Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Breading and Frying Eggplant and Zucchini and other veggies

It took me forever to warm up to zucchini and eggplant and if the truth be told, I am still on the fence about the eggplant. I absolutely cannot stomach Pasta alla Norma. I cannot eat eggplant Parmesan when anyone else makes it. I make it so thin that it over cooks to a crisp...Then it is OK. I have no issues with either in my PSEUDO Caponata, but I generously over season it and under cook the zucchini so it is a bit crisp still and overcook the eggplant so it all but disappears. (Recipe elsewhere...God help us all)
I used to watch Grammie do breaded and fried versions of these, and it would have taken the threat of death to make me eat it. Grammie could have done that, but she didn't ...She must have lost her edge by the time I came along.

Use small vegetables. Even when you are cooking for a crowd, it is just so much better if they are young and small.(the veggies, not the crowd)

Eggplant or zucchini can be cut either as rounds or the long way to suit the recipe. If you will roll these up with ham and cheese or goat cheese, or if you will be layering them in a lasagna, definitely do it the long way. if it is a tidbit or you plan to toss them in pasta or stack them with layers of cheese in between or with a ladle of sauce over them...you might be better off with rounds.

With eggplant....Slice the eggplant and lay into a colander. Once the inside bottom surface is covered with a single layer, sprinkle with salt and add the next layer, sprinkling that as well. Continue till the slices are used up. Put a layer of plastic wrap or waxed paper over it and put a plate and a weight on top. Leave it for an hour or two to drain. Rinse the slices and dry carefully.

With both Veggies

Lay the slices in flour (salt and peppered) to coat. Dip in beaten egg mixed with a little water, then bread crumbs.

Variation 1

Begin with flour, dip in egg with a little water, coat in a mix of bread crumbs and finely grated Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano.(also Ok without cheese)

Variation 2

This produces a heavy crust.
Begin with the flour again, dip in egg with a little water, coat with finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, back into the egg mix, then coat with bread crumbs(Pani Caliatu)

Variation 3

Simply dip the freshly cut vegetables in flour, tap off excess and fry.

Variation 4

Preheat the griddle, frying pan or grill pan and brush with oil.  Grill the vegetables while dousing with a bit of water over and over a couple of minutes apart, to intensify the fond.  About half cooked through, place together with all the rest of the slices in a covered container to continue cooking from residual heat.  They will be soft.  Do this with any hard vegetable and it is especially good with thick slices of onion.  Red onion will be a bizarre color when cooked. 

With all processes, simply fry on medium low heat in olive oil till both sides are browned. I make the slices thin, to crisp up and provide a less fleshy vegetable inside. That suits me best, but Grammie would have made these UP TO a maximum of 1/2inch thick. Make them too thick and they will not cook through by the time the crumbs are brown.
I am going to sound like a broken record here, but I repeat.  Buy plain olive oil, you know the stuff...it is yellowish rather than a vibrant green.  This has a milder taste and has less organic material in the oil.  It will not scorch so quickly.  Also, EVOO is very strong in flavor.  When you want the flavor of the food to be more important that the flavor of the oil, avoid the EVOO.  Also, you will save a ton of money over time by using the less expensive oil, even though you will have the initial expenditure of the gallon of oil.  Do not buy gallons of EVOO unless you are going to use it rather quickly, the flavor of the oil deteriorates very quickly.  When you do buy the EVOO, buy small bottles, and the best you can afford.  Keep out of the light and away from heat sources.

These are great all by themselves. Layer them into lasagna, or put slices of cheese on top or make a sandwich between two slices of vegetable and bake with a dribble of sauce and oil on top.

This would be great made with onions as well.
A platter of these veggies all fried and kept warm in the oven and served with a dipping sauce of vinaigrette or sauce would be wonderful.
How about layering all three veggies with cheese in an individual ramekin or a baking dish and bake till the cheese melts. Top with Marinara. Serve with a cutlet, Involtini or sausage on the side for the meat. A glass of red and a hunk of bread, or make into a sandwich for a lunch in the garden...

Try also with vegetables of any kind:

Just place damp veggies from soaking in lemonwater or just washing, drop into flour to coat, shake off excess. then in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs(try also cornmeal)  Shallow fry till golden.

 You can batter the veggies with just the flour then egg too, or mix some flour and cheese into the egg and dip. Fry.


Mix 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup flour.(self rising is better or add a bit of baking powder if you want, but this would not be traditional) Whisk till smooth. Add an egg. beat till smooth. Dip veggies or flowers in the batter and shallow fry.

Either could use added Parmegiano.

Stuffings for flowers or hollowed baby veggies:

1. A stick of mozzarella and a bit of anchovie

2. Drained ricotta, minced pepperoncino, nutmeg, mint or oregano, Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, lemon zest. Form into a paste about the consistency of frosting.

Stuff, flour, egg, crumbs, fry.  Don't use big pieces of veggie, it may not cook through till after the breading begins to burn.

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