Now that I’ve converted Jason into an eggplant eater, I’ve been playing around with eggplant recipes. This one is a variation on a dish my Mom used to make in Moscow when I was little. With all the garlic and herbs, it feels more like a Georgian or Armenian dish. I am not sure of its origins, but maybe my Mom will chime in with a comment about where she got this recipe. I haven’t had this dish since we left Russia 15 years ago, and although I improvised a bit, it brought back some great childhood memories. In Russia, we used very aromatic sunflower seed oil for cooking. You can find it at Whole Foods, or you can go to a Russian store and buy a bottle that’s cheap and excellent. But feel free to substitute it with olive or canola oil (olive oil is a better substitute in the stuffing and canola is a better substitute for frying the eggplant).
Note: this dish is better made the day before to let the flavors mingle, so plan accordingly.
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
4 Tbsp sunflower seed or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/4 Lb carrots (about 5 large), peeled and shredded
3 garlic cloves, mashed with a pinch of salt
1/2 cup parsley and/or cilantro
Salt to taste
For the eggplant:
1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise ¼ inch thick
Sunflower seed or canola oil for frying
Make the Stuffing:
- Set a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add 2 Tbsp of oil, onions, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook stirring occasionally until onions are tender and start to brown, about 15 minutes.
- Add 2 more Tbsp of oil, carrots, and salt to taste. Turn up the heat to medium. Cook stirring occasionally until carrots are tender and start to brown, about 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook until the mixture is sweet and very flavorful, 5-10 minutes.
- Stir in garlic and parsley or cilantro. Taste and correct seasoning.
- While stuffing is cooking, sprinkle eggplant generously with salt on both sides and lay out on paper towels for 15 minutes. It will release a lot of liquid resulting in better consistency after frying.
- Dry both sides of the eggplant well with paper towels right before frying.
- Set a large heavy skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot, add enough oil to make 1/8 inch layer. Make sure your eggplant is dry. Place as many eggplant slices as will fit into the skillet in one layer. Fry until golden brown, 2-4 minutes. Flip and fry on the other side adding more oil as necessary to help the eggplant brown.
- Repeat with remaining eggplant adding more oil between batches and after the flip. Be generous with the oil, or the eggplant won’t caramelize properly.
- As eggplant slices are done, remove them to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the oil. You can stack the slices up as long as you layer paper towels between them.
- Cool the eggplant and stuffing until you can handle them comfortably.
- Sprinkle the eggplant slices with a pinch of salt and pepper (go easy here since the eggplant is somewhat salted already). Why are you adding more salt? Because most of the salt you sprinkled on the eggplant before frying leaked out with the liquid the eggplant released.
- Spoon about 2 Tbsp of stuffing onto an eggplant slice. Spread the stuffing out to cover the whole slice, and roll it up from the thin end to the thick end. Repeat with remaining slices.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving or if you are as impatient as I am, you’ll eat it cold and still love it.