I am so tired of hearing people say they hate eggplant. Children, particularly, seem hard pressed to even try it. Maybe it’s the name. I don’t think the inclusion of “egg” does it any favors, especially where kids are concerned. I think many cooks are also intimidated by the spongy texture of this vegetable when uncooked; after all, once you peel it, an uncooked eggplant sort of looks like a big white loafy mass. It can also turn into a soggy mess if it’s not cooked correctly. So when people say they don’t like the taste, I figure they’ve just had a bad experience with it.
Even so, when my nieces were visiting recently and they said they didn’t like eggplant, I was surprised. I thought that my mother, who is the queen of eggplant, would have made them converts to its flavors by now. But after a little questioning, I found out that what they really didn’t like was the texture of unbreaded eggplant. Although my mother is famous for her Eggplant Parmesan, her method of cooking this dish is to fry the eggplant in olive oil without breading, so the texture is smooth and the flavor a bit acidic. But hating a vegetable because you don’t like one dish seemed silly to me, so I set out to defend the honor of this beloved vegetable by finding a recipe they would love.
Luckily my mother was also visiting so I had two brains working on this problem instead of just one. When one of my nieces saw my zucchini post on BAB, she said the fried flowers looked good. My mother then remembered that her dad (my grandfather) had loved eggplant dipped in only seasoned flower and egg and then lightly fried in olive oil. I figured this was a great way to make this vegetable more palatable to kids: the simple batter recipe would keep the spices to a minimum while frying would give the slices a nice crunch to negate any potential texture issues.
To make the process more fun, we got the kids involved in the cooking process. They loved blotting the eggplant, cracking eggs, and dipping vegetable pieces into the batter. The adults fried the eggplant, but the kids did almost everything else. Once the eggplant slices were ready to eat, they were quite proud of themselves and excited to try their handiwork.
Both my nieces and daughters loved this dish. We actually had to slice up a second eggplant to make more for the demanding fans. Best of all, everyone also had a great time. The TV was off, the stereo was on, and everyone was actively cooking and eating together. So if your little ones insist they hate eggplant (or if you have an adult in the same boat), I highly recommend getting them involved in the cooking process to try this simple recipe. It’s fun to make and a surefire way to create eggplant lovers in your house.
Simply Breaded and Fried Eggplant
Makes: 4 servings
1 medium-large eggplant
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher or sea salt plus more for sprinkling on the raw eggplant slices when prepping
1. Peel eggplant and then cut it into 1/4-inch thick slices.
2. Lay sheets of paper towel onto a cookie sheet or large colander (I prefer the latter) and lay enough eggplant slices down to cover the surface. Generously sprinkle salt onto the eggplant and then cover with another layer of paper towels. Repeat until you’re out of eggplant
3. Let eggplant slices sit for 30-40 minutes.
4. Heat a frying pan (I like to use a large cast-iron pan, but anything that is not non-stick will work) on medium high. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom with a 1/4-inch of oil.
5. Beat eggs with milk in a large flatish bowl and add 1/2 tsp salt to season it. Then mix the oregano and the other 1/2 tsp salt into the flour on a separate plate.
6. When oil is heated, press paper towels into the eggplant to soak up any extra liquid and then start dipping the eggplant slices into the flour mixture. Shake off an excess oil and then dip into the egg mixture to coat thoroughly.
7. Lay battered eggplant into the pan in batches, being sure not to crowd the pan.
8. Fry each side until golden brown. If the pan starts to get too hot, just lower the heat.
9. Repeat until all eggplant is cooked, adding more olive oil as needed.
10. Serve immediately.