When the Carrot Met the Eggplant


Eggplant Parmigiana is a super delish dish but it’s not one that you can whip up for a weeknight meal. Carrots sautéed in butter; sure those are yummy too, but how many times have you had them that way? Finding myself left with just these two vegetables, and not grooving on making either of the aforementioned standards, I wondered if these two might enjoy waltzing together on a dance floor of balsamic syrup.
Now, you may think that sounds fancy and hard.  Stop, wait, remember; it’s me. The Something from Nothing - Make It Simple chick.  
Some tips for this prep:
❖ Remember to cook the carrots so they are caramelized soft but still with a nice bite.  
❖ Eggplant can get mushy but don’t let it go that route.  You almost want to sear the outside and keep the inside al dente.
❖ Texture is important. I like the way the two textures work off one another.
❖ I cut the carrots on the diagonal, then give a quarter turn to the carrot and cut another cube. I keep quarter turning and cutting giving the carrots a multi-faceted edge.  I learned this technique many moons ago from a guest on one of Martha Stewart's show.  Her method was inspired by Japanese tradition, but I adopted this method and have been cutting my carrots this way ever since.  No major reason, other than there are more surface areas for caramelizing and absorbing flavors. Plus, I just like it.

Carrots cut by quarter turn method

Carrots cut by quarter turn method

Balsamic Glazed Caramelized Carrot & Eggplant Sauté



2.5 c carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
1/2 c onion, thinly sliced
4 c (1 med or 2 sm Italian eggplant, cut into cubes (I leave the skins on, but you are welcome to remove if you don't like the texture)
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 T honey
Oil, salt, pepper







In a large sauté pan, caramelize the onion.  In the meantime, in a roasting pan, drizzle the carrots with oil to coat, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast the carrots until they are caramelize.  


(I like the flavor when oven roasting the carrots. Plus while are roasting, you can be cooking the onions and eggplant. However, If you prefer to do this in all in one pan, you can. Simply add enough water to the pan and steam the carrots until water evaporates. Add oil and let cook over medium low heat until nicely tender. Set aside and continue the rest of the recipe.)


While the carrots are cooking by your preferred method, begin sautéing the onion until soft then add the eggplant cubes. Add more oil as needed to soften eggplant until tender but not mushy.  You want to get a nice sear on the eggplant.  


Once cooked, remove the eggplant/onion mixture and set aside.  Add the balsamic vinegar and honey to the same pan and over low heat, reduce until it thickens.  Then add the carrots, eggplant/onions back to the pan and stir to combine. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.


Here’s to introducing the carrot to the eggplant by way of syrup.  Who doesn’t get along with a little sweetness?

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Post note: The next night I made baby fingerling potatoes and stirred them lovingly together with the carrots and eggplant. It was hearty and they all waltzed nicely on a dance floor of balsamic sweetness.

Summer Salad Full of Fruits

Now that the weather seems to be cooperating and we have returned to summer, it's time to reset our menus back to regularly scheduled programming of offering foods of the season again.

Batter up: Fruits and Vegetables.  How many times have you heard your mom say "eat your fruits and veggies"? As we have all come to learn, moms know best.  These two food groups are the real powerhouses of the food chain, packing all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you could ever want.  So it made perfect sense that I would combine both in a summer salad to take full advantage of all those heathy benefits.  

I think it's pretty evident by now that my salads contain the not so obvious ingredients.  Thus today's combo should not come as a surprise.  No lettuce and tomatoes pairing here.  Call me odd, that's ok.  I am, but in a good way.

I have an intense fondness of combining textures and flavors.  Sweet and savory.  Soft and crunchy. The fruits and vegetables of summer hit all the right notes,  checking those objectives off my list with the extra bonus of adding freshness and interesting flavor profile

My thoughts on this salad were how many seasonal stunners of the moment I could put together in one dish. Corn, blueberries, nectarines, arugula.

Not much more to this story, other than flavor, flavor, flavor.

Summer's bounty of the moment.

Summer's bounty of the moment.

Ingredients                                               Dressing

1 bunch arugula  (6-7 c)                                                       2/3 nectarine
3 nectarines (1 for the dressing)                                          1/4 c scallion, rough slice
1/3 c blueberries                                                                  1/2 T balsamic vinegar
1 ear of corn, grilled                                                             4 T olive oil
1/3 c blue cheese                                                                 1/2 t course sea salt
1/4 c red onion, thinly sliced                                                1/4 t cracked black pepper


Wash the arugula well.  It tends to have a ton of sand, so soak it in cold water in a strainer and lift it out of the water so the sand stays on the bottom.  You may need to do this several times. Dry and arrange in a large platter.

Oil, salt and pepper the corn, then grill it.  I like using a cast iron grill pan but use whatever is most readily available.

While the corn is grilling. Slice the onions and nectarines.

Once the corn is done, you can begin assembling the salad, layering all the different ingredients atop the arugula in a pleasing manner.  I cut some of the kernels off of one side of the cob, then cut the cob in half and place onto the salad.

