My three daughters, unlike some kids, actually enjoy eating vegetables. Like me, one of their favorites is eggplant, so we grow a lot of Japanese eggplant in our garden. Our favorite way to use it is in a delicious meatless dish, Eggplant Keftethes, that my mother created during Lent one year.
I would have never figured that keftethes (pronounced keft-eh-thez) made with eggplant would be even tastier than ones made with ground hamburger, but it’s true. I have had many dinner guests gobble them down, only to be shocked to later learn what the main ingredient is.
One in particular was a family friend who had come from England for a surprise birthday party. While my husband, Stuart, went to pick him up at the airport, I whipped up a batch of Eggplant Keftethes.
When the two men arrived, Paul, our guest, sat at our kitchen counter and complimented the aroma coming from the oven. I teased that I hoped I wasn’t cooking anything he wouldn’t like. “No worries,” he said, “the only thing I don’t fancy is eggplant.” I nearly fell over.
Not having a back-up plan,. I ignored his comment and served dinner, hoping that, like so many others, he wouldn’t realize what he was eating. To my great relief, Paul ate several enthusiastic helpings. At the end of dinner, it was such a relief to reveal that he actually did like eggplant!
In making this wonderful meatless dish, I use parsley, Greek oregano, mint, and, yes, Japanese eggplant from our very own garden. I let the girls, ages 8, 10, and 12, harvest all of these ingredients and sometimes even make the dish from beginning to end without any help from me.
So next time you find yourself with an armful of fresh eggplant, give this recipe a try—and if you’re not already an eggplant fan, it might just change your mind! (Bonus: They are just as delicious the next day served with a side of arugula tossed in salt, pepper, lemon, and olive oil.)
Yiayia’s Eggplant Keftethes
3 large-sized Japanese eggplants
1 cup parsley
1/2 cup mint
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg (optional)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Peel, dice, and boil eggplant in water for 30 minutes until a bit mushy. Drain cooked eggplant and mash with a spoon in the colander to remove all excess water. Combine the next 8 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour into mixing bowl and add in eggplant; mix well. (Add more bread crumbs if the mixture is too gooey.) Using a tablespoon or ice cream scoop, portion out mixture and roll in flour, then either fry or bake them on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees, flipping them so each side turns golden brown.