I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus this summer, it’s largely due to technological issues (but a new computer for me!) and a general feeling of malaise that I always experience in summer. It has never been a productive couple of months for me, I spent most of my summer vacation reading in bed when I was a little girl – specifically cookbooks from the library and John Bellairs novels. I also rode my bike and took swimming lessons but the memories of my lazy summers have determined my current behaviour when I become too warm to think rationally. Regardless, new computer + impending autumn is just the formula I need to get out of this summertime slump.
I’m dealing with a rather full on obsession with eggplants at the moment, I’m putting them in everything and taking pictures so there will inevitably be more eggplant related posts in the near future. This is an eggplant parmesan that’s lighter in flavour and texture than a more traditional recipe. The marinara sauce is light and uncomplicated and doesn’t mask the delicate flavour of the fresh mozzarella. Granted, there are several steps to this recipe so give yourself plenty of time to put it together. You could also make the eggplant up to the stage where it’s been cooked and freeze it on a baking sheet before placing it in freezer bags or containers. The same can be done for the marinara sauce, leaving a last minute dinner that needs only cheese and fresh basil and parsley (it wouldn’t be criminal to serve it without the garnish.) My favourite way to serve this is with a green salad dressed with lemon juice or sherry vinegar and a good fruity olive oil.
2-3 small(ish) eggplants, sliced into 2 cm rounds
All purpose flour, mixed with geneous amounts of freshly cracked pepper and kosher salt
2 eggs, beaten
Canola or grapeseed oil, for shallow frying
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of one or a combination of the following, finely minced: red pepper, carrot, celery, or leek
1 bottle of tomato passata or good quality canned, diced tomatoes with their juices
Pinch of dried chilies
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup of fresh basil, cut in a small chiffonade
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely chopped
Fresh cows’ milk mozzarella, Mozzarella di Bufala, fior di latte, burrata, etc.
1. Place the eggplants, one layer at a time, in a shallow colander and generously salt between each layer. Allow the eggplants to drain over the sink for half an hour before rinsing thoroughly with cold water and drying carefully with a clean tea towel.
2. While the eggplants are draining, make your marinara sauce by sautéing the onion and garlic over medium heat until just beginning to soften. Stir in the vegetables and cook for about 5 more minutes before adding the tomatoes, dried chilies, salt, pepper, basil, and parsley (reserve a small amount for garnish.) Cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large shallow casserole dish or baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the marinara sauce in a thin layer on the bottom (you may find you need a couple of dishes, which gives you a perfect opportunity to wrap one of them tightly in foil and freeze for a future meal.)
4. Heat the largest skillet you have (or better yet, 2 of the largest skillets you have and working very carefully) over medium-high heat with enough oil to generously coat the bottom while you get the eggplant ready to be shallow-fried. I find that this works best if you use a pie plate for the eggs and 2 large Ziploc bags for the panko crumbs and flour, it will inevitably be a little bit messy but the end result is very much worth it (and you can wash the Ziploc bags and reuse them again.)
5. Alternately coating the eggplant slices in the flour, eggs, and panko crumbs. Place the slices as you go in the hot oil, cooking for about 4 minutes per side, keep an eye on them as they may need more or less time. Lay the cooked eggplant slices on top of the sauce. Tear the fresh mozzarella of your choice into generous chunks and scatter over the eggplants.
6. Cover the baking dish or sheet with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes; remove foil and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Serve while still quite hot with generous amounts of the marinara sauce spooned over the eggplant parmesan and garnish with the fresh basil and parsley.
It’s also been Gary Numan time lately (eggplants and Gary Numan, I wonder if there’s a connection I’m not seeing?) and it’s been all about The Pleasure Principle.
Gary Numan – Metal