This has been a banner year for eggplants in our cold Vermont valley. They flourished during the summer’s early start and periods of hot dry weather.* After several different cooking experiments, I’ve crafted my favorite eggplant recipe. Its simplicity brings out the subtle sweetness and full flavor of our home grown beauties.
*Growing tips are at the end of the post
What you need: Eggplants, olive oil, salt, frying pan, basting brush, spatula
-Slice eggplant into rounds 1/4 inch thick (uniform thickness makes it easier to cook each piece for the perfect amount of time)
-Coat a frying pan with a thin layer of olive oil and bring up to high heat (this is only necessary when starting, and doesn’t need to be repeated in subsequent batches)
-Use a basting brush to coat one side of each eggplant round. Lay oil-side-down onto the hot frying pan. Keep flame at a medium-hot level.
-After 3-5 minutes, use spatula to check under the eggplant rounds for browning (I like mine slightly burnt as if they were grilled). If they look ready to flip, use the basting brush to coat the uncooked faces with olive oil and flip.
-Lower heat a bit if the eggplant is burning before cooking through. You’ll want the insides to reach a high temperature to soften, while cooking the outsides enough to be fried brown.
-Once each side has browned and eggplant seems soft and cooked through, remove from pan and place on a serving platter. Continue to fry batches until all eggplant is cooked.
-Sprinkle salt and/or grate parmesan on top of eggplant platter. Garnish with parsley or basil.
*Growing Eggplants: In the northeast, eggplants may need to be babied to mature fast enough to provide the grower with a decent harvest. It was my Somerville Italian-American neighbors who modeled the strategy I use today: growing in large, preferably black, pots. This allows the soil to heat up and prevents the eggplant roots from rotting if there is too much rain. This strategy helps the eggplants to mature and flower earlier in the season, extending the amount of time they can fruit before the first frost.