Polpette di melanzane

One of the best things I've ever discovered about Italy -- along with the social acceptability of eating a whole pizza by oneself, and the option of choosing up to three gelato flavors per cone at the gelateria -- is the tradition of the Italian aperitivo. The aperitivo, if you're not familiar, goes a little something like this: around 6:30 or 7:00, you go to a bar or cafĂ© that offers aperitivo, where you order drink of your choice to be enjoyed along with some food, anything from taralli and olives and pizzette to a more substantial selection, things like bruschette and frittate and pasta freddaThe aperitivo is a way to get your appetite going before the main meal, a drink and a bit to eat before heading to dinner later on in the eveningThe food and drink together cost between 5-10 euro, depending on how abundant the food was, making it an excellent deal. In some cases the aperitivo can even tiptoe over in to the territory of apericena, a cross between the aperitivo and dinner (cena), where the food is served buffet-style, plentiful and substantial enough to become a mealAnytime I have a friend visiting Rome, I am sure to bring them for an aperitivo -- (oh yes, you heard right, only a few euros for the drink and as much food as you want!) I say smugly, every time. I can't help it, aperitivo makes me a showoff. 

The Italian aperitivo is also the theme of this month's round of Cucina Conversations, which brings me to these polpette di melanzane (think of them as eggplant -- or aubergine, if you prefer -- croquettes) which are pure aperitivo fare, bite-sized and appetizer-like, packed with sharp salty Pecorino, mellow eggplant, and lots of fresh bright parsley, then fried until crisp and deep gold on the outside and cloud-like and pillow-y on the inside. A few of these plus a glass of wine (or, in my case, Prosecco) will get your appetite going guaranteed, just be careful not to get too carried about and eat so many you're not hungry for dinner. Don't say you weren't warned: they're sort of addictive.

A couple of notes: If you can't get Pecorino where you are, Parmesan would be a good substitute. If you don't want to fry the polpette, you can brush them with a little olive oil and bake them in the oven, turning them during baking until golden brown on all sides. Regarding the quantities here, note you might need to use your judgement -- you might need more or less breadcrumbs to keep the mixture together depending on the consistency of the bread and how big the eggs are that you use. If the mixture seems too loose to form the polpette, add a little extra bread and/or bread crumbs by the tablespoon and they'll come together beautifully.

Finally, a few of my favorite places for aperitivo in Rome are RossoVivo in Prati (only 5 euros for a plate for two with mini arancine, frittate, and bruschette, among other things,) Oasi della Birra in Testaccio, and Max, not far from Circus Maximus and across from my place of work (hurray!) Freni e Frizioni in Trastevere is also good, but very popular and always packed -- be prepared to wait for a table.

Here are the recipes from my fellow bloggers this month:

Daniela of La Dani Gourmet has shared her recipe for acciughe alla povera (marinated anchovies). 

Carmen of The Heirloom Chronicles has prepared homemade limoncello.

Lisa aka Italian Kiwi will be making crostini con fichi, ricotta, e prosciutto (crostini with figs, ricotta, and prosciutto). 


Flavia of Flavia's Flavors will be making one of my favorites, taralli pugliesi.


Marialuisa of Marmellata di Cipolle has made crostini al salmone.

Last but not least, Rosemarie over at Turin Mamma will be preparing two classic drinsk, the Negroni and the Negroni sbagliato

POLPETTE DI MELANZANE

Ingredients:
2 medium eggplant
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup (50 grams) freshly grated Pecorino cheese
2 cups of stale bread, plus a bit more on hand in case needed
1/4 cup (59ml) milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
Breadcrumbs for coating
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). While the oven is heating, start with your eggplant. Cut off the leafy tops of the eggplant and prick on all sides with a fork. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and can be pierced easily with a fork. Wait until the eggplant is cool enough to handle and then cut in half. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, discarding the seeds, then place in a colander to drain for about half an hour (eggplants contain a lot of water which would make assembling the polpette difficult). Alternatively, squeeze out any moisture using a clean kitchen towel (this is what I did, and it worked great). Put the eggplant in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, moisten the stale bread with the milk, and then squeeze well to remove any excess (you want just enough milk to revive the bread). Stir together the bread, Pecorino, eggplant, eggs, parsley, the salt, and pepper to taste. If the mixture looks too loose, add some breadcrumbs by the tablespoon and stir (see notes above).


Pour some breadcrumbs out on to a shallow dish. Next, roll the bread-eggplant mixture in to balls, rolling each in breadcrumbs to coat.

In a frying pan, heat enough oil to go up the sides of the pan, enough to cover the polpette (read here about shallow frying). To test if the oil is hot enough, throw in a breadcrumb or two; if it sizzles and starts to cook immediately, the oil is ready. Fry the polpette a few at a time (about 4) until golden brown on all sides, turning with a spoon as you go to ensure even browning -- this will only take a few minutes per batch. Place the polpette on a paper towel lined plate as you remove them from the pan, to let them cool slightly and remove any excess oil. Enjoy warm as part of your aperitivo. Makes 30 or so polpette.





5 comments :

  1. One of my best Aperitivo recipe. I't is one of our traditional dishes. We often add some tunafish in the mixture. Squisite.

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  2. Love these Francesca! I'm with you with regards to the apericena. We often do this at home though with friends as part of a card night. When I come back to Rome, we will have to have one together. Xx

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  3. You've just solved my dinner dilemma Francesca. I bought the strangest looking eggplants from the market yesterday (I'll post about them on Instagram next week!)and for once, I really don't feel like making pasta (alla Norma, my default choice) with them. I'm going to make your croquettes instead which look absolutely wonderful.

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  4. Francesca, you have written about Vento di Rose, but I cannot seem to find the blog. Sorry that this is written on the wrong blog,but can you please send me the link to Vento
    Thanks
    Dr. Ed

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  5. I'm finally catching up on reading everyone's Cucina Conversations posts from the summer months and I'm LOVING this recipe. I love anything with eggplant and I love a good crocchette! Yours turned out just beautiful. Pass the Aperol Spritz!

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