crispy eggplant polenta bites w/ honey + lime from “Green Kitchen Travels”

crispy eggplant polenta fries with honey + lime // @thefirstmesspin it!crispy eggplant polenta fries with honey + lime // @thefirstmesspin it!Green Kitchen Travelspin it!
I have a big moleskine notebook where I messily jot down things I want to create in the kitchen: ideas I have for combining whole foods to get a certain effect, flavour combinations, sticky notes with ambiguous notation, restaurant dishes I want to have at home, simple techniques with big results that I want to share with you, and the like. Some of it is blog fuel in the form of (vegan, grain + legume-based faux) chicken scratch, but most of it I’ve filed away for future use. I’ve always, always had plans and strategies for an intentional career in food hidden away, and then I shy away from it all, thinking it’s too big, too much right now. What if I had to quit my job to really do it right? What if things don’t go according to plan? What if there are very real financial repercussions? What if my life changes course?

I think if something has you asking “What if?” with excited/nervous/scared shitless undertones, and with increased frequency as well, the timing may be just right. Another step towards focusing up and unlearning the fear that it can’t be done: the new cookbook from the Green Kitchen Stories crew arrived at my door about a month ago. Just looking at the cover of Green Kitchen Travels stirred up inspiration on the visceral level for me. There are beautiful photographs of food, yes, but also captures of the worldly places that inspired each dish. I always say that a good cookbook should take you somewhere, whether it’s a new frame of awareness with food, or the photographs and voice have the ability to transport you in as much as possible. This one accomplishes both handily. There’s nothing about it that I don’t love.

I was deciding what recipe I would share with you all here when I realized I had cleared out almost all of my vegetable garden, save for two slowly yellowing eggplant stalks and some greens. I flipped to the “Street Food & Snacks” section of the book and knew I had to have these crispy eggplant bites with honey and lime. Addictive is the only adjective you need to know, but here are some others: crunchy, salty, sweet, tender, and fresh. Everything I’ve ever wanted in a snack and they couldn’t have been simpler to throw together. I used some rather coarse polenta and the degree of crunch was so crazy satisfying. Drizzles of honey and fresh lime juice right out of the oven are just too good. They taste convincingly deep fried. ‘Nuff said.

Other things from the book I’m excited to try: vegetarian pho, halloumi veggie burgers, ribollita, lemongrass and coconut summer rolls, no-noodle pad thai, almond butter blueberry cookies, the green yoga smoothie, and the chermoula baked cauliflower. Lots of things to turn the wheels no matter what level you’re at with whole food + vegetarian adventures. You can buy it here (and you should seriously). One little quick note before I go too: I made some soft-baked style pumpkin cookies with tangy cream-cheesy glaze for BAKED this week. You can check that out by clicking here. Weeee!

the last bit of eggplant // @thefirstmesspin it!pre-trim // @thefirstmesspin it!crispy eggplant polenta fries with honey + lime // @thefirstmesspin it!
crispy eggplant polenta bites with honey + lime
from Green Kitchen Travels
serves: 2-4
notes: I think these would be equally good with a fat pinch of nutritional yeast stirred into the polenta mixture and a little warm marinara for dippin’, just an idea though! ;););)

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch batons/wedges
3-4 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
1-2 cups organic, non-GMO corn grits/polenta
a fat pinch of fine sea salt
olive oil
zest of 1 lime (once you have the zest, cut the lime into wedges)
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
runny honey or agave nectar if you’d like to keep these vegan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and smear a bit of olive oil on it. Set aside.

Place the eggplant pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cover the pieces with the plant-based milk. Let the eggplant sit for an hour so that the bitterness can draw out.

Pour the corn grits/polenta into a shallow dish. Stir a good pinch of salt into the polenta. Arrange the soaked eggplant, dish of polenta, and lined baking sheet beside each other. Shake off excess milk from eggplant pieces and roll/press them in the polenta. Transfer coated pieces to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Drizzle the coated pieces with olive oil and slide the sheet into the oven.

Bake eggplant bites for 15-25 minutes, flipping them over once. Mine took the full 25 minutes, but I think this varies greatly on the actual eggplant and hotspots in your oven. Once done, remove from the oven and sprinkle bites with lemon zest, flaky sea salt, honey and lime juice. Serve hot!

