Open-Faced Pitas with Roasted Eggplant + Red Pepper Spread

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I think it’s time I get a little real with y’all.

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And that’s not even a sarcastic opening this time!!! I realized I’ve never really shared why I started cooking.

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Let us venture back to pre-teen Rachel. Or as I like to refer to her, she who must not be named. Growing up, I was ALWAYS the smallest kid in class. Like, got the kids menu and looked like an 8-year-old boy until I was 17. I don’t recommend this if you’re interested in having self esteem. Puberty rolled around my junior year and I became an average height, but was still skinny and could eat WHATEVER I wanted. I’ve told y’all about how I used to leave school, eat 12 nuggets, fries and a milkshake and THEN eat dinner. Those were the TIMES, man.

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Sophomore year of college came around and I gained the weight we all do at that pivotal time. Nothing crazy, but it looked odd on my small frame. I honestly would have been blissfully ignorant except this was during the rise of social media when it became the vortex of self-pity and comparison we now know and love. I saw pictures of myself and just hated what I saw. I had never felt pretty (have you seen this schnoz?!), but I had always counted on being small. My first world, middle class, not enough problem-having world was rocked! Chicken nugget girl had no idea how to eat healthy, so I started restricting myself. I lost 20 pounds eating a bagel for breakfast, a granola bar for lunch and a little something for dinner. Or as I like to call it, the diet of an idiotic college girl who cared far too much what peeps thought of her. While I eventually began eating more, I continued the unhealthy restrictive habits. It wasn’t until I called my mom crying one afternoon after treating myself to Zaxby’s (wow, what a treat!) and feeling SO guilty, that I realized it was time to make a change. She took me to the grocery store, bought me food and taught me how to bake some chicken breasts. From there, I turned on Food Network and haven’t turned it off in over six years. I watched every single show and tried to learn as much as I could. I would spend my free time searching for recipes and reading about food. I started this blog to document some of the recipes I liked, and here we are. Almost 5 years later and this little space of the Internet is still one of my favorites.

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Thank you for reading along and allowing me to be a lunatic and share some food and look at your food and I promise I eat quadruple the calories I used to – for example, I ate both of these pitas immediately after taking these photos.

 

Time: 1 hour (prep + cooking) | Serves: 4 pitas

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant, peeled + sliced into 1/2 inch discs
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained .+ rinsed
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 a small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, zoodled
  • 2 tbsp. of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. of crushed red pepper
  • S+P, to taste
  • Pitas, toasted
  • Cilantro, for serving

How to:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Arrange eggplant discs on a lined baking sheet, using 1 tbsp. of olive oil, brush each side + sprinkle with S+P
  • Arrange red peppers on another lined baking sheet
  • Arrange chickpeas on a third lined baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tbsp. of olive oil + some S+P
  • Place all in the oven (peppers + eggplant on the same rack if possible), bake chickpeas for 25 minutes, turning once, eggplant for 30 minutes, turning once, red peppers for 45 minutes, turning once
  • Once cooled, remove the charred skins from the peppers + cut the tops off + remove any seeds
  • In a food processor combine eggplant + red peppers + garlic + remaining olive oil + tomato paste + crushed red pepper + S+P, process until smooth
  • To serve, spread your eggplant + pepper goodness on a pita + top with zoodles + tomatoes + chickpeas + onion + cilantro
  • Fold pita up like a boat + swim it right into the giant hole in your face

 

Spread adapted from my girl, Ina!

Eggplant Rollatini

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I’m dreaming in a British accent.

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And I blame my Great British Baking Show addiction.

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I’m convinced there has never been a happier show.

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Who knew the whole of the UK was filled with genius amateur bakers that can design giant towers of caramel in the shape of dinosaurs? And they are all just like normal blokes (see what I did there). Like, when did they find the time to do this? Do English folk not spend the entirety of their evenings watching Netflix like the rest of us? They must actually work to better themselves or something in their free time. They all just have the purest personalities. Just sweet cherub angel babies making their ginormous meat pies. I just love how they say every single word. Like how their r’s are so soft and their th’s sound like f’s and they add an r after words that end in a. Oh, and how they use “brilliant” to describe the really good bakes. And don’t act like you don’t tear up a little every time Paul Hollywood sticks out his hand for one of his infamous handshakes!!

