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Eggplant and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce Recipe

Eggplant and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce Recipe

In Life:

Today marks the end of an era. This is my 12th and final recipe for the Eat Local Challenge here in New Orleans. It’s been both challenging and rewarding at the same time – I guess those typically do go hand in hand. It was definitely made more difficult because I’ve travelled so much this month. But it was a priority for me, and I was able to make it work as needed.

Beside the time constraints, one of my biggest challenges was being flexible. I had a solid plan for my recipes when the month began, and I realized very quickly that wasn’t going to happen. A cool spring left us with a longer growing season for the late winter/spring crops and also delayed things like okra, Creole tomatoes, and eggplant. This left me waiting much longer on some dishes and crunching my timeline. But thankfully, I got my eggplant and Creole tomatoes (as you can see with this recipe). But what I learned is that you go to the farmer’s market with a loose idea of what you want and then adjust accordingly based on what they have. I definitely stretched my creative muscles this month and came up with ideas I never would have dreamed of in the beginning.

In terms of rewards, I’d say that the biggest one was expanding my mind and horizons with food. I learned to really take advantage of the local bounty and let my imagination run wild. Thankfully here in South Louisiana we have a breadth of local veggies, fruits, meat and dairy to choose from, and that made all the difference. I learned to be more creative, and I am very thankful for that. Creativity is typically the brainchild of restriction, and I definitely benefitted from that.

Did any of you participate in the Eat Local Challenge? Or do you try to eat locally? What are some of the challenges you face and how do you combat them?

In Cooking:

I’m really pleased to bring you this recipe today. It’s what I like to call eggplant and meatballs with tomato sauce recipe. A mouthful, I know. I thought of this dish early on in the challenge, and I was so hoping I’d have enough time to make it. If you’ve been reading along, you know that I had to finish all these recipes by June 14 because I was leaving to go out of town to see my Mom. When the tomato and eggplant seasons were delayed due to cool weather, I worried that I might not make it to see tomatoes and eggplant. Well I got them, and I did you proud.

Eggplant and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce Recipe

Let’s start with the tomato sauce. I made fresh veggie and herb-packed sauce here. We started with onions, garlic, bell pepper and tomatoes and then finished with fresh basil and oregano (not pictured below – omission). I cooked down the veggies and then threw the herbs in right before pureeing to make sure they kept their fresh, aromatic flavors in the sauce. All that fresh produce made for a delicious, robust sauce.

Key Ingredients for Fresh, Veggie-filled Tomato Sauce

I want to take a closer look at the garlic I used here. As you can see below it is a large single clove. Based on the research I’ve done, this is traditionally called solo garlic and is actually a variety of allium sativum (part of the onion family!). Solo garlic is related to chives, shallots, leeks and green onions. I believe this is the same type of garlic that provided the scapes I used in the green gazpacho recipe earlier this month. It would make sense – I got both at Hollygrove Market and Farm. It was garlicky but a also mild, balanced flavor.

Solo Garlic bulbs

Before we talk about meatballs, let’s just touch on the eggplant real quickly. Below you can see how I’ve cut the eggplant. Most large purple eggplant will give you 2-3 thick slices. I really like to broil my eggplant – It’s a little trick I learned back when I was participating in the Serious Sandwich cookalong last fall. Its a great way to prepare eggplant when you still want the skin on, which I do because that’s where the most vitamins and nutrients are. If you want cut the eggplant into rings instead, feel free. I knew it wouldn’t photograph well for what I wanted to do so I stuck with the long slices. I like how it came out.

Eggplant, sliced length-wise

Finally, let’s talk meatballs. Saved the best for last, let me tell ya. Of course I got the ground beef from Cleaver & Co. I think this was the first time I actually bought their ground beef, and it was amazing. It was so full of flavor. It was very rich and delicious. I also fortified the meatballs with a local egg so that really helped to make these meatballs rich and delicious. They go well with the tomato sauce and eggplant. It all balances very well.

