Gluten-free Progressive OSCAR Dinner Party: Avatar inspired Millet Eggplant Croquettes and Chips

February 23rd, 2010 yum Posted in Blog Event, Dairy Free, Dinner Party, Egg Free, Eggplant, Gluten Free Progressive Dinner, JM friendly, Menu, Nut Free, Party Food, Party Menu, Soy Free, Vegan, Vegetarian, potato allergy 8 Comments »

When Diane of the Whole Gang suggested that this month we have an Oscar theme for our Gluten-free Progressive Dinner, I was both excited and perplexed. I’ve never held an Oscar themed dinner party. What could I make? Searching online, it seems that people hosting Oscar parties usually either go for a movie-theme (10 varieties of popcorn, anyone?) or prepare food inspired by one or more movies up for nomination. Popcorn didn’t inspire me, but I thought it might be fun to prepare a menu inspired by one of the nominated movies. Julie & Julia might be the most obvious choice, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Hello, a movie about a food blogger and a woman who learned to cook in Paris- what could be better? I couldn’t remember much inspiring vegetarian fare, though, and the whole thing seemed a little too obvious. I briefly considered The Blind Side as I love making gluten-free Southern-inspired vegetarian fare. But, of this year’s nominees, Avatar was the one that really stood out to me. I loved its imaginative depiction of an alien society, its beautiful visuals, its interesting commentary on the exploitation of native peoples, and illustration of the anthropologist’s problem of “going native.” What could be more fun than creating a menu of other-worldly food? This vegetarian Avatar-inspired meal begins with an appetizer of spicy and lovely lotus root chips. If you prefer, you can try my healthier baked lotus root chip recipe. It continues with a hearty and peppery dish inspired by bruschetta but gone alien with a bird-seed millet grit base (appropriate for a people that fly on winged bird-dragons) topped with honey or agave sweetened caramelized balsamic eggplant and fresh arugula greens in a vinaigrette. The meal ends on a naturally sweet note with fried smashed plantain chips lightly spiced with exotic cinnamon and sugar. We enjoyed our meal thoroughly, and it would be perfect for an Avatar inspired Oscar Viewing party (or an Avatar viewing party).

This post is an entry in the Gluten-free Progressive Dinner Event Series.

Join us the week of February 22-26th for Award Winning Food for you to make for your Oscar Watching Party or anytime you want rave reviews.

Monday February 22- Shirley from gluten free easily sharing Veronica’s Pumpkin Soup

Tuesday February 23- SEA from Book of Yum with appetizers inspired from the movie Avatar

Wednesday February 24- Karen from Cook4Seasons and Diane from The WH.O.L.E. Gang using inspiration from Julie and Julia

Thursday February 25- Alison from Sure Foods Living

Friday February 26- Ellen from I Am Gluten Free

Looking for more Oscar Viewing Menus?
Epicurious Oscar Viewing Party Menu ‘09
Yahoo Oscar Menu Ideas ‘10 (love the “blue” theme for the Avatar menu!)

Fried Lotus Root Chip Recipe
1 lotus root bulb (renkon in Japanese)
canola or other oil for frying

smoked paprika if you want it spicy

Peel your lotus root and slice as thinly as you can manage. A mandolin works very well for this. If it will be a while before you fry, you can put the slices in water with a little vinegar added. Before frying, drain and dry the slices thoroughly. A salad spinner works well. Be careful of any splattering while frying.

Prepare a wire rack with a pan underneath for excess oil to drip off while the chips cool.

When ready to fry, put at least one inch of canola oil in a deep, tall pan. I often use a soup pan. Heat the oil to 365F and carefully drop in a few dry lotus root chips. Use a metal strainer with a long handle or chopsticks to turn them. When they are golden brown, remove them to the wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika if you like. Continue frying in small batches.

Serve and enjoy!

*If the lotus chips are not done enough in the center you can fry them twice- first to a light golden brown, then let cool slightly, and then fry once more to a full golden brown. Season after the last frying.

