Roasted Baby Eggplant w/ Lemon and Garlic

My garden is flourishing with beautiful food. At the moment my Japanese eggplant are gifting me with 3-5 small eggplant per week. Most of my experience eating eggplant has been from recipes containing tomato products. While I love pairing eggplant with tomatoes I wanted a dish that was simpler, but still packed a lot of flavor. I thank Real Simple for providing that wonderful little recipe that's perfect for small eggplant. It appeared in the July 2005 issue. I made a small modification by adding some Panko breadcrumbs, moistened with a little olive oil and finishing the dish under the broiler for a minute or two to brown and add a bit of crunch to the silky eggplant.

Roasted Baby Eggplant

6 small Japanese eggplant

3 lemons, (cut two lengthwise and then into thin slices. Cut the other in half for juicing

2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

4 sprigs of fresh oregano

3 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces feta cheese, sliced for serving

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Olive oil for moistening crumbs

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise almost completely through so that eggplant halves remain attached. (If you have globe shaped eggplant, cut several slits)

Season each eggplant inside cuts with a sprinkling of salt and pepper... drizzle olive oil over and around eggplant. Fill each slit with lemon and garlic slices . Place the herb sprigs over the eggplant. Add any additional lemon slices to the bottom of the pan.

Juice the third lemon and pour the juice over the eggplant making sure to get some into the slits. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast for about 40 minutes.

At the end of baking time, uncover the eggplant which will be bubbling and meltingly tender. Mix the Panko crumbs with enough olive oil just to moisten, maybe a couple of tablespoons. Sprinkle the crumbs over the eggplant and place under the broiler to brown for a couple of minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature with sliced feta and a toasted baguette.

This simple dish is so much more than it seems. Rich tender eggplant infused with the flavors of garlic, fresh lemon and herbs. The crunchy Panko add just the right texure to the meltingly tender eggplant. I'm putting it on my food list for Thanksgiving.

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