Grilled Vegetable & Fresh Ricotta Sandwiches

One of our absolute favorite dinner sandwiches is filled with garlicky grilled eggplant and feta cheese. After seeing this recipe, I kept thinking about making this version on freshly baked sourdough bread. I loved the idea of slathering the bread with fresh ricotta cheese too. Yum!

The recipe was adapted from SaraMoulton.com. I used my favorite recipe for fresh ricotta and served the sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread. I added garlic and grilled the vegetables instead of roasting them as well. We ate them with creamy cucumber-avocado salad on the side. It was an amazing vegetarian meal.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 small to medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 2 medium to large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 6 to 8 Campari tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • fresh ricotta cheese (see Note)
  • 8 slices of no-knead sourdough bread, crusty bread, or whole grain bread
  1. The evening before serving the meal, start the homemade sourdough bread process, if using. Bake the bread the day of the meal. (Alternatively, use another crusty bread or whole grain bread.)
  2. Place the vegetable slices in a single layer on a cutting board or rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crush the garlic cloves with a garlic press and spread the garlic over the top of the eggplant slices. Let rest a minimum of 30 minutes (the longer the better).
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the fresh ricotta cheese. I made it according to the recipe but simmered the mixture for approximately 5 minutes, until it was visibly curdling. I strained it for about 15 minutes and omitted the addition of lemon zest. (The longer it is strained, the thicker the consistency.) Set aside.
  4. Brush both sides of the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil. Toss the zucchini slices with olive oil.
  5. Grill the vegetables separately until slightly charred and tender; grill the eggplant directly on the grates and grill the zucchini and tomato slices using a grill basket. (Alternatively, the vegetables can be roasted on parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets in a 425 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.)
  6. Divide the warm ricotta among 4 slices of bread and top with the hot vegetables and remaining 4 slices of bread. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: Making fresh ricotta can have varied results- sometimes it has large curds, sometimes it has small curds and occasionally it has no curds. If this should happen to you, don’t panic, just add another tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and the curds will appear.

Duck Tacos with Refried Black Beans

I usually think of duck meat as being too fatty to agree with me. 😉 After seeing Sara Moulton make these tacos, she convinced me to give it another chance. In this dish, the fatty skin is removed and the shredded duck meat was very moist and flavorful.

I often see the vacuum-sealed, cooked rotisserie duck at Costco. On my last visit, when most the fresh poultry was out of stock and the rotisserie chicken was limited to one per visit, there was plenty of rotisserie duck available. 🙂 These tacos could also be made with rotisserie chicken, of course, but this was a nice change. My son thought that they were “next-level.”

This recipe was adapted from Sara’s Weeknight Meals, via SaraMolton.com. I doubled the original recipe to use the entire rotisserie duck and added additional toppings. The leftover filling was just as delicious reheated and served with fresh toppings and taco shells. The healthy and quick refried black beans were fabulous too.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Spice Blend:

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

For the Filling & Toppings:

  • 1 half of a cooked rotisserie duck
  • 1 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 3 T water
  • 12 ready-to-eat regular-size taco shells, warmed according to package directions
  • chopped or shredded iceberg lettuce or finely-shredded cabbage, for serving
  • chopped tomatoes (I used chopped grape tomatoes)m for serving
  • shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese or a Mexican cheese blend, to taste, for serving
  • prepared salsa, for serving
  • light sour cream, for serving
  • cilantro, for serving
  • diced avocado, for serving
  • canned diced chilies, for serving
  • hot sauce, for serving (I used Chipotle Cholula)
  • rice, for serving, optional
  • Refried beans, recipe below

To Make the Spice Blend:

  1. Add the ingredients to a bowl and stir well to combine.

To Make the Fillings, Toppings, & To Serve:

  1. Remove the skin from the duck meat. Shred enough meat from one half of a rotisserie cooked duck to yield 2 1/2 cups.
  2. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the shredded duck and spice blend and stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the water and cook, covered, for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Divide the filling among the taco shells.
  6. Top with the lettuce and tomatoes, and sprinkle with cheese.  Top with cilantro, avocado, diced chiles, and hot sauce, as desired. Spoon on the salsa and sour cream, if using.
  7. Serve immediately with refried beans on the side. (The refried beans can be used as an additional taco filling, if desired.)

