Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eggplant Panini with Red Pepper Jam, Fried Okra, Brussel Slaw with Harissa Mayonnaise

This meal has all the flavors and textures I look for when eating a meal. Sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy, gooey and raw.
The coleslaw is prepared with raw red cabbage and brussel sprouts and tossed in harissa mixed with vegan mayonnaise, lemon zest and a freshly toasted spice blend. Harissa is a red pepper paste often used in African cooking. It can vary from very spicy to mild depending on the type of chiles and spices used. A larger batch of harissa can be made (without the addition of mayonnaise and the remaining ingredients) and set aside for rubs, a condiment or tossed with grains like cous cous.

Grilled, roasted eggplant panini on crusty ciabatta bread with sweet red pepper jam, spicy arugula and tender red onion, served with salty fried okra and brussel sprout slaw soaked in a homemade harissa mayonnaise.

Eggplant Panini
1 large eggplant, skin on, 1/4" rounds
sea salt
3 tbl extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tbl balsamic vinegar
1 tbl dried oregano
juice from 1 lemon, zest from half
1 hothouse tomato, 1/4" slices
2 cups baby arugula
1 red onion, 1/2" rings
ciabatta slices
red pepper jam (recipe follows)

Sprinkle 1 tbl of salt over the eggplant slices and let sit to draw out moisture from the eggplant for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Combine 2 tbl oil, vinegar, oregano, lemon juice and zest in a bowl. Drizzle over the eggplant and toss to combine.
Roast for 20 minutes, flipping each piece over after 10.
While the eggplant is roasting, heat 1 tbl of oil up in a large pan and saute the red onions and a pinch of salt over medium heat until it starts to soften but has not completely caramelized, 5 minutes. You want to cook out some of the sharp onion flavor but and still keep the ring shape.
Stack a sandwich with eggplant slices, arugula, tomato, red onion and red pepper jam smothered on both sides of the bread. Toast in a pannini press or in a large saute pan weighed down with something heavy.

Red Pepper Jam
1 red pepper, small dice
1 large tomato, small dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbl fresh orange juice
1/4 cup organic light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried oregano

Combine the red pepper, tomato, garlic and onion in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
Add to a saute pan with the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes until thick. Serve at any temperature.

Brussel Slaw with Harissa Mayonnaise
3 dried ancho chile peppers
2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup veganaise
1 tbl apple cider vinegar
10 brussel sprouts, very thinly shredded
1 small red cabbage, cored, very thinly shredded

Soak the chilis in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain and remove stems and seeds.
Heat the oil up in a small saute pan, add the garlic, salt, seeds and cumin and saute until toasted and fragrant, 3 minutes.
Combine with the chilis in a food processor. Process into a thick paste.
Combine harissa with, lemon zest, veganaise and vinegar.
Toss the harissa mayonnaise with the brussel sprouts and cabbage and chill for at least one hour, allowing the flavors to meld. The longer it is allowed to sit, the better!

Fried Okra
2/3 cup medium ground yellow cornmeal
1 tbl ap flour
1 tbl creole seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 oz frozen okra, thawed
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
peanut oil for frying

Combine the cornmeal, flour, seasoning, salt and pepper in a bowl. Set the almond milk in another bowl.
Preheat oil in a frying pan to 365.
Dip the okra in the almond milk, then coat in the cornmeal. Fry in batches for a couple minutes until golden brown and drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and eat hot.

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