 

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  • Katie @ Whole Nourishment16/10/2014 - 6:54 am

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this cookbook. These eggplant bites look like a winner!ReplyCancel

  • Hannes Woodlandhalo16/10/2014 - 7:11 am

    Got it a few weeks back, it really is extremely beautiful. Love the chocolate-chili they have.ReplyCancel

  • Abby @ The Frosted Vegan16/10/2014 - 7:28 am

    Oh goodness, so I don’t usually like eggplant, but these could be a game changer!ReplyCancel

  • Brian//A Thought For Food16/10/2014 - 7:44 am

    This was the second recipe I had tagged from the book. From your pics it looks like it was a HUGE success.

    I knew from chatting that we both had a mutual love for this beautifully crafted creation from GKS. It really is a gem.ReplyCancel

  • Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)16/10/2014 - 8:40 am

    Oh my goodness, these look incredible! Eggplant is one of my favorite foods, so it can do no wrong, but polenta coated?! Yes!!ReplyCancel

  • Nataliya M16/10/2014 - 8:47 am

    Wow, so simple and looks so tasty! Very unique idea, looking forward to trying this recipe. This cookbook is definitely on my to buy list.ReplyCancel

  • Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen16/10/2014 - 9:07 am

    Yes!! This was one of the first recipes I fell in love with, although, I still haven’t actually made it. I’m also thinking of substituting eggplant with squash, as there’s a fried pumpkin dish that I’ve once had in Beijing and that I’ve been craving lately. What a beautiful post to celebrate an inspiring cookbook!
    Also, I can only imagine all those thoughts that go along with taking that big leap and seriously getting into food business. You’ll make it, Laura. Believe me, you’re one of the most inspiring souls out there, although, I don’t even follow a vegan / vegetarian diet myself. You have the power to make people see food in new ways, to get them excited about cooking, and to encourage following a healthier lifestyle. Dream big, girl. Dream big.ReplyCancel

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar16/10/2014 - 9:31 am

    Mmm these look fabulous. NEED that book!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley16/10/2014 - 9:35 am

    These sound so freaking good! And the eggplant photos? Luuurve. Must buy this book!ReplyCancel

  • valentina - sweet kabocha16/10/2014 - 9:39 am

    I’m waiting for Christmas to buy all the books I have in my wish list, and obviously Green Kitchen Travels is in there. And your eggplant bites seems so crunchy outside and soft inside *___*ReplyCancel

  • Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth16/10/2014 - 9:47 am

    Great choice to select from their cookbook now that we’re in football season — such a great (and healthier) finger food than regular fries to snack on!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Mac16/10/2014 - 10:34 am

    These look heavenly, like pretty much everything from GKS. Thank you for sharing Laura :)

    They serve a similar dish of crispy aubergine fries at the wonderful Morito in London, but with whipped feta and pomegranate molasses. Similar sweet and sharp vibe to the honey/lime pairing I suppose, but ramped up a notch. I’ve been wanting to recreate it at home since forever, but have always been put off by deep fat frying – this baked version could be just the ticket! Would probably work just as well with tahini in place of feta, for those skipping dairy.ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright16/10/2014 - 10:41 am

      Hey Sarah! I love the idea of smothering these in a salted tahini dressing/sauce situation. Sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing that :)))
      -LReplyCancel

  • Christine16/10/2014 - 12:04 pm

    I stopped at the photo of these in the book too – they sound delicious! I think the corn meal might be pretty difficult to sub out with something else though, and I have an intolerance. I might experiment ;) On your other thoughts – you’re such an inspiration and honestly, I think you’d find success. We’d be lucky if you were to start something new here in Niagara!ReplyCancel

  • jaime : the briny16/10/2014 - 12:38 pm

    this eggplant recipe looks stellar and is perfectly timed, for me — i just unloaded a few globe eggplants from my CSA bag this morning. i find recipes like this are so inspiring; simple flavors, and just a few of them, arranged in a brilliant, bold, unafraid manner. i love it. thanks so much for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Kyla16/10/2014 - 12:48 pm

    Love your site. I read this entry particularly close – as I too feel a deep yearning to set aside my fears and follow my food passion full-time. (I read cookbooks with such a sense of longing!). What is fascinating – is that even though I write a food blog, and we (my hubby) runs a local restaurant- I somehow still don’t feel like I am really connected to our local food culture. Because I make my “bread and butter” from another industry (read: office job!), I feel that I am outside the industry looking in. I can’t seem to quiet that voice. Ahh, but the fear that can hold one back! Heading into the unknown. Trusting oneself. Believing it can happen. These are the emotions that can so easily flood over and cloud one’s dreams.

