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!
crispy eggplant polenta bites with honey + lime
from Green Kitchen Travels
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
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!