With torrid temperatures blazing across the country (it reached 107 degrees in San Antonio last week), steaming hot food is not necessarily anything I have been craving and probably won’t for some time. In fact, we’ve pretty much been living on ice cold, sweet and juicy yellow-flesh watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, organic grapes and this year’s fabulous crop of Fredericksburg peaches.
When we made plans to go to dinner with a friend, David and I debated about where to go and then realized that the sun would be scorching at that hour. We quickly agreed that I should cook at home where we would be able to sit back, relax and enjoy hanging out. In the air-conditioning.
Since a farmer friend bestowed a big bag of tomatoes on me, I envisioned gazpacho. Cold and refreshing. But you can’t just serve someone gazpacho for dinner, can you?
I also went home with a gorgeous organic eggplant from My Father’s Farm with the intent of making eggplant fries. There you go. A perfect summer dinner for three food-loving-yet-health-conscious-(and hungry) people.
The eggplant fries recipe came from the August 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. I love eggplant and I love french fries, so why not this fabulous spin? Instead of the dipping sauce they featured with the recipe, I decided that aioli would be the preferred accompaniment. Yes, just like those amazingly memorable french fries and special Hyde Park sauce, but with eggplant.
For some added color, texture and nutrients, I cut up a squash, zucchini and golden zucchini. As I expected, the platter of fried veggies disappeared quickly. Dunked in the luscious and creamy aioli, this really hit the spot on a hot, hot summer night.
So the next time you think you want french fries, use eggplant instead for a light and refreshing alternative to an all-American classic. And whip up some aioli to use in place of ketchup. You’ll feel so Mediterranean.
Eggplant Fries with Aioli
Crisp, light and healthy. Gluten-free, vegetarian and yummy. Replace your standard French fries with these and you'll have a new lease on life. You can also add batons of zucchini and/or squash to the mix, if desired. Serve with homemade aioli.
- 1 lb. eggplant cut lengthwise into 1" slices and then cut those into 1/2" fries
- 1 cup rice flour
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
- 1 1/2 tablespoons za'atar
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt plus more from seasoning
- Lemon chunks for squeezing over fries garnish
For the aioli
- 1 pastured egg at room temperature
- 1 pastured egg yolk at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup grapeseed oil
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and root end removed
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Place eggplant in a large bowl, add 2 cups ice and enough water to cover. Place a plate on top off eggplant to weigh it down. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.
Pour about 2" of oil in a deep pot and heat oil to 325 degrees.
Whisk rice flour, lemon zest, za'atar, garlic powder and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Drain eggplant well and, working in batches, toss damp eggplant in the flour mixture to coat.
Working in batches, fry eggplant, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per batch. Reheat oil to 325 degrees between batches. When cooked, transfer fries to paper towel lined plate to drain.
Season with lemon juice and salt. Serve immediately with aioli.
To make the aioli
In a blender or food processor, add the egg, egg yolk and mustard and set aside so these ingredients can meld for 10 minutes.
Chop the garlic very fine and sprinkle with the salt. Then, using the back of the knife, crush the garlic with the salt and work it together until it becomes like a paste.
Add 2 teaspoons lemon juice to the egg and mustard mixture in the blender or food processor.
Turn on the blender or food processor and, using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, begin to pour the oil very slowly so you have a thin line of oil drizzling into the blender or food processor. Fill the 1/4 cup three more times as you continue to drizzle the oil in very slowly until you have a gorgeous mayonnaise.
Add the garlic-salt paste, black pepper and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and blend or process until smooth.
Store aioli in a jar and refrigerate, if not using immediately.