Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan is more of a warm summer salad than the traditional marinara-soaked dish that is often served with pasta. This reasonably healthy, vegetarian dish incorporates the eggplant, cheese, and fresh tomato with sourdough crostini and a drizzle of olive oil and good balsamic vinegar.


Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4

1 large eggplant
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 8 slices
1 small loaf of crusty bread (sourdough preferred)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 slabs
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 large fresh basil leaves, torn in half

Heat oven to 375F.

Cut the bread into eight 3/4-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Place the bread on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes per side, or until the bread is crisp and just beginning to turn golden brown. Set aside and allow to cool.

Cut the eggplant into eight 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the eggplant on paper towels and cover with paper towels. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the eggplant to leech some of its liquid.

Heat oven to 400F.

In a rimmed dish place the beaten eggs. In a second rimmed dish mix the flour, cornmeal and oregano. Season the flour mixture with salt and pepper. Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray. Dredge each eggplant slice in the eggs then in the flour mixture. Place the eggplant on the baking sheet. Spray each eggplant slice with cooking spray, flip the eggplant and repeat.

Bake the eggplant for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and make sure the flour coating is not drying out. If it is, brush with olive oil. Flip the eggplant and brush the other side with oil and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the flour coating it golden brown and the eggplant is softened. Place a slab of mozzarella on each eggplant slice and sprinkle each evenly with Parmesan. Broil until the mozzarella bubbles and begins to brown.

To serve: Place two slices of bread on each plate, top with an eggplant slice, top with a tomato slice and two basil leaf pieces. Drizzle the tomato with oil and balsamic. Place a second eggplant slice on top of the tomato. Place another tomato and two more basil leaf pieces on the eggplant. Drizzle again with oil and balsamic. Repeat for the remaining three servings. Serve immediately.

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Calzone is sort of a pizza folded in half or a very large empanada. Calzone takes a bit longer than a pizza to bake because the stuffing needs to be heated.


Turkey Sausage and Ricotta Calzone
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Pizza dough (See recipe post for The Best Pizza Dough, March 2013)
1 14.5 ounce can pizza sauce (made from San Marzano tomatoes, if possible)
16 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick slabs
2 sweet peppers, stemmed and seeded, sliced into 1/4-inch rings
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 pound lean turkey Italian sausage, removed from casing
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing and drizzling

In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown and crumble the sausage. Remove sausage to paper-towel-lined plate. Set aside.

Heat oven to 500F and place pizza stone on the lowest rack. Allow the oven to reach full temperature before baking the first calzone.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, peppers, and the sausage. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

To prepare the calzones, divide the dough into third and roll the dough out to just less than 1/8th-inch thickness. On one half of the dough spread a layer of pizza sauce to within 1/2-inch of the edge of the dough. Place a third of the ricotta-sausage mixture on the sauce. Top the ricotta with sliced onions and mozzarella. Fold the dough over the stuffing and seal the edges. Slice a 2-inch-long slit in the top of the dough to allow steam to release as the stuffing cooks. Brush the entire surface of top of the calzone with oil and place calzone in the oven on the stone. Bake for 15 minutes and then allow the calzone to cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Repeat the calzone preparation with the remaining two doughs.

To serve, slice each calzone into thirds and drizzle with olive oil.

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Grilled Meatball Sandwiches with Arugula Pesto

This is an update to Ample Bites October 21, 2012 post. In this version of Grilled Meatball Sandwiches with Arugula Pesto I used half ground sirloin and half ground lamb in the meatballs and I used pine nuts and an extra clove of garlic in the pesto. The results were outstanding.


