“Fish on Christmas Eve, meat on Christmas day”: I’ve heard this phrase so many times during my life, that it has always sounded to me as an essential life rule. But if you ask someone else what his/her Italian family eats on Christmas, you’ll definitely receive a huge variety of answers (every region in the country has its own traditional festive dishes), each one usually told with steadfast certainty. I’ve even been present at some little arguments about Christmas lunch! You know, in Italy we take food quite seriously.
No matter what your traditions are, if you prefer having fish or meat at Christmas or both, if you are used to eat just a one course meal or 20 different dishes in a row, the main thing you do during your winter holidays, every single year, is eating.
And every single year, after Christmas, it comes the time for New Year resolutions. I am sure that the majority of people always puts “Eating more veggies” at the top of their list (alcoholic drinks on New Year’s Eve never count!), and I am one of those people!
I am a great fan of vegetables, I really am. The thing is, if you cook them with a big amount of fat, they have great flavour but too many calories. If you cook them too healthy, they seem to look at you from your plate with the saddest face ever.
How to make baked aubergine sticks: a tasty but healthy appetizer for your after-holidays detox diet
I’ve chosen aubergines as the main ingredient for this recipe, as they are one of my favourite vegetables. However you call them, aubergines or eggplants or melanzane (this is how they’re called in Italian), the truth is that they taste great. And they’re rich in health benefits too.
Here’s my recipe for a healthy but still tasty appetizer, perfect for your after-holidays detox diet: aubergine sticks in a breadcrumbs and herbs coat, with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. They taste like fried aubergines, but are baked instead. A veggie goodness inside with a crunchy outside. Delicious!
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 2 medium aubergines
- 100 gr. breadcrumbs (or 1 cup, or 3.5 oz)
- 1 tbsp mixed herbs – thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, garlic powder… the ones you like!
- 1 tsp sweet Paprika
- 2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese)
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp milk
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste.
Cut the aubergines into slices, and then into sticks about 1.5 – 2 cm thick.
Mix the dry ingredients (breadcrumbs, grated cheese, herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper) in a bowl; whisk together the egg and the milk in another one.
Dip each aubergine stick first in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs and herbs mix, allowing it to coat the whole surface.
Put your coated sticks on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Pour a drizzle of oil on them and bake them in a pre-heated oven, at 200°C for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
For the sweet-and-sour tomato dipping sauce – optional
- Half medium onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 400 gr (or 1, 1/2 cups, or 14 oz) of tomato passata (or peeled tomatoes, smashed with a fork)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- a pinch of salt, to taste.
On a low heat, sauté the minced onion and the garlic in oil with the paprika for about 4 minutes, then add vinegar. After 2 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients: tomato passata and tomato paste, sugar, salt.
Cook the sauce for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You’ll get a delicious dipping sauce, similar to Ketchup sauce, perfect to dip your baked veggies or whatever you like.
Baked aubergine sticks with tomato dipping sauce
- Prep time – aubergine sticks: 15 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook
- Prep time – tomato sauce: 5 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to cook
- Yield: serves 4
- Tips: Serve aubergine sticks immediately, to keep them crunchy!
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