On the morning of the arrival of my weekend guests, I ran out to my favorite Italian market and stocked my frig, that is two refrigerators, with plenty of fresh fruit, veggies, meats and fish for grilling, appetizers and morning breakfasts. I had my thoughts for what I would serve but I also knew that being in the kitchen with Ayesha we would pull the “ingredients” and come up with lots of combined ideas. And that is exactly how the weekend played out!
On Friday we took the boys to the beach. It was really a weekend for the little guys to experience Florida; the blue skies, sunshine, sand and ocean. For lunch that day we ordered zucchini fries. And here is where the story begins. I see the fries. Kinda greasy, overpriced, but tasty. I think… I’ve done these many times, I’ve got zucchini at home, I’m adding this to one of our grilling meals. I make the zucchini fries, Ayesha makes up a spicy mayo dipping sauce. We absolutely love it! Crispy from the oven, not greasy and the sauce she made was perfect with just enough heat!
The next day we are still talking about the zucchini fries, but we are all out of zucchini. I mention we have an eggplant but never made eggplant into fries. I think it might not be a good idea… and then I change my mind. And, OMG, I’m so glad we tried it out! The eggplant fries were meatier, crisped up on the outside and tender on the inside. Totally not bitter and we did not salt them beforehand.
We served the Eggplant Fries with grilled Florentine Veal Burgers that I adapt from my Florentine Veal Loaf recipe. Basically I use the same ingredients from the meatloaf but omit the ricotta cheese. The meatloaf and the burgers always turn out juicy and flavorful! Though I didn’t take food photos of the entire weekend; we had the Grilled Tuna Salad with Roasted Peppers and Zucchini, Grilled Pizzas, No-Fail Kale Caesar Salad, grilled t-bone steaks and grilled chicken sausage spirals and for breakfast one morning a trio of pancakes with rum syrup. Thank you to Geni from Sweet and Crumbly for the inspiration on the trio idea. I made a trio of granola, chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes, topping the “adult” pancakes with her rum syrup!
In addition there were (soon to be posted) Jello shots, key-lime ice cream bites, a secretly filled cookie jar and probably a few others I’m forgetting… weekends just go by too quickly!
Eggplant Fries with Spicy Mayo
For the eggplant fries:
1 large firm eggplant, peeled and cut in half, then in slices and then into sticks
2-3 egg whites
2 cup mix of seasoned Italian bread crumbs and Panko
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil to drizzle over eggplant
For the spicy mayo:
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
Prepare a baking sheet with a rack on top. This allows the “fries” to bake all around and not get soggy. Preheat oven to 420 degrees.
In a medium size bowl, mix together the bread crumb/panko mix, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Rather than dip each “fry” into egg white then bread crumbs, I place all eggplant fries into a large bowl and pour over egg whites mixing gently. Using my hands I grab a few sticks and drop them into the bread crumb mix bowl and gently coat each “fry”. Place the eggplant evenly onto the rack, close but not overlapping. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the eggplant. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the “fries” and bake until crisp about another 10 minutes. For extra crispiness, turn on the broiler for just a few minutes, about 2 minutes.
For the dipping sauce: combine the mayonnaise and sriracha sauce and mix well. Adjust spiciness to individual taste.
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.