Another recipe that should not compete for looks, but gets high grades in the taste department… So easy to put together that it almost qualifies for my Incredibly Simple category. I used store-bought hummus. We like Sabra brand but any brand will likely work. Of course, you can make your own for added bliss.
1 medium eggplant, cut vertically in 1/2 inch slices 1/3 cup olive oil juice of 1/2 lemon salt and pepper to taste hummus (I used Sabra traditional) 6 sheets of phyllo dough (3 per roll) olive oil spray
Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush that mixture on the eggplant slices and use a grill pan to lightly cook it, no more than a couple of minutes per side. You can use an outside grill, but don’t let the eggplant overcook and get mushy. Let the slices cool before proceeding with the recipe.
Lay one sheet of phyllo on the surface, spray olive oil lightly. Lay two more sheets on top, spraying olive oil each time. Lay two slices of eggplant overlapping (as shown in the picture after the recipe). Spread some hummus on top. Fold the phyllo over the eggplant, forming a long strip that totally encloses the eggplant. Gently roll. Place on a roasting pan and bake for 35 minutes at 375F.
Comments: The main thing to keep in mind is that the eggplant will cook in the rolls for 35 minutes, so make sure not to overcook it in the first step, and do not cut it too thin. Phil wants to have a variation with eggplant and mushrooms together, so I will definitely try that soon, but I already leave the idea for you. I also think adding a couple of thin slices of roasted red bell pepper would be delicious.
Am I breaking my own rule of never ever stating that a recipe is the best ever? Apologies for the convoluted phrase. But to answer my own question, no I am not. Because I was NOT the one who chose the name. It was published as such in Saveur magazine. You can read the interesting article clicking here. My beloved husband found it, showed it to me and said “we should probably give it a try.” Even though we alternate cooking dinner – one day he cooks, next day I do – he thinks I should be the one venturing in new territories. Which is totally fine with me. The problem with this recipe is that it will have you fry countless slices of breaded eggplant. It seemed like an ordeal and with a high chance of disappointment in the end: a heavy portion of greasy eggplant loaded with cheese. But after reading the article, I decided to humor the husband and give it a go. I tell you one thing: I was wrong. This was one OUTSTANDING eggplant parmigiana, and worth all the work.
For the sauce: 2 (28-oz.) cans plum tomatoes with their juices 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 6 large garlic cloves, peeled (I used finely minced celery in its place) Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
For the eggplant: 3 large eggs Kosher salt 1¼ cups dried plain fine bread crumbs 1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning, or equal parts dried basil, dried rosemary, and dried oregano 3 medium eggplants (about 3 lb. total), mostly peeled except for a few strips of skin, sliced into thin rounds slightly thinner than ¼ in. About 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1½ cups (about 10½ oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese (not fresh) 3 Tbsp. finely grated Pecorino Romano
Make the sauce: In a blender, pulse the tomatoes and their juices until just slightly chunky. In a pot over medium-low heat, add the oil and garlic (or celery), and cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes. Pour in the puréed tomato mixture and season with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened slightly, at least 1 to 1½ hours. The sauce can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Bread the eggplant: In a wide shallow bowl, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon water. Season with a generous pinch of salt. In a second baking dish or bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Working with one or two at a time, dredge the eggplant slices in the egg wash and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Transfer to the bread crumbs and coat very lightly on each side. Line a large baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels and set by the stove. In a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, heat ½ cup oil until shimmering. Turn the heat down to medium and add some eggplant slices in a single layer until the skillet is full. Cook, turning once, until well browned on each side, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, working in batches as needed and adding a little more oil every other batch, or as needed.
Heat the oven to 400F.