Grilled Meatball Sandwich
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Epicurious and This is a Cookbook by Eli and Max Sussman, 2012)

Serves 4-6

1 lb ground sirloin
1 lb ground lamb
½ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
6 slices provolone cheese
Kosher salt
Oil for grill
1 large baguette
Arugula Pesto (see recipe below)

In a large bowl, combine the beef, lamb, ricotta, Parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, garlic, red pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt. Mix gently just until combined. Form the mixture into 12 meatballs about the size of golf balls, putting them onto a lightly oiled baking sheet as you work. Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat grill to high. Rub the grill rack with oil. Arrange the meatballs on the grill without crowding. Using tongs, grill until evenly browned on all sides and cook to medium, 8-10 minutes total. Transfer to a platter or clean baking sheet as they are finished. Let rest for 5 minutes while you assemble the sandwiches.

Cut the baguette crosswise into fourths and split each piece horizontally. Lay the pieces, cut side down on the grill. Toast until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Lay the Provolone slices on half of the baguette pieces. Place three meatballs on top of the cheese-lined baguette slices. Garnish with pesto and serve immediately.

Arugula Pesto

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup packed fresh arugula leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Toast the nuts lightly in small skillet over low heat, then add them to a food processor.
Add the arugula, basil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper, to taste, and pulse to combine.
With the processor on, stream in the extra-virgin olive oil to form thick pesto.

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Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus with Apricot Mostarda

Bacon-wrapped Asparagus with Apricot Mostarda is a simple dish that can be served as an appetizer or a side for other grilled fare. The sweet and tangy mostarda dipping sauce nicely compliments the salty, earth bacon wrapped asparagus. If you don’t have any apricot marmalade in your pantry, try orange marmalade.



Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus with Apricot Mostarda
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Makes 4 Servings

2 Tbsp apricot marmalade
1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ orange (2 to 3 tablespoons)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
1 pound green asparagus spears (40 pencil-thin)
8 pieces thick-cut smoked bacon
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat grill to medium with solid cast-iron grilling plate set on grill grate.

While the grill is heating, mix the marmalade, mustard, olive oil, orange juice, and chives in a small bowl suitable for dipping; set aside.

Cut the tough ends off the asparagus and wrap the five stalks of asparagus in each piece of bacon. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. Season with pepper.

Put the asparagus bundles on the hot cast-iron plate, close the lid, and grill until the bacon has rendered about a quarter of its fat and is beginning to crisp, about 4 minutes. Turn the bundles over, close the lid, and grill until the bacon is cooked on the other side, about 3 more minutes.

Serve with the Mostarda dipping sauce.

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Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich

When Ample Bites tires of the regular grilled burger or chicken breast I go to the Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich. The meaty Portobello mushroom is a satisfying substitute for the proteins.


This sandwich can be topped with rich feta cheese and grilled or fresh vegetables.


Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Makes 4 Servings

4 large Portobello mushrooms, brown gills and stems removed
4 medium sweet peppers, stemmed, halved and seeded
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
8 large fresh basil leaves
1 large ripe tomato, sliced about ¼-inch-thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Ciabbata buns, sliced, oiled and lightly grilled

Heat grill to medium-high.

Brush both sides of mushrooms and peppers with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

Grill mushrooms and peppers on a solid cast-iron grilling plate set on the grill grate for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until the peppers are beginning to soften and the mushrooms are lightly charred.

To serve: Place a grilled bun on each plate. Place a mushroom on the bun, 1/4th of the feta on the mushroom, and two basil leaves on the feta. Top with a slice of tomato and two pieces of pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, season with pepper and serve immediately.

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Bourbon-Ginger-Glazed Carrots

Bourbon-Ginger-Glazed Carrots is a great dish to serve along side a lamb, pork or beef roast. Using whole baby carrots that are 6 to 8-inches long after the fronds are removed yields the best results.


Bourbon-Ginger-Glazed Carrots
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Makes 4 Servings

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 pound baby carrots, sliced lengthwise in half
¼ cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
3 Tbsp bourbon
Juice of 1 orange
2 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots and sauté for about 6 minutes, until slightly softened.

Add brown sugar and ginger and cook stirring until the brown sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan by stirring in the bourbon and orange juice.