For the Refried Beans:

  • 2 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (I used 1 large yellow onion when I doubled the recipe)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups thoroughly cooked black beans or one 15.5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or water
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
  4. Stir in the cumin and chili powder and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the beans and chicken stock, cover, and cook until the beans are very soft and the flavors are well blended, about 5 minutes.
  6. Use a fork or potato masher to coarsely mash the beans.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Note: Cooked, rotisserie duck can be purchased online @Maple Leaf Farms.com.

Greek Shrimp, Farro & Greens with Feta

Buttermilk “Fried” Pork Chops

I have learned so much about cooking by watching Sara Moulton, particularly when she had a live cooking show many years ago. I’ve just started watching her PBS series and I’m thrilled. I have to watch a lot of episodes from previous seasons to catch up! 🙂

She cooked this dish on the show with her son who is reportedly obsessed with making it. We absolutely loved it too- it’s a wonderful weeknight dish. I made the “warm weather” version, serving it over salad dressed with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, but plan to try the “cool weather” version as well, serving it over sautéed apples and cabbage with butternut squash or sweet potato purée.

This recipe was adapted from Sara Moulton.com. I used larger pork chops, used basil, thyme and cilantro in the dressing and topping, and modified the method. I served it with roasted potatoes on the side for my starch-loving husband.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For the Pork Chops:

  • four 1 inch-thick boneless pork chops
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1 t Tabasco or Chipotle Tabasco
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 to 2 1/2 c panko bread crumbs
  • 6 to 8 T extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 T fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, cilantro, and/or basil
  • lemon wedges, for serving, optional
  • Warm Weather Version: green salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, for serving (dressing recipe below)
  • Cool Weather Version: sautéed apples and cabbage, for serving
  • Cool Weather Version: butternut squash or sweet potato purée, for serving

For the Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 T rinsed, dried, and chopped fresh mixed herbs (tarragon, chives, parsley, thyme, basil, cilantro)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or pushed through a garlic press
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To Prepare the Pork Chops:

  1. If time permits, freeze the pork chops for 30 minutes to make them easier to cut.
  2. Carefully cut each horizontally to make 2 thin chops for a total of 8 chops.
  3. Place the meat on a cutting board between 2 layers of plastic wrap.  (Alternatively, sprinkle a small amount of water into a large resealable plastic bag.  Place a pork chop in the bag and close, leaving 1/2 inch open.) Pound with a rolling pin or meat pounder until the chop is about 1/8 inch thick; remove and set aside. Repeat with the remaining chops.
  4. Whisk together buttermilk, Tabasco, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a measuring cup; press in the garlic. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag.
  5. Place the pounded chops in the bag with buttermilk mixture, one at a time making sure each one is coated, and marinate at room temperature, turning several times, for 30 minutes.
  6. Spread out the bread crumbs in a pie plate.
  7. Remove the chops from the marinade and season them with salt.
  8. Working with one chop at a time, toss the chop in the bread crumbs; shake off the excess crumbs.
  9. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stainless steel, cast iron, or non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot; add half the chops. (I used a 14″ skillet over scant medium heat. Next time I will try a cast iron skillet to ease the clean up!)
  10. Sauté them, turning once for 3 minutes per side, or until golden and just cooked through. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
  11. Repeat with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining chops, adding more oil if necessary.
  12. Chop the herbs for the topping. (I used cilantro and basil.)

To Serve:

  1. Divide the pork chops among dinner plates, top each portion with come chopped herbs, and serve with a wedge of lemon. Alternatively, serve the pork chops over the dressed green salad.

To Make the Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a measuring cup.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Chill until ready to serve.

Note: These pork chops are delicious hot, at room temperature, or even chilled.

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