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Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant Meatballs)

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Yields 12-15 balls

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 T fresh basil and/or mint, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pushed through a garlic press
2 T grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, divided
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying (recommended: peanut, sunflower or canola)

Step 1:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplant in half, length-wise. Drizzle each half with olive oil and place cut side down on a foil-lined and greased baking sheet. Bake until the pulp is soft and golden, about 25 minutes. Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel the skin from the flesh and discard. Wring the flesh in cheesecloth or paper towels until there is no excess water. Chop the eggplant and add to a large mixing bowl.

Step 2:

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Add the herbs, garlic, cheese, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, egg, salt and pepper to the bowl with the eggplant and mix until combined.

Step 3:

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Put the remaining 1/2 cup bread crumbs in a small bowl. Form walnut-sized balls with the eggplant mixture and roll in the extra bread crumbs until they are evenly coated.

Step 4:

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Fill a small or medium saucepan about 1/3 way with oil. Heat over medium heat until a tiny ball of the eggplant mixture floats to the top, bubbles and lightly browns. If the ball sits at the bottom of the pan and does not bubble, the oil is too cold. If the ball quickly browns and then burns, the oil is too hot. You will need to regulate the temperature of the oil throughout the frying process.

Once the oil is to the appropriate temperature, begin frying the eggplant meatballs a few at a time, depending on the size of your pan. Do NOT overcrowd the pan which could cause the hot oil to overflow. Fry the balls until they are lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes (depending on the heat of your oil). Remove from the oil and let drain/cool on a paper towel-lined cooling rack. Sprinkle the balls with salt as soon as they are removed from the oil.

Step 5:

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Serve immediately.  These can be served plain or over marinara sauce and topped with parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

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