Who you callin’ a tart?

Hey there. It’s that wonderful time of year when locally grown produce is available nearly EVERYWHERE, particularly tomatoes and eggplant. We routinely turn our homegrown tomatoes into roasted red sauce, caprese salad, and salsa and grill up eggplant for sandwiches and salads but sometimes we long for something different. Behold the something different; A Fresh Tomato and Eggplant Tart.

When this recipe found its way into my orbit I thought; “Yeah, why not?” I already had all the ingredients and it seemed pretty straight forward, although I was a little skeptical about what seemed like an overly complicated step involving cooking the eggplant. (My skepticism was unfounded, in fact the step makes the cooking of the eggplant so stupid easy and delicious that my eggplant averse husband tried a few extra slices and thought they’d make awesome little hors d’oeuvres. So take that for what its worth.)

Anyway, whatever you’re doing right now stop, and go make this tart. You won’t be disappointed. Go harvest from your garden or swing by the buy farmstand for tomatoes and eggplant, defrost that red sauce in your freezer, mince a little fresh basil and get ready to be blown away.

Eggplant and Tomato Tart

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
1 large eggplant
salt
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups marinara suace
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, julienned
1/2 cut grated parmesan
8 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
2 large fresh tomatoes, sliced
olive oil

  1. Line a lightly oil a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with the dough, pierce the bottom. Refrigerate for 30 minutes then pre-bake (with pie weights or beans) at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Increase the oven temp to 450 degrees . Slice the eggplant about 1/3 inch thick and toss with salt to taste and drizzle with olive oil. Line 1 to 2 baking sheets (as needed) with foil and brush the foil with olive oil. Lay the eggplant slices on the foil in 1 layer. Roast in the hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the slices are soft when pierced with a knife and browned in spots. Remove from the oven and carefully fold the foil up over the eggplant slices. Crimp the edges of the foil and allow the eggplant to steam for another 15 to 20 minutes. It should now be completely cooked. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
  3. Beat together the eggs in a medium bowl. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet to allow for easy handling. Whisk the milk into the eggs. Spread tomato sauce over the bottom of the crust. Top with a layer of eggplant slices. Spoon one third of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with basil, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Repeat the layers one or two more times, depending on the size of your eggplant slices. Pour on the egg and milk mixture. It should seep down into the layers; if it looks like it’s not moving and going to overflow the crust, use a fork to create some holes so it does seep down. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with mozzarella and the remaining basil over the tomatoes. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until set and bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

pulled turkey tacos

Sometimes I grocery shop with a clear menu in mind and sometimes I buy whatever strikes my fancy and figure out how to use it later. That’s exactly what happened the other day when I came home from the store with two packages of turkey cutlets. I knew I could grill them or bake them just like I would chicken, but I felt like taking a more untraditional approach. Francese? Stir fry? Parmigiana? No… Tacos!

We’ve all had those uninspired and dull as dishwater tacos made with a lump of ground beef and a packet of “taco seasoning.” Yeah, no thanks. I had far greater aspirations for my turkey tacos. First of all I planned to slow cook the turkey with sweet onion, garlic and traditional Mexican spices so that it was crazy flavorful and falling apart tender. Then I would shred it and serve it in warm soft taco shells with some aged cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro leaves, pickled red onion and jalapeños piled on top.

Oh baby— These were some of the tastiest tacos the Greco family has ever eaten (and frankly we’re eaten more than out fair share.) So long boring hand-held meal and hello delicious Wednesday night dinner!

Pulled Turkey Tacos
This shredded turkey is fabulous in tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas or as a pulled sandwich. The recipe is just as fantastic if you decide to swap a boneless pork lion for the turkey. 

pickled onions

2 1/4 cups homemade (or jarred) marinara sauce
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2.5 lbs. turkey breast cutlets (or boneless pork loin)
1 tbsp. corn starch
1 tbsp. cold water
1 tbsp. butter*
soft taco shells, optional
shredded cheddar cheese, optional
shredded lettuce or cilantro, optional
Greek yogurt (or sour cream), optional
pickled red onion, optional
diced jalapeño pepper, optional

  1. Stir together the first 8 ingredients and pour into the crock pot. Add the turkey cutlets and mix to coat well. Cover and cook on medium for 6 hours.
  2. When the turkey is done remove it from the pot and shred it using two forks.
  3. Mix together the corn starch and water and add it to the sauce. Stir in the butter until it melts, then add back the shredded turkey and mix so that the turkey is well coated with the sauce.
  4. Serve in warmed tortillas with fresh cilantro, cheddar cheese, and pickled red onions and an ice cold beer.

