We grow Traviata and Galine eggplant, bell-shaped Italian varieties that start slowly and take much of the growing season to ripen. We harvest the bulk of them in a rush before the first hard frost, filling boxes with glossy purple fruit that needs to be preserved quickly. This can be a little bit tricky. We like fast, unfussy approaches to getting food ready for storage and ready to eat. And, of course, the result must be delicious!
After some experimentation, I came up with this recipe for spicy eggplant patties, with the taste and feel of falafel. They freeze well and, in a few minutes in the toaster, heat up into a perfect, cold-weather meal to serve with a side of yogurt.
This recipe makes about 36 patties.
4 ½ lbs of eggplant
6 cloves of finely chopped garlic (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
4 medium or 3 large eggs
2 cups of bread crumbs
1 teaspoon baking soda
Olive oil for frying
Roast the eggplants in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, until they are shriveled and soft. Let them cool, and remove the stems and skin. There should be about 4 pounds remaining. Chop them roughly.
I use two large iron frying pans to cook the eggplant. Generously film the pans with olive oil and heat the oil over medium heat. Put half of the garlic into each pan and let it get slightly golden. Put half of the eggplant into each pan and cook it for about a half hour, stirring and scraping up the browning parts on the bottom. The eggplant should turn into a soft, darker, more homogeneous mush. Put both batches of the cooked eggplant into a large bowl.
Add the cumin, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne to the eggplant and adjust the seasoning. Once you have a taste you like, add the eggs, the breadcrumbs, and the baking soda and mix it up well. The mixture should be moist but not wet. If it’s too wet, add a little more of the breadcrumbs, and if it seems too dry add another egg.
Generously film pans with olive oil for frying and heat over medium heat. Make golf ball-sized balls and flatten them slightly, to about 3/4 inch. Fry the balls for about two minutes on each side – I do about 3 in a pan at a time. They should be a deep golden brown. Watch them carefully since they burn easily!
To freeze them, line baking sheets with parchment and put the cooked patties on the sheet. Pop the sheets into the freezer when they are full, and let the patties freeze solid. The patties can then be tossed into a bag or other convenient storage. Reheat for about 12 minutes at 325 degrees, and serve with flake salt and something cool and creamy.