Fried Eggplant with Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio pesto brings this one to a new level.

At our parents house last week, Mom decided she wanted some eggplant. never content to leave well enough alone we decided to up the ante and add a delicious pesto variation, some fresh tomatoes from the garden, and some fresh mozzarella. The result was a delicious Italian-inspired lunch celebrating the final flavors of summer.

Equipment Needed: Frying Pan, Spatula, 2 Baking Sheets, Food Processor, Chef’s Knife, Cutting Board, 2 Plates, Bowl, Fork

Serving Suggestion: Individual Plating

Servings: 6

Suggested Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sauvignon Blanc

Suggested Beer Pairing: Lager, Pilsner, Belgian White

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 small eggplants ($1.49/lb)
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella ($6.99/lb)
  • 2 C fresh basil ($3/bunch, you’ll need about 2 bunches)
  • 4 eggs ($2/dozen)
  • Panko bread crumbs (around $3/12 oz)
  • Flour ($1.89/2 lbs)
  • 1/2 C pistachios (about $8/lb)
  • Parmagiano Reggiano cheese ($10/lb)
  • Fresh lemon juice ($0.50/lemon)
  • Extra virgin olive oil ($9.99/34 oz bottle)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($2.99/lb)
  • 2 TBSP water (free)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Pesto Preparation:

  • Shell the pistachios and toss them in the food processor.
  • Wash your basil and take the leaves off the stems, measure out a loosely packed 2 cups and add them to the food processor as well.
  • Peel and halve the garlic cloves. For now, add only one of them to the mix. Drizzle in about 3 TBSP of olive oil and add roughly 1/4 C of cheese (you can add it in slices, small chunks or grate it). Pulse the mixture until it becomes a paste.

Don't be stingy with the oil, you want to be able to spread the pesto easily.

Ditto for the cheese. Don't be afraid to load it up.

  • Add 1 TBSP lemon juice (a big lemon’s worth), a pinch of salt and about 1/2 TBSP pepper. Hit pulse a few more times and adjust the pesto to your taste with more of any of the ingredients. We like to have a bit more of the pistachio and cheese flavor.

Eggplant Preparation:

  • Wash your eggplant and slice it into 1/4 inch discs (peel the eggplant beforehand if you like for a more tender bite; we did them half and half). Place on a baking sheet and salt liberally. Let them sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the salt to draw out some of their natural bitterness.

Cut into even-sized discs for quick, even cooking.

  • While the veggies are doing their osmosis thing, mix your eggs in a bowl with about 2 TBSP warm water. Pour the breadcrumbs on one plate and flour on another plate. Use about a cup of each at a time so you don’t get everything eggy all at once.
  • Pat the eggplant slices dry. To coat them,  dredge the pieces in flour, give them a quick dip in the eggwash, and then coat them with Panko. Return them to the baking sheet. Slice the mozzarella into 1/4 inch slices and have at the ready.

Pat the eggplant dry before you coat them.

Double coating it helps everything adhere better.

  • Preheat your oven to 250° F (this is to keep the eggplant warm while you fry the other pieces). Put your frying pan over medium head and coat the bottom of the pan liberally with olive oil.
  • Fry the eggplant pieces until nicely browned (about 3-4 minutes per side). Add back to the baking sheet and when a full sheet is done cover each slice with mozzarella and put them in the oven while you finish the others. Add more olive oil to the pan as required to keep things running smoothly.
  • Serve with the pesto, balsamic vinegar and sliced tomatoes if desired (highly recommended).
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