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Mediterranean Grilled Eggplant

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Recipe Credit: The Cooking Channel

It’s summertime again and time to eat delicious grilled meals. That is if you live in a house and have a barbecue, and let’s face it, grilling a steak on your indoor stove is a pretty smoky ordeal… So in looking for a delicious indoor grilled recipe that does not smoke out my guests, I came upon this recipe from the Cooking Channel which I just love. It is light and can be served as a light meal or taken out to your barbeque to enjoy outside.

INGREDIENTS

About 8 finger eggplants
Olive oil

FOR THE YOGURT:
Half a cucumber
3/4 cup (200g)thick yogurt
A clove of garlic
about 12 mint leaves
A teaspoon black onion seeds (optional)
Warm flat bread such as pita, to serve

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Wipe the eggplants and cut them in half lengthwise. Pour a thin layer of olive oil into a baking pan and place the eggplants, cut side down, in the oil. Bake until soft and squishy, about forty minutes.

To make the cucumber yogurt, wipe the cucumber half and grate coarsely. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside in a colander for half an hour. Squeeze the cucumber dry in the palm of your hand, then stir it into the yogurt. Peel and finely crush the garlic, chop the mint leaves, and stir both into the cucumber and yogurt. Toast the black onion seeds lightly in a nonstick pan. Transfer the yogurt to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the onion seeds.

Serve the eggplants on plates with the cucumber yogurt. Spread some of the baked eggplant onto a piece of the flatbread and spoon over a little of the yogurt. Based on this recipe’s Greek/Mediterranean influence, my wine pairing suggestion is the fresh and light bodied Maschofilero white from Boutari in the Greek Pelopponese. Buon appetito and cin cin!

The Butcher Shop Beer Garden & Grill Miami, Fl.

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Located in a very hidden, hip and trendy warehouse in Wynwood Miami, is a restaurant called The Butcher Shop (165 NW 23rd St Miami, FL 33127)… The small alleyway entrance gives one that clandestine supper club feel and then opens up into a considerably large area… The Butcher Shop offers clients cuts of Certified Prime Black Angus, all natural hormone-free organic chicken and a variety of store made smoked sausages. I did not really pay much attention to their wine menu. I felt like having beer (their specialty), and their selection of craft beers on tap and bottles is extensive and unique. A very innovative aspect about the Butcher Shop is, you can buy their meat retail to cook at home or an in-house chef will cook it to perfection for you.

First off, I ordered the grilled chicken wings which were sweet, tangy and cooked to perfection. Next off, the roasted beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts. It was fresh, light and of a very civilized portion size. To finish off my meal, I got the Bacon Gorgonzola burger with caramelized onions. The secret to their burgers and to any burger is to knead the toppings into the ground beef. So in this case the bacon and cheese were in the meat. It was so amazing! Best burger I have had in a while and their skin-on french fries were crunchy and very savory. My server was a young, friendly college student who was right on key with service. He even brought out small tasting samples of beer, was very knowledgeable on beer characteristics, and made it a point that I like my beer before ordering a full stein. I especially liked the Leffe Blond and the Fat Tire ale which paired great with my meal.

The ambiance is very hip and young which I really enjoyed and having a live Dj during my meal was also a big plus and a very innovative idea. The music and volume were not bothersome at all… Graffiti walls also give that cool feel of the restaurant.The Butcher shop seems to be more of a guys place because of the meat and beer concept but I also noticed some families out, girls together at girls night and college students. All-in-all, I would highly recommend The Butcher Shop MIA based on ambiance, service, food quality and freshness. Prices were very reasonable compared to a restaurant on South Beach. Open for lunch and dinner, give them a try and buon appetito!

Sea Salt and Finishing Salts

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Did you know that ordinary table salt is processed and very bad for you? It can even give you a heavy feeling. Natural sea salt is full of free-forming nutrients and minerals… Some may think that all salt is the same, but iodized table salt at the market is the cheap stuff. Anything that is natural is of course better for you!

At home I love to cook. I have all the kitchen gadgets, and yes, I have many different types of salt. Why in the world would someone be so crazy as to have more than one salt at home? Afterall isn’t salt all the same and is it not used to make food… salty? Actually not all salt is the same just like not all wine is the same. Salt, like wine comes from different parts of this earth which have different characteristics… Terroir shall we say in wine terms!

Sea salts have different textures and flavors and that is why they are all different. Hawaiian black sea salt for example has a smoky volcanic flavor. Truffle salt of course tastes like truffle (is great with fries), alderwood smoked sea salt tastes like smoked wood chips and some even taste like Chardonnay wine from barrel staves. So depending on what you are cooking, these salts add disinct flavors to your meals.

I’m sure you have all heard the term finishing salts… These salts are used on foods after they have been cooked. Due to their varying courseness, they add texture to foods and are great to have in the kitchen at all times. For example, English Malden Salt is great to add to salads that have been plated. It gives an added salty crunch! Also, smoky sea salts go great with meats and certain seafoods.

Most of these salts come from India, USA, Italy, Spain, France, UK and the Hawaiian Islands. You may find these salts at Willams Sonoma, ebay or Sur la Table. And remember, once you start using a variety of salts in your kitchen, you won’t think I was so crazy afterall… Good eats!