In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, ladle ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sauce into the bottom. Cover the sauce with a single layer of eggplant (start with the thickest ones on the bottom and save the prettiest slices for the top). Ladle another ½ cup sauce on top, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle with about 1⁄3 cup plus 2 tablespoons mozzarella and 1 tablespoon Pecorino. Add another layer of eggplant and repeat this process until you’ve reached the final layer of eggplant. Top this layer only with ½ cup sauce, a final thin layer of mozzarella, and some Pecorino. (Reserve any remaining sauce for another use.) At this point, the eggplant parmigiana can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 day.
Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and bronzed in places and the sauce is bubbling around the edges, about 20 minutes (add about 10 minutes if your dish was previously assembled and chilled). Remove and let cool slightly. Slice into squares and serve warm.
Comments: I am normally a lot more lax when I follow a recipe, and don’t worry about careful measurements (unless it is baking). But in this particular case I decided to follow it to a T and measured every component. Once the baking dish was fully assembled with the eggplant, sauce and cheese, I was quite skeptical about the outcome, because it did not look luscious enough. But I have to agree, when you follow the recommended amounts of sauce and cheese, and deal with the eggplant slices exactly as advised, the final dish is pretty amazing. The taste of the eggplant comes through without being “suffocated” by sauce and cheese. It is satisfying but not heavy. We are still talking about how good it was. Added bonus: leftovers kept frozen for a week tasted almost better with a slow defrost in the fridge and a brief warming in a low oven…
If you have a vegetarian friend to entertain, look no further. The main dish of your menu is decided!
The abuse of culinary terms is alive and well in the Bewitching Kitchen. Raita with no cucumber? Yes, I am afraid so. Let’s call it raita-ish. At any rate, this is delicious. I used the air-fryer to prepare the eggplant, which is fast and furious. But not overly furious. If you don’t have an air-fryer, just roast the eggplant in the oven until it softens into submission. Inspiration came from Nik Sharma’s The Flavor Equation.
1 large eggplant 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil kosher salt 1 Serrano pepper, de-seeded, minced 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro 2 Tbsp chopped mint 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (adjust according to your preference) 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds 1/2 tsp Nigella seeds 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Brush the cut surfaces with the olive oil and arrange them in the air-fryer, cut side up. Air-fry until golden brown and soft, about 25 minutes at 390F (or the highest temperature of your fryer). Remove from the heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let cool completely.
Remove the flesh, place in a bowl and season lightly with salt. Add the Serrano pepper, cilantro, mint, and black pepper. Add the yogurt and lemon juice, and whisk well to combine. If you want it fully smooth, use an immersion blender, but I prefer to have some texture so I just used a spoon. Adjust seasoning with salt.
Make the toasted spices: heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard and Nigella seeds and fry for 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from the heat. Add the Aleppo pepper and gently mix. Pour the hot oil with the spices over the raita and serve.
Comments: I really love the book The Flavor Equation (Nik Sharma) but this particular recipe, as written, would not work well for my goals. It would make a very loose dip, with a much higher proportion of yogurt, and that’s not exactly what I had in mind. I wanted to enjoy it more as a veggie side-dish to go along a turkey meatloaf (already in the blog and in constant rotation in our kitchen), so I adapted it, as well as a few other minor changes. It ended up working also as a dip, perfect with Ak-Mak crackers.
Two side dishes, tomatoes and eggplant, from our garden to the blog, thanks to the efforts of my beloved husband, who is turning out like a pro in all things backyard – new lawn (Zoysia), ornamental grasses, flowers, veggies, he’s done it all this year!
TOMATO “PONZU” SALAD (from the Bewitching Kitchen)
for the dressing: 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil juice from 1 blood orange, strained (or regular orange) 2 tsp lime juice 2 tbsp soy sauce tomatoes, any kind you like fresh dill flake salt
Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and whisk well.
Place the tomatoes in a serving bowl, preferably in a single layer, and pour the dressing over the top. Leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then sprinkle dill and salt, and serve.
Comments: Use the best tomatoes you can find, and you will be totally blown away by this simple way to serve them. Ours were so juicy and flavorful! Truly spectacular, a great year for tomatoes in Kansas.
