Eggplant and I reluctantly set a date night for this past Wednesday. I say reluctantly because, well, eggplant is like one of those dates you do because you don't have anything better going on and you are tired of sitting around the house watching Friends reruns on Netflix (or Amazon Prime or Hulu). As if this type of gathering out of boredom isn't bad enough, when eggplant is away I find myself frequently reminiscing about our days gone by. I used to be so fond of eggplant. Now, more frequently than not, it just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
One of my friends suggested that I try something different on this date. Instead of going in all guns-a-blazing, salads-a-shooting, hot and heavy, he told me to slow it down, offer to give eggplant a vinegar bath, really clean it up. Then, once she'd been brined and dined, that's when you go for the good stuff. I thought this guy was out of his mind. Eggplant leaves a funky taste in my mouth on its own, why would getting vinegar involved make it any different? The last thing I wanted was an eggplant that tasted like it had been pickled. But I was desperate, so I went for it. And wouldn't you know it. Just taking the time to make a simple like brining bath to soak the eggplant overnight made all the difference in the world. Gone was the bitterness and nasty fights. In it's place was a vegetable completely ready and willing to do whatever you wanted.
Breaded Eggplant (adapted slightly from Lust for Leaf)
For the brine:
-6 cups of water
-3/4 cup of red wine vinegar
-6 tsp. sugar
-2 Tbs. fennel seeds
-2 Tbs. salt
-1 Tbs. honey (or agave)
For the eggplant:
-2 globe eggplants, cut into steaks
-2 egg replacers (I used Bob's Red Mill)
-1 1/2 cups flour
-2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
-oil for frying
For the casserole:
-3 ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly
-1 white onion, sliced thinly
1. Mix the red wine vinegar and the sugar together. In a large, sealable container, combine the remaining brine ingredients. Place the eggplant inside, seal, and soak for a day in the refrigerator.
2. Drain the brine from the eggplant. Allow them to dry.
3. Prepare a batter station. In one large bowl place the all purpose flour. The next one should have the egg replacer. Fill the final bowl with breadcrumbs.
4. Cover the eggplant in flour, dip it into the egg replacer making sure that the entire steak is coated and then put it into the breadcrumbs. Shake it around a bit to complete cover the steak. Remove the breaded eggplant steak and place it on a bowl until all the the other steaks have also been breaded.
5. Heat the frying oil over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet. Make sure the oil is bubbling and hot before beginning the frying process. Drop a couple steaks into the oil (it should sizzle if it is ready to go) and fry on each side until browned (about a minute). Remove the eggplant from the oil and set on a paper towel. Repeat with other steaks until they have all been fried.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Layer the eggplant in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. You want them touching but not overlapping. Place a layer of onions and tomatoes over top. Sprinkle some salt as well. Follow with another layer of breaded eggplant. Top that layer with the remaining tomato, some tomato sauce and the remaining onion. Drizzle some olive oil overtop as well. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for forty minutes. When the veggies are sizzling and hot, remove them from the oven and serve in a sandwich or alongside pasta.