Friday, February 1, 2013

Italian-Stye Eggplant Sausages

What better to make a vegetarian sausage out of than a vegetable that has a meaty texture and is already pretty much shaped like a sausage! I'm talking about the Japanese eggplant, of course. They are available at most specialty grocery stores, but if the one near you doesn't have them, they can easily be found year-round at most Asian markets. 

Here we've flavored the Japanese eggplants using the same spice blend you'd find in almost any Italian sausage. It's a savory mix of sage, fennel, and spice. We serve them like they do in Jersey: hot-dog style on a hoagie roll, with potatoes, peppers, onions, and plenty of mustard.

These were so good I ate one for dinner, half of one for a snack, and another for lunch the next day. 

Italian-Stye Eggplant Sausages

1/4 cup olive oil

6 12-inch long Japanese eggplants (peeled using a vegetable peeler)
1 teaspoon ground fennel (or fennel pollen)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
6 12-inch hoagie rolls (light and crisp like French bread)
deli mustard
Potato, Onion, and Pepper Topping (recipe follows)
1 cup shredded mozzarella (optional)

Into a large bowl, pour olive oil over the peeled eggplants and rub it in so that all of the oil is absorbed. In a small bowl make a spice mixture using the fennel, red pepper flakes, sage, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Generously rub each eggplant with the spice mixture. You should use all of the spice mixture. Place eggplants in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to marinate for at least an hour or overnight.

Cook eggplants over medium heat using a cast-iron grill pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until well-marked by the grill grates. Cook for a total of 12 to 16 minutes or until heated through. Serve on warm hoagie rolls that have been slathered in mustard and stuffed with the Potato, Onion, and Pepper Topping. Add cheese to the top of each and melt it under the broiler if you wish.

Potato, Onion, and Pepper Topping

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium potato (peeled, diced)
1 onion (peeled, diced)
1 green pepper (diced)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and wait for it to shimmer. Carefully add the potato, onion, and green pepper in a single layer. Allow mixture to cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes or until nicely browned. Toss in the tomato paste and cook until potatoes are tender, for about another 3 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, cover, and set aside until ready to assemble.