The nice thing about living in a rural area is there is always people selling “stuff” on the side of the road. We have an ample supply of curb markets, farm stands, egg sellers and jam hawkers.. We even have a woman up the road that has a nice selection of baby “pet” ( tasty! ) goats, and you can’t throw a rock without knocking some old guy off his lawn chair selling boiled peanuts.
So, when I can’t stomach another trip to Mega-Walla-World, I hit the road and do the Curb Market Crawl. This last week I was out with mom and stopped in at the Tomato House on HWY 52 between Dahlonega and Cleveland. Great people, good selections and you can always find something there to buy. Seriously.. you can.
Do you want tomatoes – they got ’em.. always at least 6 varieties including some heirlooms. Need corn? … boatloads (and it’s Silver Queen, not that overly sweet – engineered – corn they sell at the market.) Heck, if the wall -o – private label canned goods doesn’t whet your whistle… then nothing will… unless it’s pumpkins, butternut squash, a horde of bean varieties, or a porch swing…or an outhouse…or a turtle on a bicycle…. or garden tools welded into birds… or…or..ummm…
We went for a last ditch effort to score some patty pan squash – Nada.. Bumpkus.. it’s been the same all season. But what they did have was Eggplant. Purple, Asian, some of the small, green, bitter, Thai style ones and White.
I adore white eggplant. It is less bitter than the standard dark purple ones. The flesh seems a bit firmer and the seedy areas are less pronounced. It also seems they tend to discolor a lot less that the darker variety. And when you cut them open… it’s a spring morning. Earthy, loamy, crisp and fresh – nothing… I mean nothing, smells better to me.
We..um… bought all they had.
So now… I’ve got some cookin’ to do.
Pan-Grilled White Eggplant with Herbs
To me, white eggplant always has the scent of my grandmother’s fresh washed sheets drying in the sun. I thought I would play up on that memory by adding the crispness of lavender to the herbs. It almost feels like a summer day out on the lawn.
2 or 3 Good Sized White Eggplants
1 Tablespoon Lavender Flowers & Leaves – or – 1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence (with lavender)
1/4 Cup Coarse Salt
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Shallots – Minced
1 Teaspoon Garlic – Minced
1/4 Cup Vidalia Onion (or other sweet onion) – Chopped
2 Tablespoons Capers
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1 Cup Chopped Curly Parsley
1/4 Cup Chervil – Chopped
2 Tablespoons Panko
1 Non-Stick Grill Pan (or just a large flat-bottomed skillet)
1 Baking sheet
1 Oven-Proof Serving Platter
Wash eggplants and cut off both ends
Peel and cut eggplants into inch thick pieces and place on a paper towel lined baking tray
Mix the lavender with the coarse salt and crush it up together (you can mortar and pestle it, or just put it in a baggie and whack it a bit with a rolling pin)
Sprinkle both sides of eggplant with the lavender / salt mixture and let sit for about 20 minutes
Lightly brush off the remaining mixture and Blot both sides of eggplant with paper towel.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.
Add eggplant and cook on first side until starting to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Turn over and cook on other side until eggplant is cooked through and browned on both sides. (You might have to cook the eggplant in two or three batches if you don’t have a big enough pan.)
Remove eggplant to the oven proof serving dish and set aside.
Back at the ranch – place the chopped onion, shallots, garlic, parsley, capers, lemon juice, vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan you cooked the eggplant.
Set the heat to medium high and saute 3 to 4 minutes – stirring constantly.
Spoon the sauce over each of the grilled eggplant rounds
Drizzle the last of the olive oil over the top and sprinkle each with a little panko and lemon zest
Set The oven to broil and place the rack in the top slot.
Place the platter under the broiler and heat until the panko just starts to brown up.. about 2 minutes (but watch it very close)
EGGPLANT AND WHITE BEAN CASSOULET
Eggplant always has a near meaty texture. I love finding ways to utilize that characteristic as a replacement for proteins. (We’re doing this recipe as non vegetarian, However, I’ll give you Vegetarian Substitutions)
1/4 Cup Bacon – Finely Chopped (Vegetarians, just use 1/4 Cup Olive Oil)
1 Cup Onion – Chopped
3 Medium White Eggplants – Peeled and Cubed
2 Cans (about 28 Ounces) Petite Diced Tomatoes (With Liquid)
2 15 ounce Cans Cannelloni (or any other firm-ish white beans) – Drained
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Oregano
1 Clove Garlic – Smashed
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 Cup Pine Nuts
1 5 Quart Dutch Oven
Over Medium High heat add bacon to dutch oven and render until the bacon is crispy.
Add onions and cook 2 minutes until the onions are clear and just beginning to change color
Peel and cut the eggplant into 1″ cubes
Add eggplant to the bacon / onion mixture and increase heat to high
Stirring lightly – continue to cook until the eggplant starts to brown on the edges.
Add all the remaining ingredients except the pine nuts
Stir to mix thoroughly.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes until the eggplant is tender.
Stir in the pine nuts.
Even though the bacon is just for an added depth of flavor, it can easily be omitted. This makes a wonderful late summer dish served with some savory cornbread.
STELLAR EGGPLANT PARMESAN
Even if you don’t have a ready need for EP, you can always go ahead and complete the dredge and fry part of the recipe. The fried eggplant will hold famously in the fridge for about a week. Or, cool them down and pop in the freezer on a sheet pan – when they’ve frozen, bag them up in a freezer zip bag and they will hold for a good 3 to 6 months.
Serves 6 to 8
3 Medium White Eggplants
3/4 to 1 Cup Self Rising Flour
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme
1 Teaspoon Fresh Oregano
1 Teaspoon Fresh Rosemary
1 Clove – Crushed
1 Bay Leaf
2 Cloves Garlic – Minced
1 Large Can (26 oz.) Crushed Plum Tomatoes
1 Large Onion Chopped
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
2 Large Eggs, Beaten with 2 Tablespoons Water
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese – Shredded
4 Cups Vegetable Oil
1 Dutch Oven
1 Pyrex Baking Dish – oh, about 13 x 8 x 2
1 Large Sauce Pan
1 Large Zipper Baggie
Peel and slice the eggplant into 1″ round slices
Place them on a toweled baking sheet and sprinkle each side with salt – allow to weep for 15 to 20 minutes
While they are weeping, Place the saucepan over medium heat with the olive oil.
Add the onions and saute until they are translucent – about 7 minutes
Raise the heat to high and add the tomatoes and all the other spices
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low
Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
Place the eggplant slices into the zipper bag along with the flour and shake until well coated
Place the dutch oven on high heat and add the oil.
With your thermometer, check until the oil reaches 350 (If you don’t have one – place a slice of raw potato into the oil, when it fries and turns toasty brown, your oil is hot enough)
In small batches, remove the slices from the bag and dip them into the egg / water mixture, making sure you coat both sides completely, and transfer to the oil
Cook for about 7 minutes each batch – using your tongs to flip them over occasionally during the process.
When they are golden brown, remove and drain onto paper towels
Preheat the over to 400
In the baking dish, lay the cooked eggplant in a single layer completely covering the bottom
Ladle 1/2 of the tomato mixture over the eggplant
Top the sauce with 1/2 of the Mozzarella and Parmesan
place a second layer on top of the cheese
Add the rest of the sauce and spread to cover evenly
Add the rest of the cheese
Bake at 400 for 20 to 25 minutes – or until the cheese is brown and bubbly