On Thursday, I picked up the first of my Fall/Winter CSA baskets. It was filled with gorgeous, local, organic items such as arugula, basil, red radishes, green beans, green peppers, spaghetti squash... and one huge eggplant! Now what?
I had a ton of black cherry and red cherry tomatoes on my counter, along with a couple of Lemon Boys. There were Cubanelle and Jalapeno peppers in the garden as well. And some onion, too. Salsa it is! But how do salsa and eggplant go together?
Eggplant tacos were born in our home today. I know, other people have done eggplant tacos. But these are a new favorite in our house. Crunchy, oven-fried slices in taco shells with veg. Oh my.
To prepare the eggplant for cooking, I sliced it into large rounds and then half moons. I then placed the slices on a rack in the sink, sprinkled both sides generously with kosher salt, and left them to weep for 20 minutes. This process allows the excess liquid from the eggplant to escape, and reduces the bitter flavor sometimes associated with eggplant.
When the weeping process was complete, I rinsed each slice well under cool running water, then pat it dry with paper towels. Now my breading station... The first bowl had unbleached all-purpose flour, the second contained beaten local eggs, the third was filled with the secret ingredient: crispy Panko breadcrumbs spiked with cumin, chili powder, black pepper, and a dash each of salt and cayenne pepper.
Each slice of eggplant was dredged in the flour and the excess was tapped off. Into the egg on both sides, then into the Panko mixture. The breaded eggplant slices were placed on a cookie sheet lined with non-stick foil, which is my favorite kitchen invention ever.
Then into a 435-degree oven for 10 - 12 minutes. The pan was pulled out, the eggplant slices flipped over, and put back in the oven for another 10 - 12 minutes, until golden brown on both sides.
So, we warmed up some white corn taco shells, placed a perfectly-sized, oven-fried, half-moon eggplant slice in each shell, added Vermont white cheddar, shredded lettuce, and salsa fresca.
I wanted more. I really did. But I'd already eaten too many tacos and my tummy hurt. Maybe I'll find more ripe eggplant globes tucked under the leaves of the plants tomorrow morning...