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It’s also inspired me to think I, too, can create a lion out of various freshly baked breads.

 

 

Time: 1.5 hours (prep + cooking) | Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants, peeled + cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup of whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp. of flaxseed meal
  • 1 package of extra firm tofu, drained of water
  • 1/2 cup of roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tbsp. of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. of crushed red pepper
  • S+P, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. of olive oil
  • Jar of your favie pasta sauce
  • Basil, for serving

How to:

  • Arrange eggplant slices in a colander + sprinkle with some S, let sit for about 15-20 minutes + let the water drain
  • Meanwhile, make a flax egg by combining flax meal + 3 tbsp. of warm water, stir + let sit in the fridge for 15 minutes
  • Meanwhile, pulse the sunflower seeds in a food processor until ground
  • Add tofu + process until combined
  • Pour that in a bowl + add lemon juice + zest + garlic + nutritional yeast +crushed red pepper + S+P, mix well + put in fridge until you’re ready to use
  • Pour your breadcrumbs in a bowl
  • Dunk an eggplant slice in the flax egg, then the breadcrumbs + coat on both sides, arrange on a lined baking sheet
  • Repeat with remaining eggplant slices
  • Bake 20 minutes or until crisp to your desire, flipping once
  • Let cool for a few minutes until you can handle your slices
  • Add a scoop of your tofu cheese to one end of your eggplant slice + roll, arrange in a greased baking dish
  • Repeat
  • Pour sauce on top + bake for 15 minutes
  • Serve warm with basil
  • Put on your cargo pants + pop a rollatini in all your compartments for convenient snacking

Grilled Veggie Clubs

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I am equal parts intrigued and wigged out by these DNA tests we all keep doing.

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Like, I spit in a tube and you all found 83 people that could be my third cousins. I’m just not understanding how this is possible.

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What does one use as an opening line to someone that may or not be related to you based on saliva compatibility alone?

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It is pretty interesting to finally know from where my peeps hail. No surprising results. I’m mostly English with some French and Norwegian mixed in. A splash of Irish/Scottish with even less German. However, I’m really holding tight to my 2% Greek and 1% Middle Eastern. Like, I will absolutely be claiming those. The best is I legit grew up thinking I was like 75% Italian and have told everyone that’s my background for as long as I can remember. Nope nada, can’t even fake it up in a Carrabba’s Italian Grill (no hate, their spaghetti is dope).

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Now I need to know – what do they do with my spit once they’re done testing it?¿

 

Time: 1 hour (prep + cooking) | Serves: 4 sammies

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant, peeled + sliced thin into rounds
  • 1 zucchini, sliced length-wise, thin
  • 1 squash, sliced length-wise, thin
  • 1 english cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1-2 roma tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 red pepper, roasted or 1/2 cup of store-bought roasted red peppers
  • 1 avocado, sliced thin
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 12 slices of toasted bread (ezekiel bread used here)
  • 1/4 cup stone-ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup of hummus
  • S+P, to taste

How to:

  • Salt your eggplant rounds + place in a strainer, let water release for about 20-25 minutes, pat dry
  • Heat your grill or grill pan over medium heat + spray with cooking spray
  • Sprinkle eggplant + zucchini + squash with S+P, grill for 3-4 minutes on each side, flipping once
  • To assemble, spread some hummus on a slice of bread + top with a slice of eggplant + some zucchini + some squash + roasted red peppers
  • Spread mustard on both sides of another piece of bread + place on top
  • Add cucumbers + tomato + avocado + spinach
  • Spread some hummus on another slice of bread + place that on top, hummus down
  • Repeat with remaining sammies
  • Stick some toothpicks in the four corners of the sammies
  • Cut diagonally into fourths, making sure a toothpick remains in each fourth
  • Serve room temp or warm
  • Unhinge jaw + wrap mouth around this bad boy + enjoy all the crunchy fresh goodness that is about to happen up in there