Recipe by Sarah Phillips; Food Styling and Photos by Kelly Hong © 3-2-2017 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
Baby eggplants get meltingly tender when roasted, and have none of the bitterness that some full-sized eggplants tend to have.
We have paired them with a bright and tangy Greek “salsa” and a rich polenta timbale.
A light, yet filling, vegetarian meal.
There are a lot of components to this dish, but the vinaigrette, the tahini sauce, the polenta AND the roasted eggplant can all be made ahead.}
Simply put the salsa together, reheat the eggplant and polenta, stack it all up, and voila!
We want to help prevent food waste and show you ways to use what we call misshapen or ugly produce.
Search for other recipes here using the keywords 'ugly produce.'
VEGETABLE INGREDIENTS HELP / GLUTEN-FREE RECIPE HELP
Baby eggplants are just SO cute!
They should be firm to the touch, with no soft spots, but skin imperfections are perfectly fine!
Remember, vegetables need not be PERFECT to be healthful and delicious.
For the Polenta:
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
1 cup medium grind polenta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Romano, or other sharp hard cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Greek Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey, optional
For the Greek Salsa:
1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced, or 1/2 of an English cucumber
8 ounces (about 4) plum tomatoes, diced
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 - 3 tablespoons of the Greek Vinaigrette, recipe above
For the Tahini Sauce, optional:
5 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup tahini paste
2 - 4 tablespoons of water
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Roasted Eggplant:
6 baby eggplants
Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
Salt and pepper
For the garnish:
Lemon slices and parsley leaves
STEP I: MAKE THE POLENTA
1. Spray six 7-ounce ramekins with nonstick spray
2. Bring the vegetable stock to boil, in a medium saucepan.
When it reaches a boil, slowly sprinkle the polenta into the stock, whisking as you go.
3. Reduce the heat, but keep the mixture at a boil, stirring occasionally.
When the mixture thickens so much that it starts to sputter, reduce the heat further so you don’t get hit with flying polenta lava(which is NOT fun).
Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick, and starts to pull away from the sides of the saucepan, about 20 minutes.
Taste the polenta at the 20 minute mark. If it still has grainy bits of corn, add a little more stock or water, and continue to simmer, until it is uniformly soft.
4. When polenta is done, remove it from the heat, and stir in the olive oil, cheese.
Add a few grinds of freshly ground pepper.
5. Taste the polenta.
Since the stock is usually salted, and the cheese is salty, you may not have to add much salt.
Start with a large pinch of salt, stir, and taste again.
If you used water, instead of stock, you may have to add more salt.
6. Divide the polenta evenly among the six ramekins (about 3/4 cup each), then cover them with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface of the polenta, so it doesn’t form a skin.
Place filled ramekins in the refrigerator to set, at least 3 hours.
STEP II: MAKE THE GREEK VINAIGRETTE
1. Mix the lemon juice and red wine vinegar together and put it into the bowl of a mini food processor.
2. Add the garlic clove, salt and Dijon mustard, then pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped.
3. Add the pepper, oregano, and lemon zest then put the lid on, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the machine running.
4. Take the lid off to make sure the garlic is completely pulverized, then add the optional honey and pulse to combine.
The honey adds a slight sweetness, and cuts down on the sharpness of the lemon and garlic.
5. Pour the finished vinaigrette into a lidded storage jar, and place it in the refrigerator.
It will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator.
STEP III: MAKE THE TAHINI SAUCE
1. Slice the garlic cloves and place them in the bowl of a mini food processor.
2. Add the lemon juice and process until the garlic is pulverized.
3. Pour the mixture into a small fine mesh strainer and strain the mixture into a small bowl.
Press hard on the solids, to extract as much liquid as possible.
Discard the solids.
4. Rinse the processor bowl with water, then place the strained lemon/garlic mixture back into it.
Add the cumin and the tahini paste, and pulse.
It will form a very thick paste.
5. Add 2 tablespoons cool water, and process for about 15 seconds.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then check on the consistency.
Add more water, until the sauce is thin enough to flow off a spoon.
NOTE: We had to add 1/4 cup of water. You may need less.
5. Add the salt and pulse to combine.
Pour the finished sauce into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
The finished tahini sauce will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for about two weeks.
STEP IV: MAKE THE GREEK SALSA
1. Wash the cucumber, then cut it lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon.
NOTE: As long as the cucumber is uniformly firm, with no soft spots, surface imperfections are just fine.
2. Cut the cumber halves into thin batons, then stack them up, and cut the cucumber into a medium dice.
3. Quarter the Kalamata olives.
4. Cut off the stem end of the tomatoes, then cut them in half, lengthwise.
Cut each half into batons, then cut across the batons to create a medium dice.
5. Chop the Italian parsley and add it to the bowl with the cut vegetables.
6. Add 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette (recipe above) and gently toss the combine.
Add the crumbled feta cheese, and gently toss to combine.
NOTE: Taste the salsa.
You may add more vinaigrette if you like it more highly seasoned, but don’t go crazy, because the feta is very salty!
7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the salsa macerate, at room temperature, while you roast the baby eggplant.
STEP V: ROAST THE BABY EGGPLANT
1. Position an oven shelf to the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Wash and dry the eggplant.
3. Cut the eggplant in half, lengthwise, leaving the stems intact.
4. Score each half in a crisscross pattern, using a paring knife.
Cut only about 1/8-inch deep.
5. Brush eggplants generously with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle, lightly, with salt and pepper.
6. Place eggplants on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the eggplants are very tender.
STEP VI: ASSEMBLE AND SERVE
1. Remove the polenta filled ramekins from the refrigerator, and uncover them.
Tip the ramekin onto your hand and tap the bottom of the ramekin to release the polenta timbale.
Place it on serving plate and reheat each portion, in the microwave, for about two minutes.
2. Spoon some of the Greek salsa on top of the polenta, letting some fall onto the plate.
3. Brush two eggplant halves with some of the reserved Greek vinaigrette and place them on top of the salsa.
4. Place the tahini sauce in a squeeze bottle.
Garnish the dish with a lemon slice and parsley leaf and drizzle with some of the tahini sauce.
This dish can be served warm or at room temperature. This polenta recipe is pleasantly soft at room temperature, and not hockey-puck like.
Store in the refrigerator and gently rewarm in the microwave.