Cook until the carrots are fork-tender and the liquid is reduced and syrupy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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Roast Lamb with Rosemary

Ample Bites knows that roasting meat and especially roasting lamb sometimes intimidates amateur cooks. Hopefully this post and recipe will take the mystery out of this luxuriant meal. If you have a decent quality lamb roast, a reliable oven and an instant-read thermometer, you have all the tools you need to create an amazing Roast Lamb with Rosemary for a holiday or a Sunday family get-together.


Roast Lamb with Rosemary
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4 to 6

1 boneless lamb shoulder roast (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
2 large Idaho potatoes, cut into 1 1/2 pieces
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
4 large carrots, roughly chopped
8 large garlic cloves, whole
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup dry white wine
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325F.

Toss the vegetables in a large bowl with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the vegetables in the bottom of a roasting pan. Pour the white wine in with the vegetables. On top of the vegetables place a roasting rack. Place the roast in the rack with the rosemary sprigs on either side of it. Rub the roast with the remaining olive oil and season it with salt and pepper.

Roast the lamb and vegetables for about 2 hours or until the roast registers 135F on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the roast to a cutting board and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. Carve the roast and serve slices with the roasted vegetables.

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Mexican Corn Salad

Ample Bites’ Mexican Corn Salad is inspired by a similar dish at Bien Trucha in Geneva, Illinois.


This warm corn salad is a perfect side dish to serve with tacos, burritos or chile rellenos.


Mexican Corn Salad
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4 – 6

3 ears fresh sweet corn, boiled, kernels shaved from the cobs
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup jalapeno, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp chili powder
4 Tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup finely crumbled Cojita cheese

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a shallow, rimmed glass plate, while the corn is still warm, stir in the butter until it melts and coats the corn. Mix in the cilantro, jalapeno, red onion and chili powder. Fold in the sour cream and thoroughly combine with the corn. Pat the corn mixture flat and level. Top the corn with a thin layer of the Cojita cheese. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes before baking.

Bake the corn, covered with foil, for 15 minutes and then uncovered for 5 minutes more. Serve warm.

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Shrimp Salad-Stuffed Tomatoes

Large summer tomatoes stuffed with seafood salad are a treat to be enjoyed during the heat of the warmer months. Shrimp, crab, or tuna can be used in a mayonnaise-based salad. Enhancing the fish are peppers, onions, herbs and spices. Ample Bites’ recipe for Shrimp Salad-Stuffed Tomatoes uses sweet shrimp harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.


Shrimp Salad-Stuffed Tomatoes
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 2

4 large tomatoes, tops removed, core and seeds removed and discarded
1 pound gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1/2 yellow pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Pat shrimp dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the oil ripples. Reduce the heat to medium and saute the shrimp in batches leaving space between them until opaque and slightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Remove shrimp to plate and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, red pepper, yellow pepper, jalapeno, onion, chives and parsley. Chop the shrimp into roughly 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch pieces. Add shrimp to the salad and mix to combine. Refrigerate the salad for about 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld and the salad to thicken.

Place two tomatoes on each serving plate, fill each tomato with roughly 1/4 of the salad mixture. Garnish with chive and serve chilled.

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Wilted Spinach with Fried Egg and Anchovy Dressing

Wilted Spinach with Fried Egg and Anchovy Dressing has many of the components of a Caesar Salad in a different form. This side dish is a perfect accompaniment for salmon or chicken.


Wilted Spinach with Fried Egg and Anchovy Dressing
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Makes 2 Servings

1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 anchovies, mashed to a paste
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
6 cups baby spinach
Coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of oil. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Fried the eggs and season them with salt and pepper. Remove eggs to a plate.

In the same skillet, add the remaining oil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the spinach and cook until the spinach just begins to wilt.

Using tongs, pile wilted spinach in equal portions on two serving plates. Dress the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and top each plate with a fried egg and croutons to serve.

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