Mexican Grilled Baby Eggplants

Monday, May 05, 2014

I'm back! I dug into my archives for an appropriate Cinco De Mayo recipe and found this gem - it's a fun little appetizer that's super easy to make and perfect for any Mexican themed feast. Honestly, I'm embarassed by how many perfectly good recipes I have tucked away waiting for the time and inspiration to write up a full post. At any rate, I have a legitimate excuse for disappearing on y'all for a little bit...Baby Biscuit arrived! The end of my pregnancy turned out to be quite stressful due to a third trimester diagnosis of preelampsia and all the extra monitoring that goes along with that, but I am so happy to have a healthy baby girl in my arms now. Raven Marie was born April 9th weighing in at 6 pounds and 15 ounces! Can I just say that with all the amazing food I shoveled in during my pregnancy I was a little surprised to deliver such a peanut?! Well, what she lacks in size she makes up in personality that's for sure. She has taken over the Davis household and captured everybody's hearts and attention.

Who could say no to this face?! She's sleeping at this very moment - and not in my arms mind you, a rare daytime event - and it is all I can do not to wake her up just to get a whiff of that delicious baby scent. But work and productivity are calling, so here we are. Almost four weeks in and I am learning that if I don't take advantage of these little pockets of time throughout the day when I'm not nursing or changing a diaper, literally nothing else will get done. This includes eating and showering, because newborns are selfish. Seriously though, this little girl is amazing to me and I am relishing all the precious baby time. If there's anything I realize now when I look at my eleven year old son, it's that time goes by all too fast.

Speaking of time disappearing, Raven's naptime isn't going to last forever so how about I get on to this recipe? Eggplants, guacamole and cheese. Three of my favorites are here in one delicious bite. The only thing better than eggplants would be adorable little baby eggplants, which are just the right size to stuff or top for an easy but hearty appetizer. Notice how I tackled the Mexican and baby themes in the same recipe? I told you this one was perfect. Let's get cooking, I have a baby to get back to...

Mexican Grilled Baby Eggplants

6 baby eggplants
Grapeseed or canola oil
1 tsp Mexican chile powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of cinnamon
4 oz. mild cheese, sliced (any Mexican melting cheese, otherwise Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Fontina)
1 large ripe avocado
Juice & zest of 1 lime
Fresh cilantro
1 small shallot, finely minced
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper

Servings: 6 (2 eggplants per person)
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Equipment Needed: Cast iron grill pan, or roasting pan.

Preheat your grill pan, it needs to be just shy of smoking. If using the oven to roast your eggplants instead, preheat to 425°. You could always do this on a real grill outside if you already happen to be using one. Otherwise it's probably a waste to fire up just for a quick appetizer!

Slice eggplants in half lengthwise and brush flesh with oil. Season with a good pinch of kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Mix together the chile powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne and cinnamon in a shallow dish and dip the eggplants, flesh down, to coat in spices.

Brush your grill with oil and place eggplants flesh side down. Grill until fork tender, about 5 minutes depending on the size of the eggplants. You may need to do this in batches if all the eggplant halves don't fit at once.

If roasting, drizzle a little oil in the bottom of your roasting pan and place eggplants flesh side up in the pan. Roast until tops are crisp and flesh is fork tender, about 15 minutes or so.

Using tongs, turn the eggplants over. Top each eggplant with a small slice of cheese. Tent the grill pan with foil and allow cheese to melt while eggplants finish cooking, about one minute. Alternatively, if using a cast iron grill you can stick the pan under the broiler for a minute.

If you roasted your eggplants, just take them out to top with cheese, then stick the pan back in the oven for another minute to allow the cheese to melt.

The guacamole can be made in advance or while the eggplants cook, it just takes a minute. It's just a really simple guacamole, no frills. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a bowl and add some chopped cilantro, lime zest, a couple squeezes of lime juice, salt and pepper. I had enough heat from the spice blend on the eggplants, but if you want more, add a pinch of cayenne or even some finely chopped jalapeno. Mash that together with a fork until small chunks remain. Note, I didn't add the shallots in the guacamole because I wanted to use that as a garnish. You could certainly mix it all together if you're not going for a fancy presentation!

After the cheese on the eggplants has melted, transfer them to a serving dish. Top each eggplant with a scoop of guacamole. Garnish with a little bit of the minced shallots, some finely chopped cilantro, and a dusting of cayenne pepper. These are amazing. The surface of the eggplant gets nice and crusty and charred from the grill and the inside is deliciously creamy. I'm salivating just writing this post and remembering them all over again!  

Well like clockwork, Raven has awoken from her slumber which means my time is up folks! Happy Cinco De Mayo, and please have a margarita (or several) for me!!

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