Eggplant is a vegetable which I have fallen for hard the past few years. However I would treat it with much restraint, using it only for stock standard Eggplant recipes such as Baba Ghanoush. This was until a friend introduced me to the delicacy that is deep fried, crumbed eggplant. Done right, you get a wonderful crisp crumb, and a lovely creamy middle which is snacking bliss!
To make this joyous snack into a delicious meal, I combine layers of crumbed shallow fried eggplant with lots of mozzarella cheese, my home made sugo, bake it for half and hour and voila! - Eggplant Parmigiana.
It is so simple I hardly need to give you a recipe, but I will just so you can add it to your repertoire.
Parmigiana di Melanzane (Recipe by Rosa Matto from the book 'Italian Food Safari')
3 large eggplants
4 eggs, beaten
1-2 cups dry breadcrumbs (I add this step to the recipe as I like to crumb my eggplant. If you are avoiding too much wheat, you can omit the crumb).
80ml olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
750ml Passatta (or 2 tins Italian tomatoes)
salt and pepper
1/2 bunch basil leaves
250g bocconcini or fresh mozzarella, sliced
100g Parmesan, grated
Slice the eggplant no thicker than 1cm. Sprinkle the slices with salt. Stack in a colander and weigh down with a heavy object. Leave for 1 hour. This step is really important as you want to get as much moisture out of the eggplant. The salt will help draw out the moisture, along with any bitterness that the eggplant may have.
Pat the slices dry and lightly coat in seasoned flour. Dip into the beaten egg and then into your breadcrumbs. (If you are not using breadcrumbs, leave out this step and just dip in the egg). Shake off the excess and fry in hot oil until golden brown on each side. Drain well on paper towel.
To make the sugo, heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add tomato and bring to the boil. Cook until slightly reduced. Season to taste and add half of the basil.
Preheat oven to 180c. Smear the bottom of a baking dish with sugo and add a layer of eggplant. Dot with slices of bocconcini, a sprinkle of Parmesan and a few basil leaves. Keep layering until you have used up all the eggplant. Finish with a layer of sugo, and top with more cheese.
Bake for around 30 minutes, until the top is golden. When cooked, allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
This dish is delicious with zucchini sauteed in olive oil and thinly sliced garlic, or steamed vegetables or if you are being really good, a nice green salad. It is a great vegetarian alternative to meat lasagna. I have served this to die-hard carnivores and no one has ever asked 'Where's the beef?'
Until next time...