July 26, 2011

A Summer Treat: Fried Eggplant Sandwich on Homemade Pita Bread

I love eggplant, so plant several varieties in my garden. I like it roasted in a middle eastern salad – see the family recipe here – stir fried, or sliced and fried. I freeze the fried slices on layers of waxed paper placed in a box, which can then be used all winter for pasta sauces and eggplant parmesan. My favorite indulgence during summer is a fried eggplant sandwich, a meal that was a favorite when I was growing up. When I eat it now, I'm thinking that I'm basically eating some fiber with a lot of olive oil, but oh how delicious!

The eggplants that are ripe this early in the season are the smaller ones: Swallow, an Oriental type, and Diamond, which is long and narrow. To fry the eggplant:

  1. Slice into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices
  2. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt; let stand for 1/2 hour. This draws out the moisture so the eggplant doesn't absorb as much oil. Before frying, blot the eggplant with paper towels.
  3. On high heat, bring about 1/4 inch of extra virgin olive oil (I think good oil is essential for this recipe) to a point where it sizzles if a piece of eggplant is placed in it.
  4. Fit the eggplant slices loosely in the pan. Fry until golden brown on one side, then turn and fry the other side. When done, place on a platter lined with paper towels to blot the extra oil.
My mother always saves the extra oil from frying eggplant in a glass jar and re-uses it several times, so I do too.

Because eating fried eggplant on what we called Syrian bread was traditional in my Syrian-Jewish family, that's how I prefer to eat it now. But I can't get good bread here in rural Vermont, so I make my own. My recipe is a combination of one from Claudia Roden's Mediterranean Cookery , whose ingredient list I use, and Bread Alone by Daniel Leader, whose cooking method I use. It's quite simple, but you must have a baking stone or quarry tiles for lining the oven rack.

Pita Bread
2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teas salt
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 1/2 teas dried yeast
pinch of sugar
about 1 3/4 cups water

  1. Put the flour in a mixing bowl with salt and a tablespoon of oil.
  2. Mix the yeast with some of the water and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl; allow it to rest until it froths, then add to the flour. Add enough additional water to make a firm soft dough. (I use the food processor to mix the dough, putting in the flour and salt and adding the water and yeast through the feed tube while the blade is spinning.)
  3. Knead for about 15 minutes until elastic and smooth. If using the food processor, knead for a few minutes by hand.
  4. Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot to rise until doubled, two to three hours.
  5. When ready, knead briefly on a floured board and cut into 10 equal pieces. (I use my kitchen scale for this step.) Shape each piece into a tight ball and allow to rise, covered with plastic wrap, for 1/2 hour.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400º for at least 1/2 hour, with a baking stone or quarry tiles (I use 6 tiles) placed in the center of the oven.
  7. Roll out each ball of dough into a flat round about 5 inches in diameter. Put 3 or 4 at a time onto the stone in the preheated oven. Bake for 4 minutes, during which time the bread will puff up and make a pocket.

My breads don't come out perfectly; many times the top layer is too thin. But the combination of whole wheat and white flour is delicious and the bread is fresh, which is more than can be said for supermarket pita. It also freezes very well. It's worth giving it a try if you enjoy making bread.


  1. We are jealous of your eggplant success. Need a workshop on them and peppers, and tomatoes, really.

  2. My grandmother, who was born in Syria, used to make this quite often and I loved it. Even (especially) the next day while it was still cold from being in the refrigerator, aka "the icebox". And we used to call pita "Syrian bread", too! I think it's time to give this a try.

    1. A., we called the refrigerator the icebox too. And yes, pita was Syrian bread. It's definitely time for you to give it a try.