Smoked Eggplant and Goat Cheese Dip

by Kelly on April 3, 2013

Every once and awhile I enjoy remixing recipes that have previously appeared on the blog, like my Eggplant and Goat Cheese Dip.  I originally posted it here back in August of 2010 to celebrate five months of living in Chicago.  Since this month I celebrated my third anniversary of living in Chicago it seemed fitting to make it again.

The original dip – a sumptuous blend of roasted eggplant, goat cheese, and olive oil, among other ingredients – was already a favorite for me and a pretty good copycat of a restaurant dish I’d had while living in Boston.  But I’m not one to make the same recipe twice.  I always love to tweak a little something, no matter how small, to keep things interesting.  This time I knew there were a few changes I could make to switch up the flavor profile.

The first thing I did was swap out the garlic and onion powder for the real deal.  As convenient and concentrated as powders are, nothing beats fresh for flavor in my book.  I roasted my garlic in the oven with the eggplant to mellow the flavor somewhat and bring a nice sweetness to the dish.  You’ll end up with more roasted garlic than you need for this recipe, but to me it’s a problem worth having as I always find other ways of using it.   The onion was lightly sauteed in a pan with cooking spray so reduce that sharp flavor that comes with raw onions.

But the biggest change, and the one I am most excited about, is the addition of smoke.  I’m sure it’s my cold weather fatigue because all I can think about these days is grilling and smoking.  I can’t wait for the weather to warm up and to start cooking outside!  Heck, I’m even thinking of finally pulling the trigger on buying a Big Green Egg for the back deck.  But until then, I’m satisfying the craving by playing with my stovetop smoker.

After roasting and peeling my eggplants I popped them in my stovetop smoker with some cherry wood chips to infuse a little extra flavor.  I think this methodology would work well with a standard smoker as well, you’ll just want to tinker with the amount of wood chips and smoke time based on your manufacturers’ instructions.  (If you don’t have a stovetop smoker, you could try adding liquid smoke to taste or smoked paprika to taste in place of the cayenne.)

And I have to admit when it comes to the end result, I’m VERY smitten.  I loved how the smoke added a new dimension of flavor to the dip and seemed to accentuate the other flavors.  You end up with a very creamy, smokey and lightly sweet dip that’s irresistible and a great substitute for hummus and bean dips.

Like the original, I served this with sliced veggies and pita chips but it would also be great with hunks of crusty bread or as a sandwich spread in place of mayo.

Smoked Eggplant and Goat Cheese Dip
Yields 1 cup

Ingredients:

-Cooking spray
-3/4 pound small eggplant such as Fairy Tale or Sicilian (also known as Graffiti or Zebra eggplant)
-1 head of garlic
-1/4 cup chopped onion
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-2 ounces chevre (I like Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery and Chavrie)
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
-Pita chips or vegetables for dipping

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with tinfoil and spray with cooking spray. Prick eggplant all over with a fork and place on the baking sheet. Wrap the head of garlic in a separate piece of tinfoil and place both in the oven. Bake until eggplant is tender and garlic is caramelized and soft. Let the eggplant cool until it is easy to handle and peel off the skin.While eggplant and garlic are roasting, spray a skillet with cooking spray. Heat pan over medium low heat, add onion and saute until translucent. Set aside.

Transfer to your stovetop smoker and smoke according to manufacturer’s directions. (I used 1 tablespoon Cherry wood chips and smoked over medium-low heat for 10 minutes using my Cameron Stovetop Smoker.)

Transfer the eggplant, onion and 2 cloves of the roasted garlic (or more to taste) to a food processor. Puree until relatively smooth. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until well combined and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature with your choice of dippers.

{ 10 comments }

Hello 30

by Kelly on March 22, 2013

When I was younger, I never understood the apprehension about turning 30.  I’ve always thought of myself as an old soul, so when I was 25 the thought of turning 30 sounded fabulous.  For me the 20′s seemed, stereotypically, to be synonymous with insecurity and making mistakes.  I was more than happy to skip past that.  I was convinced I already knew who I was and didn’t need five more years to figure it out.  I had a good job, a condo and a boyfriend.  I felt like I’d checked all the boxes.  I was settled.

