Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Two Dollar Meals

The specials at the produce stand and my local supermarket this week included eggplant, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet onions.

Here are two of the simple meals I made with part of my purchases.

I really enjoy simple vegetable meals. They come together quickly, offer a wide variety of tastes and textures and lend themselves to many different preparations.

These grilled eggplant/tomato stacks are a good example.

I used one small eggplant and two good sized Ruskin tomatoes, some torn green leaf lettuce and a thin slice of mozzarella cheese for each stack. I made up a little balsamic vinaigrette and brushed the eggplant slices liberally with it before grilling them in an electric grill pan.
Once the eggplant slices were nicely browned and had softened, I removed them from the pan and quickly grilled the thick tomato slices which were also brushed with the vinaigrette.

While the vegetables were grilling, I sliced mozzarella cheese and trimmed each slice roughly into a round. I used the corner scraps for the smaller pieces of eggplant. It's nice to try to have the tomato slices and the eggplant slices about the same circumference, but it isn't anything to stress out over. Close enough is good enough.

The tomatoes will grill quickly, watch them as they shouldn't get soft and mushy — a couple of minutes per side, to just heat through and let the vinaigrette infuse the tomato will do.
Once they are done, use a spatula to transfer a slice of tomato to the top of a slice of eggplant, cover with a slice of cheese. When the stacks are all prepared, carefully transfer them back to the grill pan over moderate heat and add the lid. Cook for a few minutes to let the cheese melt.

While the cheese is melting, tear some clean, fresh, crisp greens into bite sized pieces and toss with the vinaigrette. Place the finished stacks on the greens to serve. I topped off the stacks with a sprinkling of Italian herbs and a bit of crushed red pepper.

With an abundance of red, ripe, Ruskin beefsteak tomatoes on the counter, I decided to marinate some cauliflower, broccoli (I used about 1/3 of each head) a sweet onion and a tomato in the same balsamic vinaigrette.

After cutting the veggies I tossed them with salt and pepper and the left over dressing. It didn't seem quite enough, so I sprinkled on a bit more olive oil, then let it rest at room temperature for about an hour. The veggies shouldn't be swimming in the vinaigrette but there should be adequate liquid to lightly coat each piece.

I transferred the veggies to a broiler pan, and gave them a total of 12 minutes under the broiler. The rack was about 4 " from the heat. I turned the pan and the vegetables about halfway through. Pierce the thickest parts with the tip of a paring knife to test for doneness. I was looking for a nicely browned appearance with a tender/crisp finish.

I plated the vegetables with a few Calamata olives, some whole wheat pita bread and a light shaving of Parmesan cheese.

Another two dollar meal, with enough left over for a light lunch tossed with red leaf lettuce and a few snack sprouts. As good, if not better, cold as it was warm. It doesn't take a lot of money to eat well.

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