For the dressing, blend the nectarine, scallion, salt and pepper into a paste. Add the vinegar, oil and pulse until blended. It will be a thick dressing.

You can serve the dressing on the side or drizzle on top.

The flavors of this summer salad creates little flavor bombs in each bite.  The arugula provides a peppery note perfectly juxtaposed to the sweetness of the nectarine and blueberries.  The red onion has a spicy bite that stands up to the crunchy, savory kernels of corn. Then the salty, sharpness of the blue cheese is mellowed by the creamy sweetness of the dressing.  This is party in your mouth kind of salad. Perfect to celebrate summer's bounty.  Ideal pairings: hamburgers (with cheese & caramelized onion), grilled pork chops, grilled white flesh fish (ie: Rainbow Trout, Flounder). Summer fun in a bowl. The easiest, and best way to eat your fruits and veggies!


Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

Raw everything is all the rage these days, and shaved brussel sprout salad is so in vogue.  I get a huge belly shake of laughter seeing how vegetables are taking center stage, becoming mega stars in a social media video blitzkrieg.  It is about time that vegetables got their due.  For too long now, bacon and butter have dominated the stage, whoa-ing audiences with their fatty appeal.  I am glad to see these vibrant, nutrient packed edibles get their trophies. That said, enough with cauliflower pizza making. I’m wheat and yeast free and can tell you NOTHING replaces a yeast rising doughy bite!!  Move over cauliflower because Brussel Sprouts will soon have their own youTube channel!!

This veggie craze is a good thing.  I've been doing it for awhile now. Which is why it's funny that years ahead of the raw craze and fascination with vegetables I served a shaved broccoli and brussel sprout salad.  My attempt back then was almost successful.  I say almost because I served it without testing it first. (As usual, but the no testing in this case didn't serve me well.) I didn't quite realize just how intense, sometimes bitter these greens can be when served raw.  I can't even remember what dressing I used, but I can attest that I didn't finesse them enough.  What a novice!  I've learned a thing or two.

My recent lure back to raw brussels came when my friend, Tecla, and I were enjoying each other's company for lunch at Lure, and we ordered a shaved brussel sprout salad.  We did so to be healthy knowing that we would be consume some Rosé wine and a few other items with a higher calorie count.  Yes, that's what ladies who lunch do. The salad was good. But it awoke a definite redemption itch in me.  I needed to conquer this salad on my own terms ensuring that I calm it's intense flavors and cox it's crispy freshness to palates far and wide.  

The opportunity was ripe when I bought a bunch of enormous brussel sprouts from the new organic market by our house.   Alas, I ran out of time to make them before we left on our trip to Miami. So what did I do??  NO, I didn't throw them away.  No, I didn't give them away, as it was too early in the morning to call anyone.  So, I did the next best thing.  I packed them in Juan Carlos' bag!  

Once in Miami, more good fortune came my way.  On our way to Key Largo we happened upon a farmer's market with glorious produce.  Even though we only had a few more days in Miami, I HAD to buy some. So I picked up the biggest radishes I'd ever seen (and a few other items including the sweetest cantaloupe ever).

As I cut the brussel sprouts, I knew I wanted to add more than what I've seen in other sprout salads including the one at Lure. Since I had those radishes they got shaved in.  With these two intense flavors some sweetness was in tall order.  Call upon the carrot to do what it does best, add sweetness.  Grated that up, added scallions and red onion, some chopped parsley for that earthy herb note, and for another crisp and refreshing bite I added some celery.

The salad at Lure was just brussel sprouts and pine nuts with a creamy dressing.  But JC can't eat dairy, plus I didn't have anything like that in our Miami fridge.  Also, I really felt that this salad needed to be fresh and bright with a hint a sweetness.  Orange was my answer.

Here's the nuts and bolts of this recipe.

The vegetable line up
The dressing ingredients


8 c brussel sprouts, shaved
2 c carrot, shredded
3/4 c radishes, shredded
2 c celery, shaved or sliced thinly
3/4 c red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 c scallion, sliced
1/3 c fresh parsley, chopped
2 oranges, segmented (blood orange if you can find it)



2/3 c juice of an orange
2 T lime juice
2 t balsamic vinegar
2/3 c Olive oil
salt, pepper



Prep all your vegetables as noted above.  I used a mandolin on the sprouts, the onion and celery. I used a box grater for the radishes and carrot.  If you don't have, or don't feel comfortable with a mandolin then simply thinly slice the vegetables.  

Shaved, sliced, chopped and ready to go.

Shaved, sliced, chopped and ready to go.

Place all the cut vegetables in a large serving bowl and set as you prepare the dressing.

Segment the orange.  As I mentioned, I was fortunate to find blood oranges but you can use a perfectly good navel orange.  As you cut the segments, do this over a bowl so you can catch any of the juices that may drip down.  Squeeze whatever juice you can get out of the pulp. You will most likely need one whole orange to get 2/3 of a cup.  Whisk together all the remaining ingredients and pour over the salad, tossing thoroughly.  Add the orange segments to the top and serve.  This salad is best when it is dressed at least 15-20 minutes prior to serving.

