I really like the idea of gardening, but the sad truth is, I have a very hard time keeping green things alive. My mother has always been an avid gardner, and I grew up enjoying the ripe tomatoes, fresh salads, and beautiful flowers from her bountiful gardens. So I just assumed that it would come naturally to me. Without delving into the details of each of my horticultural failures, suffice to say that it does not come naturally.
So when I received this adorable kit from #BayerGarden, complete with fertilizer, a shovel and eggplant seeds, my initial response was “Yay! This is just what I need to get serious about gardening!” I imagined myself cultivating those tiny seeds on my balcony until they grew into beautiful and delicious eggplants, large enough to feed my entire family. My second, and more realistic reaction was “Who are you kidding, Laurel? You’re lucky they sent you those ripe eggplants, because if we were depending on your agricultural efforts to feed us, we’d be in trouble!” I am happy the ripe eggplants landed in my house, because they prompted me to prepare one of my favorite recipes from my last cookbook, Insolito Muffin. These work wonderfully as appetizers or as a vegetarian main. They are also quite versatile, feel free to swap out the eggplant for any vegetable that’s fresh from the garden (or from the grocery store, in my case)!
Eggplant-Feta Phyllo Packets
- 1 large eggplant (1 1/4 pounds), halved lengthwise
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 red onion, peeled and quartered
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 5 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed1 grossa melanzana
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C. Lightly brush cut sides of eggplant with oil and season with salt and pepper, score several times and insert garlic cloves in the cuts. Place eggplant, cut side down, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with the quartered onion. Brush onion with oil, salt and pepper and bake all vegetables until tender, 20 minutes, then remove from oven.
Reduce heat to 375 degrees. When cool enough to handle, scrape eggplant flesh from skin and roughly chop along with the onions. Transfer chopped veggies to a medium bowl and add feta, pine nuts, coriander, and mint. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Lightly oil 6 standard muffin cups. Lay 1 sheet phyllo on a work surface and, with a pastry brush, lightly brush with oil. Stack 4 more phyllo sheets on top, brushing each with oil. Cut into 6 squares. Gently press one square into each muffin cup and fill with 1/4 cup eggplant mixture. Gently fold over corners of phyllo to enclose filling. Brush tops with oil and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool in pan, 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.