Its the Great Eggplant Explosion!

The subtropics have come to the optimum time to grow and harvest vegetables and herbs. So while much of the northern United States, and some southern states have hunkered down that hatches for winter and stocked up on root vegetables to get through to spring, South Florida is in prime growing season. In south Florida, the eggplant, which is a berry masquerading as a vegetable, that occupied a minor role in my summer vegetable garden has come into it’s own famously.

In a month’s time, we have ushered in over 12 hefty eggplants – all grown without pesticides and fertilizers! Some are gloriously beautiful… some not so much. No one ever said that organic gardening was beautiful gardening – just rewarding, tasty, and economical.

All of this eggplant makes for a lot of culinary creativity… and the need to share our bounty with family and friends… along with some deliciously tried and true recipes to make.

Roasted Eggplant Dip is always a favorite whenever I make it and wherever I take it. Roasting the eggplant makes gives it a very unctuous texture and brings out its incredible flavor. Often doubling the recipe to insure leftovers, the dip makes a great lunch spread on French bread, topped with Parmigiano Reggiano, and toasted under a broiler.

My Recipe: ROASTED EGGPLANT DIP

2 # eggplant, do not peel
1 yellow onion, peel
1 green bell pepper, remove core
1 red bell pepper, remove core
6 – 8 whole garlic cloves, peel
¼ c olive oil
1 – 2 T tomato paste
1 t red pepper flakes
1 T rough chopped “hardy” herbs: rosemary and thyme
1 T rough chopped “soft” herbs: basil, oregano, and flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

My Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut eggplant, onion, and peppers into 1” chunks; toss with whole garlic cloves, “hardy” herbs, red pepper flakes, and olive oil; season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Spread vegetables in a single layer on a sheet pan; roast for 25 minutes; remove from oven and toss vegetables on sheet pan; continue roasting for another 15 minutes until all vegetables are tender, fragrant, and lightly browned

Remove roasted vegetables from oven, combine with “soft” vegetables, and allow to cool for 15 minutes

Place roasted vegetables in a food processor, including all oil and juices accumulated during roasting; add 1 T of tomato paste; pulse mixture until just combined with tomato paste; however, chunks of eggplant are still visible

Taste and adjust seasoning with kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and additional tomato paste, careful that the tomato paste does not cover the flavor of the roasted eggplant

Garnish with fresh herbs and additional olive oil; serve with toasted pita chips, water crackers, and/or crispy croutons or toast points

Samfaina is the Spanish Catalonia’s region version of the French Provencal’s region of ratatouille – a rustic and simple eggplant vegetable stew. Samfaina is little more complex in flavor with the addition of white wine and diced Serrano ham. Usually served with just a crusty loaf of bread to soak up all of the juices in the stew, Samfaina is good with grilled beef, lamb, pork, or even cod, which is probably it’s more likely companion in Catalonia.

My Recipe: SAMFAINA serves 6

1 large eggplant, chopped into ½” dice
1 large yellow onion, chopped into ½” dice
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped into ½” dice
1 medium zucchini, chopped into ½” dice
6 garlic cloves, finely diced
¼ # Serrano or prosciutto ham, finely diced
1 – 15 oz. can of whole tomatoes
¼ c olive oil
½ c white wine
2 T chopped fresh thyme, oregano, or marjoram
1 bay leaf
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

My Method:

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté diced onion in olive oil until onions become soft and translucent, about 8 minutes; add diced Serrano or prosciutto ham and cook for other 2 minutes

Add the garlic, eggplant, red bell peppers, and zucchini to pan; sauté until vegetables began to brown, about 6 minutes

Add wine and tomatoes; use the back of your cooking spoon to crush the tomatoes; add thyme or oregano and bay leaf

Season vegetables with kosher salt and cracked black pepper; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes

Discard bay leaf; taste and adjust seasonings

Serve alongside grilled meat or fish or in a large bowl with lots of crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices

Eggplant Parmigiana is a classic from the south of Italy, which has eggplant sliced thin, breaded, pan-fired, and layered with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce and baked in the oven. Made improperly, this dish has the great potential of being soggy, heavy in oil, and greasy. Made properly, the eggplant emerges light and crispy with a hint of olive oil. The marinara sauce and cheese should complement the eggplant and not drown out the flavor of the eggplant or the crispiness.

