My kids are a bunch of carnivores. They come to the table each meal with the refrain, “what’s the meat?” Growing up in India, meat was a treat. It was never the main meal. We bought meat fresh from the butcher and no more than what we needed for that day’s meal. Imagine my horror when I stepped into an American grocery store for the first time! There were slabs of meat that could have fed a family of six, yet it was a single serving size. Chicken breasts didn’t look like they came from ordinary chickens. They were at least a size DD. It was the stuff of nightmares. It put me off meat for a long time. When my kids arrived, I fell into the bad habit of giving them meat everyday, because every book on parenting pushed the protein message. I guess, I have myself to blame for the progression of their meat mania.
One day, just like that, I went on strike and refused to cook the stuff unless they ate their veggies as well. It didn’t work. Either I suck as a negotiator or they are champions at calling my bluff. So, I began adding veggies into everything. When properly camoflouged, anything from eggplant to okra can taste like meat. Eggplant is particularly versatile. It doesn’t contain egg, so it’s a misnomer. Eggplant comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common are the huge, bulbous ones that sell real cheap. Chinese and Indian grocery stores sell the long, slim, pale purple variety and the small round variety. They vary in flavor and texture. The most important thing when choosing eggplant is to make sure the vegetable is firm and not bruised. The medium-sized eggplant work best because they are less likely to contain mature seeds inside. Mature seeds are nasty. They get stuck in teeth and are hard to get out even with a toothpick.
The eggplant recipe below is easy. The mixture can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for up to three hours in an airtight container. They also reheat very well either in a microwave oven or in a conventional oven.
You will need:
1 eggplant (the bulbous type)
1 medium onion in skin
1/4 tsp powdered garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (substitute with gram flour or coconut flour)
salt to taste
1/2 tsp curry powder (substitute with one tsp finely chopped green chili)
1 egg lightly beaten
1/3 cup bread crumbs (homemade or store-bought)
Place whole, uncooked eggplant and the onion on a baking tray and bake uncovered at 350 degrees until soft (approx. 1 hour) . Cool. Peel eggplant and onion. Cut the eggplant into quarters and squeeze to remove excess liquid . Chop the flesh of the eggplant and chop up the onion. Combine these in a large bowl with the beaten egg, salt, cilantro, garlic powder, curry powder, flour, bread crumbs and cheese. blend. Spoon the equivalent of one tablespoon of the mixture into a pan and fry until crisp and brown. Drain on paper towel. Serve with rice, toasted pita bread or with spaghetti noodles.
NOTE 1: These patties make a great substitute for chicken parmesan. They also make great burger patties.
NOTE 2: Coconut flour will change the flavor quite a bit. Coconut complements eggplant but it is a cholesterol-heavy food. So use with caution. Gram flour is also known as garbanzo bean flour. Using this flour will give the mixture a more nutty flavor. You will need to load up of the salt if you use this flour.