When I started this blog last summer I thought for sure all my missives were being sent into the ether until I got an email from my neighbor Tova. She asked, ‘What to do with two large eggplants that would be kid friendly?’ Well, I knew the answer to that one, quite simply, eggplant meatballs.
For two weeks during the month of February of my senior year in college I squirreled away in the residence of my boyfriend’s parents’ Long Island home to focus on my thesis. I really wanted the bulk of it done before returning for my second semester and taking 2 weeks to focus on it seemed logical although lonely. While everyone else was at work I sat in my boyfriend’s childhood room, staring at the computer, for 8 hours, writing about and translating Spanish Absurdist theatre. To break up the day I would sneak behind the garage to smoke cigarettes, read a few Tales from the Crypt comics and wait for the humans to return.
Andrew’s Dad was from Greece and his mom Italian American, so dinner was an event. Every Sunday Andrew’s parents would go to Astoria and get the supplies they needed for the week; feta, olive oil, olives, etc. Then Lu, Andrew’s mom, would spend all day Sunday cooking. She would make all sorts of things to carry us through the week; hummus, lentil soup, stuffed grape leaves. These were just the snacks, she would make a full meal every night on top of everything she had prepared on Sunday. I had hit the lottery. Santa Claus is real only he’s not a fat dude from the North Pole, she’s a 5’1” travel agent from Brooklyn and she’s downstairs making baba ghanouj. I gained 7lbs. in 2 weeks.
Lu taught me how to make stuffed grape leaves. Her five ingredient fettucine alfredo is legendary. She also taught me how to make, one of my favorite dishes that she made, eggplant meatballs. She came to the meatless meatball out of necessity, two of her three children were and still are vegetarian and being the negotiator she had to come up with something to bridge the gap. Her recipe was adapted from Dom DeLuise. I lost Lu’s recipe but I have come up with my own version and it has worked quite well for many, many years. Now Lu used to fry these and they are much better fried but for the sake of my heart and my waist line I bake mine. You can use them in anything, on top of spaghetti, in a hoagie, in a pie a la Stanley Tucci or as an appetizer. Our son recently requested their presence on our dining table, so here they are.
Eggplant Meatballs - Makes 1 dozen
1 large eggplant
1/4 cup prepared Italian breadcrumbs
1 large egg
3 garlic cloves - roasted or blanched, minced
kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon basil - chopped
1 tablespoon parsley - chopped
Slice the eggplant in to 1” slices, place in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt and rest for about 20 minutes. Rinse or wipe off the salt and leave to dry on paper towels for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375. Pat the eggplant dry again. Oil a baking sheet and brush the eggplant slices with olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the slices are golden brown and the the interior is soft. Let eggplant cool. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. The batter should be gooey. At this point you could put the batter in the refrigerator for 20 minutes so the it is less runny and easier to work with. Re-oil the baking sheet. Scoop the batter and form into 1” ‘meat’ balls by tossing from hand to hand. The batter is really sticky and I find I must wash my hands a couple times during the ball forming process. Bake for 20 minutes at 375.
Notes: I have also made these vegan using egg substitute. I typically roast or blanch garlic because the sharp flavor does not appeal to my palette.