.  That is the hallway at the court.  Everyone dreads jury duty but I work freelance & literally cannot afford to miss a day of work – let alone a week.  So – I had to miss work today to go down & asked to be rescheduled – which just means that, if I am working in December – I lose at least another day’s pay.  Such a fucked system.  But, anyway – they let me out at noon so I decided to make the best of being downtown & met my friend Rose for lunch at Grand Central Market.  Here is what that LA wonder looks like:

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Pizza was SUPER thin & delightful but it was so friggin’ hot out – neither Rose nor I could eat more than half of the tiny 8″ pizzas.  So – I have some for later!  🙂

Across the street to the west from Grand Central Market is another LA landmark – Angel’s Flight.  It is not currently in service, however.

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Even more interesting – across the street to the east is the Bradbury Building – most famous as a location in Bladerunner.  Look how incredibly gorgeous it is!

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6-22-15 (67)  CLICK THIS PANORAMIC ONE TO BLOW IT UP.

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And there you have it!  My downtown Los Angeles adventure today & a chance to win lots of make-up & a bikini & a signed copy of my book!

The recipe next.  It isn’t really a recipe.  It is an idea & I have been talking about it a lot lately & eating it even more frequently.  These eggplant pizza towers.  Not really pizza but born of my wanting a tortilla pizza but without tortillas.

I slice up & eat an entire small eggplant alone but quantities of everything really depends on how many you are feeding, how hungry they are & then personal taste as to the sauce-cheese ratio.  So – an informal recipe will follow.  Also – these would be nice served on top of pasta tossed with a red sauce.  I cannot recommend Rao’s highly enough.

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Grilled & Baked Eggplant Pizza Towers with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil Chiffonade 

INGREDIENTS

About 1 eggplant per person – sliced about 1/4-1/2 inch thick & lightly salted

Fresh mozzarella – enough to put a few slices on top of each slice of eggplant

Red sauce of your choice

Fresh basil

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

I grilled the slices on my stove top grill first to char them a bit.  Just to get some grill marks on them & cook out some moisture.  I did it on the grill dry & it took about 5-7 minutes – flipping the slices occasionally.  You can do this on your burners on the stove or in a grill pan or on a real grill – with or without oiling the slices.

OR – you can opt to bake the slices naked for 15-20 minutes to get them less thick & mushy.

Whatever you do – cook out some moisture & try to grill a little flavor onto the slices.

Top with sauce & cheese – quantities up to you.

Bake at 350 on a cooking sheet topped with parchment paper (THE BEST – nothing sticks) or treated with cooking spray or olive oil.  Assemble each eggplant slice with sauce & cheese & cook them in a single layer – stacking them into towers when you put them on the plate.

Meanwhile – to make the basil chiffonade – simply stack several leaves of basil, roll them into a tube & slice the tube up.  Voila!

It should take 10-15 minutes for the cheese to melt & begin to turn golden but all ovens are different so eyeball it & take them out when they look good to you.

Stack your little eggplant pizzas & garnish with basil.  Yum!

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Gluten-Free Polenta Crust Pizza & Pizza Towers

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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This couldn’t be much easier to make – unless you just bought a pre-made pizza.  Polenta (the quick cook kind) is done in 5 minutes.  Or – you could buy it like this:

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If you buy it like that – then these are just really glorified English muffin pizzas.  SO EASY!  If you buy instant polenta like this:

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then it comes together in about 5 minutes for a more traditional pizza – like I posted above.  For the towers – you need to chill it in the fridge for a while (30 minutes?) til it sets – like this:

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See?  I just poured it into a container – chilled it – then sliced it up & cut rounds with a cookie cutter (or the top of a glass).  The chilled polenta lasts for days & can be used to make little pizzas on the spur of the moment.

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I added a TBS or two of fresh thyme to my polenta as it cooked.  This is totally optional.

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So – calling this a recipe is overstating things.  I used some homemade red sauce that I had around.  You can use your favorite recipe (I have a 5-Minute arrabiata here & also a marinara) or a jarred version.

I used a combination of fresh mozzarella & Parmesan.  You can use any cheese or any other pizza toppings you desire.  I added fresh basil (and I recommend this as it really does add a lot) and a few sprigs of arugula.  Both of these are optional.  I found the larger pizza to be a bit more moist than I would have preferred so I really suggest the little mini pizzas over the larger one – even if you do not care to present them in tower form.  I’ve been popping little cookie-sized pizzas into my mouth all weekend.  I recommend it highly!

