by Joyce Goldstein
Eggplants were brought to Spain and Italy by the Arabs, and Jewish cooks quickly took to the new food. Initially, they were treated as a fruit and served sweetened with sugar. In the Middle East, cooks have long preserved eggplant in a sugar syrup, and in Morocco, a sweet eggplant condiment is popular. This Sephardic dish from Turkey, which is ideal for Rosh Hashanah, reveals its Hispano-Arabic origin in its use of double cooking: the eggplant slices are fried, sprinkled with sugar and salt, and then baked. Since the slices are cooked through after the frying step, you could skip the baking step, sprinkle the fried slices with sugar and salt, and eat them as is.
Fried Eggplant with Sugar
Serves 6 to 8.
2 1/2 pounds globe eggplants
1/2 cup sugar
Olive or sunflower oil for frying and drizzling
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-by-12-by-2-inch baking dish.
Peel the eggplants and cut them lengthwise into slices about ⅓ inch thick. Soak the slices in a bowl of lightly salted water for 15 minutes, then drain and squeeze dry. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Pour the oil to a depth of 2 inches into a large, deep sauté pan and heat to 360°F. When the oil is hot, in batches, dip the eggplant slices into the eggs and slip them into the oil. Fry just until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then place in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.
When the bottom of the dish is completely covered, sprinkle the eggplant slices with sugar and salt. Add another layer of eggplant and sprinkle with sugar and salt. Repeat until all the eggplant slices have been used. Drizzle the surface with oil.
Bake until the eggplant is very tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm directly from the dish.