But then I started questioning whether I was on the right career path.  And my boyfriend and I broke up.  And I was back to renting again so I could start my life in a new city.   I felt suddenly self-conscious about what I had accomplished.  My life was no longer moving along a predictable, linear path.  I became obsessed with comparing myself to friends on Facebook, mentally noting where I thought I was falling behind.  And even worse, I felt I was lagging behind my own expectations.  Because let’s face it, many of us, at 12 or 16 have an idea of where we think we’ll be at 30.  Maybe we imagine the ideal husband or the dream job with the lavishly decorated office.  Mostly we probably thought, at the time, that 30 was unfathomably old.  I know I did.  Rationally I knew my harsh self-assessment wasn’t fair.  I was incredibly naive as a teen and completely incapable of predicting my own, or any future.  I was blissfully unaware that life sometimes takes twists and turns you don’t expect.  Yet, I couldn’t shake a feeling of mourning of all that I had imagined that hadn’t been.  Suddenly turning 30 didn’t seem that great after all.

All that energy, I will admit, made me a bit uneasy about turning 30.  So I was amazed when the birthday came and instead of disappointment, I felt tremendous relief.  I knew there was nothing I could do to change how my 20′s had played out.  All I could do was be thankful for the journey I’d already taken and hopeful for what lied ahead.

So instead of wallowing I planned for a few days in Puerto Rico with two great college girlfriends and my wonderful sister, soaking up sunshine on the beach and eating Puerto Rican food.  (I’m excited to recreate mofongo in my own kitchen.)  I also invited my Chicago friends over to my place for a night of cocktails and appetizers.  I can’t think of a better way to kick off being 30.  And the food and drinks I served for my party weren’t half bad either.

For cocktails I served:

  • Moscow Mules made with homemade ginger-lime syrup, vodka, and seltzer water
  • Hibiscus Mojitos made with hibiscus syrup from a jar of wild hibiscus flowers in syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, and white rum
  • Winter Soltice made from rosemary-infused pear nectar, brandy, and Cointreau
  • Lemon Drop Jelly Shots made with homemade lemon syrup, Cointreau and Vodka

All three cocktails were from Danny Meyer’s cocktail book Mix Shake Stir, which I couldn’t recommend more highly.  They were delicious and potent, not to mention easily batch made, a plus for a party.  There were many more in the book than could fit on the menu so I look forward to trying more in the future.  I know the Red Delicious, Cherry Blossom Sling, and The Hayride all caught my eye.  The jelly shots were from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen, another new favorite book of mine.

For food, I went with small bites I thought would pair well with the drinks.  I wanted things that, given it would be my 30th, would be a tad more elegant, but still approachable enough so as to appease all of the palates at the party.  Most of the recipes I sourced from Pinterest as I’ve developed an addiction to pinning appetizer recipes on my commute home.

For food I served:

  • Pistachio and Goat Cheese Grape Pops (Adapted from Sandy a la Mode, except that I inserted lollypop sticks to make them a pop instead of a truffle)
  • Homemade Pretzel Bites with Assorted Mustards and Jalapeno Cheese Dip (Pretzel recipe adapted from Bobby Flay and dip adapted from Smells Like Home.  I highly recommend the pretzel bites if you’re looking for a make ahead party recipe.  I froze them immediately after they cooled and reheated them at 350 degrees and they tasted fresh-baked.)
  • One Bite Gougere BLTs (Basically I made a batch of Gougeres and sliced them like sandwich buns filling them with the traditional BLT fixin’s.  This is another great make ahead option as you can make and freeze the Gougeres ahead of time and reheat at 350 degrees when you’re ready to use.)
  • Honey Chipotle Chicken Wings (Recipe from Cinnamon, Spice & Everything Nice)

I was also lucky in that I have incredibly generous friends so the spread was rounded out with an ample selection of wine, a vegetarian mushroom pate, triple salted caramel cupcakes, and sangria.

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a more fabulous birthday after all was said and done!  There’s something about surrounding yourself with friends that makes it easy to remind yourself how much good stuff is already in your life.  Since my birthday I’m actually loving being 30 (Who’d have thought!) and can’t wait to see what comes my way next.