*Because the turkey breast is so lean I added a bit of butter to the sauce to add some richness and depth of flavor. However if you use pork loin instead of turkey I can’t imagine you would need to add it and therefore wouldn’t bother.

sweet summer sauce

As I mentioned last week my tomatoes and peppers are very happy with this record breaking hot weather. So happy in fact that I have an insane number of cherry tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter. I’ve been eating them everyday day; quickly sauteed with eggs, in a green salad or as a snack, but I’m not even close to making a dent in my overwhelming supply. So, what’s a girl to do but… make sauce!

Ordinarily I make red sauce during the cool months with canned tomatoes, a bit of lean meat (to round out the flavor) and a full day of simmering on the stove. But this was going to be a summer sauce; all garden fresh ingredients with a short cooking time and instead of meat I’d use a bit of butter to knock down the acidic bite.

This resulting sauce was some of the best I’ve ever made. Seriously, the best! It was so good that after we enjoyed it for dinner the remainder went directly into the freezer; how lovely it will be to pull out a container of that wonderful sauce on a cold winter night. And with the way my plants are continuing to produce tomatoes, I just might be able to squeak out another batch or two of sauce before the end of the season. Hooray for happy heat loving tomatoes!

Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce
This sauce was the perfect way to use the freshest of summer ingredients from my garden. It was only a matter of hours from harvesting to serving.

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 1/2 lbs. cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
5 springs fresh thyme
6 large leaves fresh basil, julienned
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup red wine
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add the whole cherry tomatoes, give a good stir and let cook (covered) until the tomatoes begin to pop.
  2. Add the fresh herbs, bay leaves, red pepper, salt and wine. Let cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes and smashing the tomatoes with the back of a spatula, until all the tomatoes are popped, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer until the sauce has thickened, 25-30 minutes. Once everything is soft and cooked through remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Use an immersion blender to break down the skins, seeds and onion and make the sauce smooth.
  4. Add 3 tbsp. of unsalted butter and 1 tsp. white sugar and let cook uncovered for another 10 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with your favorite pasta or cool for use at a latter date.

Pizza?!?

My family loves pizza. They would be content to eat it two or three times a week. I on the other hand, am not such a big fan. But because my husband and children adore it, I make it. From scratch. Homemade sauce, homemade dough, etc. etc. Actually, making pizza from scratch is not all that difficult to do, especially if you have a stand mixer for the dough, although it does take a bit of forethought and planning. But hey, I’m a multitasking modern woman, I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan…

Last weekend I made sauce, which means in my family’s mind pizza was soon to follow. “When?” they kept asking, “When is it going to be pizza night?” The daily interrogations were wearing me down so I declared that tonight would be pizza night. HOORAY!!

Yeah, well that advanced planning I mentioned, that somehow never occurred over the course of my afternoon and before I knew it, the clock read 4:30 and the stand mixer was still sitting in the pantry. Not wanting to see their sad little faces when I broke the no pizza news to my family, I quickly scanned the contents of my refrigerator. I found a package of Indian nan-style bread in the freezer but only a small chunk of fresh mozzarella in the crisper. However I still had leftover cheddar, jack and asiago from my macaroni and cheese recipe. These may not be the makings of my regular pizza, but with any luck I would be able to create something vaguely resembling personal pizzas with them. And so pizza night was back on!

To say these personal pies were a success would be an understatement. The nan created a lite crispy crust, the crazy mix of cheeses were delicious and the kids loved having their own little pizzas. And since we each got our own pie I was finally able to have pizza topped with something a bit more to my liking— spinach, onions and hot peppers!.

(How To Save Pizza Night) Personal Pizzas
The great thing about these pizzas is that you can really get creative with the toppings. Green olives and hot peppers, grilled chicken and caramelized onions or even sunny side up eggs and fresh spinach— go crazy!

4 pocketless pita breads
2 cups red sauce
4-6 oz. grated cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, asiago, provolone)
toppings of your choice

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place pita bread on baking sheet and broil on high for 1-2 minutes until slightly crisp.
  2. Top with a layer of sauce, grated cheese and toppings of your choice.
  3. Pop back under the broiler for another 5-7 minutes until the sauce is warm and the cheese is melted and bubbling.
  4. Slice, eat and enjoy.