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Berenjena con Miel (Fried Eggplant With Honey)

March 26, 2021
Berenjena con Miel (Fried Eggplant With Honey)

Downstairs in the kitchen at La Vara, a 44-seat Spanish restaurant that opened in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood a few weeks ago, a line cook tosses hunks of marinated lamb into a pressure cooker. Nearby, another cook mixes preserved kumquat peel into a tub of olives before turning around to plate an order of beef tongue braised in tomato-caper sauce. As in all new kitchens, the pace is hectic as the staff learns its way around an unfamiliar space. But for chef Alex Raij, everything feels like it’s in exactly the right place.

La Vara joins a small but growing cluster of nouveau Jewish eateries in the neighborhood: The Montreal-style delicatessen Mile End, the appetizing store Shelsky’s Smoked Fish, and the egg-cream-pushing Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain are all a short walk away. But unlike its neighbors, La Vara’s culinary explorations are Sephardic—and Raij said she does not aim to “elevate nostalgic comfort food,” as many of her contemporaries are credited with doing.

Featured in: Cooking Up Spain’s Jewish Past

Recipe by: La Vara Restaurant

Ingredients

  • 1medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • kosher salt
  • olive oil for frying
  • all-purpose flour for coating
  • 3-4ounces meltable cheese, like mozzarella
  • 2tablespoons honey, or more to taste
  • 1teaspoon nigella seeds

Preparation

  • Step 1

    Soak the eggplant cubes in heavily salted water for 1 hour. They will float, so put a plate over the bowl to keep them submerged. Drain and pat dry.

  • Step 2

    Fill a cast iron pan with approximately 2 inches of olive oil and heat until a thermometer reads 365 degrees.

  • Step 3

    Pour flour onto a large plate. Pass the eggplant cubes through the flour and tap off extra. Fry coated eggplant in batches until they are crisp on the outside and creamy inside.

  • Step 4

    Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. Season with additional kosher salt to taste.

  • Step 5

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop up cheese into pieces and place in the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Bake until cheese melts.

  • Step 6

    Remove from oven and cover fried eggplant pieces with melted cheese. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with nigella seeds.

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