At the last of our farmers’ markets in town here, I snagged the last of the eggplants from one of the vendors. They’re small, but I’m a sucker for cute little vegetables.
It seems a waste to dice them up, so I thought I’d do something that retained a hint of their diminutive size.
When I started considering recipes, I peeked at Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking (I will be eternally grateful to her for introducing me to quick pesto, which we eat all the time at my house). Alas, her suggestions for eggplant were few. More troubling was her statement that small eggplants tend to be bitter. How can that be? I cried. When I checked other sources (would you believe that Google filled in the blanks for me with “are small eggplants bitter?”), they strongly disagreed. Sorry, Marcella.
So I decided to try an eggplant-potato tart, mainly because when sliced, the potatoes and the eggplants are just about the same in diameter. Slice them so they will cook at about the same rate.
I will admit that I don’t really like peeling anything. My theory is, if your vegetables/potatoes/fruits are young enough and fresh enough, it won’t matter. Besides, the peels are good for you—roughage, you know. (I would not necessarily say this of big, tough eggplants, but I do eat the skins of my baked potatoes.)
Traditionally recipes call for salting the eggplant to draw out the liquid, lest the dish become soggy when cooked. I’m of two minds about that, but I guess it can’t hurt. Just dry off the slices before you start sautéing, and make sure you don’t oversalt in the next stages.
2-3 cups small eggplant, sliced about ¼” thick (about a pound)
1 tsp coarse saltThe same amount of waxy potatoes (not Idahos), sliced to the same thickness
Cooking oil for the pan
½ stick (1/4 cup) butter
breadcrumbs or panko and/or grated Parmesan cheese for the top
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Slice the eggplant and place in a non-metallic bowl and toss with the salt. Let sit for 20 minutes. Remove to a clean towel or paper towels and blot dry.
Heat about 2 Tblsp oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Briefly sauté the shallots to soften, then add the eggplant slices. Cook for 5-7 minutes, then set aside.
In another, ovenproof sauté pan, add another 2-3 Tblsp of oil and sauté the potato slices until they are soft but not browned. Remove half, then season what’s left in the pan with salt and pepper. Add the eggplant slices in a layer over the potatoes, then return the rest of the potatoes to the pan and season. Press down slightly to level.
Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs (you may mix in some grated Parmesan cheese) or panko, then dot the top with small pieces of butter. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, then begin testing the potatoes to see if they are done (a sharp knife works well).
This can be a main course for a light meal, or a side dish for a larger one (I think it would go well with a roast). If you feel like experimenting, you can add some herbs such as oregano when you’re creating the layers.
Coming November 22nd
No recipes, but lots of food!