After taking a week or so off to do a personal post, it’s time to get back to work. I was toying with not posting today so I could incorporate this post into one that I’m going to do about nightshade plants, but I decided to go ahead with this one because I’ve taken enough time off from blogging. Besides, this way I can have some more time to do research about it because nightshade plants are pretty dern interesting.
I could’ve sworn I did a post about this recipe before but I guess I was wrong. I can take or leave eggplant. It has a weird name (in Europe they’re called aubergine because of the purple color and the name sounds SO much better), it has a weird texture, and it’s really not all that appealing to me. I’ll eat eggplant tempura, and I’ll eat a lot of it because it’s coated in tempura batter and soaked in soy sauce (or tamari). Other than that, I have no idea why I eat it besides the fact that eggplant has lots of fiber, it’s low in calories (if you’re watching your caloric intake), it’s filling, and has a host of other vitamins and minerals.
According to the Flavor Thesaurus:
When raw, a good eggplant tastes like a bland, sweet apple; cooked, it’s transformed into something very savory. Frying eggplants lends them a wonderful creaminess that’s particularly lovely sprinkled with sweet, warming spices. Stewed or roasted, they take on a musky, mushroomy quality that works well with salty ingredients. Short of taking a surreptitious nibble, the best way to check if an eggplant has the requisite flavor and texture is to test it for tautness. Ideally an eggplant should be as tight and shiny as dolphin skin. Similarly, they squeak when you pinch them.
I don’t know about y’all but I have no idea who “tight and shiny” dolphin skin is supposed to be. So I looked up what my Cook’s Wisdom had to say:
Eggplants are available year-round but are at their best from July through September. Choose smooth, firm, glossy-skinned eggplants with green caps and stems. Avoid any that are torn, bruised, or scarred, or that have brown, dried caps. Smaller eggplants are generally sweeter than large ones, and the vegetables should feel heavy for their size.
Now that sounds better! For those of us who don’t have easy access to dolphin skin the last explanation is a lot easier to put into practice.
Ok. On to the recipe. So I’ve been making the Minimalist Baker’s vegan eggplant parmesan for a while and the Hubs and little one love it. It’s one of the few times where no one complains about eating the odd-shaped, weirdly named vegetable. I cook this dish differently than she does though. She bakes the eggplant slices and then sautés them. After a trial-and-error process, I found baking them doesn’t work for me (probably because I’m doing something wrong). However, you should try it and see if it works for you!
For the 3 of us, I bought a small eggplant. You’re going to slice it thinly so that much should do you…depending on how many you’re cooking for. Once you slice them, sprinkle the living daylights out of them with salt and place them in a colander kind of standing up. Let them sit in the sink or put a plate under the colander, and leave them be for 15 minutes.
Why salt? The salt will draw out the moisture and bitterness from the eggplant. You can see in the following photos.
You’ll take the slices and rinse the salt off and gently squeeze and pat the slices dry and set aside. Now you’re going to get your dipping assembly line situated. Get your plant milk and cornstarch stirred and ready, flour or gluten-free flour, and breadcrumb mixture ready.
I used to use a particular brand of gluten-free breadcrumbs, but I wanted to switch it up and use a brand called Kinnikinnick. It’s a company based out of Edmonton, Alberta (where we used to live) and I LOVE their gluten-free bread. They don’t have holes like the other gluten-free bread brands out there, their bread tastes FANTASTIC, and they’re cheaper! On top of that, they make fabulous animal cookies that remind me of the animal cookies you used to get when you were a kid in a box that looked like the circus.
So, back on track. When you get your dipping assembly line formed, get started!
You coat your eggplant slice in the flour, then dip it in the milk/cornstarch mixture (don’t worry, the flour won’t come off), and then coat it really good in the breadcrumb mixture.
Here’s where I deviated from her instructions. I deep-fried my eggplant. Oh I love anything that’s deep-fried! Deep-fried Mars bar anyone? We only have deep-fried dishes once every few months or when we have guests over and I want to show off my culinary deep-frying skills. If you opt to deep fry too, don’t add too much oil. Eggplants are like sponges and will soak up the oil. I learned that the hard way.
You can see the amount of oil I used. Don’t do what I did. Also, you’ll probably want to change out the oil half way through because some of the coating will come off. Then it’ll soak up the oil too, you’ll keep adding oil, and right at the end the coating that came off will want to burn. Plus it’ll turn your slices that burnt color when they’re really not burnt.
When I finished, I started on the pasta. I did the pasta at the point because I wanted the eggplant to cool before I served it to the little one. While the spaghetti was going, I warmed up some pasta sauce. Not the whole jar.
When you’re pasta is done cooking you serve it up. I put some pasta in a dish with a few slices of eggplant on top and then topped that off with a few spoonfuls of pasta sauce. Voila! You don’t want too much sauce or it’ll take away from the flavor of the eggplant.
The Hubs loves this dish and the little one digs in…literally. He’ll try to eat it with his hands, but that’s partly because spaghetti is still tricky for him. The Hubs went back for seconds and even took some for lunch the next day.
One last tip: if you decide to bake, don’t use aluminum foil. My Cook’s Wisdom book says: “A chemical reaction is produced when eggplant is cooked in aluminum, resulting in a metallic taste.” So, if you have a silicone baking sheet thingy, use that.