caprese wontons


caprese wontons

People always talk about shedding pounds after the holidays.  Unfortunately in this household, the holiday weight gain period extends through to the Super Bowl.  It’s flattering to hear that there are people who look forward to the get-together at our house every year, so I must be doing something right, right?  Or is it the guilty pleasure of devouring a 7-layer dip and fried buffalo chicken balls that brings everyone back?  Whatever it is, I don’t care.  Unlike the orchestrated Thanksgiving or Easter meals, the Super Bowl is a nosh-worthy event.  I throw everything onto a table and I sit back and enjoy the game, (or in this year’s case, not enjoy the game so much, but more so my friends and David Beckham).  So this time, I made a concerted effort to try to incorporate some healthier dishes without going all vegan on my guests (not that there is anything wrong with vegan!)  What is funny, is that the couscous salad sat, so did the potato salad made healthier with greek yogurt.  Anything remotely like a taco-cheese-like substance is always a big seller.  So are the veggie dips and ranch dressing.  But all my energy wasn’t wasted in trying to tone down my frowny-faced caloric menu, because I found one healthy appetizer that sold….quickly.  Ok so it has cheese.  But still, it wasn’t fried or dripping with steak juice.  These little mozzarella, basil and tomato bites were a hit.  Plus they are easy to prepare and apparently don’t sit very long!  I love the fact that you can tailor the amount to what you feel like.  I made them one night for myself and a friend, so we just made six.  Ok so we also made three other appetizers and shrimp étouffée, oh and uh, a smoothie made with Bud Light and peanut butter, but that is another story for another time.  (Or maybe I’ll just let that one go…)

three ingredients

caprese wontons

non-stick spray
1  12 oz package square wonton wrappers
1  8 oz ball fresh mozzarella, diced small
1  TB extra virgin olive oil
6  TB fresh basil, Julienne
1  large ripe tomato, seeded and diced small
crushed red pepper
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

get started on the wonton cups:

wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Add your diced mozzarella and tomato in a medium bowl.  Add the olive oil and toss to coat. Add crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  Prepare two muffin tins by spraying with non-stick spray.  Taking two wrappers at a time, rotate the top one a quarter turn and press both wrappers into the muffin cup.  Continue to fill each muffin cup until all 24 cups are pressed in.
Equally spoon mozzarella mixture into each cup and top with sliced basil.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and wrappers turn golden brown.

basil on topwontons done

note:  this makes 24 wonton cups – enough for me.  Ok enough for 8-12 people.

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ratatouille spirals


Ratatouille Spirals

In a weird way, I think this dish is representative of me.  It is a dish that tries to please everyone.  It looks complicated, but is really straight forward.  And you are committed to it, even though it is a bit of a pain in the ass to make.  I saw this recipe in a magazine and knew right away I needed to make it.  I haven’t mastered it yet, because I think the proportions are off a little with both the veggies and/or the size of the pan, but nevertheless, it is still a good dish.  The first time I made it, I followed the recipe and used the anchovies.  The dish got an F.  The kids were coughing and dry heaving, and then my husband, because he still is a child, did the same. So, obviously the anchovies didn’t dissolve, and ruined the dish (for us).  My suggestion to pick around the anchovies got tossed about as fast as the dish did.  How was I ever going to bring back my dish that I was in love with for the strangest reasons?  Thankfully, the opportunity came up when my cooking soul mate called, and we decided to make dinner reservations.  As the night out drew closer, we made the convenient excuse to just get together and cook a meal ourselves.  We met to go food shopping for a menu that was basically nonexistent, with the exception of the spirals I was making.  But at 5:30pm, in the cheese aisle, our menu took shape.  I think that if we didn’t have a clock or a liver, we could have cooked all night.  Ok, so maybe just not a clock…kidding.  So after the cooking marathon, the hour on the clock told us we were tired and the empty bottles of wine signaled the immediacy of going to bed.  However, we had successfully made stuffed jalapeños with Brie, caramelized onion and mushroom ravioli, and of course, I got to make my spirals again.  This time, I substituted fresh basil for the anchovies.  I still didn’t fill the pan with spirals, but what I could fill was my belly and my fridge full of left overs!

zucchini slices

ratatouille spirals  (adapted from Bon Appetit)

3  lbs beefsteak tomatoes, scored with an “X” on the bottoms
3  TB extra virgin olive oil
1  medium onion, diced
2  large garlic cloves, minced
1/2  tsp crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2  cups cubed country bread
2 1/2  lbs medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
2 1/2  lbs small japanese or italian eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
3  roasted bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
20 – 24  fresh basil leaves
1  lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 x 2 inch sticks
freshly grated parmesan cheese

get started on the spirals:

scored tomatoes

In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds.  Drain them and then slip off the skins and halve the tomatoes crosswise.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes, keeping the juices and seeds.
Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large skillet, heat 2 TB of the oil.  Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat for 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and juices and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook while stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toss the bread cubes with the remaining 1 TB of olive oil.  Toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until golden.
In a colander, toss the zucchini and eggplant with 2 TB of kosher salt (can be done in separate colanders), and let drain for 15 minutes.  Shake out the excess liquid and pat the slices dry.
Spoon the tomato sauce into a shallow 2 1/2 qt. baking dish and scatter the bread cubes on top.

bread in sauce

On a clean work surface, top each zucchini slice with a slice of eggplant.  Blot dry if necessary.  Place a strip of roasted red pepper and then top with a basil leaf.  Place a stick of mozzarella at one end.  Sprinkle each stack with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and roll up.  Stand the rolls in the baking dish and drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

assembly line

Cover with parchment paper or foil.  Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender and the ratatouille is bubbling.  Remove the parchment paper halfway through baking.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

rolls

note:  this dish serves 8 people