Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan

Baked Baby Eggplant

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Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.
Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.

Baked Italian baby eggplant is a favorite blog text recipe post so we decided to show you how to make it. Let me know if there are other recipe posts or other Italian dishes you want me to cook and maybe we’ll add them to our upcoming video episode list.

We’re in the worst drought ever here in California.

My produce guys tell me prices are already on the rise because of the drought. 60% of America’s produce comes from California so we’ll all be paying 15-20% more.

Even as prices rise, keep on buying local organic produce. The quality of the ingredients is vital. There are only 4 key ingredients in this dish so they all have to shine.

The only two days of heavy rain this whole winter had to be when I’m out food shopping over the weekend for the 3 episodes shot on Monday. I know we need the rain but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain.

I was a man on a mission. Off I went to the Ferry Building Saturday farmer’s market in the rain. No Italian baby eggplant. I hit at least six other markets and baby Italian eggplant were nowhere to be found. All I got was wet.

I panicked. I needed eggplant for Monday’s shoot. While scouring the city I caught a glimpse of dark eggplant on a sidewalk stand as the bus passed Grant Street in Chinatown. I made my way back to the produce stand and there I found not the Italian baby eggplant I desperately needed but Japanese eggplant instead.

I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can't get 'em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.
I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can’t get ’em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.

I was about to pass them up when I said to myself “Hey, you got a show to shoot. Whaddaya gonna do? Buy these. Stupido! This happens to other people too, so it’s an improvisation lesson.”

After chasing all over the city, I had developed a “woolie” (a craving) for these baked eggplant. I had to make them.

So that’s why I’m using Japanese eggplant that are readily available in the market. If you can’t get the Italian baby eggplant, use the Japanese.

The taste and texture is as good as baking the small black-purple Italian ones. But if I find them in market, I go for the baby Italians every time.

Zesty crispy tomato and pecorino top sweet creamy soft eggplant inside the flavorful shriveled skin. The essence of eggplant in every single bite. Serve it by itself or as the centerpiece of an antipasti course. Just add some prosciutto & cheese to the platter and some olives too.

If you like eggplant watch me make my favorite dish eggplant parmigiano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

4.7 from 3 reviews
Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan
 
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Intense creamy baked baby eggplant topped with San Marzano tomatoes, oregano and pecorino.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4 Italian baby eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand
  • ¼ cup pecorino, grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut off the stem of the Italian baby eggplant and cut each in half. (If you're using Japanese eggplant, cut off most of the narrow neck.)
  3. Lightly score the top of the eggplant on the diagonal in both directions to form diamonds.
  4. Put the eggplant in a single layer in a baking dish cut side up.
  5. Drizzle each half generously with EVOO.
  6. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  7. Evenly distribute the crushed tomato on top of each half.
  8. Sprinkle the oregano on top of the crushed tomato.
  9. Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly on each half.
  10. Pour the water in the bottom of the baking dish.
  11. Add some olive oil and tomatoes to the water. (This will make a pan sauce to put over the eggplant before you serve them.)
  12. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil.
  13. Bake until the eggplant are knife tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  15. Uncover the pan and bake until the pecorino is lightly browned and the eggplant start to collapse in on themselves, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  16. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  17. Serves 4-6

 

Eggplant “Meatballs”

Eggplant Meatballs
Eggplant Meatballs

An old woman in a soiled white apron stood at the top of the stairs leading to a basement trattoria a cigarette dangling out of her mouth.

We were wandering around the backstreets in Naples behind the big fancy hotels facing the marina and Castel dell’Ova (The Egg Castle).

We were hungry. It was just after noon. Too early for lunch? I went up to the woman to ask is the restaurant was serving yet.

“We’re open. I’m taking a break from frying eggplant meatballs” she said in Italian.

I never had eggplant meatballs (polpette di melanzane) so we had to go in. Were they just eggplant or did they have meat too?

That Neapolitan memory floated into my culinary consciousness this morning so I had to fry up some eggplant meatballs.

There’s no meat in this easy recipe. The hardest part is forming the small balls in your hand. Make a big batch for your antipasti course or serve them as a side for roasted or grilled meats or fish.

