Ric Orlando has long held sway as one of the greater Capital Region's most innovative chefs.
That standing has been enhanced even more by word today that his vegetarian Eggplant Balls recipe has been chosen the top entry in the Northeast region of U.S. Foods' "Next Top Product" competition.
Orlando and seven other regional winners will compete in the World Cooking Championships in Las Vegas in November.
(Makes about 24)
2 tablespoons salt
5 large peeled eggplants, to yield about 4 lbs., quartered lengthwise
4 cups day-old bread
½ cup plus ¼ cup pecorino, freshly grated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped to yield ¼ cup
Pinch of crushed red pepper
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the eggplants and boil 10 minutes. Dip the bread in the water and remove, squeezing to drain the water and set aside. Remove the eggplants from the water and drain well.
When the eggplants have cooled, coarsely chop them and place them in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the soaked bread and egg and pulse to form a somewhat homogenous paste. Add pecorino, garlic and parsley and continue to pulse until a smooth yet somewhat dry mixture is formed. Do not over-process.
Turn the mixture into a mixing bowl and place bread crumbs on a large plate. Using your hands and working quickly, roll the eggplant mixture into balls about 2-inch diameter and roll each ball in the bread crumbs to coat. Hold each ball on a sheet tray. Freeze now or braise in your sauce of choice.