{ 8 comments }

This month kicked off the inaugural challenge for the Creative Cooking Crew.  Basically we’re a group of bloggers trying to stretch our cooking skills by all creating a dish each month based on a theme.  This month our challenge was to take a rich, fatty, animal protein-based meal and give it a healthy Vegan spin.  It’s a perfect challenge for the new year and one worthy of bringing me back after an unintentional blogging hiatus.  Though animal products (especially cheese) make up a significant part of my diet I’ve always appreciated the ingenuity and creativity of vegan cooking.

When I started brainstorming what I wanted to reinvent for some reason I found myself drawn to the dishes of my childhood and one rose to the top – Sloppy Joes.  I chose this dish because I knew there were many vegan proteins that could easily replace the ground meat and figured there could also be freedom with the sauce to switch up my flavors and try something different.

I ended up using sauteed Tempeh in place of the ground beef and for my sauce I moved away from the traditional tomato-based sauce instead going for a blueberry-balsamic sauce.  Since we were going for a healthier dish, I love how the blueberries make for a sauce loaded in antioxidants while just a little bit of brown sugar gives it the molasses flavor I associate with Sloppy Joes.  Also in my recipe are Vegan Worcestershire Sauce (Yes, such a thing does exist), vegetable broth, Dijon mustard and onions which add a lot of depth to the sauce.  The Worcestershire Sauce in particular helps give this sauce a more savory flavor.

And because I’d already made so many swaps with this dish, I figured the bun had to go too.  Instead I decided to encase my filling in filo dough.   It makes the dish a tad lighter for those watching their carbs.

To go along side my Sloppy Joe bites a nice slaw seemed fitting so I made one from shredded blanched Brussels sprouts, shredded carrots, julienned apple, and toasted almonds.  The whole salad was dressed in a light apple cider vinaigrette to bring out the flavor of the apples as well as add a refreshing zing.

When the whole dish was put together I love how it tasted like a nod to my childhood but with a lighter and animal-free twist.  I was especially smitten with the slaw.  I’ve been fixated on cold Brussels sprouts salads since I made my Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Dried Blueberries, Bacon, Almonds and Manchego and this one was every bit as delectable, even without the cheese and bacon.

I know I can’t wait to see the roundup to see what everyone else made, but in the meantime, click our logo below to check out the group’s dishes on our Pinterest page.

Blueberry-Balsamic Tempeh Filo Triangles
Serves 4

Ingredients:

-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
-1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup chopped shallot, divided
-1 ½ cups fresh blueberries
-1 cup chicken broth
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-1 tablespoon dijon mustard
-1 teaspoon Vegan Worcestershire sauce
-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 tablespoon brown sugar
-1 8-ounce package tempeh, crumbled
-7 sheets frozen Filo dough,thawed
-Cooking spray

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté 1/2 cup chopped shallot until translucent . Add blueberries, chicken broth, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until reduced by half, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and puree in a blender until smooth. Pour back into saucepan and keep warm over low heat while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to a deep skillet over medium heat and sauté remaining chopped shallot until translucent. Add crumbled tempeh and saute until it starts to brown, about 6 minutes. Pour in the blueberry-balsamic sauce and cook for 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

To assemble triangles, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cut the whole stack of thawed filo lengthwise into quarters. Each strip will be about 3 1/2 inches wide. Working with 1 filo strip at a time and keeping the others covered with a barely damp towel, place the filo strip on a dry work surface. Spray it lightly with cooking spray.

Place about a generous tablespoon. of the filling 1 inch from the bottom edge. Fold the lower right corner of the pastry up and over the filling, forming a triangle. Roll the triangle straight forward, then again on a diagonal. Continue folding, forming a triangle each time, until you reach the end of the strip. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet and brush the top of the triangle with a little more butter. Use the remaining filo and filling to make the remaining triangles, placing them on the baking sheet(s).

Bake the triangles until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes (the filling will be very hot), then serve.

Brussels Sprouts-Apple Slaw
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

-1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
-1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
-2 tablespoons gave syrup
-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-1/2 cup canola oil
-1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
-1 pound Brussels sprouts, blanched then shredded
-1 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
-1 apple, cored and sliced into match sticks
-1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Method:

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk; stir in shallots. Set aside.

Add remaining ingredients to a bowl and toss lightly drizzling in dressing. (I used about 1/2 the dressing with leftovers for other salads.) Serve immediately.

{ 10 comments }

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