Eggplant Fries

I love eggplant, but I struggle with creative ways to cook it.  It often isn't soft enough or doesn't have enough flavor and yet I have had eggplant dishes at restaurants and friend's houses that I love.  When I saw the recipe for eggplant fries featured in Bon Appétit I was intrigued... unfortunately, I've never fried anything before and truthfully it terrifies me.  A vat full of incredibly hot oil?  Yikes.  Plus, what are you supposed to do with the oil afterward?  This continues to be a mystery to me.  We never fried anything in my house growing up, so I suppose part of my fear stems from lack of experience, which I decided it was time to overcome.  
Well, I am glad I chose this recipe to overcome my fear of frying because it was absolutely worth it.  These fries are crispy and salty and the eggplant inside is soft and the frying accentuates the flavor of the eggplant.  The creamy, za'atar-seasoned dipping sauce is the perfect complement to the fries and you even feel a bit healthier eating these fries since they are made from eggplant rather than potatoes.  I was glad that I used a splatter screen because frying can be a bit messy, but I'll be making these again (and soon... and maybe with other vegetables)... and if anyone can tell me what to do with the oil afterward, I'd love to know!

Eggplant Fries
Bon Appétit, August 2011

Dipping Sauce

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped kosher pickle or pickle relish

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fries

1 1-pound eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2 rounds, then into 1/2-thick strips

Vegetable oil (for frying)

1 cup rice flour

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons za'atar

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt plus more for seasoning 

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that includes sumac, herbs, and sesame seeds.  It's available at specialty foods stores, Middle Eastern markets, and igourmet.com.

Preparation

1. Whisk yogurt, chopped pickle, lemon zest, and oregano in a small bowl to blend.  Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Place eggplant in a large bowl.  Add 2 cups ice and enough water to cover.  Place a plate on top of eggplant to weigh it down.  Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

3. Pour oil into a large deep pot to a depth of 2".  Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of pot and heat oil over medium heat to 325°.  Meanwhile, whisk rice flour, lemon zest, za'atar, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon sea salt in a medium bowl to blend.  Drain eggplant.  Working in batches, toss damp eggplant in flour mixture to coat

4. Working in batches, fry eggplant, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per batch.  (Reheat oil to 325° between batches.)  Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with lemon juice and sea salt.  Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Salmon Tartare

There is only one thing that I miss about my former job: the free dinner I could order when I stayed past 8 PM. I probably ought to be embarrassed to admit this, but I'm not. Please don't misunderstand - I wouldn't trade leaving work at a reasonable hour for free dinner EVER, but I really miss eating sushi from Sakurabana in Boston's Financial District a few times each week. It isn't that they have the best sushi in Boston or that they make a particular roll that I love, but the fish is fresh and they deliver within minutes. This is particularly important when you are at work late and are grouchy to begin with and realize just a few minutes too late that you are super hungry and about to get even grouchier if you don't eat A.S.A.P.  Trust me, it can get ugly.

Obviously I could still go out for sushi regularly, but I think Rob would like that less than he likes my semi-regular trips to Whole Foods. Since I'd like to stay married, I think I'll resist the temptation. Instead, I turned to the Salmon Tartare recipe in this month's Bon Appétit and got my sushi fix for a while. Obviously this isn't sushi per se, but it is tangy and refreshing and oh-so-good! It takes about 20 minutes to make and requires no cooking.  You can purchase sushi-grade fish at most upscale grocery stores (e.g., Whole Foods) and Asian markets. This would be great to serve at a summer dinner party but be sure to serve it immediately and to not leave it sitting out.

Salmon Tartare

Adapted from the May 2011 Bon Appétit
Yield = 4 servings 

  • 1 8-oz. boneless salmon fillet, skinless
  • 1/4 cup finely diced, seeded cucumber
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh chives
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tsp. grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced, seeded jalapeño
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced shallot
  • 3/4 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (scant) lime zest
  • 1 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Thick-cut potato or tortilla chips

Place salmon on a plate; freeze until well chilled, about 20 minutes. If fish was previously frozen, move from freezer to refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to the time you want to use it.

Thinly slice salmon lengthwise into 1/8"-wide sheets. Cut each sheet into 1/8"-long strips. Cut strips crosswise into 1/8" cubes. Place salmon in a medium bowl. Add cucumber and the next 9 ingredients and toss to combine. Season tartare to taste with salt. Transfer tartare to a bowl and serve with chips.

Consume immediately and throw out any leftovers (this doesn't keep, even in the refrigerator).

I served the tartare with these Late July Organic Mild Green Mojo chips we found recently.  Yum! Although the tartare is so good that you might just want to eat it with a fork. Just a suggestion.