It’s summer, and eggplant is in abundance. Fortunately there are many ways to prepare this mutable vegetable (OK, technically it’s a fruit in the same way that a tomato is a fruit). Sauté it, grill it, oven roast it, purée it; I love it for its velvety texture and ability to pick up flavors. You can also bread it and fry it, like I have in the recipe below, inspired by a wonderful little California Mexican restaurant from our days in Bloomington, Tortilla Flat.
FRIED EGGPLANT TACOS
.5 lb eggplant, skin removed and cut into .5″ cubes
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 cup corn meal seasoned with salt and pepper
canola oil for frying
brown rice cooked in stock
refried black beans
fresh diced tomatoes
shredded cabbage dressed with lime juice and salt
Prep the eggplant as indicated, removing the skin and cubing. I salted and drained mine but only because I had the time; it’s not necessary and with market-fresh eggplant excess moisture shouldn’t be an issue. Normally I never bother. While waiting for your oil to heat you can immerse the eggplant in the buttermilk and coat; then dredge in the seasoned cornmeal.
Put about a quarter-inch of your choice of oil for frying (canola, sunflower, peanut, etc. – olive usually burns at too low a temp) in a heavy-bottomed skillet or pan (I used our workhorse cast-iron skillet). Let it heat on medium for about five minutes or until you judge it’s at a good frying temperature. I know this is vague, but you can test it by dropping a piece of eggplant in and seeing if the oil bubbles readily. Add the eggplant cubes but don’t crowd them; I did mine in three batches but you might need less or more depending on the size of your pan. Total frying time will be about 5-7 minutes. About two-thirds of the way through use a pair of tongs to rotate them for even browning. Remove and drain.
If you can resist eating this yummy eggplant right away, assemble your tacos as desired. The recipe above lists what I used but you could substitute (or omit) any rice or beans, use only salsa instead of fresh tomatoes, use shredded jicama instead of the cabbage, add avocado or fresh cilantro, whatever you like best. The frying makes for a little more work than your basic bean-and-rice tacos, but it’s delicious for a change and makes good use of an abundant summer vegetable!