We had a fantastic eggplant appetizer at Noujaim’s in Winsted, Connecticut. If you enjoy Lebanese food, and you know you do, because it’s so very delicious, then you should visit them. They served us an appetizer they described as “eggplant croquettes, deconstructed”. It was simple—eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and I think a tad of mint. If not, there should be some mint. It was truly just wonderful and I could have made and entire meal out of just that.
They used peeled and seeded plum tomatoes, but alas The Goddess was hungry and a tad on the lazy side, so she used cherry tomatoes. I’m happy to report that they were equally good and cherry tomatoes are a wonderful alternative when summer tomatoes are just a distant memory. The amount of garlic given is accurate; I used the greater amount. This should be very garlicky.
Salt the eggplant slices, place them in a colander for about 15-30 minutes. I don’t think this is absolutely necessary if you are using small eggplants, but the water the eggplant exudes helps the cornstarch stick better. I don’t try to dry the eggplant, just dab at it, but you want there to be moisture.
The key to preparing really good eggplant, is to coat it with cornstarch. Can you believe it? I read about this somewhere ages ago, and it just sounded to bizarre I dismissed it. But then, I decided to try it. My Goddess, it was a revelation. We’re not looking for a thick coating, just a light dusting of cornstarch. The eggplant holds it’s shape better, it has a lovely, velvety texture and it browns nicely, if you’re wanting to brown the eggplant. It isn’t absolutely necessary here. For an added bonus, the cornstarch helps thicken whatever sauce you’re making; here we’re using a white wine sauce…more or less.
Finally you just throw everything together in the skillet, deglaze with the wine and simmer just until the whole thing comes together. You want this to be moist, but not soupy and you want the texture to be there, too. Oh yes, you are seeing mushrooms peeking out at you. Noujaim’s didn’t have mushrooms, but I add them because I had 3 mushrooms in the fridge, so why not? They were delicious and I think they added nice texture.
Lebanese-Style Eggplant with Tomatoes, Garlic and Mint
- 2 medium eggplants, cut into quarter lengthwise
- Kosher salt
- 3-4 tablespoons cornstarch
- Olive oil
- 12-15 cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- 8-12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried mint, finely crushed
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the eggplant quarters cross-wise into 1/2-inch slices. Place in a colander; sprinkle very liberally with salt. Let stand, in the sink, for at least 30 minutes. Do not rinse; just pat lightly with paper toweling, don’t try to dry it completely. Place the slices in a large bowl; add the cornstarch and toss, lightly coating the eggplant pieces. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; skim with oil. Working in batches, brown the eggplant pieces slightly, on both sides. As they brown, remove the slices to a large bowl or plate; set aside. You can do this up to 48 hours ahead, but I think they are better used within a couple of hours.
When you’re ready to serve, heat 2-3 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. I use the same skillet I cooked the eggplant in. Add the garlic slices; toss. Add the tomato halves; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté, tossing or stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and pre-cooked eggplant. Continue to cook, stirring or tossing, until the eggplant is cooked through and hot, about 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with the dried mint. Stir to combine. Serve hot or at room temperature.
NOTE: You may serve this as a first course or a side dish.
Lebanese-Style Eggplant with Tomatoes, Garlic and Mint Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2016. All rights reserved.
The Latin Lover and I enjoyed this with some chicken. I popped the leftovers in the fridge and had a portion the next day for lunch…very yummy on some Cuban bread. Then the leftover, leftover found its way further back in the fridge where it sat for a week. Alas, yesterday I found it and what a find. It was perfectly delicious and the flavors were even better. So this keeps well. So make this today…make a double batch and enjoy it for many days. It’s good with everything and makes a damn fine sandwich…you won’t be sorry.