I have to confess that I have a guilty pleasure (ok, maybe more than one but only one that I am owning up to here) – I subscribe to the Italian version of La Cucina Italiana. It costs me four times as much as the cover price as they need to ship it across the ocean to me although I am at a loss as to why it would cost SO much more but so be it, they had me at ‘SUBSCRIBE NOW’. I am like a little kid in a candy store when I see its signature blue packaging in my mailbox. I pour over the issue for days, weeks – drooling over the photos, recipes, ever improving my ‘kitchen Italian’ along the way. The cooking words all seem to be completely unpronouncable – words like ammollare, appoggiatele, amalgametela, ciuffetto, infornatere – but try I might. And many times the words are lost in translation which always leaves me chuckling. I found this unusual way to use up some of the baskets of eggplant that my little garden plants are producing. So I sat down to translate yesterday only to find that I was making ‘Little veal meatballs in wet eggplant’ (hmmm, not very appetizing) It actually translates to ‘stewed eggplant’ – much better. Or then there was the phrase that originally translated to ‘add the half-gnawed eggplant’ – had a real belly laugh at that one (and thankfully my initial translation was wrong!)
I took a bit of poetic (or translated) license with a few bits of this recipe but the idea behind it is intact. Great use of those eggplant – cut in half and throw in the oven to bake until soft. You then add the yummy pulp to the meatball mix and make a stew. Tasty indeed. Happy last days of summer. Enjoy.
Polpettine di vitello in umido di melanzane (Veal meatballs in stewed eggplant)
2 medium eggplants
1 slice stale white bread
Milk in which to soak the bread
1 pound of ground veal (or substitute any ground meat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, diced
1/4 cup of fresh basil, diced
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying the meatballs
1 1/2 cups of white wine (or substitue chicken, beef broth), divided
1 small onion, diced
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
A few leaves of fresh mint, chopped (optional)
1 baking sheet, 1 large saute pan
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the eggplants in half. Score the flesh with a small knife and drizzle with olive oil. Place them cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until flesh is soft, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
2. Soak the slice of bread in a bit of milk. Scoop out the flesh of one half of the eggplants into a large bowl. Remove the bread from the milk. Squeeze out excess milk. Break into small pieces and add to the bowl. Add in the veal, garlic, parsley, basil, parmigiano and egg. Mix together and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (TIP: I usually fry a very teeny tiny piece of the mixture to taste seasonings and adjust if needed.)
3. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Form the meatball mixture into little meatballs. (My mix made about 30 little meatballs.) Do not crowd. You may need to fry in a few batches. Once all meatballs are cooked, place back in pan and add 1 cup of white wine. Allow to simmer for a few minutes until cooked all the way through. Put all meatballs and juices in a large bowl.
4. Heat a few more tablespoons of olive oil in same skillet. Add the diced onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the diced tomatoes and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. In the meantime, scoop out the remaining pulp from the other 3 halves of eggplant. Add to the onion/tomato mixture. Add in the wine and if using, the mint. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Add in more wine or water if mixture becomes too thick.)
5. Add the meatballs back in the pan to reheat. Finish off with additional chopped parsley and basil and serve.
6. Buon appetito!!