Friday, August 6, 2010

Fried Eggplant

John's white eggplants

patty pan squash from John

French morning melons from Underwood Family Farm

Here's what Farmer John had for us in Silver Lake this week:

Italian frying peppers
White eggplant
Pattypan squash
Red chard
Collard greens
Cherry tomatoes
Zucchini blossoms
Dandelion greens

And here's what Tara brought down this afternoon from Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark:

Red potatoes
French morning melon
Saticoy melon
Golden beets
Sweet corn
Yellow wax beans
Romaine lettuce
Green bell peppers
Cherokee heirloom tomato

Just about anything tastes good fried and eggplant is no exception. In fact, frying slices of eggplant brings out its creamy texture.

There are many ways to fry eggplant. My favorite is to use a mixture of finely ground cornmeal and panko, a Japanese-style breadcrumb that's very light and airy. Panko mixes nicely with the heavier textured cornmeal. You can find panko in many full-service markets as well as most Asian markets.

Eggplant used to have a reputation for being somewhat bitter, but most varieties have had the bitterness breeded out. If you're concerned about bitter flavor, you can mitigate it by salting the slices before cooking and allowing them to sit for 30-60 minutes while the salt pulls water and the bitterness out of the eggplant. Set the eggplant slices on a rack or in a colander, salt liberally, allow the water to drain off, rinse off the salt, and proceed with the recipe.

Fried Eggplant

1 medium eggplant
3-4 T flour
1 egg + 1 T water
1/2 C finely ground cornmeal
1/2 C panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

1. Slice the eggplant crosswise in 1/4 inch slices.

2. Place flour on a plate.

3. Beat the egg and water together until combined and pour into a shallow bowl

4. Mix together the cornmeal and panko. Season with salt and pepper to taste. spread on a plate.

5. Take an eggplant slice, dredge it in flour until lightly covered on both sides, shake off the excess, dip the floured slice in the beaten egg, then coat with the cornmeal-panko mixture. Shake off the excess and arrange on a plate in a single layer.

6. Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a heavy skillet. When oil is hot, fry eggplant slices a few at a time, turning them once, until brown on both sides. Don't crowd them. Frying too many slices at once lowers the temperature of the oil and may cause the eggplant slices to become soggy. Add more oil to the skillet as necessary.

7. When brown on both sides, remove from skillet and drain on paper towels.

The eggplant slices are delicious served hot or warm. They're great plain or served with a hearty tomato sauce. They're also good with garlic mayonnaise or a tempura-style dipping sauce.

You can bread the eggplant slices ahead of time and keep them loosely covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before frying them.



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