In my version of Eggplant Parmigiana, there is no layering or baking as the crispiness is the prize for me. I also use the cheese judiciously to allow for the flavor of the eggplant to remain prominent. This eggplant recipe can also make eggplant fingers, New Orleans Style, and serve an appetizer or snack with the marinara as a dipping sauce.

My Recipe: EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA

1 large eggplant, sliced into 16, ¼” in thickness, rounds
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups plain bread crumbs
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ¼ c grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1 t dried Italian herb blend
2 c marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought, warmed
8 basil leaves, chiffonade, or 2 T finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 ½ t kosher salt
1 ¼ t cracked black pepper
Olive oil, for frying

My Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees; place a sheet pan, with a wire rack inside in the oven to collect the fried eggplant slices

Set up three-part dredging station: place flour, eggs, and plain bread crumbs in three separate shallow pans

To the all-purpose flour: add 1 t kosher salt and ½ t cracked black pepper; mix well

To the beaten eggs: add ½ t kosher salt and ¼ t cracked black pepper; mix well

To the plain bread crumbs: add 1 t dried Italian herb blend, 1 t kosher salt, ½ t cracked black pepper; ¼ c grated Parmigiano Reggiano; mix well

Dredge eggplant slice in the flour station, shaking off excess flour before dredging it in the egg station; then dredge slices through the seasoned bread crumb station, making sure to completely cover the eggplant; rest on wire rack on sheet pan while dredging the remaining eggplant slices

Repeat dredging process on all slices of eggplant until all are ready for shallow-frying

Add 1 cup of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat; the oil should not cover the eggplant slices

Slide 4 – 6 slices of eggplant in the hot olive oil and fry until crispy; about 3 minutes on each side; remove cooked slices from olive oil and place on a sheet pan in the warm oven until all slices are cooked

Heat the marinara sauce in a small sauce pan

Combine the remaining grated Parmigiano Reggiano with the shredded mozzarella cheese

To assemble: spread ¼ c of warmed marinara sauce on plate; shingle 4 slices of the eggplant on top of the sauce; add another ¼ c warmed marinara sauce on top of eggplant; sprinkle with ¼ of the cheese mixture; repeat with remaining eggplant, marinara sauce, and cheese

Heat broiler to high; place each plate under broiler for a 30 – 45 seconds, until cheeses melt

Carefully remove plate from under broiler, using thick oven mittens as the plates will be hot

Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh basil or finely chopped flat-leaf parsley; serve immediately

To round out the Eggplant Parmigiana, serve with a small side of Pasta con Olio e Aglio, or pasta with olive oil and garlic. Prepare pasta per package direction, drain, and quickly sauté in a pan with olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, a dash of red pepper flake, and flat-leaf parsley.

always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!

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About tawannapatrice

...a native south floridian, i am an artisan baker, personal caterer, and sarcastic demented librarian chick who finds life unbearable without immersing yourself in your true passions…
This entry was posted in Condiments, Food .T.A.S.T.E., Sauces, Soups and Stews, Vegetables, Vegetarian/Vegan and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Its the Great Eggplant Explosion!

  1. Pingback: Samfaina So Fine - Johanna Bailey

  2. christine says:

    Hello Tawanna! I found this blog in Foodista and followed it here. This is a lovely blog and awesome ROASTED EGGPLANT DIP recipe. Reminds me of mom’s recipe and it was superb, I bet yours is excellent too! By the way you can place more Foodista widget in your past and future blogs so that other Foodista readers can follow and see your blog too. Just search for a related recipe or food in Foodista and use its widget. I hope to read more from you. Cheers!

    • tawannapatrice says:

      hi christine… thank you kindly for the words and reading. I will remember to start using Foodista more!

  3. Aimee says:

    All of these dishes look very good. Especially the ROASTED EGGPLANT DIP! Eggplants are very expensive in the market right now (I live in MA), but I might have to blow the budget and get some to try these recipes.

    You definitely have a green thumb.

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