Fried Eggplant is one of the most versatile recipes. When paired with classic Caprese ingredients - fresh garden tomatoes, slices of fresh, soft mozzarella cheese, and bright green basil - the result can be a great antipasto, salad, side dish or complete meal. Fried eggplant is also used to make another Italian classic - Eggplant Parmesan.
Be sure to fry enough so you will have leftovers. Cold fried eggplant, or crisped up in the oven make great sandwiches or finger food. I slice extra tomatoes and mozzarella to store in a air-tight container and pull out what I need for a quick lunch. We didn't have any good crusty Italian bread, so opted for a hamburger bun for a quick sandwich. It was delicious.
The secrets to great Fried Eggplant are to slice the eggplant and salt them for at least an hour; second, bread and fry them in a combination of breadcrumbs and grated Romano cheese; and third, fry in a 50/50 combination of olive oil and canola oil.
Salting the eggplant is important. It draws out the bitterness and some moisture resulting in a meatier eggplant that will not soak up oil during the frying like a sponge. Remove a few long strips of the skin from the eggplant. This will help hold its structure and remove some the bitter peel. Salt liberally and place the slices in a colander. Weight with a heavy object (I used a heavy ceramic container on top of a plate) and let sit for one hour.
Set up your breading station of seasoned flour, beaten eggs and a breadcrumb/cheese mixture. Working in batches bread and pan fry the eggplant until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm or room temperature.
Fried Eggplant Caprese - 3 Ways
- 3 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 ½ cup flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 ½ cups bread crumbs regular or italian seasoned
- ½ cup grated Romano or pecorino cheese
- ½ cups freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large or 2 medium eggplants
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 3 ripe garden tomatoes sliced
- 16 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced
- Small bunch fresh basil torn into bite size pieces
- Small store-bought bottle of Balsamic Glaze optional
- Peel the eggplant skin in stripes. This removes half of the skin and leaves some on for better flavor.
- Slice eggplant in ½ inch round, thick slices. Liberally salt both sides and place the slices in a colander standing up (not flat). This helps them to drain. Place a plate on top and weigh down with a heavy item ( i.e. a large can tomatoes or ceramic container). Place the colander on a plate to catch the liquid. Let drain for 60 minutes.
- Rinse the eggplant slices under cold water to remove the salt and pat/squeeze dry. The purpose of the salting is to remove bitterness and to helps the sponge-like texture from getting too greasy when frying.
- Set up breading station: Mix flour and salt and place on a plate, beat eggs with milk in a small bowl, and mix the breadcrumbs, cheeses, black and red pepper in another shallow bowl. Coat both sides of one eggplant slice in flour, then dip in the eggs, and finally in the breadcrumb mixture. Continue breading all the eggplant slices. Set aside while oil is heating.
- Heat both oils in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Cooking in batches, add breaded eggplant slices and fry on both sides until lightly golden and crispy. Drain cooked slices on paper towels.
- Serve the Fried Eggplant with sliced tomatoes, slices mozzarella and torn leaves of fresh basil. You can assemble as a salad, a sandwich or an antipasto platter. Garnish with drizzled balsamic glaze.