Really, isn’t aubergine a great word? It’s sexy. Much hotter than eggplant, which just sounds like a bad idea.
When you offer your family aubergine with buttermilk dressing, za’atar and pomegranate (from the fantastic cookbook, Plenty) you will be a superstar. Ask if they want eggplant for dinner, and the reception might not be so warm.
The next two months are going to be really busy… I’ll be traveling almost half of October. Aubergine, stuffed with flavors of Morocco, or cut into rounds, dredged, fried and stacked, make brilliant, small freezer meals for my left-at-home husband. It’s a big step up from granola, which is what he would eat if left to his own devices.
It’s been a great year for eggplant around here, and they’re cheap and abundant. In fact, it’s so abundant, one of my favorite farmers handed me a huge bag of purple orbs just last week declaring she had surrendered. There were just too many. Lucky me!
An afternoon in the kitchen means months of gorgeous foods. Here’s a wonderful aubergine recipe, which I originally posted on Food52 as Swearing Like A Sailor Eggplant, but I’m feeling more generous and less annoyed with the preparation, so I’ve changed up some spices and I’m calling it
6 small white eggplant, about the size of your hand
1-1/2 c cooked rice, quinoa, farro or other leftover grain
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c toasted almonds, chopped
2-3 T harissa (according to personal taste)
1/2 c dry bread crumbs
1 tsp ras al hanout
1/4 c parsley, minced
Salt and pepper
Canola or grapeseed oil
8 cups tomato sauce (made with two quarts crushed tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves and 1/2 c olive oil)
Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork.
Drop the eggplant into a large pot of boiling, well salted water and boil them for about half an hour, until a knife slips in easily and they are tender.
When the eggplant are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise, leaving half the stem on each side if possible. It just looks pretty!
Scoop out the eggplant attempting to leave the skin whole. If it tears, don’t worry, you will be able to patch it together.
Chop the eggplant flesh and add all the other ingredients. Stir well and taste for seasoning. It should be spicy.
Form an egg shape with your hand and place the mixture back into the eggplant skins, forming it as you go. Line up all the eggplant on a sheet pan and prepare for the next step. Deep breath. It will be fine.
Heat about 2″ of canola or grapeseed oil in a heavy, deep saute pan. When it’s good and hot, add the eggplant halves, skin side down. Use two spoons (one slotted) to deposit the eggplant into the pan, and then again, once browned, to turn it over. (It’s bad – it’s messy – it’s difficult, but You Can Do It!)
When the eggplant are well browned, place them to a baking pan. Line up all the lovely little eggplant and pour tomato sauce around them. Squeeze lemon juice over all.
Bake for 30 minutes at 375°. (Or cover with parchment and then foil, and freeze. Bake directly from the freezer for about an hour.)
Serve with crusty bread and a sharp acidic salad.
And, for the traditionalists (sort of) here is my version of eggplant parmesan – really stacked up, battered and crunchy rounds layered with mozzerella and tomato sauce and freezer ready. I’ve put a big pie dish of these stacks in the freezer intended for my Thanksgiving table. It’s a perfect dish for the vegetarians around the table.
Aubergine Stacks with Fresh Mozzerella (my version of eggplant parmesan)
Makes two lasagne sized pans
6 firm medium-large eggplant
2 c flour
2 cups Parmesan Reggiano, grated
4 c fine dry bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
2 balls of fresh mozzerella, sliced thin
8 cups tomato sauce (2 quarts crushed tomatoes, 2-3 garlic cloves, 1/2 c olive oil)
1/2 c basil, chopped
Slice the eggplant into rounds.
Set up a three part dredging station. Flour. Eggs beaten with parmesan. Bread crumbs.
Season everything with plenty of salt and pepper. Dredge, dip, coat. Dredge, dip, coat. Repeat.
Set all the coated eggplant on a sheet pan.
Make the tomato sauce and keep it simmering on the stove while you fry the eggplant.
In a deep heavy pan or, even better, a deep fryer (if you have one,) heat the oil to 350°.
Fry the eggplant for 3-4 minutes per side, setting the finished pieces on paper towels to drain.
Add all the basil to the tomato sauce and stir.
Once all the eggplant has been fried, gloss the bottom of the baking pans with a little tomato sauce.
Stack up the eggplant three high, placing a piece of mozzerella between each slice. Tuck as many stacks as you can into the baking pans.
Divide the tomato sauce between the dishes.
Top with a piece of parchment, then tightly wrap with foil. At this point, you may freeze the stacks for up to four months. (Bake at 350° for 1 to 1-1/2 hours when frozen.)
Or bake immediately for one hour, covered.
Serve with an excellent Chianti.