This post is a slightly altered version of one I shared two years ago for my friend Diane, queen of eggplants! We share garden space at our church garden. She really knows how to grow eggplants, dozens on a single plant every year.
Let me share my favorite method for dealing with those small eggplants you find yourself with when the first big frost hits your garden. I pick them the night before no matter how small and this is how we use them in the best way possible. Grocery stores usually have them in the fall if you are not a gardener.
I originally created this for the slow cooker using a base recipe from a friend’s Italian mom but this latest version was made on the stove top. I really love being able to turn on my crock pot and walk away for four hours. Still, sometimes you need dinner in an hour so here is the latest and quickest version. It is perfect with gluten free ziti or spaghetti.
If you don’t have baby eggplants I think you could use smaller eggplants cut into halves. This picture isn’t that pretty; a collapsed and well cooked eggplant is kinda ugly but you gotta love that cheese on top; good quality freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I served it with penne as usual for the first time I enjoyed a plate of this spicy treat and with spaghetti squash tonight which was surprisingly good. Hadn’t had that in many years. Two of them were gifted to me last month; finally made half of one. Nuked it in microwave for 15 minutes; cut, remove seeds; cut down on big plate, add a bit of water for steam effect.
Spicy Baby Eggplants
7-10 small eggplants from tiny up to about six inches long
1-2 ounces hard Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp EVOL
1 32 oz can crushed tomato
1 large carrot in rounds
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. sea salt
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup oil cured black olives
1-2 tbsp. capers
Cut the Parmesan cheese into tiny wedges. Trim off the top cap of the eggplants. Cut 3-4 slashes in the side of each eggplant going in the direction from the cap to the bottom. Put a wedge of cheese into each deep slash. I only put 1-slashes in tiny eggplants, 3 in bigger ones and 4 in the largest eggplants. Heat 1-2 tbsp. EVOL in a large heavy sauce pot. Add the onions and saute a couple minutes. Add the minced garlic, stir for a minute. Then add in the tomato sauce and carrot rounds. Heat up and add the eggplants and the herbs/spices. Heat to a bubble and add the olives, and capers. Cover and cook on low for 40 minutes stirring every few minutes to keep the sauce from sticking to the pot’s bottom. Cook until the eggplants can be easily pierced with a long fork.
Cook gluten free ziti, enough for how many people you are serving, and drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Put it back in the now empty pot and add the eggplant mixture. Cook a minute stirring it all around the pot. This allows the ziti to soak up some of the sauce and get a great authentic flavor.
Serve in a low wide soup bowl as is or add a good grating of Parmesan cheese on top. If you have some gluten free rolls or freshly baked gf bread – heaven!
Notes: I used olives with pits but if you can find them pitted; great! If you are an olive hater, leave them out but they really add to the flavor. Or cook the dish with them and remove before eating; get that earthy salty flavor but it is more subtle without the actual olives on your plate. Add more salt if you leave them out. If you like things really spicy double the red pepper flakes. I found it just about right for me with a quarter teaspoon. Spaghetti squash works well in place of pasta.