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Gluten-Free Polenta Crust Pizza & Pizza Towers

INGREDIENTS

Polenta (either pre-made or instant made as the package instructs)

Fresh thyme – optional (add to the polenta as it cooks)

Tomato sauce and/or sliced fresh tomatoes

Pizza cheese

Crushed red pepper (optional)

Fresh basil and/or arugula – shredded as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Make the polenta & either take a portion & spread it into a 1/4 inch pizza crust on a greased sheet or pan covered in parchment paper.  Cook at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the edges crisp.

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Top the pizza with sauce, tomatoes & cheese & cook until the cheese is melted & beginning to brown.  Garnish with basil and/or arugula & eat it up!  OR!

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Chill the polenta until it is firm (maybe 30 minutes – or overnight).  Slice it to your desired thickness & (optionally) cut it into little rounds.  Or – just open that pre-made tube of polenta and slice that fucker up.

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Place on a greased cooking sheet or on parchment covered pan.  I then doused mine with crushed red pepper.

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Bake these at 450 degrees for about ten minutes & then top them with sauce & cheese.

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Then bake until they look done to your eye.

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You can garnish them with basil & arugula & serve them like this or let them cool for about a minute & stack them.  You will likely need a toothpick spiked through the center to keep them from sliding into a gooey mess.  Whatever you decide – pop open a bottle of wine & get your munch on!

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Eggplant Parmesan Mini Towers with Fresh Mozzarella & Garlic Spinach

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Once again, a recipe born of ingredients on hand.  I had extra Japanese eggplant from my Lavash Pizza with Whipped Feta, Grilled Eggplant, Red Onions & Arugula Salad.  I had lots of mozzarella & some tomatoes on their last legs.  I also had a GIGANTIC bag of spinach from a recent Super King venture.   I also had a container of really stale panko.  From these humble beginnings – these glorious mini towers were born!  Aren’t they pretty?  Know that they are less than two inches in diameter.   They are very cute but you would need at least 4 of these to call it a meal.  The recipe here shows what can be made with 3 Japanese eggplant – namely – about 10 of these mini towers.  You could recreate this using regular eggplant & larger (heirloom?) tomatoes.   If you use regular eggplant – prepare it like this before working with it:

Slice the eggplant, then salt it liberally and allow it to drain for an hour or so before cooking. Putting salt on the eggplant triggers osmosis, which draws out excess moisture and the bitterness along with it. Remove any excess salt by wrapping the eggplant in a kitchen towel and pressing on the slices or cubes, which removes even more water. Pressing the eggplant also collapses some of the eggplant’s air cells, so it absorbs less oil if it’s sautéed.

I added an extremely garlicky spinach to my towers but you could skip that layer easily.

Despite the fact that this recipe requires a few steps, none are difficult & this dish will likely impress your friends & neighbors & make the other ladies in the hood bitter & resentful about your superior culinary prowess.  So brace yourself for the haters.

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Eggplant Parmesan Mini Towers with Fresh Mozzarella & Garlic Spinach

(Tip: When making a recipe like this, I always like to have MORE of every ingredient than the recipe calls for – just in case I use my ingredients more liberally that the person who created the recipe did.  It sucks to run out of one or two ingredients when making something like this.  So err on the side of having too much of each ingredient handy.)

INGREDIENTS

Cooking skewers

1 jar of your favorite marinara (or my marinara) or my 5 Minute Arrabiata)

3-4 Japanese eggplant – cut in 1/2 inch slices

2-3 Roma tomatoes – cut in 1/2 inch slices

10-15 basil leaves (plus extra for garnish)

2 eggs

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

3/4 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp dry basil

1 tsp dry parsley

8 oz container fresh mozzarella – sliced up

1-2 cups grated Parmesan

Fresh rosemary sprigs if you want to top these as I did – but it is purely garnish

For the garlic spinach

1 lb fresh spinach – washed well

1 TBS (or less) crushed red pepper

10 garlic cloves (or less) – minced

olive oil

S&P to taste

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DIRECTIONS

For the garlic spinach

Heat about 1 TBS olive oil in a large saute pan.  Over medium heat – add the garlic & crushed red pepper.  Saute about 30 seconds & then add half the spinach.   Mix it around a minute or two so that the garlic doesn’t burn.  When that spinach is wilted, add the rest & scoop the wilted spinach on top of it.    It will all wilt quickly.  Add S&P to taste.  Remove from heat & drain in a colander.  I used about 1.5 pounds of spinach & it reduced to almost nothing – maybe 2 cups.

