Monday, October 7, 2013

Eggplant disguised as a Meatball

Eggplant has a tough time.  It seems that people either love it or hate it.  I'd put myself in the "love it" camp, but I must admit, I've had my "hate it" eggplant days too. For instance, I can't deal with baba ganoush.  At. All.  I've tried it numerous times over a period of years. I mean, the name just sounds so fun, you'd think anyone would love it. But, for me, no.  And there are other eggplant preparations that I can't deal with.  After a semester in France, I can tell you unequivocally that I loathe ratatouille.  (Loathe: v. hate, detest, abhor, abominate.) It was even hard for me to sit through the animated movie with my daughter because of my ratatouille flashbacks.  (Live a semester with a French family whose regular repertoire is ratatouille, cous cous, pretty much raw hamburger steaks, celery salad and scrambled eggs with french fries, and you might begin to understand...) Yeah, no "French cuisine" in the average household over there, that's for damn sure!

Having said all that, let's move on, shall we? I grew up loving eggplant.  My dad always planted a huge garden since we lived on acreage. My mom found all kinds of cool ways to introduce us to our own backyard bounty so that we never got bored.  But, when it comes to eggplant, the best is simple, thin-sliced eggplant fried nice and crispy.  Now, as we all know, the late 80's began the Anti-fried movement in America.  If you read me often, you know my thoughts on frying properly and frying in the old fashioned, non-healthy-on-any-level way. Using good oil, a heavy cast iron skillet and the right heat yields a good crispy eggplant (or zucchini, squash, pickles, shrimp, etc.)  Yet, I think all of us kids of the 80's were effectively shamed into denying our love of fried food so that none of us cook it often.  That's ok though, because when we do, it's more special.  

So, anyway...seriously, my mind is really wandering but what can I say?

The point of all this is that I tried out a new eggplant dish that I want to pass on to you guys.  I've been reading it over and over again for months.  The curiosity was tickling my imagination but the possibility of the rest of the family not digging it was holding me back. My last Brown Box Veggies box contained two big beautiful eggplants, so I decided the time had finally come to give it a whirl. EGGPLANT BALLS

Just going into the oven

 Wow!  Who is Aunt Mary and what made her think up this recipe?  Well, no matter, she's a damn genius and that's all we need to know.  Y'all, this dish was ridiculously easy to prepare, was "meaty" and filling yet lighter than meat and so packed with flavor.  We took the suggestion of serving with spaghetti and red sauce. I added the "Mullaney salad" and a fresh baguette on the side. 

My husband, like most men, appreciates meat.  But, he had no complaints with this dish.  In fact, before he finished his first helping, he said to me, "Good meal, babe."  And, coming from a not-so-crazy-about-eggplant guy, this is significant!

Vegetarian or not, you'll enjoy this dish.  I love the idea of using the mixture for a "burger" or a "fritter" too.  We had the "meatballs" over spaghetti with a red sauce which I think complemented the eggplant and Parmesan perfectly.  One thought I had as I was eating this dish was "what if I added some grated zucchini to this?"  I think that sounds like a good plan, just to ramp up the vegetable value...stay tuned. 

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