You can buy lotus root at Asian Markets, especially Japanese or Korean markets. Check your lotus root carefully. It should not have any mold. Try to avoid any dark spots. The ideal lotus root will have crisp flesh, smooth, unblemished skin, and will still have its “knot” that attaches to another bulb. The knot should not have any mold, and ideally will look clean and fresh.
Millet Polenta Croquettes with Honey Balsamic Eggplant topping recipe
1/2 cup Millet Grits (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. olive oil
Your favorite herbal blend (I like the Provencal blends by Penzeys)

1 large Eggplant
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar or more to taste
1/2 tsp honey or agave
your favorite herbal seasoning blend

Handful of arugula or other favorite sturdy salad green or herb such as basil

Your favorite balsamic vinaigrette or homemade:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey or agave
(adjust proportions to suit your palate)

Bring water and salt to a boil and add your grits, lowering heat and covering. Let cook on low for 10-15 minutes. Take off heat, cool for 15 minutes, and then remove to a small square shaped container like tupperware. cool in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Meanwhile, prepare your eggplant. Slice or cut into 1/2 inch thick cubes, depending on your preference. Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and seasoning blend in a small bowl. Whisk ingredients together. You can either baste your eggplant cubes with your marinade or dip your slices in the marinade. If you run out of marinade (depending on the size of your eggplant) just make more!

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and place your eggplant slices or cubes in a single layer on the sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until eggplant has gotten soft and slightly caramelized. If you are making slices, turn over and bake another 10 minutes. The cubes may not need to be turned and baked more.

While eggplant is baking, remove your firm, cooled millet grits from the container. They should keep their shape. Carefully slice into rectangles about the size you would expect from bruschetta. Sprinkle with your seasoning herb and a touch of salt, if not included in the blend. Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan on medium. Place your millet “polenta” rectangles in the oil and fry until golden brown. Turn over and brown the other side. Remove to a serving plate.

If you like, you can caramelize some onions to top the dish with. Slice an onion and sautee in a little olive oil on low-med heat until it gets golden brown.

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.

Now, assemble the dish.

Top the millet croquettes with arugula and caramelized onions (optional). Drizzle a little dressing on top and add your roasted eggplant. Add some sprigs of arugula for garnish and serve. Enjoy!

*For a variation, you can add a little pasta sauce to the top of the eggplant while it is in its final roasting phase.

You can also layer the dish Croquettes, eggplant, arugula, but I decided I liked it better as written here. It’s up to you. :)
Fried Plantain Chip Recipe
1 slightly green plantain
canola oil

*Tortilla press
1 quart sized freezer bag

Prepare your tortilla press by lining it with a freezer bag with the sides cut out.

Slice plantain at an angle to get a long, oval slice. If the plantain is too green to easily remove the skin, carefully cut the skin off of each slice.

Prepare a wire rack above a wide, long pan for draining.

Preheat your canola oil (or other oil with a high smoke point) in a narrow, deep pan like a soup pan. Heat to 365F and you are ready to fry!

Place in the freezer bag lining your tortilla press and press down on the handle to create a large, flat “chip”.

Gently peel off your “chip” and carefully drop in the oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove chip from oil with a wire strainer and place on wire rack to cool. Season with a tiny smidgen of salt, and generous sprinkles of sugar and cinnamon.

Continue frying until all chips are done. You can place the rack (if oven safe) in an oven on 200F to keep warm if desired.

Serve and enjoy!

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Gluten Free Menu of the Week and Vegetarian Baba Ghanoush Recipe

August 31st, 2009 yum Posted in Eggplant, Gluten Free Menu Swap Monday, JM friendly, Menu, Menu Plan Monday, Middle Eastern, Sauce, Vegan 13 Comments »


I am hosting the gluten-free menu swap this week with eggplant as the theme ingredient. I love eggplant for its wonderful texture and versatility. Grilling it gives it wonderful flavor in eggplant “steaks”, and roasting creates a smooth luxurious puree that adds wonderful body to recipes. It can even be used as an unconventonal dairy substitute as seen in this mayo-eggplant pizza topping. What’s your favorite way to enjoy eggplant? Tell me in the comments.

