This morning, I'm feeling dejected. Yet another L.A. Times recipe that kind of stank. It had so much promise! Delectable vegetables, freshly grated cheese, crispy breadcrumbs to bind it all together before a toasty roll in hot oil. What came out, though, were odd little balls that were too garlicky (I promise, there is such a thing) in places, and too bland in others. Regina Schrambling wrote her article about the triumvirate of vegetables that define a ratatouille and decided that while ratatouille was over the hill (seriously? I didn't get the memo), there was still a chance for the eggplant-pepper-zucchini trio to shine in other combinations. Well, I'm not convinced. Give me a good ratatouille anyday over the polpettine from last night.
First, I lay a halved zucchini and a halved eggplant over a vegetable steamer in a stock pot. The zucchini were done after a few minutes, while the eggplant continued on for another twenty. Then, I draped the steamed eggplant over a colander to drain. Meanwhile, I finely diced the zucchini, one red pepper, several garlic cloves, a bunch of fresh thyme and then diced the eggplant flesh (after peeling it). To this, I added pine nuts, grated Grana Padano, panko, and a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper.
This glorious combination was gently mixed together with one egg.
Then came the real mess. I was instructed to shape little balls with my hands, then roll them gently in flour, shaking off the excess, before laying them in a pan of hot oil. No matter how finely diced the vegetables would have been, the balls did not want to stay together. Little dice of red peppers fell all over the place and so I found myself squishing the balls into submission, flour everywhere.
I slipped the little fritters into the pan (only burning my fingertips once!) and fried them in three batches, a few minutes on each side.
I drained them on paper towels, and ate one right away, piping hot, and another after it had cooled off. The pepper and garlic were still raw and far too strong against the eggplant that seemed to have been drained of all its flavor in the steamer basket. The pine nuts and cheese and thyme tasted good, but didn't manage to save these little polpettine. If you'd like a similar recipe that is far more delicious and easier to make, try Marcella Hazan's eggplant patties in this book.