By Maria Terry

I have many people in my life who choose not to eat meat. I believe that one can create delicious meals centered on vegetables, and no one even notices the meat is absent. Eggplant and mushrooms are frequently my protein replacements because of their dense texture and versatility.
Grilled Eggplant Crostini with Pine Nuts is an appetizer that can be made up ahead of time and does not require fork, knife, or serving utensil. The texture of the eggplant becomes soft as it grills, and the pine nuts provide a crunchy counterpoint.
Pinot Grigio has soft citrus and floral scents and is highly quaffable. It goes with just about any light dish and this one is no exception.
The Caesar Cocktail is a spicy, juicy drink. It will stand up to all of the usual accompaniments one finds with a burger: ketchup, mustard, and even raw onion. Great big portobello mushrooms grill up perfectly and seem to be made for a hamburger bun. Just season the caps with a bit of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and grill for five minutes on each side.
Spiked Watermelon can be served as a side salad with the burgers or saved until the end of the meal. Include the alcohol when your guests are over 21 or leave it out altogether. The mint is the kicker in this recipe.
So, go on. Pair Up!

1 medium eggplant with skin, stem removed and sliced lengthwise into 4 strips
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small shallot, thinly sliced and sautéed
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pan-toasted pine nuts
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Take baguette and cut in 1/4” thick slices, drizzle with olive oil and brush evenly across each slice. Season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 ° for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 60.
Heat the grill over medium-high heat. Grill the eggplant 4 to 5 minutes per side or until lightly charred and cooked through. Meanwhile, combine the lemon juice, shallots, oil, and salt in a medium bowl.
Cut each grilled eggplant slice into small bite-size pieces. Toss the eggplant with the dressing until just coated. Just before serving, stir in basil. Place one tablespoon of eggplant mixture on top of each crostini and top with pine nuts. Serve warm, cool or at room temperature.
Yield: 2 cups topping

1½ ounces vodka
fill with clamato juice
3 dashes Tabasco® sauce
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Line the rim of a glass with celery salt. Over ice, add vodka, fill with clamato juice, then add the remaining ingredients. Garnish with a celery stick. Add more tabasco sauce if desired.
Yield: 1 drink

1 8-pound watermelon, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 16 cups)
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
½ cup vodka
6 tablespoons crème de cassis
Salt (opt.)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Place watermelon in large bowl. Whisk fresh lemon juice and sugar in medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Whisk in vodka and crème de cassis. Add a pinch of salt if desired to bring out the flavors.
Pour mixture over watermelon. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Sprinkle with chopped fresh mint and serve.
Yield: 8 servings

Maria Terry is a Certified Sommelier and Wine Educator in Northern California.