It may have been recipes like this one or this OR it could have been the utter BOUNTY of eggplants at the Crocker Galleria Farmers Market (more on this next week) but I managed to steer the Joyce Goldstein recipe selection to the eggplant variety.
During my lunch hour I popped over to the Thursday afternoon Farmers Market in the middle of the Financial District and scored some fantastic long eggplants and a few, true to the name, purple and white ones that look like well…. eggs. I also managed to nab some of the sweetest, seedless Princess grapes on the planet, a handful of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and a monster zucchini!
While I waited for the non-veg items to make it home from the market I got right to work on this:
Yaprakes de Berenjena (Eggplant Rolls with Tomato Sauce)
Pg. 62 from Joyce Golstein’s Sephardic Flavors
Now, I’m one of those cooks that rarely sticks to the recipe on the page. I am all about substitutions. I think this was born out of being a poverty-stricken grad student for so many years. One just can’t always afford all of the required ingredients or the time to get them, now can one? So I will give you the recipe as written – with my changes noted. Sound good? Ok.
For the eggplant:
2 Longish globe eggplants
Olive oil for frying
Peel the eggplants vertically in a striped pattern. Cut in half lengthwise and then cut each half crosswise into slices about 1/3 inch thick.
Pour olive oil to a depth of ½ inch into 1 or 2 large sauté pans and heat over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a small bowl until blended. In batches, slip them into the hot oil. Fry, turning once, until golden on both sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Using tongs or a slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt and let cool.
(Right here I’d love to show you a photo of my mile high stack of golden-fried eggplants, but alas, my camera’s battery died right after I shot the veggies! I put it on the charger and got just enough juice to shoot the results)
For the tomato sauce:
8 Ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (here I used one large can of San Marzano tomatoes- the ones from the market were mealy)
2 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
Pinch of cinnamon (I used pumpkin pie spice- because I love nutmeg too)
1 Ripe tomato, sliced
Combine the tomatoes, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and form a sauce, about 15 minutes. Stir in the olive oil and cinnamon. You will want 2 ½ to 3 cups of tomato sauce.
While the sauce boils away and the eggplant is cooling, make the meatballs.
For the meatballs:
½ pound ground beef, not too lean
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs (I used about 1/8 cup Matzo meal crumbs – we had it, I’m not gonna waste it)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 small onion
Combine the meat, bread crumbs, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and form into walnut-sized balls, making them slightly oval.
Take 1 meatball at the bottom of each slice of eggplant and roll up. Place the eggplant rolls, seam side down, in a wide sauté pan. Cover with the tomato sauce and then with the tomato slices. Place over very low heat, cover and simmer until the filling is cooked, 20-30 minutes.
Here is my steaming sauté pan of Sephardic goodness!
Top with 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts and serve hot.
TA DAH! Nice huh?
This was declared to be a, and I quote “BIG HIT” from the resident Jew… although she claimed that it needed cheese (umm so not Kosher). The “serve hot” bit of the recipe… I say hold off for a few minutes actually. I burnt the living daylights out of my mouth! There is no skin left on the roof of my mouth ……yummy. While I am skinless, it was very much worth it! This dish was surprisingly easy, and so so tasty. I think this might just be that new 'company’s coming let me ‘whip something up’ dish' in my arsenal. I highly recommend the pumpkin pie spice—it is just fan-tab-ulous.