Before the tofu-ridden main course or the salad posing as a meal, heres a recipe I picked up and adapted from one of my favorite books. Its a Middle-Eastern appetizer that almost brought tears to my fathers eyes when he tried it. I served it right before a lemon-roasted chicken cooked to perfection, but no one had any seconds on it because they were too busy hounding me for more eggplant. If you cant find any tender eggplants in town, its OK because the high spice content and the method of frying covers up any bitterness, and the frying destroys the toughness.
Servings: 4-6, as appetizer
4 large purple eggplants, or 6 smaller ones
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
4-5 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tblsp. hot paprika
½ tsp. cumin
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
dash salt/black pepper
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
To prepare the eggplant, slice into rounds and half rounds (for the bigger ends) of uniform thickness (about 1/4-inch thick). Soak in a large bowl of well salted, ice cold water while you prepare the dressing.
Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan and add the garlic. On a medium heat, cook until the garlic begins to turn brown, but not burned.
As soon as the garlic begins to get really golden (but before it turns dark), add the lemon juice and turn the heat down to very low. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring back to a simmer. Cook for about 1 minute, and then remove from heat. Place in a bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
Drain the eggplant and pat very dry with a paper towel. Dredge (coat) the drained eggplant slices in an amount of flour. DO NOT SALT THEM!
In a large sauce pan (preferably cast iron), heat enough oil to rise 4 inches up the sides of the pan. On high heat, fry the eggplant slices in rounds (a few minutes each) and drain the oil off them on paper towels. When all the eggplant is fried until soft on the inside and brown and crisp on the outside, transfer the squash to a decorative plate and pour the cold dressing over it. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Can be very cold to room temperature.
Note: This is a shockingly spicy dish, and extremely rich. Dont gorge yourself on it.