Kosher salt and black pepper
4 each large globe eggplant
2 Tbsp pure olive oil
1/4 tsp espelette pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 each large yellow onion
finely minced
6 each garlic cloves
finely minced
Zest of 1 lemon
2 each eggs
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup fine (Italian style) breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan
finely grated
1/4 cup feta cheese
well-drained & finely grated
Rice bran oil
for frying
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1 each medium onion
small diced
5 each garlic cloves
1 stick Cinnamon
(or 1 tsp ground)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350F. Peel and large dice the eggplant. Toss with salt and spread out in a colander to drain for at least 30 minutes. Gently squeeze dry. Coat generously with pure olive oil and spread on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Bake until deeply golden and soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt. Add the remaining spices off heat then set aside to cool.
Using a food processor, pulse the eggplant, onion mix, egg, (and walnut if using) to a coarse consistency. Then fold in the breadcrumbs and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Test fry a small amount of the mix and adjust ingredients as desired. If the mix is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If too dry, add another egg. If you have time, spread out the mix onto a sheet tray and refrigerate - it will hold shape better when chilled. Use a small scoop to evenly divide the mixture and roll tightly into compacted balls. Roll each ball in more breadcrumbs to coat.
Heat fry oil to 375F and fry keftas in small batches until golden brown. Remove to a rack and serve warm.
For the Tomato Sauce
Heat large saute pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, and allspice, and cook about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add tomatoes, sugar, oregano, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer at least 10 minutes, longer if possible. Puree before serving if desired.
To Serve
Top each eggplant kefta with a dollop of tomato sauce, or serve on the side. Serve with cocktail picks.