I told you my posts would be briefer these days, out of necessity. And so they will. Ironic, then, that the topic of today’s post is a dish that isn’t quite so quick to whip up. But so yummy…and every now and then worth the extra time it takes.
I’m speaking of Eggplant Parmesan. Melanzana alla parmigiana. I’ve made various versions of this in my day. With breadcrumbs, without. With “enhanced” tomato sauce (i.e. with chopped onions), and with plain. With more or less mozzarella, and more or less parmesan. By grilling the eggplant instead of frying. Etc. Etc. But the best I’d ever eaten, up until a little while ago, hadn’t been made in my kitchen. It was made by the salumeria down the street, Alberti. I asked them their secret. And ecco, here it is: you soak the eggplant slices in milk.
1. Wash, and evenly slice a lovely firm eggplant. I like the stripy ones. I think they taste better, but that might be my eyes getting in the way of my tongue.
2. Place them in a colander lined with a cloth or paper towels and salt them lightly. Let them drain. Amazing how much water is in that spongy interior.
3. Place the eggplant slices in a shallow pan of milk (according to my neighborhood food geniuses, the milk does something wonderful and magical to the flavor of this bulbous nightshade, and in fact, it does seem to); coat them lightly in flour; and brown them top and bottom in a pan of already hot olive oil. Place them on another absorbent surface to rid them of excess oil. We don’t want that.
INTERMEZZO. This is getting long. Let’s take a break:
4. Slice a mozzarella and pop open a can of organic tomato pulp. Polpa di pomodoro. Honestly, the simpler the better. And if you don’t like the idea of it having been in a can, you can easily (with enough time) make it yourself.
5. In a large baking sheet, lined with parchment, start layering your Towers of Yum. Sauce on the bottom, eggplant, sauce, mozzarella, a grating of parmesan, eggplant, sauce, mozzarella, a grating of parmesan…Make sure you finish with that lovely sharp cheese, sprinkled generously on top.
6. Pop your beauties into a preheated oven and take them out when things begin to bubble and brown. A sprig of basil makes a lovely, edible rooftop garden for each.
NOTE: My neighborhood food geniuses also make this dish with zucchini.