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Eggplant Croquettes

Eggplant is a relatively new beast, at least for me. I have watched tons of recipes about it on Food Network, but have never really tackled something with eggplant. While innocently shopping, I came across a beautiful looking eggplant. It smiled and winked at me, let out a Joey-from-Friends-esque “how you doin’?” and that was it. The eggplant was in my cart.

Once the beautiful eggplant sat in my fridge, I set out to find a perfect recipe. I thought of eggplant parmigana, stuffed eggplant, and even eggplant lasagna. Having never cooked with eggplant before, I knew that I wanted to keep it as a side so that I could feature it here on the blog. This week is about expanding my side dish repertoire, after all.

After finding a recipe, I thought about the fact that breadcrumbs were used and anything that I tend to make with them becomes mushy. Nothing against breadcrumbs. I like breadcrumbs. I have two containers of them in my pantry (again, overstocking.) It seemed that these would be tastier with a pretty good crunch of panko bread crumbs instead of the mush that I would risk ending up with. 

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable oil for frying
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions
In a skillet, add panko bread crumbs and oil. Toss together until panko is coated. Toast the panko while stirring occassionally until brown.This should take about 4 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Be sure to allow the bread crumbs to cool before adding to the eggplant mixture so the eggs do not start to cook with the heat. 
Place eggplant in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 3 minutes. Turn eggplant over and microwave another 2 minutes. If the eggplant is not tender at the end of 5 minutes, place it back into the microwave for 2 minute increments until soft enough to mash. Drain any liquid from the eggplant and mash.
Combine cheese, cooled bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, onion, garlic and salt with the mashed eggplant. Mix well.
Shape the eggplant mixture into patties. Heat oil in a large skillet. Drop eggplant patties one at a time into skillet. Fry each side of the patties until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes on each side. If you choose to make these ahead of time, the patties may be placed into the freezer until ready to be used.
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