Grilled Mozzarella and Red Peppers Sandwich

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This sandwich screams FRESHNESS, as it is made with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil pesto and oven roasted red sweet bell peppers drizzled balsamic vinegar. With layers of flavor, it is the perfect sandwich for a Meatless Monday lunch option.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 red sweet bell pepper
1 Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Ball
2 slices of Provolone Cheese
4 slices Italian bread
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Vegetable cooking spray

For the Fresh Basil Pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500° F .

Place the red bell peppers on a rimmed backing sheet. Lightly coat the peppers with the vegetable spray and place in the heated oven. Allow the peppers to roast for about 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate it at about the 7 minute mark and remove when all sides have charred black. Remove the peppers from the oven and allow them to cool. When the red peppers have cooled to the touch, remove the charred skin by using a clean tea towel. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds, then julienne the roasted peppers.

Using a sharp knife, thinly slice six pieces of cheese from the mozzarella ball.

To prepare the pesto spread: Pulse basil and pine nuts in a food processor: Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a several times.

Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper, add more to taste. cover and set aside.

Set the oven to 450 ° F.

Take 4 slices of Italian bread and spread the pesto on one side.

Lay a slice of provolone ontop of the pesto.

Take one slice and with the pesto side up and layer with the julienned red pepper first.

Use a brush and lightly coat the top of the red pepper with 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar.

Add three slices of Mozzarella cheese ontop of the peppers and close the with another bread slice. The pesto side should be touching the mozzarella. Repeat the process for the second sandwich.

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high. Melt the butter until it is lightly foaming. Gently place the sandwiches in the melted butter.

Fry the sandwiches for about 2 to 4 minutes on medium heat, as it the bread become golden brown. Using spatula flip the sandwich over until the bread is crispy and golden brown, for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Continue to cook the sandwiches in the oven, by placing the skillet sandwich in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes. Cook until the cheese is melted and slightly oozing from the bread. Remove from the oven.

Using a spatula, place a sandwich on a plate and serve immediately.

 

 

Cook’s Note:
Basil pesto oxidizes (darkens) when exposed to air, so to store, cover tightly with plastic wrap making sure the plastic is touching the top of the pesto and not allowing the pesto to have contact with air, making a complete seal. The pesto will stay greener longer that way. The pest will keep for about 2 weeks.

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Frieda’s Meyer Lemon Lemonade

meyer lemonade

When life gives you lemons, hopefully  they will be Meyer Lemons. This variety of the citrus fruit has a soft, thin golden-yellow rinds and is sweeter, milder and less-acidic than regular lemon with a light herbal notes.

Did you know that a Meyer Lemon actually a hybrid? Believed to be a cross between a lemon and orange, F.N. Meyer first imported this hearty citrus the USA from China in 1908.

I have been so inspired by this delicious fruit, that I plan on planting a few of Meyer Lemon Trees in my backyard this spring.

Even though it is winter, enjoy a healthy dose of Vitamin C, form a nice tall glass of Meyer Lemon Lemonade.


From
Freida’s Specialty Produce, Inc.

Ingredients:
For the Simple Syrup:
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
2/3 cup water
1 cup mint or basil leaves or 1/4 cup fresh ginger slices (optional)

1 cup freshly squeezed Frieda’s Meyer lemon juice
3 to 4 cups cold water
Slices of Frieda’s Meyer lemon or Pink lemon, for garnish

Directions:
Make a simple syrup: In small saucepan, bring sugar and 2/3 cup of water to boil and simmer until sugar is fully dissolved. For herb-infused syrup, add your choice of herb( i.e. mint, basil or even a spice such as ginger) before boiling. Strain herbs from syrup, if used, and allow to cool.

Combine syrup with Meyer lemon juice and cold water in large pitcher and stir until well mixed. Serve over ice with garnish lemons if desired.


Braised Moroccan Eggplant

Many older recipes call for salting raw eggplant before cooking it to temper the vegetable’s tendency toward bitterness. These days the bitterness has largely been bred out, but salting eggplant is still a good way to reduce the amount of oil that this versatile vegetable absorbs. For even more aroma and herbaceous flavor, add fresh mint and cilantro leaves to the basil for garnish.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 Japanese eggplant or other small, oblong eggplant, about 1 lb.
Kosher salt, to taste
One can (14 oz) whole plum tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon peel

Directions:
Trim the eggplant and cut into halves or thick slices. Put the eggplant into a colander, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and toss to coat evenly. Set the colander in a sink and let the eggplant stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the tomatoes and their juices into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hand or a potato masher. Set aside.

In a large sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and garlic, swirling the pan to flavor the oil, until the garlic starts to sizzle but does not color, about 1 minute. Add the salted eggplant and stir until well coated. Pour in 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and gently stir in the tomatoes, cumin, paprika and coriander. Increase the heat to medium-high and let cook at a brisk simmer, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes thicken, about 10 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat and discard the garlic, if desired. Transfer the eggplant to a serving dish and sprinkle with the basil leaves and the preserved lemon. Serve warm or at room temperature.