Happy New Year everyone! I have made no resolutions, and I’d like to keep it that way. That said, I have made a promise to myself to do more cooking, and even though that sounds like a resolution, I just know that I have never kept a resolution, but I damn sure have kept a promise. Yep…things are getting deep over here.
Anyway, I came across this amazing cookbook by Greek chef Diane Kochilas called “Ikaria: Lessons on food, life and longevity from the Greek island where people forget to die”.
Perhaps the title will throw you off (and make you laugh), but the book is really well written, with beautiful photography too. If you have ever been to Ikaria, the small island in Greece, you would understand the theme behind this book. I have been there once a few years ago, and it was hands DOWN some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.
I picked a tomato out of a garden and ate it like a peach.
The “chefs” in most restaurants were 90-something year old Yia-Yia’s who made EVERYTHING from scratch.
The wine is homemade.
I was in love.
So when I saw this book, I had to try out one of the recipes. I am half Greek, after all! So I chose these beautiful little fried eggplants and gave it a shot. It took some finesse to get the cutting and frying right, but it’s definitely doable and the presentation is worth the effort.
Please note that I copied the recipe exactly from the book, but adapted it to my style of recipe writing. I also threw in my own anecdotes here and there…
3 tbsps Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chopped or pureed tomatoes (or 1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes)
Pinch of sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 Japanese eggplants (I couldn’t find these, so I used 3 Italian eggplants. Japanese ones are smaller, thinner, and much easier to handle, so I recommend finding those)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
Olive oil, for frying
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1. Make the sauce. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to soften. Pour in the tomatoes and season with salt & pepper. If the tomatoes are acidic, add the sugar (I did). Simmer uncovered until thick , about 30 minutes.
2. Prepare the eggplants. Keep the stems attached and the eggplants whole. With a sharp knife starting about 1/2 inch below the stem, cut the eggplants lengthwise to get 3 or 4 slices. The eggplant will look a little like a fan. Season the flesh lightly with salt.
3. Make the batter. In a wide bowl, whisk together the flour, water, and a little salt.
4. Batter and fry the eggplants. In a large nonstick skillet, heat about 1 inch of olive oil over medium heat. Press the eggplants into the batter so that both sides of every fanlike slice are covered in batter. Let the excess drip off. Place them, one or two at a time, in the oil. Cook, turning once, until golden brown and soft.
5. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
6. To serve, place on a platter, spoon the tomato sauce on top, and sprinkle with parsley.
7. In my own words…savor the crispy, lightly battered and fried goodness draped in velvety tomato sauce.