We The Italians | Italian cuisine: Eggplant Croquettes

Italian cuisine: Eggplant Croquettes

Italian cuisine: Eggplant Croquettes

  • WTI Magazine #165 Jul 24, 2023
  • 1053

When temperatures soar, a few nibbles and a glass of vino are all we need to celebrate the season. Italy’s 20 regions offer such diversity in terms of appetizer recipes that you can sample many of the world’s best flavors simply by taking a bite of a crunchy bruschetta or breaking apart a mozzarella-filled supplì (risotto croquette) to discover a stringy piece of fresh mozzarella oozing from the center.

In Calabria and other southern Italian regions, hosts show their hospitality to guests they are entertaining with dazzling displays of numerous mouthwatering appetizers.

My favorite way to start a meal in the summer is with Polpette di melanzane/Eggplant Croquettes, that are found on most Calabrian tables from May-October and as long as eggplant is in season. For the vegetarians among us, you can also shape these eggplant filled “meatballs” into larger patties for the ultimate Italian-influenced “veggie burger.” Although not traditional, shredded carrots and/or zucchini could also be used in this recipe.

Eggplant was introduced into Sicily in the 9th century when two different North African Muslim Caliphates (the Aghlabids and the Fatimids) ruled. It took a while for Italians to catch on to the flavor potential of the unknown fruit, but once they did, the rest is history. Eggplant gardens provide a huge bumper crop, and nowadays they are used in everything from preserved recipes as appetizers to pasta, risotto, seafood, and even dessert recipes. No matter where you are in the world, summertime is better with beloved Italian recipes like this one.

Recipe from Italian Recipes for Dummies by Amy Riolo.

 

Polpette di melanzane/Eggplant Croquettes

PREP TIME: 10 MIN

COOK TIME: 10 MIN

YIELD: 4 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS

          *        2 slices (about 2 ounces) day-old Italian bread, cubed

          *        1/2 cup milk

          *        1 eggplant, unpeeled, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes

          *        1 3/4 cups plain bread crumbs, divided

          *        1⁄3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

          *        3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

          *        2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped

          *        3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

          *        1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

          *        2 cups Amy Riolo Selections or other good-quality extra virgin olive oil, divided

          *        4 tablespoons Amy Riolo Selections Sundried Red Pesto or your favorite tomato or pesto sauce

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place bread in a small bowl, and cover with milk.
  2. Place eggplant in a large saucepan, cover with water, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Drain well, and place in a mixing bowl with 1 1/4 cups bread crumbs.
  4. Squeeze milk out of bread, and add the bread to the bowl. Stir in cheese, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper, and mix well. Mixture should be thick enough to form balls; if it’s too thin, add more bread crumbs until it holds together.
  5. Pour remaining 1/2 cup bread crumbs into a shallow dish, and form teaspoons of the mixture into 12 equal-size egg shapes.
  6. Roll eggplant in bread crumbs to coat.
  7. Heat the EVOO to 375 degrees in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.
  8. Carefully lower the croquettes into the skillet, leaving spaces between them. Fry until golden, about 2–3 minutes per side.
  9. With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the eggplant balls to a platter or tray lined with paper towels.
  10. To serve, place croquettes on a platter, and drop 1/2 tablespoon of pesto on top of each one.

TIP:

If you’re opposed to deep frying, you can also pan-fry and bake these eggplant croquettes for great results.

Pair this dish with a bottle of Catarratto or similar. An almost forgotten Sicilian vine that is characterized by a typically floral scent with salty hints. In the mouth it is straight, savory, and dry with a delicate stringent note on the finish.