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Community gardens aren’t just allotments — they’re urban farms, great places to share gardening skills and crops.
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And chances are the dishes you enjoy will include traditional favorites such as gumbos, jambalayas, and beignets.
This year, consider adding some non-traditional fruit and vegetable based dishes. Create your theme from traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. Both of these dishes are very easy to make and would be perfect confidence boosters for a young beginner cook.
This first recipe, simply called Eggplant Sandwiches, is very adaptable to your personal tastes and the availability of ingredients. The idea is to use purple, yellow, and green ingredients to match the Mardi Gras theme. That can mean using jarred banana peppers if you can't find a fresh yellow bell pepper or pesto if fresh basil isn't available. If you don't like the flavor of basil, consider using spinach for your green ingredient.
Eggplant Sandwiches (Makes 4 sandwiches)
1 medium sized eggplant cut into 1/2 inch slices, 8 total
1 red onion sliced into rings
1 yellow bell pepper sliced into rings
1/2 cup julienned basil leaves
4 thin slices cheese of choice
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup butter
Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions and peppers until softened (but not soggy). Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer onions and peppers to a clean plate. Wipe out the skillet.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
In a shallow dish, beat the egg.
In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, bread crumbs, and pepper.
Dip the eggplant slices first in the flour mix, next in the egg mixture, and again in the flour mixture. Fry in the oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the fried eggplant slices to a paper towel covered plate and season with salt as desired. Blot off excess oil after the slices have cooled for 2-3 minutes.
Beginning with a slice of fried eggplant, assemble the sandwiches by layering the sautéed yellow bell pepper and onions, julienned basil, and a cheese slice. Top with another fried eggplant slice. These sandwiches can be cut into quarters and held together with cocktail picks or tooth picks to serve more people.
This next recipe, Fruit Kebobs, is a fun one that kids especially enjoy. I chose fruits that coordinated with the Mardi Gras color theme, but this dip is great with any fruit. The secret to success of the kebobs is to be sure the pieces of fruit are at least 3/4 inch thick so the skewer doesn't split them in half when you push it through.
Fruit Kebobs (Makes 6 kebobs)
1/2 fresh pineapple cut into cubes
2 kiwis sliced
1-2 green grapes per kebob
2 blackberries per kebob
3 blueberries per kebob
To assemble the kebobs, organize the fruits by color and push the skewer through the center of the fruit pieces.
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Place all ingredients in a deep bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Transfer to a serving dish and serve with fruit kebobs.