Grilled Tomato Basil Salad

July 23, 2013 Appetizer, Menu 1 Comment

Looking for a quick side dish to prepare for you next cook-out? This recipe takes one of my favorite cold salad combinations – cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper – and adds a hot new dimension to it. You will need a grilling basket to cook the tomatoes to prevent them from falling through your grill grates. A round or square metal basket or a disposable aluminum tray with holes will do the trick. You can use cherry or grape tomatoes, depending on what you have on hand. If you are using the larger cherry tomatoes, I suggest slicing them in half. Measurements are based on your preference and serving size, so be sure to adjust accordingly.

Simply mix together in a bowl the tomatoes and some fresh chopped basil (I always go with 1/4 cup basil per container of tomatoes, but you can adjust to your liking). Drizzle the tomatoes and basil with some extra virgin olive oil, then add some salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Mix it all up well. Place the basket or tray onto your grill, then pour the tomato mixture into the basket and cook directly over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Be sure to pour the mixture into the basket while it’s sitting on the grill, otherwise the oil will run out through the basket holes. Continue to stir until the tomatoes start to blister and slightly char. Carefully scoop the grilled tomatoes out of the basket and onto a plate, leaving the basket on the grill until cool and the oil evaporates (again, the hot oils may run through the basket holes if you remove it too soon from the grill, which could badly burn you).

Add a little additional chopped basil to the mixture for extra fresh taste. If you really want to impress your guests once you plate it, throw in a few slices of fresh mozzarella too!

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Pumpkin Pecan Patties with Maple Vinaigrette

July 9, 2013 Entrees, Menu No Comments

While doing research for this recipe, I found that there are actually a handful of pumpkin burger patty recipes available on various food websites, and they all use white beans as the key ingredient along with pumpkin puree. However, none of the recipes utilized traditional pumpkin spices. Instead, most rely on corn, peppers and other usual suspects found in a veggie patty. Because I wanted to stay true to the pumpkin taste, yet have it hold up as burger patty, I put together my own version, using pumpkin puree, chickpeas (any white bean would work well), traditional pumpkin spices, and some tarragon to add a little savory flavor. To keep with the pumpkin theme, I also cut back heavily on the recommended amount of breadcrumbs and compensated with ground pecans – which, of course, goes well with any pumpkin dish! I also substituted traditional condiments with a maple dressing…again, to compliment the spicy pumpkin taste.

Whether you are a fan of pumpkin, or just a lover of veggie burgers, I suggest you give this one a try. And while the upcoming autumn season is the optimal season, I’m sure that you’ll enjoy these any time of the year!

Pumpkin Pecan Patties with Maple Vinaigrette
Makes 4 to 6 burgers
1 15.5 oz can chick peas (or any type of white bean)
1-1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tspn allspice
1/2 tspn nutmeg
1/2 tspn ginger
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn tarragon
1 tbspn chives
1 egg
1-1/2 cups finely grounded pecans
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375˚. Combine beans, pumpkin, spices, tarragon, chives and egg in a food processor. Mix until well combined. Fold in pecans and breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper. Place the mixture  in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. After you remove mixture from the fridge/freezer, gently scoop a generous handful and shape into a patty (makes a total of 4 to 6 patties).

Place the patties on a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping once halfway through baking.

Serving suggestions:
plated with a side of vegetables or rice, on a bun with a side of chips, or over a salad.

Drizzle with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 tbspn balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tspn dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper into a bowl, whisk together. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream with continuing to whisk.

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