If I Plant It, It Will Grow: I’m Growing Baby Eggplants, not a baby!

Aren’t they beautiful?!  Being a first time gardener I get very excited by things like this!  I’ve never grown eggplants and my Dad never grew eggplants, so on the day I saw my first baby eggplants I was very excited! 

Funny Story:

I was so excited on the day I saw the baby eggplants that I sent a text message to my husband.   It said “I’m so excited I’m growing baby eggplants”.  He texted me back saying “I thought your message said you were so excited YOU were growing a baby.  I’m okay now that I picked myself off the floor”.  Ha ha ha  … make sure you read all the words of a text message!

All my eggplants are growing  a lot of babies and I’m searching for new eggplant recipes to make when they are fully grown.  I can’t wait!

Happy gardening!

Chili-Grilled Eggplant and Sweet Roasted Pepper Tartlets in Poppy Seed Shells

I’ve been trying to use seasonal vegetables and now that Fall is in full swing I’ve made quite a few butternut squash recipes. Not to overdo the Butternut Squash recipes, I started looking for eggplant, another great Fall vegetable.  I really enjoy grilled eggplant, however, I decided I needed to diversify and switch it up with some new recipes.  I came across this recipe (Monica has a great food blog – check it out!) that combined my love of grilled eggplant in a tart!  Not only does it consist of grilled eggplant and roasted red peppers (another favorite of mine), but it has ricotta cheese and lemon.  Perfection!  Speaking of lemon, I discovered a microplane that is perfect for zesting!  I wish I had known about this sooner, but I’m reaping the rewards now – what a great kitchen tool!  This recipe is a little labor intensive, but very good!  The lemon flavored ricotta along with the grilled eggplant and roasted red pepper is a perfect flavor medley that will be sure to please your palate.  Enjoy!

One “trick” I didn’t know before involves eggplant and salt!  To remove as much moisture as possible and reduce any bitterness in an eggplant simply peel and slice the eggplant and sprinkle liberally with salt and allow to sit for an hour.  Put the eggplant slices on a cooling rack with a jellyroll sheet underneath to catch the moisture.  You will be amazed at all the moisture that is removed from the eggplant.  Be sure to rinse the eggplant and pat dry to remove all the salt.

Chili-Grilled Eggplant and Sweet Roasted Pepper Tartlets in Poppy Seed Shells

Poppy Seed Tartlets shells
For the tart dough – makes 4

6 tablespoons poppy seeds
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½ – inch cubes
1 egg
2 tablespoon cold water

Preheat oven to 350F.  Put four 4-inch tartlet pans on baking sheet.  Combine the poppy seeds, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse 2-3 times until incorporated.  Add the butter and pulse again until resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Stir in the egg and cold water, pulse again until incorporated, test the dough by pressing with your fingers, it should come together.  Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, knead it a couple of times, then form it into a flat disc. (note: you can store the dough at this point, by wrapping it in plastic film. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month).

Divide the dough into 2 pieces.  Roll one piece of dough out with a rolling pin to about ¼ inch thick.  Cut the dough to fit 2 of the tartlet pans.  Gently press the dough into each pan and trim the pastry flush with the pans to crate a neat appearance.  Roll the other half of the dough and line the remaining tartlet pans.  Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake until light brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  Put the tartlets on a cooling rack and let cool before removing the baked crust from each pan.

Put each tartlet shell on an individual serving plate.  Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the ricotta filling into the center of each shell.  Top with 1/3 cup of chili-grilled Eggplant and Sweet Roasted Peppers, mounding it slightly.  Garnish with the balsamic Julienne roasted peppers.  Serve the tartlets at room temperature or, if desired, carefully place them on a baking sheet for warming.  Heat in a 350F oven for 10 minutes.

Cool Ricotta Filling:

½ cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon whole milk
Salt (to taste)

Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and stir to combine well.

Chili-Grilled Eggplant and Sweet Roasted Pepper Filling

1 pound eggplant (about 2 medium)
¼ cup chili oil (found in most Asian markets)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt (to taste)
1 medium red bell pepper*
1 medium yellow bell pepper*
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat the grill to medium.  Slide the eggplant into ¼ – inch-thick slices and put the slices on a baking sheet.  Stir the chili oil and the ¼ cup olive oil together into a small bowl.  Lighting brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the oil mixture and dust with a little ground cumin and salt.

Heat the grill.  Place the eggplant and peppers on the grill.  Roast the eggplant until soft and well marked by the grill, about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove from the grill to cool.  Roast the peppers until black on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from the grill and let cool.  Peel the black skin off the peppers and the stem, and take out the seeds.  Put the eggplant slices, the remaining 2 tablespoon olive oil, half of each of the roasted peppers, garlic, and a little salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until chunky, about 5 to 10 seconds. Remove from the bowl and season with more salt, if needed.

Cut the remaining roasted peppers into Julienne strips and toss with the balsamic vinegar.  Garnish the eggplant mixture with the Julienne balsamic peppers.

*Purchased jarred or canned roasted red and yellow peppers can be used to save time.