This is a fried eggplant recipe, loved even by the people like my boyfriend Mark who don’t like eggplants.
It’s perfect as an appetizer either for a dinner with friends or for a picnic, because eggplant balls are delicious even when served cold. You can eat them alone or with a sauce like tzaziki.
I like to prepare this recipe on Sundays, because salting eggplants could require more than one hour and it is perfect for our romantic Sunday picnic on the roof top at sunset… it’s a good way to finish the weekend and prepare us for the Monday morning alarm clock.
After cooking and cooling, you can conserve the eggplant balls on a plate covered with plastic wrap for a couple of days in the fridge. I suggest heating them in an oven on grill, but if you are lazy or starving, 40 seconds in the microwave is enough, the only difference is that the eggplant balls will be softer.
I prefer the long pale violet variety that has less seeds for this recipe. If the eggplants have too many seeds I suggest eliminating the seeds. Italians love eggplants or ‘Melanzane’ [litterally: bad apples]. We use different kinds of eggplants depending on the recipes that we want to prepare. Sometimes we salt them, sometimes we don’t, it depends on the kind, the recipe, time available and personal taste regarding bitterness. Usually I usually salt them because it reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking and Mark doesn’t like their sharp flavor, but if I’m in a hurry or I just have to saute them I skip this step, which is necessary if you make eggplant ‘Parmigiana’, or fried or grilled eggplants because it makes them crispier and reduces the amount of oil absorbed when frying.
This recipe was given to me by Evelina, an antique dealer and friend of my father’s. We spend some of our summer holidays on the island of Elba, in Tuscany, where we pick fresh vegetables directly from our vegetable garden. Every year I asked her to cook together and teach me one of her amazing recipes, and, in my opinion, this is the best one she ever taught me. It’s our summer tradition. Thank you Evelina for sharing your cooking skills and your love with me.
Here is the the recipe, two portions, of course.
Ready in an hour (plus another 1,5 hours if you decide to salt the eggplants).
The amount of the ingredients may appear odd because I halved the original recipe, in order to save on preparation times, and above all because I had to adjust the recipe to fit into a small Brooklyn kitchen.
- 25 ounces (about 2 medium ones, 750 gr.) eggplants, half peeled and sliced 1/2 inch.
- 2 teaspoon (20 gr.) Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon (20 gr.) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, halved
- 1 small egg (30 gr.), whisked
- 1/2 cup (100 gr.) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- 1-1/5 cup (200 gr.) bread crumbs
- 1 bunch parsley, minced
- 3 cups (600 gr.) sunflower oil
- fine sea salt to taste
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
SALTING EGGPANTS (SUGGESTED)
- Set down a layer of eggplant slices in a colander and salt it. Cover with another layer and salt again. Repeat the procedure until all the eggplants have been used.
- Top the eggplant layers with a bowl full of water or something else heavy in order to help squeeze out their liquid.
- Wait 1 hour to allow the liquid to drain.
- Rinse the eggplant to eliminate the excess salt.
- Dry the eggplant with paper towel.
- Dice the eggplants.
- Place the olive oil and garlic clove in a pan (at least 10″, large enough to hold the eggplant in a single layer)
- Heat at a medium temperature until the oil takes on the garlic’s aroma.
- Add the eggplants.
- Stir frequently to keep the eggplants from sticking to the pan.
- Braise until the eggplants become soft (about 10 minutes)
- Cool the eggplants until lukewarm.
- Put the eggplants in a blender. Blend until coarse.
- Transfer the mixture into a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 cup (100 gr). of bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend all the ingredients together. If the consistency of the mixture isn’t firm enough, add more Parmigiano-Reggiano, or bread crumbs (or both.)
- Prepare two plates for the balls. One covered with the remaining bread crumbs and one to transfer the breaded balls into before frying.
- Take a small quantity of the eggplant mixture (about 0.5 once or 15 gr.) and form a ball with yours hands. Press the ball gently with your palm to create a small patty.
- Roll the patty in the bread crumb dish until perfectly coated by the crumbs and set it apart on the clean dish.
- Repeat the same procedure until you have used up all of the mixture.
- Prepare another plate with a paper towel to place the balls on after they are fried to absorb excess oil.
- Pour the canola oil into a 3-quart sauce pan .
- Heat at a high temperature, until the oil is hot enough to deep-fray. (To know if the oil is hot enough, try to put a pinch of the mixture in it. If it immediately starts to bubble, the oil is ready).
- Start to deep-fry the balls. Remember not to put more than three/four balls in the pan at a time in order to keep the oil temperature high. The balls should always bubble, otherwise they will absorb too much oil.
- Cook until the balls are brown. I prefer just a golden brown, Mark prefers a darker one. It depends on you.
- Transfer the fried balls on the plate with paper towel. You may need to create another layer of paper towel if the plate isn’t big enough to contain all the eggplant balls.
- Repeat this procedure until all the balls are fried.
- Let the balls cool a bit in order to create a firmer consistency inside (about 2 minutes)
- Dry the balls with more paper towel and transfer them on a plate to serve.
That’s all! Buon appetito!