Pop one of these zesty marble-sized balls in your mouth whole. The crunchy exterior gives way to the soft mellow eggplant center flavored with pecorino and garlic.

You can also fry eggplant meatballs without the breadcrumb coating, add a simple tomato sauce and serve them with pasta. This is a versatile recipe. Make it part of your Italian kitchen repertoire.

Buon appetito!

Eggplant Meatballs
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 eggplant, about 1 pound
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat Italian parsley, minced
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fine breadcrumbs for coating
  • extra virgin olive oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Cut the eggplant with the skin on into 1-inch cubes.
  3. When the water is boiling put the eggplant in. Press them down once in a while because they like to float on the surface.
  4. Boil them for about 10 minutes until the cubes are tender.
  5. Drain them in a colander and press them down with your hand or wooden spoon to get out more water. You want the eggplant as dry as possible.
  6. While the eggplant is boiling, put the rest of the ingredients (except the olive oil and the breadcrumbs for coating) in a large bowl and mix well.
  7. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle mince it fine.
  8. Add the eggplant to the bowl with the other ingredients and mix everything well.
  9. Roll the eggplant mixture in your hand to form 1-2 inch diameter balls. Lay them out on a plate or baking sheet in a single layer.
  10. Put the breadcrumbs for the coating in a shallow bowl and lightly coat the balls. Put them back on the baking sheet or plate in a single layer.
  11. Heat enough extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan (I use my 9-inch cast iron pan) to a depth of at least ½ inch. You need sufficient oil or the balls won't fry evenly.
  12. Fry the balls until they are golden all over. Turn them gently so they don't break apart. Take them out of the pan and drain them on a plate lined with paper towel.
  13. Serve immediately.
  14. Makes about 2 dozen eggplant meatballs.

 

 

Pickled Eggplant

Pickled Eggplant

It’s getting near the end of the summer season so I’m putting up some eggplant to tide me over until spring.

This a simple recipe from the south of Italia. The pickled eggplant is preserved under olive oil (sott’olio) and will keep in your refrigerator for weeks, even months.

Let the eggplant sit in the refrigerator for a few days to reach its peak flavor. The vinegar mellows and the eggplant picks up a hint of garlic, oregano and bay as it marinates in the jar. The red hot pepper adds a little sparkle at the end of each bite. (I used a small Calabrian chili pepper packed in EVOO.)

The pickled eggplant is a wonderful addition to an antipasti platter. Use it as a crostini topping. Serve it as a side with meat or fish.

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:106]

Take advantage of the end of the summer bounty. If you like this recipe try my giardiniera and pickled vinegar peppers.

N.B. I have to tell you that these are not canning recipes. My stuff lasts weeks or even months in the refrigerator. Just be sure that the eggplant is always fully covered by olive oil. If you want to keep the eggplant for a long time in your pantry, follow standard canning techniques to ensure food safety.

Baked Baby Eggplant

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I love the small Italian eggplant now in the market.

Here’s a quick recipe that explodes with flavor. Just cut the eggplants in half and bake them in the oven topped with crushed  San Marzano tomatoes and grated pecorino. The eggplant are soft and sweet and the grated cheese forms a crispy top.

As the eggplant cools many don’t make it off the top of the stove. Pilferers grab one to make sure they turned out well. I always have to make extra so I have enough for an antipasti platter or as a side for meat that I’m serving that day. You can keep leftovers in the fridge for a couple of days.

I like the baby eggplant hot out of the oven but I like them better at room temperature.

This is one of the recipes in my Vegetable e-book. Do you have yours? Just click on the e-book on the homepage to get one.

UPDATE (2/15/14): This blog post was so popular, I decided to show you how to do it. Check out the video above!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:101]

Caponata Siciliana (Eggplant and Vegetable Cooked Salad)

Caponata

I scored some beautiful small Italian eggplant at Union Street Produce so I just had to make caponata. I love this flavor-packed sweet-sour eggplant side dish (condimento) from Sicilia.

Usually I make caponata during the summer when the eggplant and tomatoes are at their prime. I was surprised to see the early crop of Italian eggplant in late January but it’s been a really mild winter in the Bay Area. The tomatoes were hot house vine-ripened on the stem.

