Okay, so sitting here waiting for the rain to really hit isn’t much fun. Getting ready for the inland effects of a hurricane, not much fun either. However, there’s always at least a bit of an upside to everything.
Be working on getting vulnerable foodstuff out of the refrigerator in case the power goes and there was this darned eggplant I saw in the store the other day and just had to have. I had planned on stuffing it with a mixture of imitation “krab” and shrimp dressing but decided the oven would just heat up the house too much. So, I put on my thinking/remembering hat and decided to fry it. That made sense since I also had some tomatoes I needed to use up that would do for a marinara dipping sauce.
When I’m in a situation when I don’t know when I will have time to cook, sleep or eat, I tend to make simple things that are filling and provide protein but can be eaten as multiple snacks through the day rather than a sit-down meal. I was thinking about the way my Great Grandmother fried her eggplant (delicious and a treasured family recipe) but decided it would take too long. Instead, I went with my Mom’s version where she would fry the eggplant pieces in a modified pancake batter.
We always peeled the eggplants when I was growing up unless we were baking them and using the skin as a throw-away shell. Nowadays, that’s not necessary as the eggplants are harvested younger and haven’t gotten that bitter taste to the skin. So here’s what I did:
- Rinse the eggplant and cut into 1/2 in slices on the width, not the length. Stack those slices so that they end up with the cut side down so they don’t turn brown.
- Mix up your favorite pancake batter but omit any sugar and add garlic and onion powder instead. You can vary the seasoning however you wish. Some Paprika, some red or black pepper, your favorite seasoning mix (Penzy’s has a pizza seasoning that is wonderful with this. I just happened to be out of it tonight.)
- Put oil in a pot deep enough so that the eggplant pieces will float in it and put on medium-high heat.
- While the oil is heating, slice the eggplant pieces again so that they are essentially a “French fry” shape.
- Once the oil is hot (I usually put in a drop of water to see if it dances), put a few pieces of the eggplant into the batter and move them around so that they are covered in the batter. (Yes, you can use a fork for this, but I use my fingers and wash my hands a lot:)
- Now add a few pieces of the eggplant into the oil. They’ll float to the top and start browning. Move them around a bit or flip them over so that they get a nice dark golden color all over, then remove from the oil and let drain on paper towels.
While all that was happening, I ran my tomatoes through the blender and added some basil (3 different types), some chopped onion, some mushroom powder (I dehydrate slices of mushroom to make my own), and some chopped bell pepper. I heated that to boiling in a large pot (it might splatter if you don’t use a large pot, making a mess to clean up), added a bit of garlic powder, salt, pepper and a couple of bay leaves. Once it started boiling I put on the lid and turned down the heat to let it simmer. By the time the eggplant pieces are done, I’ve got a dipping sauce. Just put some in a small bowl and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. The sauce is really better if you make it first and let it simmer a good long time, but I was winging it tonight instead of planning.
Now, I’m all set to sit back and catch a bit of TV while I nibble. Leftovers might become eggplant parmesan tomorrow:)
By the way, this same “pancake batter” concoction also works for many other things. I’ve used it for whole mushrooms, onion rings, shrimp, crawfish, raw green beans, pickles, banana pieces and tonight I even tried a test on a tomatillo….forget that one! Just be sure to adjust the seasonings to go with the foodstuffs you dipping into the batter. Make the batter a bit thicker (you’ll have to experiment a bit) and you can even fry up small pieces of cheese, jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese, or small pieces of hotdog for mini corn dogs without the corn:) Or, simple adjust seasonings, toss stuff in it and make fritters. Apple fritters or grated carrot and zucchini fritters. Chopped green tomatoes make great fritters.
And, if you want something great with soup or stew, make your pancake batter but use about half cornmeal in place of the flour. Then toss in some chopped onions, green peppers, tomatoes (ripe or green), and some whole kernel corn.
Eating all that fried food is certainly not good all the time, but now and then, a trip a trip down culinary memory lane is fun and just plain makes ya feel good.
Happy nibbling ya’ll.