Baked Eggplant Fries are good for you and tasty. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kitchen Curious: Eggplant fries equal guilt-free, meaty snacking

Eating vegetables is an insufferable affair for some folks. They do it because it’s good for the body, not because it brings much pleasure. Yet, getting a fill of veggies doesn’t have to mean a boring bowl of rabbit vittles.

In her 2016 cookbook, “The Vegetable Butcher,” author Cara Mangini explores the abundant ways with produce as she treats everything from carrots to leeks to turnips like she would a fine cut of meat.

Mangini’s recipe for baked eggplant fries is a fine example of her reverence for vegetables, and one in which the finished dish seems like it should come with a heavy serving of remorse. Nope. These (peel-on!) fries are good for you, and tasty, too. That my husband mistook these for meat sticks (although I don’t know what those would be, apart from beef jerky) is a good sign for the carnivorous crowd.

You can get creative with the ketchup you serve with Baked Eggplant Fries. CONTRIBUTED BY PAULA PONTES
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

My favorite rendition of this recipe takes a wholly Italian turn. It axes za’atar and uses Italian-style breadcrumbs, not plain. It also includes a few sprinkles of fresh Parmesan to garnish, along with the prescribed parsley.

Mangini offers an accompanying recipe for tomato-basil ketchup for dipping. I don’t have time to make from-scratch ketchup. I do have five seconds to squeeze a lot of Heinz into a ramekin, add a few splashes of quality balsamic and stir.

Baked Eggplant Fries

Give your eggplant some butcher treatment. Cookbook author Cara Mangini breaks down how to cut a globe eggplant destined for fries: Cut the stem and base off the eggplant, then halve it crosswise, separating the round, broader end from the more narrow stem end. Place the eggplant (or a piece of eggplant) on its widest cut end and cut downward into slabs.

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