AIR-FRIED EGGPLANT WITH BUTTERMILK-ZA’ATAR SAUCE (from the Bewitching Kitchen)
NO AIR-FRYER? No problem: bake in 400F oven and increase time
1 large eggplant 1/4 cup olive oil juice of 1/2 lemon salt and pepper to taste
for the sauce: 1/3 cup buttermilk 1/4 cup yogurt, full-fat 1/2 tsp za’atar olive oil to drizzle
Whisk the oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score the surface with a very sharp knife in a diamond pattern. Brush the oil mixture on the surface. Place the eggplant, cut side up, in the air-fryer.
Air-fry at the highest temperature (mine is 390F) for about 20 minutes, until golden and cooked through.
As the eggplant fries, make the sauce by mixing all ingredients except the olive oil. Top eggplant with the sauce, add a little more za’atar, and serve.
Comments: I should give full credit to my friend Elaine, the Sourdough Queen, who recently got an air-fryer and has been trying all sorts of goodies using it. She raved about eggplants, so I decided to try it myself. She actually air-fryed it whole, and it works great too, so keep that in mind. Our air-fryer is small, one eggplant divided in half barely fits in the beginning, but as it cooks it shrinks a bit. The texture was amazing. I realize the picture with the sauce on top does not look appealing, but you have to once again trust me: the taste was divine! Looks like 2021 will be the year of posting not-so-good-looking pictures in the Bewitching Kitchen. Oh, well… there are worse problems in life.
This recipe was adapted from the cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, by Michael Solomonov. It is very unusual in the sense that you essentially fry the eggplant to the point that it seems ruined. Black. Burned beyond recognition. I made it exactly as described and we enjoyed it quite a bit, however it was a tad oil-heavy, hard to digest. I wanted to re-visit the method using the air-fryer instead. To compensate for the lack of a “smoky” flavor given by the charred component in the original recipe, I seasoned it with smoked paprika. And for our taste, it was even better!
2 medium eggplants, cut into thick rounds
2 tablespoons kosher salt
about 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium shallots, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/8 cup sherry vinegar
chopped fresh parsley to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Sprinkle the eggplant slices with the salt, join the slices as if forming the full eggplant again, and tightly wrap each with plastic film. Liquid will collect inside the package. After 20 minutes or so, open the package and rinse lightly. Blot dry with paper towels. Brush each slice lightly with olive oil and air-fry at 390 F for about 15 minutes, moving the slices around every few minutes.
As the eggplant is air-frying, coat a large non-stick skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sautee the bell pepper, celery and shallots, seasoning with salt, coriander and smoked paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft but not brown, about 12 minutes.
Add the air-fryed eggplant and vinegar to the pan, breaking up the eggplant and mashing it coarsely until well combined. Cook until the vinegar has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and lemon juice.
Comments: In the picture above you see the extent of frying that must be done before proceeding with the recipe. He includes a photo in the book to make sure everyone knows what he’s talking about when he says black. Charred. It does take a while, especially if you have only one large skillet to prepare two eggplants.
I did not take a picture from the air-fryed version, but it looked like the first photo in the composite picture. But it got there with a lot less oil, I only lightly brushed the slices once and that was it. Overall, a delicious side dish, that is good right after prepared, but also wonderful next day, enjoyed cold or gently re-heated.
Before I leave you, let me tell you that this trick of wrapping the eggplant tightly in plastic to release the bitter liquid was a tip I sent many years ago to Fine Cooking magazine, back when they had a contest for readers, I think it was called tip of the month. I won and got some nice gadgets, including the salad spinner I still own! Anyway, it’s a nice method. Not only you don’t need to spread the eggplant in a large area and find ways to weigh it down, but wrapping it is less messy and somehow makes the liquid come out faster. If you have to work with several eggplants, they can just sit side by side over your countertop. Piece of cake!