Here are some of mine:
Eggplant Parmesan
Eggplant Lentil Soup
Vegetarian Tempeh Moussaka Recipe

Monday: Middle Eastern
Gluten Free flatbread
Baba Ganoush
Bean salad

Tuesday: Italian
Roasted Vegetable Gluten Free Pasta with vegan nut topping

Tuesday: Italian
Arugula Gnocchi
Grilled Veggie Antipasti and beans

Friday: Southern
Cornbread vegetarian stuffing
pressure cooker beans
slow cooked greens

Asparagus Thin never disappoints with her rich and varied international menus. With a renewed enthusiasm for a vegetarian, gluten-free diet, Manda will be enjoying Roasted Eggplant and Onion Panzanella and Eggplant Avocado Pasta. Recipes, please!!! :)

Celiacs in the House has beautiful photos of the Fall harvest and a tasty menu including Fried Rice with Tofu. Her family didn’t seem to care for eggplant last time she tried it so she’s skipping it- the DH doesn’t either but I’ve won him over with some of my recipes.

Kimberly at Gluten Free is Life is a girl after my own heart and could eat eggplant every day! She’s making an easy Eggplant Parmesan that sounds just about perfect.

A Modern Gal’s hubby just doesn’t enjoy eggplant- seems like these husbands (including mine) should form a club. hehe. But she has a great international menu planned with red curry and Indonesian spicy rice w/ egg that you should check out.

Celiac Family has a menu full of tasty dishes, relying on zucchini and tomatoes rather than eggplant since that is what their garden is producing. I often find that I can use zucchini instead of eggplant in grilled recipes and it works quite well.

Gluten-free Food storage has a week full of homey favorites planned, although eggplant is not featured as it is not in their garden.

Angela’s Kitchen has a week full of tasty baked goods planned, along with mini corn dogs for GF family members on a trip to the fair. She also shared her favorite way to enjoy eggplant in the comments.

Green v-neck is a gluten-free blogger new to me, and has a lovely vegan menu planned. Alas, no eggplant. but, she does have some tasty dishes- I’d especially like to come to dinner at her house on wednesday when she will have peanut tofu, curried baked brown rice & lentils. I’d settle for the recipe, in a pinch. (hint hint) :)

If you would like to participate in this week’s Gluten-free Menu Plan Monday please post in the comments. Unfortunately it seems that my email service, Contactify, is down at the moment. I’ll add your menu as soon as i can.

Don’t forget to check out more menus at Org Junkie.

Vegan Baba Ganoush Recipe
1 large eggplant
2 tbsp. tahini, plus more as needed
1-3 garlic cloves
1/4 onion, sliced and grilled
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1 tsp whole cumin, toasted
1 tbsp. roasted sesame seeds, coarsely ground in mortar and pestle
salt, to taste
smoked paprika, to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs for garnish
1/2tsp. specialty olive oil (like lemon infused) for garnish
kalamata or other favorite olive for garnish

Roast eggplant in oven on 375 for 15 minutes on each side, or for 15 minutes on the grill and 15 minutes in the oven. Bake garlic cloves at the same time unpeeled wrapped in aluminum foil. Then reserve and cool.

Grill onion slices until done on a grill (or caramelize in a pan). Dice a small amount for garnish and reserve the rest. Toast your whole cumin in a pan on the stove to bring out the flavor.

Put your roasted garlic (now peeled) and the reserved grilled onion in your food processor and blend. Add your eggplant and blend. Reserve some eggplant to chop or mash by hand if you like your baba ghanoush chunky. Add lemon juice, cumin, tahini, and cumin seeds and blend to desired consistency. Remove lid and add additional spices, but wait to add the garnish until it is in aserving dish. Then, sprinkle with diced grilled onion, additional kosher salt if you like, additional smoked paprika for color, olives and fresh herbs etc. Finally drizzle a little olive oil on top and serve.

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