Meatballs made of ground beef from Cleaver & Co.

So there you have it. My last dish of the Eat Local Challenge. Check out my breakfast and lunch recipes for this week, too. If you’re looking for even more ideas for how to eat local in the summertime in South Louisiana, check out my weekly round ups from previous weeks – Week #1, Week #2, and Week #3. Each contains a breakfast, lunch and dinner recipe. Enjoy!

Eggplant and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce Recipe

Yield: 4-5 servings

Eggplant and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce Recipe

This delicious tomato sauce recipe tops broiled eggplant and ground beef meatballs. It's simple and packed with flavor from fresh oregano and basil.

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons pecan oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cored and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped garlic
  • 3 pounds Creole tomatoes, cored and chopped (substitute beefsteak, if needed)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh oregano leaves

Eggplant: 

  • 1/2 cup pecan oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large eggplant, each sliced length-wise into 3 pieces

Method:

Start by making the meatballs because they will need to chill for an hour prior to baking.

Meatballs:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in the "Meatballs" in a bowl. Mix well by hand.
  2. Use a tablespoon to measure and roll out about 30 meatballs. Take the meatball in the palm of your hand and roll well (about 15 seconds) to help the meatball best stick together.
  3. Place onto a sheet pan and refrigerate at least an hour before baking.

Next start working on the tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce:

  1. Heat pecan oil over medium high heat in a large pot.
  2. Add onion, bell pepper and kosher salt. Stir well and cook about 10 minutes, until onions and bell pepper are wilted and softened.
  3. Add garlic and stir well. Cook about one minute, until garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add tomatoes and stir well. Lower heat to low cover pot. Cook for 30 minutes covered.
  5. After 30 minutes, uncover pot and add basil and oregano. Stir well.
  6. Remove pot from heat and puree the sauce with an immersion blender.
  7. Return to stove and cook over low heat, uncovered for another 15 minutes to help reduce out some of the water.

While the tomato sauce is simmering, broil the eggplant.

Broiling the Eggplant:

  1. Set the oven to the broiler setting. Allow to heat for 10-15 minutes to ensure that it's properly pre-heated
  2. Combine salt, pepper and olive oil.
  3. Brush eggplant on both sides with olive oil mixture.
  4. Place in broiler and cook about 6 minutes per side. Watch carefully so eggplant doesn't burn.
  5. Once done, set aside until ready to plate up.

After broiling the eggplant, it's time to cook the meatballs. Switch the oven from broiler setting to 450 ºF for baking.

Cooking Meatballs:

  1. Line a baking pan with foil and non-stick spray (or use a Silpat), and bake the meatballs for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack.

Finishing the Dish:  

  1. Place one slice of eggplant on a dinner plate.
  2. Top with 5-6 meatballs and dress with tomato sauce.
  3. Serve and enjoy.

Prep:40 min

Cook:1 hour 20 min

Total:2 hours

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  • Mmmmm that looks and sounds yummy. Good job! I’ll have to find the solo garlic. Looks like it would be easier to cut up than regular garlic.

    • I went to Hollygrove today and they have a ton of solo garlic. They’re open 7 days a week now so maybe you can shoot on over there? 🙂

  • I snagged a couple eggplant (eggplants?) from Hollygrove last week and have yet to cook them. This looks like a wonderful dish. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Happy to help! I actually just read your blog post this morning about your trip to Hollygrove! 🙂 I also have this eggplant and quinoa recipe that I think you might like. Broiling eggplant is my favorite way to have it, for sure! 🙂

  • I LOVE eggplant – this looks amazing!

    • Thanks, Sara! This is one of my favorite dishes. Eggplant, tomatoes, beef – can it get any better??? 😉

  • Fabulous! Most people think of eggplant as a replacement for meat, but they do go so well together, that sauce is fantastic!

    • Thanks, Jackie! 🙂 I was pretty proud of this dish. Glad you liked it too!