Back in Spanish Harlem, during our lean times, eggplant was one of the things we most enjoyed. It was cheap (still is, and highly versatile). I was amazed when I discovered from my Italian friends that you could incorporate in such things as eggplant parmigiana. Or in Indian cuisine, as in Ola, where you could bake it with yogurt. But I still hankered for the old Puerto Rican method of simple fried eggplant. This is one of the easiest dish to prepare, and not only for the vegan among us.

One of the hallowed rules concerning eggplant is that, prior to coking. It must be drained. That is done by peeling the eggplant, cutting into thin slices, sprinkling with salt and piling it on a plate. Then the slices are covered by another plate and set aside for about 30 minutes.  Finally, the slices are wiped cleaned and they are ready to be cooked. In our family we never enacted this ritual. Personally I think it’s a waste of time. Of course there are those who profess  the worthiness of this procedure, and more power to them. We’ve been making eggplant or way for generations; and we’ve never had any complaints.

In this recipe, I’ve given two ways to prepare eggplant: one with bread or cracker crumbs and eggs, and one with flour. Either one is just as good. Also, one can cut the eggplant into slices, if you have a large vegetable. Or, you can slice them lengthwise, if you have a small eggplants. In the recipe given, we’ve sliced them in the latter fashion. In all cases, the recipe yields 4 or more servings.

Added note: This recipe is from my cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press, Perseus Books).  If you enjoy Caribbean cooking, this book is it.

BERENJENA FRITA
(Fried Eggplant)

Method 1:

1 large eggplant or 3 small ones
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup bread or cracker crumbs
Salt and ground pepper to taste
¾ cup olive oil

1. Peel eggplant and trim off the ends. Cut eggplant into ¼-inch slices  or lengthwise, if preferred.
2. In a bowl, combine eggs with bread crumbs. Dip slices in egg-bread crumb mixture.
3. In a skillet or frying pan, heat olive oil and fry eggplant slices over moderate -low heat until golden brown and crisp.
4. Drain on paper towels and serve

Method 2:

1 large eggplant or 3 small ones
¼ cup flour
Salt and ground black pepper
¾ olive oil

1. Peel eggplant and trim off ends. Cut eggplant into ¼-inch slices or lengthwise.
2. Sprinkle slices with flour, salt and pepper.
3. In a skillet or pan, heat olive oil and fry eggplant over moderate-low heat until golden brown.
4. Drain on paper towels and serve.