The eggplant is the queen of summer. Not only is the color associated with royalty, the shapes are amazing. Maybe this is the summer equivalent of the pear in fall:  the still life painter’s nude.

In the PNW we don’t see eggplant until mid to late summer. When we do, it’s sudden, abundant, and with a flood of deep purples, whites, greens, and magenta. There is always a little dark blue and black for accent.

When I buy them at the Farmer’s Market they are  fresh, perfectly ripe, and very firm. This is when I love to eat them raw. It’s  a surprisingly sweet and salty flavor when sliced very thin on the mandoline, dipped in good olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and garnished with a basil leaf on top.  It’s beautiful too. A thin  round cream colored slice, edged in purple, magenta, blue, or white and green, with a drop of light green olive oil and bright green basil leaf. I assure you when they are this fresh they’re never bitter.

If you’re an eggplant lover, you have to try this recipe for eggplant fritters.

I love it because it doesn’t mask the eggplant with a lot of other flavors. The queen stays front and center,  as she should!

Eggplant And Nut Fritters

(Adapted from “Hors D’Oeuvres” by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell)

Topping:

2 plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic sliced
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh finely chopped rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°

Put tomatoes & garlic on a baking pan. Mix balsamic, brown sugar and olive oil together and drizzle on tomato/garlic. Sprinkle with rosemary. Roast in oven 20-30 min until softened. Cool. Place in food processor and pulse until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.  Can be made one day ahead.

Fritters: makes 20-25

1/4-1/3 cup olive oil depending on the size of your eggplant

1 medium eggplant, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
3/4 grated Parmesan
1 cup mozzarella, small dice
1 cup dry breadcrumbs ( I use panko)
1/2 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
salt, pepper
arugula leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°

Spread eggplant on  a baking sheet being careful not to crowd. Evenly pour oil over eggplant and toss to coat ( using spoon or hands).

Place in oven and roast for  15-20 minuets or until soft and brown.

Remove from oven, cool.  Blot with paper towels, pressing down slightly,  to absorb as much olive oil as possible.

Place baked and blotted eggplant in a medium bowl. Combine with garlic, parsley, rosemary, beaten egg,  Parmesan, mozzarella, bread crumbs and pine nuts.

Form into a walnut sized piece ( about 1-2 tablespoons). Form each round into an oval.

Place ovals on parchment lined  baking sheet.

Bake (@ 400°) 10-15 min until golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temp. Salt and Pepper to taste, garnished with 1/2 tsp tomato topping and an arugula leaf.