When I have the time, I like to head to the big hypermarket not too far from my house and wander around the fresh produce section looking for inspiration. They carry an amazing selection of fruit and vegetables from near and far, all shiny, bright, colorful and clearly full of nutrition and vitamins.
Just a couple of days ago, I came across the loveliest little eggplants there. I shifted through them looking for the smallest ones, trying to select ones of similar size, with good stems still attached. Right there, in my head, I made up this recipe. Like this: What goes with eggplant? Garlic and tomatoes. What goes with garlic and tomatoes? Mozzarella, of course. And because today I am joining the Fish Friday Foodies in sharing appetizers, I decided to top the whole lot with some seasoned shrimp.
And that is the weird and wonderful way my brain works.
8 small eggplants
2 cloves garlic
Generous handful parsley, plus more to garnish, if desired
2 teaspoons za’atar
1 ball fresh mozzarella (about 4.4 oz or 125g)
4-5 grape tomatoes
16 cooked medium-sized shrimp
Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.
Scrub the little eggplants clean then cut them in half, trying to split the stem as well. Scoop out the insides, chop and set aside. I use a melon baller for the scooping. Put them in a baking pan.
Mince the garlic cloves and chop the parsley finely.
Cook the eggplant insides in a small pan with a good drizzle olive oil, sprinkle of salt and pepper plus one teaspoon of the za’atar. When all of the water has cooked out of the eggplant and it’s browning, add in the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.
Tip in the parsley and cook for another 30 seconds or so, until the parsley wilts. Taste the filling and add more salt, if necessary. Remove from the heat.
Cut the mozzarella ball into thin circles. Fit them into the eggplant halves. Add the filling, dividing it between the eggplants.
Slice the grape tomatoes and put one slice on top of the filling. Drizzle on some olive oil.
Roast in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the eggplants start to slump a little and are browned around the edges. Some leakage happens but when you scrape those bits up with a metal spatula, you get to eat them. Score! Make sure you are in the kitchen alone when these come out of the oven and you won't even have to share that bonus.
Meanwhile, dry your shrimp and put them in a small bowl. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and toss them around to coat. Add the last teaspoon of za’atar and toss again.
Note: There are various za'atar recipes. I prefer what's known as Lebanese za'atar but you can use your favorite.
|Ignore the little tails on the shrimp. I did remove those before I put the shrimp on the eggplant poppers.|
Remove the baking pan from the oven and top each eggplant with one shrimp. Pop the pan back in the oven for another five minutes to warm the shrimp through.
Serve warm, sprinkled with a little more chopped parsley, if desired.
For a vegetarian option, skip the shrimp step. We love shrimp but these Mediterranean Eggplant Poppers are fabulous even without them. And they are just as pretty. Here they are pre-shrimp.
Update: Just ate a leftover eggplant popper straight out of the refrigerator. They are even good cold.
Many thanks to this month’s Fish Friday Foodie host, Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm. If you are looking for creative holiday appetizers or first courses with seafood, you’ve come to the right place!