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Monday, July 26, 2010

Eggplant poppers...

The summer farmshare season here in AZ calls for eggplant, and lots of it. This recipe is courtesy a friend of mine—also a fellow-devoted farmshare-er—in an effort to try something new and creative with her bounty of eggplants last year. She came up with this brilliant combination! The combinations seem so unlikely, yet they blend beautifully. The tanginess of the cream cheese and the creaminess, and the crunch of the pepper and the bite of spiciness are really a wonderful and surprising marriage of flavors. You will be surprised how addicting these little poppers are!

Here is how to make them:
  • 1 or more eggplants that are about 6 inches tall. You want about 30 slices when finished.
  • 1 package of cream cheese (or 4 oz. package of goat cheese)
  • 1/2 cup or so sliced jalapeños (fresh, or canned are ok). If you prefer no heat, use jarred Italian sweet cherry peppers; they are tangy without heat but have the right flavor profile.
  • Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.
Slice the eggplant very thin. You want it as thin as you can get it. Cut  it into strips about 1.5-2 inches wide. You might have to trim larger eggplants to size, or if you use smaller ones, they should work fine. Strips should be about 5-6 inches long and about 2 inches wide.

Lay the thin slices on foil that is brushed with olive oil. Sprinkle the slices with salt (try an herbed salt!)
Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes. Keep a close eye! They start to brown fast!!! You don’t necessarily want them brown, but they will become soft and pliable and roll-able.

Remove from oven, and lay them out and place a small amount of cream cheese (or goat cheese) on the end of each one, about the size of your thumbnail. Lay across a pepper slice, and any fresh herbs you have (Rosemary is very nice). Then roll! Roll each one up and anchor with a toothpick!

Serve these as a great vegetarian appetizer that is a real surprise in flavors.

Variation: A wonderful variation to using these as appetizers, is to morph them into a delicious and healthy version of eggplant parmesan.
To do that, layer all your rolled poppers (without toothpicks) into a casserole dish. Cover with red sauce, and sprinkle with gluten free breadcrumb all over the top. Sprinkle with a small amount of parmesan and bake for 25-minutes at 350-degrees.

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