You have to hand it to the people who devised the art of egg cookery: add or subtract a few ingredients, swap a couple or so worksteps, and you have a completely different dish.
Take the frittata, for example. It is, essentially, an omelet – only, instead of folding the cooked eggs over a filling, the filling is scattered over or mixed into the beaten eggs. The mixture is then fried till the eggs are set, flipped over, then allowed to brown before serving. Zucchini frittatas are often served as a light entree during the summer in Italy. In Spain, frittatas are known as tortillas and the most famous of these is the tortilla de patatas, that potato frittata that serves as a substantial breakfast, ample appetizer, and sandwich filling.
Here in the Philippines where the cuisine was heavily influenced by 400 years of Spanish colonial rule, the tortilla de patatas is equally popular and has been made more substantial by the addition of ground pork or beef. But there is one variation on this dish that takes it to a completely different level. This is the tortang talong.
Tortang talong at our house is made in pretty much the same way my maternal grandmother used to make it. Eggplants (talong in the vernacular) are boiled, peeled (but the stems are left on), stuffed with a cooked mixture of ground pork sauteed with onions and garlic, then fried. Beaten eggs are poured over the stuffed eggplants and these are pressed down in the pan till flat. After browning to a dark shade on either side, these are served alongside bowls of chicken sopas (creamy chicken macaroni soup).
I don’t know if the method we use is the same one used in other local households. Indeed, I’ve seen some versions of tortang talong where a whole eggplant was enveloped by an omelet. But it’s what works for us and this savory dish is a perfect meal for those days when you just need something hot, crisp-edged, and – ultimately – belly-warming.