Saturday, February 16, 2008

UNBAKED EGGPLANT PARMESAN

Last Sunday we were invited to Giacomo and Belinda’s house for lunch. Good company and good food are a winning combination! Between our visit to the states and their visit to Australia, it’s been a while since we’ve had more than a few minutes together, so lunch would be the perfect opportunity to catch up.

We were both amazed to see how much progress has been made on their construction project. Belinda and Giacomo are building a tower on their property to house two apartments they’ll rent out for vacationers. It’s been fun to watch the tower rise from the ground, and we look forward to seeing how it all turns out.

I was a little surprised when Giacomo brought a platter to the table and announced “Eggplant parmigiano!” The reason for my surprise was that the dish was not hot….and had obviously never been in the oven! Is this Sicilian style, I asked? Giacomo said yes, eggplant parmigiano is often served cold, and of course can also baked in the oven.

It only took one bite for me to know that this dish was a winner! I asked Giacomo how it was prepared, and as expected, it was quite simple. The only part of the recipe I have trouble with is the preparation of the eggplant. Giacomo told me to slice the eggplant, salt it, weigh it down, and let it sit overnight. I’ve NEVER done this, and I’m just wondering…am I missing something? I understand that this step was/is used to draw the excess moisture out of the eggplant, but honestly….is this step really necessary? Do experienced chefs still salt their eggplant?

Here’s the recipe as told to me by Giacomo:

Slice the eggplant, salt it, weight it down and let it sit overnight.

Make a tomato sauce using fresh or canned tomatoes. First sauté finely chopped celery, onion and garlic in some olive oil. Add the tomatoes and shredded fresh basil and simmer all until the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the eggplant slices. Giacomo uses half olive oil and half sunflower oil.

On a serving platter, layer the eggplant slices, tomato sauce, lots of fresh basil and generous amounts of SHAVED parmesan cheese. Top with a few whole basil leaves for garnish. To serve, slice thru the eggplant and serve in wedges.

Honestly, I was so surprised at how delicious this dish was! It’s a winner any time of the year, but will definitely be on my table a lot this coming summer! And I’ll just take this opportunity to point out how just a few ingredients, combined simply, add up to a wonderful taste explosion!

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4 Comments :

At 2/17/2008 12:55:00 AM , Blogger Gil said...

My Grandmothers (Sicilian & Neapolitan) both used the method you described to remove the excess water from eggplant before frying. Also, my Yankee wife and my sisters, cousins, etc prepare eggplant like that. Sounds good.

 
At 2/21/2008 09:02:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Barb,
My tried-and-true recipe for Moussaka calls for salting and pressing the eggplant, to extract liquid , before grilling.
It is also a step in the preparation of several favourite Hungarian dishes, including sweet/sour red cabbage, cucumber ( uborka ) salad, zucchini or marrow.
In theory this process reduces digestive problems i.e. flatulence, after eating, but I have never conducted a post -meal 'fart test' to prove or disprove the claim!

 
At 2/21/2008 12:46:00 PM , Blogger Barbara said...

Well, maybe I'll have to try this the next time I fix eggplant. I always thought it was to remove the excess moisture, and since that was never a problem, it seemed like a waste of time. If there are digestive benefits, and since I'm married to a man, it would definitely be worth it1

 
At 2/22/2008 07:41:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Barb. You need to do this even if you consider the aubergine to be "dry" because there is more than one reason to remove the excess water. If you don't do it, the aubergine will taste bitter.

 

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