If it's not obvious already, I love the power of food — I feel so loved when people feed me, cook with me, share their recipes or sit at the table to share a meal. One family I especially love did all of these things for me time and time again during my last year of college. Josh Meltzer was one of my photojournalism professors but also a great mentor and friend. He & his wife, Missy, are both great cooks and I found myself eating with them often after babysitting their sons, Gus and Arlo. They taught me about homemade pasta, their favorite fried eggplant, the cookies Missy made every week, yogurt scones, fresh corn tortillas, homemade meatballs and some of the best pizza I've ever tasted. I'm thankful I nabbed a few of their recipes before they moved to New York this past summer.
I remember one night after the boys had gone to bed Missy & Josh fed me an incredible dinner including scallops on homemade pesto pasta and asparagus. While dinner was cooking we drank wine, told stories and ate fried eggplant. I was a tiny bit hesitant at first, only because I had never actually eaten eggplant and didn't want to dislike it. Any doubts were soon shutdown upon taking my first bite. After the eggplant slice came out of the hot oil and cooled off enough to eat, it was drizzled with honey and sprinkled with rosemary from their garden. The outside was perfectly crisp and the tender eggplant (soaked overnight in milk) melted in my mouth. I stopped counting how many I had eaten after I couldn't count on one hand!
This traditional Spanish appetizer is served at one of the Meltzer's favorite tapas bar in Asheville, NC, Cúrate and the recipe was featured here — this is the version they made for me & the recipe I'm sharing today.
I haven't eaten eggplant any other way, but I feel certain this is one of the best ways you can experience it, and I'm glad my first time trying it was with this recipe. What could be better than milk, flour, frying, and honey? This appetizer is simple and decadent. I'm grateful for the Meltzers sharing good food with me and not keeping their great recipes a secret. Instead of only staring at the eggplants (they are beautiful, I know!), next time you're perusing the farmer's market or grocery produce pick one up and give this recipe a go!
The day before:
- Cut tops & bottoms off the eggplant and peel the outer skin with a vegetable peeler or knife. Slice eggplant into rounds that are about ½ inch thick. (You should get around 12 slices from 1 medium-sized eggplant.)
- Place the eggplant rounds into a large container or bowl with enough milk to cover them. (I had to weigh the eggplant down with a couple small plates to keep them submerged in the milk, you will likely have to put something heavier on top of them!) Cover with lid or plastic wrap and soak overnight in the refrigerator.
- Heat a large frying pan with vegetable oil about 1 inch deep until approximately 350 degrees. (When you can hear a drop of water sizzle, that the perfect temperature!) Make sure the is plenty of oil to cover the eggplant slices when you drop them in.
- Drain the eggplant from the milk, dredge them in the flour and tap off any excess flour. Drop into oil and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. (Fry one layer of egg plant at a time, don't crowd the pan!) Flip the eggplant slices during frying for even browning.
- Sprinkle each piece of eggplant with a pinch of salt as it comes out of the the pan. Drain off excess oil on a wire rack. Drizzle honey onto each piece of the fried eggplant and top with a few rosemary leaves. Serve eggplant pieces while they are hot and let the goodness melt in your mouth!