Eggplant Fries

My sister, Stephanie, found this recipe in her latest issue of Bon Appétit magazine; she knew we were featuring eggplant this year at the Indiana State Fair so she passed it on to me.  I finally located the za’atar spice from Seattle’s (my niece, Amanda, lives in Seattle and turned me onto this awesome place).

These flavorful frites are not only a clever riff on a fried standard; they’re also lamb’s best friend. The Middle Eastern accents in the za’atar spice blend pair well with the gamey meat and intensify the eggplant’s flavor. After many experiments, Terzo Piano chef Meg Colleran Sahs discovered that a rice-flour (I found this at a local Asian market) coating resulted in the highest crunch factor.

Dipping sauce:

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped kosher pickle or pickle relish ( I used my dill zucchini relish)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Whisk yogurt, chopped pickle, lemon zest, and oregano in a small bowl to blend. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
1  1-pound eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2″ rounds, then into 1/2″-thick strips
Vegetable oil (for frying)
1 cup rice flour
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons za’atar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt plus more for seasoning

Place eggplant in a large bowl. Add 2 cups ice and enough water to cover. Place a plate on top of eggplant to weigh it down. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Pour oil into a large deep pot to a depth of 2″. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of pot and heat oil over medium heat to 325°F.

Meanwhile, whisk rice flour, lemon zest, za’atar, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon sea salt in a medium bowl to blend. Drain eggplant. Working in batches, toss damp eggplant in flour mixture to coat.

Working in batches, fry eggplant, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per batch. (Reheat oil to 325°F between batches.) Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with lemon juice and sea salt. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Ingredient Info: Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that includes sumac, herbs, and sesame seeds. It’s available at specialty foods stores, Middle Eastern markets, and

  Bon Appétit | August 2011 by Meg Colleran Sahs, Terzo Piano

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