    There. I just put it out there. Hanging.

    Maybe, as you say, the timing may just be right.ReplyCancel

  • Kris16/10/2014 - 2:40 pm

    I just got 3 little eggplants in my CSA share this week. Eggplant polenta bites are on!ReplyCancel

  • Millie l Add A Little16/10/2014 - 3:00 pm

    Looks amazing girl! I love eggplant, I love polenta and your gorgeous photography is ridonkulous!ReplyCancel

  • Eileen16/10/2014 - 10:21 pm

    Those eggplant look so beautiful and fresh! And the polenta crust is such a great idea — sounds like the perfect contrast in textures.ReplyCancel

  • […] Have you seen these crispy eggplant polenta bites? […]ReplyCancel

  • Dina17/10/2014 - 3:52 am

    I first heard about eggplant and honey in Spain when I spent two moths there earlier this year. It was a treat. I just came back from Israel where they serve eggplant with date syrup they call Silan. Exquisite. Love your version.
    Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Kate17/10/2014 - 4:43 am

    I’m completely obsessed with their recipes, both from this new Travel book and the original Greek Kitchen. Have you tried the baked bananas too? They taste seriously deep fried and delicious but are totally healthy too. Love the photos in this post too.ReplyCancel

  • […] Crispy Eggplant Polenta Bites with Honey and Lime from The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Crispy Eggplant Polenta Bites with Honey and Lime from The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • kristie {birch and wild}17/10/2014 - 11:04 pm

    I am so excited to add Green Kitchen Stories to my carefully curated collection of cookbooks. I love everything they do.
    As usual, your photos beautifully capture the essence of the seasons and the spirit of whole food living.ReplyCancel

  • […] crispy eggplant polenta bites. ummmm […]ReplyCancel

  • Kasey20/10/2014 - 4:18 pm

    I’ve long been impressed with that couple’s creativity. I’m really excited to check out the book — and make these! Eggplant is one of my absolute favorite veggies.ReplyCancel

  • Laura, your kitchen is gorgeous! I keep noting that every time I read your posts. I would kill for such a great photography space like that! Did it come like that or did you create it? Would love to see a kitchen tour post.ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright21/10/2014 - 8:40 am

      Hi Tessa! Thanks for your compliments. We actually gutted the kitchen completely when we got the house about a year ago. So everything you see in the photos is stuff we’ve done ourselves. It’s a smaller kitchen, but we definitely designed it to be a workhorse. I would like to share more kitchen photos of the space in the future, but there’s still just a little bit of work left to be done. Soon though! :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • […] Une autre façon de manger des aubergines – j’ai très envie d’essayer! […]ReplyCancel

  • […] honestly so beautiful so make sure to check them out: Vegetarian Pho by Kelsey from Happyolks. Crispy Eggplant Polenta Bites with Honey + Lime by Laura from The First Mess. No Noodle Pad Thai by Anya from Golubka. Lemongrass & Coconut […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Crispy Polenta Eggplant Bites with Honey + Lime by, The First Mess {{via Green Kitchen Travels}} […]ReplyCancel

  • Judie Keech29/10/2014 - 7:36 pm

    I love roasted veggies with a lemon Rosemary sauce drizzled over. That is my favorite fall meal. I believe I got the recipe here from you!ReplyCancel

  • Ellen30/01/2015 - 11:38 am

    Love crispy eggplant! Can this be made in advance and reheated the next day, or will it lose the crunch?ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright31/01/2015 - 11:01 am

      Hi Ellen, I’m not sure on how well the pieces would fare the next day. I think if you reheat the pieces on a rack instead of directly on the baking sheet you might have a fighting chance at crispness. Or even if you coat the eggplant and get it all set up ahead of time, cover and refrigerate the pieces on a baking sheet, and then bake them the next day–I think that method might be a safer bet.
      -LReplyCancel

  • […] dog-eared quite a few recipes, like the Mexican breakfast salad, crispy eggplant bites with honey and lime (inspired by Barcelona tapas), Sicilian caponata, Tuscan ribollita soup and almond butter blueberry […]ReplyCancel

  • Patricia Mauro e10/07/2016 - 1:23 pm

    Had the crispy egg plants for starter today. Really good almost the same as when we had similar in Minorca last week. Saw your recipe and well worth the effort. Will be looking to buy your cookbook now.
    PatriciaReplyCancel

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