I’ve spent almost all of my adult life working at universities. For me, the year starts over again in September. This time of year always feel like a fresh start to me—anything is possible! There is a chill in the air, and scarves are just around the corner. I love it.
It happens to coincide with the height of market season in the Midwest. It is truly harvest time, and the market stands are a veritable cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. On Saturday at Oak Park’s market we saw everything: apples, raspberries (and strawberries!), tomatoes, corn, peppers and squash. It is nuts. It is the closest our markets ever get to the produce section of your local supermarket. It is hard to take advantage of all of this goodness, so try to concentrate on what is important. For me, that is usually tomatoes.
This simple supper is one of the best things I ate this summer. I like to think of it as a deconstructed eggplant Parmesan—fresher and brighter than the original. It is pretty easy to put together, and makes the most of the last of the tomatoes. I used some perfect sun golds, but you can use whatever is delicious. Salt, friends…salt is the secret to this recipe. You want some nice sea salt and plenty of it.
I hope everyone’s school year is off to a great start.
Tomatoes with Crisp Fried Eggplant and Burrata (from Martha Stewart Living)
- All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 3 large eggs, well beaten
- 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 4 Japanese eggplants (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total), cut on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, preferably in a mix of colors (you can sub larger tomatoes that you cut into wedges)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, half of them torn
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 ball (about 7 ounces) burrata cheese (you can use fresh mozzarella, but it won’t be as creamy and delicious)
Place flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs in 3 separate wide, shallow bowls. Working with 1 eggplant slice at a time, dredge in flour, then dip in egg and then breadcrumbs. Transfer to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, halve tomatoes and toss with olive oil and torn basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat about 1/4 inch vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add enough eggplant slices to fill but not crowd skillet and fry, flipping once, until deep golden brown and crunchy, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. (Lower heat slightly, if necessary.) Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a clean wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, and season with salt. Discard used oil and repeat process with fresh oil and remaining eggplant.
Arrange eggplant and tomato mixture on a platter. Cut burrata in half, place next to tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Scatter remaining basil on top.