We've eaten our share of grilled eggplant this summer. I love to grill a bunch of fat, spongy rounds, then stick them in the fridge to use when the Leftoverist Spirit strikes. Eggplant is one of those inhospitable foods. It doesn't say "Enjoy!" like a crisp apple or ripe tomato. Aside from its its stunning color, it pretty much says, "Stay away!" What the hell do you do with these things, anyway? I think so many people have eaten it underdone or oily that it's given the poor thing a bad name.
Also, they're not cheap in the grocery store, so you don't want to spring for one, try your hand at preparing it, then end up gagging. That doesn't sound fun. I buy mine at MacPhersons, where they generally run around $1 or $1.50 each. That's a lot of food for 100 cents, even if it is inhospitable.
This eggplant was grilled for an orzo salad with feta and hazelnuts that I served last weekend. With more of that half gallon of cream (I can't decide if this particular leftover is fortunate or not) and tons of eggs, it made the creamiest, most custardy frittata with a wonderful smokiness.
I'm going to stop talking about eggplant so I can go ape about frittatas. Here's why I love them:
- You don't have to bother with a crust like you do with a quiche
- They are a lifeboat for leftovers, just like fried rice, galettes, soup, pasta
- They are delicious hot, cold, or room temperature
- They're sturdy and portable
- You audience always thinks they're harder to make than they really are
And here's a few tips:
- I know there's lots of folks that are anti-nonstick, but nonstick skillet really saves you here. You could also use a well-seasoned cast iron pan, but it doesn't have the sloping sides that make it easier to remove your perfect wedges.
- You can use cream, half-and-half, or milk--cream produces the best flavor and texture, of course, but you will die earlier.
- It's important to cook it over low heat--if you turn it up, it will be too brown or burnt on bottom and the eggs will be tough. If you're looking for something super quick, scramble eggs instead.
- Whatever veggies I saute first (onions, very thinly sliced raw potato, rounds of cooked potato, squash, greens, etc.) I leave there and just pour the eggs over the top. The first layer of veggies forms a nice barrier for the cooking eggs so they don't get too tough on bottom.
- The layer over the eggs is whatever cheese I have on hand (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little), usually some fresh herbs, sometimes little olives, diced peppers, cherry tomatoes. I pay attention to color here.
- I cook the frittata on the burner until it's almost done--the center is still a little wiggly. Then I put it into a preheated 400 degree oven for the last 5 or 10 minutes. This browns it and helps it puff up. BE VERY CAREFUL when you remove it from the oven. That handle will be so stinking hot. I've gotten so many burns on my forearm this way. I'm sure you will be less distracted and more careful than I usually am....right?
- I often use stale bread as a base for a frittata. Cut it into cubes and saute it in olive oil. Pour your egg mixture over the top of this, and you have a kind of stovetop savory bread pudding.
Whew. Tutorials (and this isn't even one) wear me out, I've noticed. I'm glad there are bloggers out there who go to the trouble to teach things in a step-by-step way. That's not my calling in life. Basically, you just have to hang around me long enough, and eventually you might learn something. Sorry.
I would never grill eggplant just to put into a frittata, but I'm not against it. Just lazy. Some other uses for grilled eggplant, should you attempt it: on sandwiches, hot or cold; tossed with pasta, cream, fresh herbs, and a little tomato paste; chopped and sprinkled on pizza or smashed and used as a pizza base; in a galette; in pita bread with feta and some tahini yogurt sauce.
I'm still having so much fun being here with you. Thank you for your comments, emails, good questions, and incredible word-of-mouth marketing. When Jordan moved to NYC, I said, "Awesome! You're like a virus! Now everyone will know about In Praise of Leftovers." Ridiculous. And true.
Eggplant Potato Fritatta
Obviously, feel free to make substitutions here based on the all the above rambling. If you don't use potatoes, saute an onion instead. You can halve this recipe and use a smaller 10" nonstick, too.
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2" rounds
10 large eggs
1 1/2 c. cream or half-and-half OR 1 c. whole milk
1 russet potato, cut into very thin rounds OR handful of boiled potatoes cut into rounds
1 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar (or almost any other cheese you can think of)
handful chopped fresh herbs (I used chives and lemon thyme)
slivered fresh red chile
salt and pepper
For eggplant: Prepare BBQ (medium-high heat). Brush eggplant rounds with olive oil and salt. Cook until charred and softened, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes. Set aside. When cool, roughly chop.
For frittata: Preheat oven to 400.
Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a large 12" nonstick skillet and heat on medium-low. If you're using cooked potatoes, just line the bottom of the pan with them. If you're using raw potatoes, saute them until they are very nearly cooked, about 10 minutes. They need to be THIN for this to work.
Beat the eggs and cream with some salt and pepper, and pour this mixture over the potatoes. Drop the eggplant in, spreading around evenly. Turn the heat down to low, and let it cook slowly for at least 20 minutes. You can put a lid on it if you want.
Sprinkle with cheese and fresh herbs, and chile and cook for a couple more minutes. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for about 10 minutes until frittata is golden and puffed.
Let rest 10 minutes before slicing. Can be served at any temperature, but my favorite is room temperature. I just leave it sitting on the counter.