Awaiting the marriage.

Awaiting the marriage.

When I made this salad in Miami, I didn't think of using orange segments in the salad, just the juice.  Mostly because I only had one orange and that got all squeezed up for the juice. This time around back in NY I found blood oranges and had that aha moment. When I cut them open and saw the ruby red glory, I knew these needed top the salad and shine their unique sweetness on this salad.  


I must say, and my niece, Gianna, will confirm these added a great, bright burst of flavor.  You don't really need me to list the pairing suggestions for this one, but here is a photo of who my sister, Alyssa, served it when I brought the salad to her house.  

Balsamic Bathed Carrots Wrapped with Zucchini

Crudité cranked up. This is not your ordinary raw carrot appetizer.  It's not a big hunk of veg that is hard and hard to bite into.  And no dipping in some ranch dressing either.  This is amped up, vamped up crudité.  Now, admittedly I can't take full credit for this recipe.  But imitation is the best form of admiration and also serves to inspire, which is what Giada De Laurentiis did.  In her version, she used prosciutto to wrap these bathed shredded carrots.  


I have made it her way many a time, often using Serrano ham instead.  Each time I placed this salty and sweet combo out, they were gobbled up, leaving but spotted remnants of basil and a shred of carrot as evidence of their existence.  I highly recommend trying it that way.  They make the cutest little bundles and provide some vegetables to the meat lovers.  



Bathing the carrots in balsamic and basil is brilliant and elevates the simple carrot to its kicked up crudité status.  Shredding the carrots is also genius as it does two things. It maintains the crisp rawness of the carrot but makes them more manageable to eat.  You definitely won't feel like you'll crack a tooth biting into one of these. Second, the strands lend themselves to be wrapped, creating a more elegant bite. And it's a this point that I began to alter the recipe, coming up with other outer coat wrappings.  During the summer months, I used a long slice of English cucumber.  Served alongside oil doused fennel, this created a very refreshing bite indeed.   I've also tweaked the original recipe not only by what I cloak them with but the dressing as well.

So when a recent gathering required another appetizer, I pulled from my "appetizer archives" and was reminded of these shredded carrots.  Certainly I could have rolled them with Prosciutto or Serrano but I had plenty of meat offerings already.  Just how much do the carnivores need?  I say there needs to be balance on a table. Balance is key.  You want some warm options, room temp ones, meat, and even fresh, raw options from which your guests can pick and choose.  I always try to provide a variety, and given that some of my guests, including myself, are veg/pescatarians, offering up vegetarian options is mandatory. For this shindig, I needed the addition of a refreshing, easy to pick up vegetable plate. Cranked up crudité to the rescue.  Being wintertime I didn't feel the cool cucumber coat would be appropriate. Hmm, what is long, vegetarian and can roll?  No, not a yogini.  Enter the ubiquitous zucchini to the stage. 


3-4 Zucchini, thinly sliced
2-3 large Carrots, shredded
1 T shallot, minced
3 T basil, ribboned
3 T Balsamic vinegar
1/2 T lemon juice
1/3 c olive oil
salt, pepper





Using a vegetable shredder on your carrot, create fine julienne ribbons.  I like mine to be about 3-4" in length. Using a mandolin, cut the zucchini into long strips.  

shredded carrots
sliced zucchini

Season the zucchini and grill them lightly and quickly to soften them up so they are not raw and can easily be rolled.

zucchini cooking

In a bowl, mix together the vinegar, salt, pepper, shallots, basil and oil.  Then toss the carrots so they are all coated with this tangy basil mixture. 


Take a zucchini strip, grab a mound of carrots and begin to roll it up.  Arrange on a platter.  

Make these a head of time while you enjoy a crisp glass of wine, then cover with plastic wrap to keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  I would recommend taking them out at least 1/2 hour prior to serving to allow them to kick off the icy chill.  You can also serve these warm.  If you opt for this route, I would prep everything ahead of time right up to the rolling part. Then put the zucchini in the oven to warm, roll up and serve immediately. Anyway you wrap these; cured ham, cucumber, zucchini, cold, warm... well, you get the picture, they will be your new favorite app. Delightful for any party.   Hey, you could also serve a couple of these atop a salad as a first course.  Gosh, I just love when a simple little root veg goes showing off its multitalented uses.  Bravo, Carrot!

As you can see, you don't need to roll these up.  You can also cradle them in a basinet of endive.

As you can see, you don't need to roll these up.  You can also cradle them in a basinet of endive.

Post note:  Two weekends ago we were invited to our friends' house last minute and I was asked to bring some appetizers.  I didn't have much in the house and it was snowing.  This is the best time to employ the something from nothing style.  Open the fridge to find, some carrots, chives and baby bok choy.  You guessed it.  I replaced the basil with chives and the zucchini with baby bok choy.  The flavors were subtle but still made an impression. Open your fridge and turn on your inner something from nothing genius to wrap up some balsamic bathed carrots.