Eggplant Challenge: Spicy Veggie Nuggets!
Eggplant can really serve as a meat substitute in the purest sense of the word, and this recipe is intended to prove it. I formed this ground meat alternative mixture into little nuggets for my kiddos, but you could make burger patties out of it, too. Come to think of it, this would also make a great meatless meatball type appetizer for a party. Just a thought…
For the eggplant mixture:
-between 2.5 and 3 lbs. of fresh eggplants
-1 1/2 tbsp. of kosher salt plus 1 tsp.
-cold tap water
-1 small yellow onion, finely diced
-1 stalk of celery, finely diced
-2 tbsp. of olive oil
-1 tsp. of basil
-1 tsp. of garam masala
-2 tsp. of garlic powder
-2 tsp. of cumin
-1 tsp. of hot sauce
-1/2 tsp. of chili powder
-2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
-zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
For the outside breading:
-2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
-1/2 cup of fresh grated parmesan cheese
-1 tsp of dried basil
-1 tsp of garlic powder
-1 tsp of kosher salt.
Trim the ends from the eggplants and cut them into round slices approx. 3/4″ thick. Place the slices in a large saucepan or bowl and sprinkle them with 1 1/2 tbsp. of the kosher salt. Add enough cold tap water to cover, weight the eggplant down with a bowl or saucer (eggplant is porous, it will float), and allow it to soak for one hour.
While the eggplant is soaking, sweat the onions and celery in the olive oil along with 1 tsp of the salt, the basil, the garam masala, the garlic, the cumin, the hot sauce, and the chili powder. When the veggies are very soft and tender, remove them from the heat and add the chickpeas, the lemon juice, and the lemon zest. Set aside.
Now preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Once the eggplant finishes soaking, pat it dry and place it on a foil covered cookie sheet. Roast the eggplant for 15 minutes or until it becomes very tender. When it comes out of the over, allow the eggplant to cool to the touch and then roughly chop it and mix it together with the chickpea/veggie/spice mixture. Pulse the entire thing in the food processor until everything is fairly finely chopped and well combined.
Form the finished eggplant mixture into the desired shape (nuggets, patties, spheres). Now make the breading mixture by combining the panko, the parmesan, the basil, the garlic, and 1 tsp. of kosher salt. Roll the shaped eggplant mixture in the breading mixture and cook as desired. I baked the nuggets at 425 degrees for about 20 or 30 minutes.
Just in case you were wondering:
Can I vary the spices? Sure, these are the flavors that I like with eggplant, but you can really play with this recipe and add your own favorite flavors. Just remember to taste as you go. Enjoy!