Sunday, June 10, 2012

SUMMERTIME COOKING

We've been lucky here so far with not only a mild winter but also a very early and mild spring.  Although it was up in the 90's for Memorial Day weekend, this past week has been wonderful - low humidty, nightly lows in the 50's, and sunny days in the low 80's - heaven!  Although the tomatoes aren't in yet, the farmer's markets have zucchini and eggplant and enough other stuff to make it worth a stop.  The other day I bought 2 smallish eggplants - I knew as soon as I saw them what I would be making:  Giacomo's Unbaked Eggplant Parmesan. 

This dish is one that needs to be made in advance.  The eggplant needs to be sliced, salted and drained for at least an hour or so, the tomato sauce needs to simmer for several hours to reduce, and the eggplant gets fried before the dish is assembled, so I recommend making this dish the day before you plan to serve it. 

Here's what you need:  2-3 small eggplants, not teeny-tiny, but small enough to still be tender.  Slice the eggplants about 1/4" thick, place them in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with salt.  Placing a heavy bowl on top of the eggplants will help squeeze out the moisture.  After the eggplants have released their excess water rinse them quickly and place on paper towels to dry. 

While the eggplants are draining you can start your tomato sauce.  Finely chop one carrot, one rib of celery and one garlic clove then saute them in a large skillet with a little olive oil.  After a few minutes add the tomatoes.  Fresh tomatoes will work fine, but since they aren't ready I just used one large can of San Marzano tomatoes, whole.  Break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon, throw in some torn fresh basil leaves and let this simmer on the back of the stove until it's thick - really thick - I think mine simmered nearly 5 hours!

Fry the eggplant slices quickly in hot oil, just browing them, then drain on paper towels.  Shave some Parmesan with a potato peeler and tear up quite a few basil leaves.  Once the tomato sauce is ready just layer the eggplant on a plate - I used a dinner plate and placed the eggplant in the center, not covering the whole plate.  Cover the eggplant with a good dollop of tomato sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan and basil.  Repeat the process until you've used all your ingredients, then cover and refrigerate.  I usually roll up a paper towel and put it around the bottom of the plate to soak up any excess moisture that remains, and trust me, there's still plenty!

When you're ready to serve just add a few more fresh basil leaves on top and enjoy!  This is such a good summer dish - cool and refreshing, flavorful and healthy! 

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