25 September 2012

Eggplant with Basil and Feta

This was originally published at What I Eat on 22 September 2007. We were living in Walnut Creek, California, at the time. Muffin loves the tomato sauce and feta cheese but she’s not a huge eggplant fan. This is still one of my favorite ways to prepare eggplant and Muffin likes to help with the breading. Look for Local Notes at the end of the post to see how I modify the recipe for Hyderabad.

This recipe is inspired by the Crispy Eggplant with Spicy Tomato-Feta Cheese Sauce in the book Vegetarian Cooking for Today. We've modified it quite a bit for our tastes. It's the recipe that convinced Mike several years ago, after we both read Fast Food Nation, that it's not so bad to cut down on meats.

1 egg
small bit of milk
pototo starch
bread crumbs
tomato sauce
crushed red pepper
fresh basil
feta cheese

Slice the eggplant into rectangles, peeled or unpeeled, about 1 inch by 2 inch by 3 inch. Let the pieces sit on a plate, salted, for about 10 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Pat dry with paper towels. Bread the pieces by dipping in potato starch, an egg-milk mixture, and finally bread crumbs. (I use Gluten-Free Pantry Herbed Crumb Coating. I hate the breading process--it seems to take forever. A little trick I have is to ask Mike to do it for me.) Place breaded pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until the outsides are crispy and the scent of herbed bread crumbs is intoxicating.

While the eggplant is baking, heat up some of your favorite store-bought or homemade tomato sauce in a small sauce pan, adding a pinch of crushed red pepper. Wash and pat dry some basil leaves. Sometimes I slice them into attractive little shreds. Get the pack of feta cheese from the fridge. Place eggplant pieces on plate, spoon sauce over them, then top with basil and crumbled feta.

It's a very satisfying meal, combining some of our favorite flavors. It's warm and filling for cool weather, but if you can get good fresh basil you have great summery flavor. And everything is better when it's topped with feta cheese.

Local Notes 
Feta cheese is expensive here in Hyderabad but you can find it. I usually get it from Qmart or Nature’s Basket. The couple times I’ve bought it at HyperCity it had gone bad despite being within the expiration date. Basil can be found at Qmart, Nature’s Basket, and Tarkari. To make the dish gluten-free I use Or-Gran rice crumbs from Nature’s Basket seasoned with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. I’ve found potato starch at Nature’s Basket, but cheap rice flour purchased anywhere works just as well. Crushed red pepper is often called “chili flakes” here.

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