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Fried Eggplant with Tomato & Onion

from the earth, into the fryer, into my mouth.

You've seen those adorable mini eggplants right? I love them for this recipe which delivers bite size blasts of flavor that will leave you hovering by the plate and shoveling these in your mouth...or maybe that's just me, well me and my family.

My dad and I picked up these adorable lil' mini eggplants at a picturesque honor-policy roadside farm stand in New Jersey. It was like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting and we grabbed these babies addition to fresh peaches, a watermelon and some glorious Jersey Corn. The compact perfection of the eggplant called to me. I love mini things, I've always felt that the best things really do come in small packages, and that is not just because I am 5'2. Vegetables are always tastier when picked at a smaller size, not a millimeter is spared flavor. Too long on the vine, is a crime!

Fresh is best, says pop's. He is right.

I didn't know what my plan was with these babies, but I quickly formed an idea and I have to say, it was a good one. And the good news is that eggplant season is still swinging, so hit that farmers market and grab a few. This is a great appetizer or passed treat, I served them up on a platter to my lounging pool-side family and they didn't last more then one round.

Just a word to the wise, serve em fast! If they sit too long, they lose that glorious fresh fry lightness that makes this so delish.

Serves 6 - 8

*This is a FAST recipe, but build in an hour to "sweat" your eggplant before you cook it*

What Do I Need?

3 Mini Eggplants

2 Eggs

1/4 Cup Flour

1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs

1/4 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano

1 Cup Roma or San Marzano Tomatoes

1/4 Red Onion

1/4 Cup Basil

1 T Balsamic Glaze (don't use regular balsamic, you need the glaze here as it's density allows it to sit atop of the eggplant, not get sucked into it, adding liquid - the mortal enemy of frying.)

Now What?

Slice Eggplant into 1/4" discs, place in a colander, salt heavily and mix gently. Allow the eggplant to sit in colander in the sink for 1 hour. Rinse well after the hour and set discs out on a towel to dry. A brown type of liquid will bubble up and rinse off when you wash them. My grandmother called this "sweating" the eggplant. It get's rid of that bitter taste and that weird thing that happens when eggplant makes your mouth tingle.

tiny = condensed flavor & power!

Chop your tomatoes, onion and basil, place in bowl and lightly dizzle with olive oil, set aside.

Prepare your breading station with 1 bowl of flour, in another bowl, add the grated parmigianno cheese into the breadcrumbs and mix, in another bowl, crack two eggs and whisk.

Fill a small to medium sized iron skillet (this is the only way I can really fry with great success, an iron skillet hold heat so much better then other pans) with about 1" of vegetable oil. You can use olive, but vegetable oil fry's a bit better and you don't lose a lot of flavor by going with the vegetable oil on this recipe.

When your oil is nice and hot, prepare your breading bowls in a nice assembly line next to the stove. Have a plate with a papertowel on it ready as well,

Dip each slice in flour, then egg and then the breadcrumbs and cheese mixture and place in oil to fry. Fry them until the are golden brown, which should take less then a minute. You should carefully flip them gently with tongs midway through frying to get each side golden. I usually have 4 in the pan at a time. When done, place on the paper-towel covered plate and continue frying. By the end of my frying, I've got a nice paper towel-eggplant tower going on, this absorbs the excess oil!

When you are finished, lay your discs on a large platter and put 1 teaspoon of the tomatoes, basil and onions on top, add salt and pepper , a bit of fresh ground parmigiana and drizzle a balsamic glaze on-top, serve immediately!

I want you, I need you, I love you.

Take Note: This is a great passed dish! Some prosciutto chopped into the tomato mix would really add nice flavor too, but not too much.

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