I love sharing appetizers or tapas when I go to a happy hour or dinner with friends. Whether it’s margaritas with chips and salsa, or wine with a caprese salad, small plates are a great start to any meal.
The most appealing appetizer option for me usually combines a little tasting of several food groups on one composed plate. I want a fusion of grains/carbs, vegetables, cheeses, and even meat (every once in a while).
This appetizer incorporates a small nibble of my three favorite components: cheese, veggies, and carbs.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 1 polenta round *
- 1 block of Gruyere cheese
- 1 eggplant
- Salt & pepper (to taste)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
*If you want to use boxed polenta, instead of the precooked polenta round, you may. Cook the boxed polenta as the directions state. Treat the cooked polenta like brownie batter and pour the finished product into a small, flat-bottomed glass dish. Smooth the top (as you would with brownies), and place the glass dish in the refrigerator to chill and solidify. The polenta will become denser, and you can use a cookie cutter to cut out circles or shapes once it is firm. I believe the polenta round is definitely quicker and easier than starting from scratch, but either way will work.
Now it’s Your Turn:
- Slice the eggplant, polenta and cheese into rounds (or squares) and set aside.
- Turn the stove on medium heat, and preheat your oven to 350°.
- Steam your asparagus first. Break off bottom ends of the asparagus and place in a steamer pot or in a steam bag. Steam in your pot until slightly soft, or in the bag for about 3-4 minutes (time may vary).
- Pour 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil into your warm skillet and set 3-4 eggplant rounds in the pan. Add salt and pepper to the top (once you flip, add S&P to the bottom). Be careful not to overcrowd the pan with slices, as it will cook unevenly if you do so. Brown each side for 4-6 minutes or until it is slightly soft. Once all the eggplant is cooked set on an aluminum foil covered pan/cookie sheet.
- Start on the polenta and repeat steps from the eggplant. Cook each side 4-6 min and add salt and pepper to each side as you flip. Let the edges get slightly brown, and wait for the polenta to soften slightly.
- Stack everything. Eggplant first, then polenta and finally asparagus. Place a cube of cheese on the top and set in oven to bake.
- Let bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese has melted completely.
Benefits: Polenta is a low-glycemic, complex carbohydrate, so it will not spike your blood sugar and will take longer to digest than most carbs. Asparagus is rich in antioxidants, free-radical fighting nutrients, and tons of vitamins and minerals (read more here).
Experience a myriad of flavors with this warm and tender stacked combo. The rich Gruyere cheese pairs fantastically with the asparagus and eggplant, while the polenta provides a creamy carb base.