Roasted Vegetables with Mozzarella and Olive Tapenade

Roasted Vegetables with Mozzarella and Olive Tapenade recipe: PRINT

Serves 6 as a first course or 4 as a side dish

2 large carrots cut diagonally into 2 inch pieces

1 small head of broccoli separated into medium sized pieces

1 small head of purple cauliflower separated into medium sized pieces

3 small portabella mushroom caps

8 oz ball of fresh mozzarella

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Toss vegetables with oil, salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 20 minutes. Note: Do not overcook the vegetables because they will be broiled afterward.

Preheat broiler to high. Slice mozzarella into 1/2 inch slices and layer the bottom of a baking dish ( you can use individual dishes for a nice presentation). Top with the vegetables and broil approximately five minutes or until the cheese is melted and vegetables are browned on top.

Olive Tapenade recipe:

Makes 1 cup

1 cup mixed pitted olives such as Kalamata, black oil cured and green, drained

1 tablespoon capers, drained

1 tablespoon sun dried tomatoes, in oil

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon fresh basil

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, approximately 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse, scraping the sides of the bowl until it resembles a uniformly chunky mixture. It should not be a paste like consistency.

I recently went on a vacation with one of my best girlfriends to the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, CA. We had a fabulous time wine tasting, eating and enjoying the beautiful scenery. One of the towns we visited was called Los Olivos. It is a quaint little enclave nestled among wineries and lavender fields. We went to a restaurant called the Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe for lunch where we had an appetizer that I recreated here. I used carrots, portabella mushrooms, broccoli and purple cauliflower but you could substitute any vegetables you like. The beauty of this dish is you can roast the vegetables ahead and then assemble and broil the rest of the dish minutes before serving. It would be great as a first course, like we had at the restaurant, or you could serve it as a side dish. I served it with Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper, click for recipe. You could buy an olive tapenade to serve along side or make my recipe from scratch. You should have left over tapenade which is terrific on crackers or with a French baguette.

This dish is loaded with vegetables and depending on which vegetable you use it will have different vitamins. My version is very high in Vitamin A and C. Vitamin A is fat soluble vitamin which consists of a group of compounds: retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, retinyl ester and provitamin A carotenoids. Some of these compounds can be converted to each other and some need other vitamins to function. Vitamin A is essential for cellular growth and differentiation, reproduction, bone development, immune function and vision. Many carotenoids are not Vitamin A precursors but still have physiological importance as antioxidants. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that is essential for collagen production, it is a powerful antioxidant which reduces free radicals that can cause oxidative stress and lead to cancer and premature aging. It is used in the synthesis of serotonin from dopamine which is a powerful neurotransmitter that is thought to be active in transmitting impulses in smooth muscles cells, transmitting impulses between nerve cells, regulating cyclic body processes (homeostasis) and it contributes to well being and happiness. Vitamin C is used in bile acid and carnitine synthesis which makes it important for fat metabolism. This recipe is also high in Vitamin B6 which acts as a coenzyme for more than 100 enzymes used in amino acid and glycogen metabolism. Of course, because it is a vegetable forward dish it is high in fiber. Fiber is essential for digestive health. I hope you will try this recipe. It was amazing in the restaurant and I think it tasted just as good at home. Enjoy!

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