Eggplant "Loaf" with Cheese & Mint
I love eggplant and when I saw the beautiful fresh, purple, Sicilian ones at the market on Saturday, I just had to have one! I can never resist- but the thing is, those lovely, round ones always tend to be so large that they are simply too much for a guy to eat on his own! So this evening, I knew there would be no way I could possibly use up the whole thing... which meant only one thing, which was that TWO great meals would be made from it- and that's a good thing!
And this is the first dish I have come up with right here... I hope you like it, as I decided to do something a little different- being the risk-taker that I am! Haha!
But all kidding aside- with classic ingredients like mint, parsley, garlic and nutmeg to season this little eggplant dish- how much of a risk are we actually talking about? Nah- you're right... not that much!
I started off by peeling the half of the eggplant I was going to use and then cutting it into a relatively fine dice. Which is very easy actually- no need to stress over it: just cut the eggplant into thin slices, turn the slices 90° and cut them into strips, turn the strips 90° again and cut across the slices... tada! It's quick and easy- and no, you do not needed any kind of machine or food processor to do it!
I put the diced eggplant into a dry frying pan and turned on the heat- whilst it was warming up I finely dice half an onion and added it to the pan along with a little salt, pepper and a finely chopped clove of garlic. Even without oil, the eggplant and onion WILL start to sweat and soften soon enough- just keep on stirring occasionally and you will be fine!
Whilst the eggplant was cooking away, I finely chopped a handful of both mint and parsley and added these to the pan, seasoned with salt and pepper, stirred it through once and then turned off the heat and set it to one side to cool off whilst I turned on the oven to warm and got busy preparing the batter in which I would bind everything together ready for baking.
For this amount- a regular single portion lasagna-sized dish, I mixed together 2 heaped tablespoons of flour, a half sachet of dried yeast, a little warm milk to blend the flour into a paste and then 1 egg on top of that. I stirred this briskly together until it was nice and smooth and let it also sit for 10 minutes or so, so that the yeast could begin to "do its thing". I am not talking about it rising as much as a bread mixture would, but just long enough for the yeast and gluten to start becoming nicely active, so that the "loaf" would not end up being too dense.
After 10-15 minutes, the batter was ready and the eggplant was cool enough to add to it, without there being any danger of it curdling. I then seasoned it with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a hint of cayenne and then added a nice handful of coarsely grated Parmesan. I added a finely chopped sun-dried tomato... basically just for the hell of it- but it seemed like a good idea at the time... and it did end up tasting amazing in it too!
I poured the mixture into a lightly greased baking dish, added a little extra cheese on top and then popped it into a hot oven of say, 350°F for around 25-30 minutes and then a final 2-3 minutes under the broiler to get the cheese nice and crusty... and very, very yummy!
To tell you that this smelled phenomenal is NOT an exaggeration- the minty and cheesy wonder of it all is something you are bound to love! I served mine up with a couple of cherry tomatoes, which go wonderfully with the mint and eggplant as they add a fruity, juiciness which brings the whole thing to life!
I am going to claim that this will taste equally yummy either hot or cold... but you know me! I had this all polished off before it even had a chance to cool off a little! And if you make it yourselves someday, you will smell it and you will know why! Enjoy!