Caponata is easy to make. Most of the work is cutting the eggplant and vegetables. Caponata is cooked in stages and married at the end with agrodolce, a sweet and sour syrup. Eggplant is the star so choose well at the market. The eggplant should be shiny black and firm to the touch. The small Italian eggplant are my favorite for caponata but if you can’t find them any eggplant will do.

If you’ve never had caponata try some from a shop like North Beach’s new salumeria (Italian deli) Geppetto to get a taste of how this dish is supposed to be and then make your own. Caponata will keep in the refrigerator for about a week so I usually have some on hand to add to an antipasti platter, as a side dish for grilled or roasted meat or fish, as pasta sauce or as a topping for bruschetta or crostini.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:87]

My Favorite Dish – Eggplant Parmigiana

My favorite dish in the world.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmigiana) – the dish I cut my teeth on. Loved it then, love it now, and make it often. Imagine perfection: the golden eggplant sauteed in a tasty egg wash, baked in the oven with tangy concentrated tomato sauce, sweet basil, creamy melted mozzarella, with a nutty parmigiana reggiano crust. It’s my favorite dish, rich and satisfying; it can keep a man alive for days.

Of course that’s assuming you’re lucky enough to possess eggplant parmigiana left overs after your meal is done. Because it actually tastes better the next day after some overnight magic melding of flavors. If you’re the preserving type, consider portioning your left-overs and freezing. Impress the unexpected and unsuspecting dinner guest with tomorrow’s eggplant parmigiana or satiate yourself on a night when there’s just nothing else to eat. Or, mix it up a bit. Eggplant parmigiana makes a great panino (sandwich) especially with a soft, chewy bread like ciabatta for tomorrow’s lunch. The possibilities are endless.

I often serve the melanzane alla parmigiana with roasted sausage. A simple arugula salad with EVOO and wine vinegar is a great accompaniment. I put the salad on the table and my guests can have it with the eggplant and sausage or as a separate following course.

Can’t talk about Eggplant Parmigiana without debating breadcrumbs. I often fry eggplant coated with breadcrumbs. Those crunchy slices are delicious and can be used in many dishes but I just don’t recommend using a breadcrumb coating in this recipe. You risk crisp and crunchy for soggy, a dangerous detraction from the dish. Mother made it best. She always does.

But I pass on to you the delicious, the dynamic, the perfect left-over, Eggplant Parmigiana.

For the Sauce

Ingredients

2-tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (Ba-Boom)
1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, any peel or stems removed
1 sprig fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1-teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Put a pot over medium-high heat.
Add the olive oil and the garlic
Saute the garlic for about a minute in the hot oil
Add the tomatoes, basil and oregano to the pot, stir well
Put the lid ajar on the pot and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens and has reduced by about about a quarter in volume

For the Eggplant

Ingredients

1 large eggplant
2-tablespoons sea salt (to drain the bitter liquid from the eggplant)
1 cup flour for dusting the eggplant
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 pound fresh mozzarella sliced thin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or if using only olive oil, 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons canola or your favorite oil
10 basil leaves, or more as needed

Directions

Remove both ends of the eggplant
Cut the eggplant in about 1-inch slices
Sprinkle salt on both sides of the slices and line them in colander, put it in the sink as the bitter dark liquid drains
Wash the slices well and pat dry.
In a bowl, add the eggs, pecorino, parsley, salt and black pepper and beat well
Put a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil to the pan and bring it to a ripple
Put the flour in a bowl and lightly flour the eggplant slices
Dip the slices in the egg wash and coat well
Fry the eggplant until both sides are golden brown
Remove to a platter lined with paper towel
Continue frying the eggplant and add more oil as needed.

Assembly

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
In a large baking dish, spread some sauce on the bottom
Add a single layer of the fried eggplant slice (save the best slices for the top layer)
Put a dollop of sauce on top of each slice
Rip the basil leaves and add a piece on top of each slice
Liberally sprinkle the grated parmigiano all over
Repeat this process until all the eggplant is layered in the dish
For the top layer add the mozzarella and then sprinkle of grated parmigiana all over
Bake the eggplant for 20-30 minutes or until the top begins to turn golden brown
Serve immediately or at room temperature