The first time I ate Eggplant (or Aubergine as my U.K. Friends call it) – and liked it – I was living in Budapest, Hungary. I met a young woman at an art opening who invited me to her home for a visit. When I arrived she was pan-frying thin slices of eggplant. I’d never seen it cooked that way.
My experience with eggplant up till that time had not been positive. I found it mushy and seedy and hard to cook. I didn’t like it. But my Hungarian friend introduced me to something so simple, and so delicious, I was hooked.
The first difference – from all previous eggplant experiences – was that she sliced it lengthwise, making thin, oblong slices – rather than slicing it into rounds. Her slices were thin – about a quarter of an inch. She dipped each slice in a bowl of beaten egg, then a plate of bread crumbs, and lay the very lightly breaded slices in a frying pan in a little hot oil (just enough to stop it sticking) and cooked them for 3-4 minutes each side – and voila – pan fried eggplant. A simple, yet elegant side dish.
Eggplant with Garlic-Mint Yogurt
Another variation on eggplant that I picked up in Hungary came from a Middle Eastern restaurant. This was served in a garlic and mint yogurt dressing. I also learned to make that, though a little more complicated.
Start by peeling your aubergine, then cut it into bite size cubes. Soak these for about 1/2 an hour in salted water. Drain and pan fry in a little olive oil, or lay them on a cookie sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil – and roast in a hot oven – about 425F – for 10-15 minutes, or until tender.
While it’s cooking, prepare the dressing with plain, unflavored yogurt or kefir, a handful of fresh mint, finely chopped, and a couple cloves of crushed garlic. How much garlic you use depends on your personal preference. When the eggplant is cooked, drain it on paper towels, then mix with the yogurt dressing. Some people say you should only mix the yogurt and eggplant just before serving, but as I’ve always found it better as leftovers on the second day, I like to let it for about 30 minutes so the eggplant can absorb the flavor of the yogurt and garlic. Serve at room temperature.