Eggplant and Tomato Recipes for a Hot Summer Day

Tomatoes and eggplants that ripen in summer will always be sweeter, juicier and more supple than those that are artificially made to ripen in winter.

Dan Peretz

At the height of the hot, dry summer, fruits and vegetables defiantly burst with liquid. Peaches and plums still on the tree become heavy with sweet juice. Tomatoes redden as their peel stretches, and eggplants, when they are really good, grow ever more plump and purple on the stalk.

Granted, under the plastic sheets of the hothouses, eggplants and tomatoes also grow all winter long and can be found in the supermarket all year round, but by nature, the plants ripen only in the hot season of the year, when they emerge from the ground, spread their seeds and finally wither.

Tomatoes and eggplants that ripen in summer will always be sweeter, juicier and more supple than those that are artificially made to ripen in winter. The best ones are those that grow in the strong hot sunlight rather than under plastic sheeting. Get some from the local produce seller and bring them straight to the kitchen and to the skillet, without letting them sit in the refrigerator for even a minute. You can eat them when they’re fresh and uncooked, or chop and fry and stir and cook them until their juices bubble and the flesh is seared.

Yes, it’s hard for us to imagine life without the eggplant and tomato all year round. But maybe when we taste them in the hot season, we can notice how different they taste now – how much fresher and sweeter, just as they were meant to be.

Beef and eggplant patties in fresh tomato sauce

Balkan Jews like to prepare these patties in summer, when the eggplants are at their peak. The first step is to simmer the tomato sauce for hours to reduce it – some goes into jars to be stored for winter and the rest goes into this beloved dish. The smoky flavor of the eggplant and its inviting texture makes these patties a big hit with children. Have them ready for your kids when they get home from camp or school and they’ll shower you with affection.

Dan Peretz

Ingredients:

1 large baladi eggplant or 2 regular eggplants

1 onion

½ cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves

12 sprigs parsley

leaves from 1 sprig thyme

500 gr lean ground beef

2 eggs

¾ cup breadcrumbs

2 kilos ripe tomatoes

juice of ½ lemon

sea salt

coarsely ground black pepper

Toast the eggplant over the gas flame of a stove burner or on a charcoal grill until the peel is charred and the eggplant loses its shape. Place in a strainer and let sit for about 15 minutes to let the liquid drain.

Meanwhile chop the onion and fry it in a wide, shallow pan in four tablespoons of olive oil until golden. The same pan will be used to fry the patties and make the sauce, so all the flavors will merge. When the onion is golden, chop the garlic and add it to the pan, frying for about another minute, until it emits its aroma. Turn off the fire and let cool a bit.

Remove the seared skin from the eggplants, leaving just a little bit of it to add flavor. Chop the eggplant flesh, put it in a bowl and add the fried onion and garlic. Chop and add the parsley and thyme. Then add the beef and eggs and combine well.

Add a little bit of the breadcrumbs and mix. If the mixture is too soft and sticky, add some more breadcrumbs to absorb the moisture. When the mixture is easy to work with, you’re ready to start frying.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in the pan in which the onion was fried. Form walnut-size meatballs, flatten them out a little and fry them for several minutes on each side. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels.

Grate the tomatoes on a grater with wide holes, removing the peel. When the last of the meat patties is removed from the pan, immediately add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for half an hour, until the sauce reduces and turns thick and dark. Add the patties to the sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes. Then taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm with white rice or fresh bread.

Toasted eggplant with yogurt and crispy onion sticks

The toastiness of the eggplant blends with the tartness of the yogurt and the sweetness of the tomatoes to make a wonderfully refreshing salad. Ground onion in the dough lends a special flavor and texture to the onion sticks. You can also make the onion sticks to serve without the salad, and just dip them in tehina or grated tomatoes.

Ingredients:

For the onion sticks:

1 medium onion

2 cups flour

1 scant tsp salt

leaves from 1 sprig thyme

1 tbsp lemon zest

100 gr cold butter

1 egg yolk

For the eggplant in yogurt:

1 large baladi eggplant or 2 regular eggplants

½ red onion

2 garlic cloves

12 sprigs parsley

1 ripe tomato

½ cup thick sheep’s milk yogurt

juice of ½ lemon

sea salt

coarsely ground pepper

Start by making the onion sticks: Place the onion in a food processor with the steel blade and chop very fine. Add the flour, salt, thyme and lemon zest and process to combine. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the bowl along with the egg yolk. Process with short pulses until the dough has a crumbly texture.

The size of the onion and the amount of liquid in it will affect the texture of the dough. If the dough is too soft and smooth, add a little flour. If it’s too dry, add a little more butter. Remove the dough from the food processor and place on a work surface. Knead very briefly; then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Meanwhile toast the eggplants over an open flame until the peel is totally burned, then place in a strainer for about 15 minutes to let the liquid drain. Peel the eggplants and place the flesh in a bowl.

Chop the garlic, red onion, parsley and tomato and add them to the eggplant. Add the yogurt and mix. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Take the dough out of the fridge, shape pieces into golf-ball size balls and roll them out into sticks. Place on baking paper and bake for about 20 minutes, until the dough is nicely golden. Remove the sticks from the oven and let them cool a little. Serve warm with the cool eggplant salad – Break off pieces of the sticks and use them to scoop up bites of the salad, straight from the serving platter.