From cranberry cocktails to simple baked French toast, this make-ahead holiday menu will have you sailing out of the kitchen in no time.
Cook: 27 minutes
Stand: 10 minutes
Chill: 8 hours
Olive oil cooking spray
½ teaspoon sea salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and halved
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and halved
1 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1½ cups ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red chile pepper, seeded and chopped
½ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons bottled balsamic glaze
Garnish: fresh basil
1. Remove both ends of eggplant; slice eggplant lengthwise into 8 slices. Place eggplant on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Coat eggplant with cooking spray; sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven; brush with balsamic vinegar, and set aside to cool.
2. Place bell peppers, cut side down, and zucchini on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until peppers begin to blister. Place peppers in a large zip-top bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove peel from peppers; cut pepper pieces in half lengthwise.
3. Combine ricotta and next 5 ingredients in a bowl. Stir in remaining ¼ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
4. Line an 8- x 4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing edges to overhang. Gently press 3 eggplant slices crosswise into loaf pan, balsamic side up, allowing top of slices to be even with pan. Press 1 slice up against sides of each end of loaf pan, allowing top of slice to be even with pan.
5. Spread one-fourth ricotta mixture over eggplant; top with yellow pepper slices. Spread one-fourth ricotta mixture over yellow peppers. Repeat procedure with red bell pepper, one-fourth ricotta mixture, zucchini slices, and remaining ricotta mixture. Top with remaining 2 slices eggplant, balsamic side down. Cover with plastic wrap, and place a weight on plastic wrap. (We used 3 small soup cans.) Chill 8 hours or overnight.
6. Uncover and invert loaf onto a cutting board; carefully remove plastic wrap. Use paper towels to blot liquid, if necessary. Cut into 8 slices, and place on serving plates. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, and garnish, if desired. Makes 8 servings.
Reprinted with permission from Lazy Days and Beach Blankets (Ryland Peters & Small, 2009).