Image Eggplant is a delicious and versatile fruit. Yes, eggplant, a member of the nightshade family with tomatoes and potatoes,  is technically a berry. There are several different varieties of eggplant, some long, narrow and pale purple, some small, white and egg-shaped (do ya think that’s where the name came from?), some yellow, some striped and of course there is the large purpley-black globes that are the most common. I grew two varieties of eggplant this year, and while successful, the plants did not produce enough fruit to keep up with my appetite.

Eggplant is at it’s peak right now. I often pick up the big eggplants at the farmers’ market. I like to grill or broil eggplants slices and have them on hand for salads and sandwiches. I always salt, rinse and dry the slices before cooking; the salting process alters the surface—it doesn’t soak up olive oil. 

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upsideapple.jpgIf you consider yourself "pie crust challenged", this recipe is your new best friend.  I first saw this pie over at Lisa's blog and I knew I had to give it a try, it looked delicious.

While I have no problem making pie crust, so many people have had bad experiences making pie crust from scratch and have just given up.  It does take practice.

This recipe was intriguing as it uses refrigerated pie crust.  I normally do not like the texture of refrigerated pie crust as opposed to homemade but a homemade pie crust is unnecessary here.  With all the sticky goodness on top of this pie your crust efforts would be lost in the shuffle.  Save homemade crust making for another pie where the crust is showcased.

This pie is absolutely fantastic and after the hubby and I ate our share, we both agreed we prefer this apple pie to regular apple pie any day.  That shocked me, but it's that good.  The flavor is out of control gooey, cinnamony and just overall out of this world. 

We are just done with regular apple pie...can you believe it?  I still can't.

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proscuittotriplecreamfigconfitThe best appetizers are full of flavor, fun to look at, and, ideally, take very little effort to prepare. Vegetable crudites fit those requirements but they aren't exciting.

A delicious appetizer--albeit one for those without caloric restrictions--is a piece of prosciutto with a slice of triple cream and a topping of fig puree. The key to this dish is using high quality ingredients: Saint Andre triple cream, a good Italian prosciutto, and ripened farmers' market fresh figs.

The prosciutto can be rolled up but leaving it open is visually pleasing. Anyone picking one up will naturally do the rolling themselves.

Delicious any time of day: for breakfast, a light lunch with a salad, or in the evening with cocktails and wine.

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appletarteThere are plenty of reasons to enjoy apples this season. For me it's because they make the best desserts. With apples so plentiful at farmers' markets and supermarkets this time of year, I love to make tarts. There's just something special about an apple tart particularly apple tarte Tatin, one of the most classic of the French tarts. It's a dessert that can be called both comforting and elegant. Supposedly, as the story goes, the Tatin sisters invented the dessert by accident while attempting to make an apple tart to serve their hotel guests. The dish became so popular that its fame spread throughout the Sologne region. It's now known throughout the world. It seems that the best things are almost always invented accidentally.

Traditionally tarte Tatin starts out by melting butter in a skillet and adding sugar to make a caramel. Then apple quarters are added and cooked until tender. A round of pastry dough tops the apples and the whole skillet is placed in the oven. In my adaptation, I use brown sugar for its fullness of flavor, and add a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of brandy for that extra bit of goodness. Instead of cooking the apples in the caramel, which either tends to overcook them or burn the caramel, I just place the apples in the pan, cover with pastry, and bake. Serve a slice warm with a dollop of crème fraîche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it's the perfect dessert after a cozy dinner or any time when the caving hits.

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pomarugulasalad.jpgSometimes lettuce is just not good enough. With its peppery spiciness, arugula has a refreshing bite. In Southern California, even though it gets cold in the Winter, arugula thrives in the year-round sunshine, so we're able to buy fat bunches any time of the year for $1.00/bunch.

Persimmons and pomegranates are more seasonal. When they're all available, our favorite salad is a simple combination of all three. <Suzanne Goin created a complex salad with all these ingredients.  I used her recipe as a starting point, choosing to simplify the ingredients and directions.

The combination of tastes is near perfect: peppery arugula, sweet persimmon, tart pomegranate seeds, and crunchy hazelnuts, all held together by the emulsion of olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.

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