Crispy Eggplant Fritters with Smoked Mozzarella

-Preheat your oven to 350°F.

-Cut 2 medium eggplant crosswise into ½ inch-thick slices.

-Soak in ice water for 20 minutes.

-Brush 1 large baking sheets with oil.

-Pat eggplant dry; arrange in single layer on the baking sheet.

-Brush lightly with oil.

-Bake until eggplant is tender and dry, about 35-40 minutes.

-Cool slightly; chop coarsely.

-Cut 4 ounces of smoked mozzarella cheese into ½ inch cubes, you need about 20 total.

-Whisk together the following in a medium bowl:

1 egg

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup panko breadcrumbs

¼ cup parsley

1 TBS chopped fresh thyme

¼ tsp pepper

¼ tsp sea salt

-Stir in chopped eggplant (mixture will be soft).

-Spread 1 cup panko breadcrumbs on plate.

-Whisk 1 egg

-Put ½ cup flour in another bowl.

-Press and shape eggplant mixture into 1¼ inch diameter balls.

-Press 1 piece of the smoked mozzarella into center of each ball, making sure eggplant mixture covers cheese.

-Dip balls, 1 at a time, into the egg then the flour. Then dip in egg again and roll in breadcrumbs to coat.

-Pour enough oil into large skillet to reach depth of ¼ inch; heat over medium-high heat.

-Working in batches, add balls to skillet; sauté until browned, turning often, about 4 minutes.

-Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

-Sprinkle with sea salt and serve hot.