Baked eggplant with garlic mayo, herb and lemon rice, oil-free grilled zucchini and bell pepper with balsamic reduction, and a fresh cucumber tomato salad with za'atar.
Back when we lived in Texas, there was this great Mediterranean buffet that had lots of vegan options, and you'd end up with a crazy overfilled plate and a full tummy. I just love the variety and colorful options when you can eat several things with similar flavors that all blend well.
As my grandpa would say, "It's all on it's way to the bay anyway," so I was never one to dislike food that touched. In fact, I like a perfect bite with a little bit of everything on the plate- like a Buddha Bowl or Thanksgiving dinner.
Last night was Sunday, which means Next Food Network Star. I fantasize about being on the show, but honestly it just doesn't feel vegan-friendly or mellow Erin-friendly. I don't want to race, I just want yummy food and smiles.
Anyway, I was inspired to make something really fantastic for dinner- and it was the last day of the week before my grocery run, but we stopped at a farm stand on our way back from the beach on Saturday, so we had some good produce to work with.
The Gadgets, Meal, and Method
First thing, I started two cups of rice in the rice cooker per directions on bag of rice. It's different for each variety, but cooking in the rice cooker generally takes about 20-30 minutes. If you don't have a rice cooker, just make it in a pot on a back burner out of the way.
Next, I preheated oven to 375 F and peeled and sliced my eggplant in about 1/2 inch thick rounds. and placed them on aparchment paper lined baking sheet. The parchment paper keeps the eggplant from sticking, so I didn't have to add any oil to the pan. On top of each round, I spread out a thin layer of homemade garlic mayo. You could use a store bought vegan mayo with chopped garlic blended in instead if you liked. I baked those for about 30 minutes while I prepared everything else.
George Foreman Grill
Another gadget that kept things low-oil was my George Foreman Grill. I sliced a zucchini in thirds lengthwise and cut a yellow bell pepper into 1 inch strips and filled up the grill with them. A sprinkle of salt and pepper was the only seasoning they needed, and no oil was necessary. Those cooked for about 20 minutes, flipping once half way through the time.
For a tangy, umami, yummy richness, I simmered a small pot with about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp brown sugar, and a dash of salt until it was a thick syrup. It took about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then I let it cool slightly before serving.
The final side to this colorful meal was a fresh salad. I cut a large tomato and an English cucumber (didn't peel) into small cubes and tossed with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, some pink salt, and about a 1/2 tsp zata'ar seasoning. Once it was all chopped up, I put it in the fridge to chill.
While the salad chilled, I went out to the garden and picked a sprig of mint, 2 green onions, and a few sprigs parsley. I chopped that all finely and mixed with the zest of one lemon (you can use a zester or the fine grate side of a box grater- which is my preferred method- or if you don't have either you can carefully cut just the yellow of the skin off in sheets and finely chop them).
Finally, the plating.
One scoop rice with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and those fresh herbs subbed out an overly salty or oily sauce, keeping the meal light and refreshing for summer. I sliced the grilled veggies and served the veggies and eggplant drizzled with the balsamic reduction. The cold salad was scooped on last and after pictures the meal was inhaled.
Overall, a delicious, seasonal, fresh, and crisp summer dinner made in less than an hour and with lots of flavor!
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