Do you want to know a secret? Eggplant is not a favorite vegetable of mine. There are probably some eggplant fanatics out there who would completely disagree, but hear me out. It's mainly a texture thing. I think I enjoy the flavor just fine, but the spongy, foamy texture of eggplant can be a real turnoff sometimes.
If I don't much care for eggplant, then why in the world would I take the time to cook something with it? That's a very good question.
This summer we've joined a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Millsap Farms. For us this means that every week we get a small box of fresh vegetables and eggs delivered to our house. Fresh veggies and eggs make a huge difference in anything you are going to cook (or bake). If you have the option to join a CSA in your area, I highly recommend it.
Some weeks we receive items that I don't know what to do with. Last week we received a beautiful purple eggplant which I immediately thought, "Oh geez, what am I going to do with that?" But once I realized my main issue with eggplant is the texture, I decided to just try something that altered the texture. These little sub sandwiches are a little twist on the classic dish Eggplant Parmesan. Even if you aren't a big eggplant fan, you should totally give this a try; it might surprise you.
1 cup eggplant (about half the eggplant you see in the above photo)
1 small red onion
4 garlic cloves (you only see two in the photo above because we decided it needed more after tasting)
1 14-ounce can garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro plus more for the tops
1 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)
salt + pepper
1/2 cup flour
oil for frying
You'll also need:
4-5 sub sandwich rolls
1 cup marinara sauce plus more for dipping
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
In a food processor, combine the diced eggplant, red onion, garlic, rinsed beans, cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Puree until the ingredients are just blended.
Once they have hardened from freezing, coat each ball in a thin coat of flour. While you work on this, heat up the oil in a heavy-duty pot. You only need enough oil that the balls can be fully submerged in while cooking.
Once the oil is hot enough (around 350°F), fry each eggplant ball for about a minute, flipping halfway through cooking. Use kitchen tongs to remove them to a bed of paper towels to remove excess grease.
Now you are ready to assemble your subs. Place 3-4 eggplant balls into each sub. Top with marinara and cheese. Bake under the broiler (or just a really hot oven) just until the cheese melts. Top with a little more cilantro.
I'm really glad we joined a CSA this year, as I feel like it's forcing me to be a little more creative with my recipe development. I also loved getting to know the owner while I got to help on the farm one weekend (many CSAs have an option, or requirement, that participants also volunteer on the farm). Oh, and every Thursday night they host a pizza night at their farm. I know! It's so cute. And delicious. My talented friend Katie Day took some pretty photos of one pizza night. Okay, I'll stop rambling. Just make these sandwiches, guys. You're gonna love them. xo. Emma
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited using A Beautiful Mess actions.