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For the eggplant Parmesan mini towers

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Make your marinara (or arrabiata) – if you are using homemade.

Mix the panko & breadcrumbs with the 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp each of pepper, dry parsley & dry basil.  Whisk the two eggs.  Spray a cooking sheet (or wire rack) with cooking oil.

Saturate the eggplant with the eggs & then drag through the breadcrumbs & set on the cooking sheet.  Eventually, the breadcrumbs will get clumped up & you will have a harder time getting them to stick.  Don’t sweat it.  You don’t need full coverage.  Or you can just add more dry panko & breadcrumbs to the mix.

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Bake these at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until they look golden.

Using a baking pan of some kind – like this – layer the bottom with some of your tomato sauce.

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Then simply stack these bad boys up.  I forgot the spinach layer in my first one.  Oops!  It appears I layered mine in this order:  eggplant, Parmesan, spinach, tomato, mozzarella, basil, eggplant, mozzarella.  Carefully, skewer each of these guys with a wooden skewer broken in half.  Do not push the broken end through as that might leave splinters.

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Bake another 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted & golden.  Place on plates, remove the skewers and serve with more tomato sauce & fresh basil & lots of freshly ground pepper.

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Fried Green Tomato & Mozzarella Napoleon Towers with Fresh Basil Chiffonade

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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

I love fried green tomatoes.  I had my first one ever in Vicksburg, Mississippi on a cross country driving trip & I have been obsessed ever since.  Sadly – I find they are seldom well executed – even in the south.  Sometimes too bready, sometimes soggy, sometimes laden with icky cheese – whatever.   For these ones here – I intentionally skipped the three stage dredging thru flour, dipping in egg & then in breadcrumbs so that I would get the thinnest possible crust.  I used a cornmeal mix & wet tomatoes only.  Once they were frying – I removed each from the pan & again pressed them into the cornmeal because the single layer was too fragile for the hot oil.  I was very happy with the result.  If you want a breadier exterior – simply add salt & pepper to some flour in one bowl, whisked egg in another & then either this cornmeal mix or a breadcrumb (regular or panko) variation in a third – and simply coat your tomato in first the flour, then egg & then breadcrumbs – & proceed with the rest of the recipe or just eat them up on the spot.

I didn’t use a real green tomato here.  I used a fairly hard green heirloom tomato.  It worked wonderfully.  If you know where to buy green tomatoes in Los Angeles – let me know!

The quantity below was for two little towers.  Increase it at will.

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Fried Green Tomato & Mozzarella Napoleon Towers

serves one

INGREDIENTS

1 green tomato

1 ripe red or heirloom tomato

4 slices of fresh mozzarella or several bocconcini (slices will be easier)

1/3 cup corn meal (or breadcrumbs)

1/4 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp flour

1/4 tsp Cajun spices (optional)

Ranch dressing (optional)

oil for frying ( I used cheap olive oil)

fresh basil chiffonade (explained HERE) –  or just chop it up into ribbons for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the green tomato so you have 4 decent 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices.  Get two equally sized slices from your red or heirloom tomato & then dice the rest for garnish.

Blend all the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

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Wet the green tomato & coat with the cornmeal mix.

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Heat the oil & when hot – fry the green tomatoes.  You can dip them in the cornmeal a second time during the frying process to get a better coating.  When nicely golden – remove from the oil & drain on a paper towel.

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Assemble the Napoleon towers by putting two slices of fried green tomato on a greased cooking sheet.  Tom with the red or heirloom tomato then with the mozzarella then the other green tomato slices & then more mozzarella.  I spiked mine with half a wooden skewer (to hold them upright) – but toothpicks will work, too.  Bake at 350 for ten minutes or until the mozzarella is all melted.

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Put on a plate, remove the toothpicks & garnish with the chopped tomato & basil chiffonade.  I watered down a few tablespoons of a good Ranch dressing & drizzled it over these but I don’t think I will in the future.  Serve!

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