Basil · Cheese · Eggplant · Shrimp

Caramelized Eggplant and Balsamic Shrimp Wrap with LAND O’LAKES 4 Cheese Italian Blend

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I was quite surprised and delighted when Kitchen PLAY invited me to participate in their “30 Days of Outdoor Dining” event, which is running from June 25th through July 24th. 

Once I’d agreed to the posting date, I was given the “secret ingredient” info:  LAND O’ LAKES 4 Cheese Italian Blend.  

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*Disclosure: This post was sponsored by LAND O’LAKES as part of the Kitchen PLAY SideCar series. All opinions given are my own.

New LAND O LAKES® 4 Cheese Italian Blend is the best combination of the most flavorful Italian

cheese—Asiago, Parmesan and Romano—blended with the creamy goodness of LAND O LAKES® Deli

American Cheese. Add this delicious cheese to everything from favorite dishes to lunchbox sandwiches

or burgers hot off the grill. The creamy, decadent taste truly makes each dish an everyday masterpiece.

The Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens have developed recipes and tips that highlight the wide range of uses

for this new cheese. Find recipes, photos and tips on our new Taste of Italy product inspiration page at

http://www.landolakes.com/4CheeseItalianBlend.

Now, when I think cheese I usually think of Cheddar…Brie…fresh Mozzarella…Asiago…Romano and Parmesan….cheeses like those.

That said, I buy American cheese because my husband and my daughter like it, especially in grilled cheese sandwiches or in snackable slices directly from the fridge.  So I was definitely curious to try LAND O’LAKES 4 Cheese Italian Blend, as it combines some of the cheeses I prefer (Alex prefers them, too) with another house favorite.

Armed with the coupon Kitchen PLAY sent to me, I headed to one of the local grocery stores and asked for a pound, sliced thin.  The deli lady gave me a slice to try, and I admit I was impressed with the flavor.  It certainly didn’t taste like American cheese.  It was sharper, more intensely flavored.  My first (surprised) thought was “this would make a fabulous macaroni and cheese!”  But since this was an outdoor grilling and dining project, I thought I should go a different route.

What to do?  Lots of things came to mind…burgers, of course.  Grilled pizza.  Panini.  Cheese and crackers.  Fondue.

Then one day, in the midst of our hurricane of house cleaning (we had family coming to stay) I just decided to work with what we had on hand and let the cheese guide me.  Really.  I thought about the blend of Asiago, Romano and Parmesan, and then I considered what I would like alongside that tantalizingly intense (and melty!) flavor….

Eggplant! was my first thought.  Quickly followed by: Onions!  On the grill! 

Since I was only making lunch for Bill and myself, I decided not to use all those coals for such a small batch of food.  We’d still eat outside, but I figured the cooking would take less time on the stove.  So I peeled and sliced a couple of Japanese eggplants, julienned an onion, tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped garlic, and started cooking them down.

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What next?  At this point, I’d been thinking Panini, but I changed that to wrap and decided I’d use some of the beautiful lettuces from our garden.  Roasted red peppers would have added some sweetness and color, but lacking these I needed to find something else to balance out the darker flavors of the cheese, eggplant and onions.

Shrimp!  We had some shrimp in the freezer!  I thawed that quickly and continued to assess the sandwich forming in my mind….

Balsamic Vinegar!  Yes!  I would drizzle that over the shrimp!

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I gazed out my kitchen windows at our gardens.  Should I add anything else?  I had my cheese, I had the main components…I had several flavors at work…but I still felt the sandwich was going to be on the dark, heavy side.  Not what I wanted for lunch on a hot, humid day.

Basil!

I scampered (yes, I did) outside and cut a few sprigs of basil.  I rinsed them, dried them, and plucked the leaves from their stems.  I spooned some mayonnaise into a wide-mouthed, pint-sized canning jar, added the basil leaves, a bit of garlic, salt, pepper, and some lime juice.  Then I buzzed the whole thing together with the immersion blender. 

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Perfect!  The flavor was fresh and bright – the ideal balance to all the cooked elements.

Once the shrimp had cooked, I was ready to assemble our wraps:

Multi-grain tortilla

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Two lettuces:  Black seeded Simpson and Red Romaine

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LAND O’LAKES 4 Cheese Italian Blend

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Caramelized eggplant and onion

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Sautéed shrimp finished with a drizzle of balsamic

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Basil aioli

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Ta da! 

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We ate our lunch outside on the deck, accompanied by cold beer and a most welcome breeze.

The verdict?  Well, my husband made any number of approving sounds while he ate, and he later told me that if he was served something like that at a restaurant, not only would he eat the whole thing, he’d go back and order it again. 

I was pleased with my concoction as well – particularly since I could taste all the different elements.  Nothing drowned out anything else – all the components played together very nicely.

So – will I buy this cheese again?  I’m sure I will.  I still want to make macaroni and cheese with it, but probably not until the fall when the weather’s a bit cooler.  In the meantime, I’m thinking burgers and grilled pizzas are in order. 

Lucky for me I’ve got a whole bunch of inspiring recipes to choose from over at Kitchen PLAY’s website, where the “30 Days of Outdoor Dining” continue to unfold…

Be sure to check Kitchen PLAY every day for the next fabulous recipe featuring new LAND O LAKES® 4 Cheese Italian Blend or LAND O LAKES® Deli American Cheese. Then, get in on the fun by leaving a comment with your own “30 Days of Outdoor Dining” tip for dining al fresco this summer. If you do, you’ll be entered to win a lovely grilling prize pack, including one grilling spatula, one marinade brush, one set of tongs and one grill scraper. Kitchen PLAY will be giving away four prizes total, one each week! Please visit Kitchen PLAY for sweepstakes guidelines.

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Caramelized Eggplant and Balsamic Shrimp Wrap

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 Japanese eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

olive oil, salt and pepper

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

about 2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar

4 slices LAND O’LAKES 4 Cheese Italian Blend

1/2 cup mayonnaise

About 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

salt and pepper

Fresh lettuce

2 10” multigrain wraps

What to do:

Toss the eggplant and onion in enough olive oil to coat.  Toss in the tablespoon of chopped garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook slowly, stirring often, over medium heat, until very soft and browned.

Combine mayo, basil, teaspoon garlic, salt, pepper, and lime juice in either a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender until smooth.  Set aside.

When the eggplant and onions are soft and gloriously flavorful, move them to one side of the pan, add in the shrimp and cook quickly, drizzling with the balsamic vinegar at the end.

To assemble – place one wrap on the plate, layer with the lettuces, then two slices of cheese, then the eggplant mixture, the balsamic shrimp and, finally a healthy drizzle of your basil aioli.  Wrap up and devour!  Outside is best, with a cold beverage and a pleasant dining companion.

Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “Caramelized Eggplant and Balsamic Shrimp Wrap with LAND O’LAKES 4 Cheese Italian Blend

  1. That looks scrumptious! The blend of eggplant and shrimp is a first one for me, but nonetheless it sounds delicious. Can I use a different route on the dressing though? My dad absolutely abhors anything that tastes like basil.

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