Monday, April 6, 2009

Paper Chef 39: Tangy Eggplant Rolls with Blackberry-Mango-Chickpea Salad

Spring has arrived in all her glory, here in Portland, Oregon. This is my first spring in the Pacific Northwest, and I have to say, it has caught me unawares. The stunning pink and white camellias, the cheery daffodils and those little purple flowers all over my neighbors’ lawn; not to mention the meticulously planted 'sakura' (cherry blossom) trees that are now in full bloom are all absolutely delightful – and I thought this place was only famous for its roses! Naturally, I wanted to incorporate the rich colors of this gorgeous spring palette into my entry for this month's Paper Chef. So without further ado, here's my take on cooking up blackberries, bulgur, artichokes and eggplant (for a vegetarian take) into an edible, delectable, colorful concoction.

Notes: all oil used in recipe is extra-virgin olive oil
Ingredients are provided as they come up in the recipe rather than up front, because a) I find this method to be more intuitive and b) I’m too lazy to type out all my ingredients twice.

Please excuse my pictures this once; my light was fading fast as I was trying to photograph my creations.

If you like what you see, and hopefully make, please go to and vote for my entry :-)

Tangy Eggplant Rolls with Blackberry-Mango-Chickpea Salad

Grilled Eggplant
Take one large eggplant
Slice it lengthwise, brush with oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and grill until cooked and tender
Set aside until ready to plate

Bulgur Pilaf

Sautee ½ a diced red onion with 2 cloves minced garlic until translucent in 2T olive oil
Add ¾ C bulgur and toast for 2 minutes
Add 2 C water to bulgur and cook until evaporated and bulgur is cooked but al dente
Season with salt and pepper to taste

Artichoke tapenade

1 scant cup of water-marinated artichoke hearts
4 large cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend together all tapenade ingredients to a spreadable but chunky consistency.
Mix in 1 T extra-virgin olive oil and keep refrigerated.
Ok, now for the blackberries. I initially wanted to make a blackberry vinaigrette and brush it onto the eggplant before grilling, but I just couldn’t get myself to crush those beautiful jewel-like berries. So, I decided to toss them into a sweet-tangy salad instead along with diced mangoes. I added chickpeas to the salad since chickpeas and bulgur have complementary amino acids and also taste yummy together. To make the

Blackberry-Mango-Chickpea Salad

½ C dry chickpeas, soak overnight and cook till soft and tender
¼ red onion, finely diced
1 medium ripe mango, diced
2 T finely minced cilantro
2 T lemon juice
Mix all the above ingredients and toss lightly with salt to taste

Now, to assemble your chef d’oevre:

-- Lay out a slice of grilled eggplant.
-- Spread 1 tsp. (or more) of artichoke tapenade on eggplant
-- Place 2 heaping T. bulgur pilaf about 1 inch from one end of eggplant slice
-- Roll up the eggplant; repeat with remaining eggplant slices and stack side-by-side in oven- proof dish.
-- For the final flourish, top each eggplant roll with a thin slice of Halloumi cheese. This is a very salty and flavorful Middle-Eastern cheese that holds up well to high heat. Place dish into
pre-heated oven and broil until cheese is melted and browned (this happens very fast – be careful).

Serve Tangy Eggplant Rolls with Blackberry-Mango-Chickpea Salad on the side. Enjoy with a chilled glass of Gerwutztraminer -- preferably on an unseasonably warm spring afternoon, under the gentle shade of a cherry-blossom tree.