The growing season comes to an end and late summer vegetables like eggplant, squashes and peppers are growing weaker on the vine here in North Florida. This is the grand finale.
Typically, I feel motivated to put the bounty of late season eggplants to good use by making an Eggplant Parmigiana. I make a pretty good classic Parmigiana. I am not sure where I learned to make a decent parmigiana, but somewhere along the way, I was influenced, and I am grateful.
A friend gifted me an abundance of late summer vegetables, and I was determined not to allow any of these vegetables to die a slow death in my refrigerator. With a burst of energy I came out of the gate and prepared an enormous pot of chili utilizing fresh roasted garden poblanos…. delicious. The pot lasted for days!
My last tackle was the gorgeous dark purple eggplants. What an underappreciated vegetable in American culture… sad, sad.
Perusing my new favorite cookbook, Flavor by Ottolenghi, there on page 156 was my inspiration, a recipe for “Eggplant Dumplings Alla Parmigiana. It tastes like the classic Italian dish but in a dumpling form, and truth be told, its lighter and more flavorful. The dish is not more time consuming than the classic dish, just a little different.
I am tossing out the classic way I prepare Eggplant Parmigiana. This is my new way! Now to embark on making this dish my own.
Eggplant Dumplings Parmigiana
1 1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs (preferably sourdough 2-3 slices)
4 eggplants, roughly cut into one-inch cubes
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons, olive oil
salt and black pepper
6 tablespoons ricotta cheese (good quality)
2 1/2 ounces Parmesan finely grated, plus more for serving
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
6 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cups basil leaves, roughly chopped
28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (blitzed until smooth)
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons super fine sugar
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
3/4 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 2/3 cups water
1/3 cup pitted, Kalamata olives, roughly cut in half
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the breadcrumbs on a second baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and dried out. Set aside to cool. Increase oven temperature to 450F.
On the prepared baking sheet, toss the eggplants with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Spread out as much as possible and bake for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until golden brown.
Roughly chop the eggplants into a chunky mash, then transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until cool. Once cool, add the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, egg, egg yolk, flour, breadcrumbs, one-third of the garlic, 1/2 cup of the basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix well, then with lightly oiled hands, shape the mixture into sixteen golf ball-size dumplings, about 2-ounces each, compressing them as you go so they hold together.
Put 2 tablespoons olive oil not a large non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat. Add half the dumplings and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning them until golden brown all over. Adjust the heat if they are browning too much. Transfer to a plate. Add another 1 tablespoon olive oil and fry remaining dumplings in the same way. Set aside.
Preheat oven too 400F. Put the two remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add the remains garlic and cook for one minute until fragrant, then add the blitzed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, Chile flakes, paprika, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Pour in the water, bring to a simmer; then decrease the heat to medium and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Pour the sauce into a medium baking dish, top with dumplings, and bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the oven, then scatter with olives, remaining basil, and a grating of Parmesan and serve.