Here’s another variation on an earlier recipe, Eggplant Parm. It’s summer (maybe not techinically, but when it’s 80 for a week straight it’s summer in my book) and I’d rather have something bright and refreshing rather than boiling hot and gut busting. The Valentino Basil I mention earlier this week was growing to epic proportions, begging to be used before those damn beetles started tearing the larger leaves apart. This would make a killer antipasta but I polished off a couple towers myself…thats been happening a lot lately….
Summer Melanzane alla Parmigiana
1 Large Eggplant
4 Roma Tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 Garlic Cloves
2 Fresh Mozzarellas (not that polly-o shit)
4 Large or 8 Small Basil Leaves
Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Chile Flake
Start first by placing the halved tomatoes in a baking dish, drizzle each with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic cloves (peel on so they don’t burn) and place into a 400 degree oven while you prepare the eggplant. After 40 mins or so when the tomatoes have begun to brown and release their juices, they’re ready.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool briefly, the last thing you want is a face full of molten tomato juice. Once they’re a little cooler, use a fork or masher to crush the tomatoes into a chunky sauce. Lightly smash the garlic to release some of their juices and then toss in the gar-ba’ge.
Peel 4 large peels off the eggplant creating a striped appearance (above). I do this because I love the flavor of the skin, but if you leave the whole thing it can get a bit chewy. Cut the eggplant width-wise into 1/2″ slices. Salt each slice of eggplant on both sides and spread across a paper towel for 15-20 minutes. This step will help reduce the bitter taste some eggplant can have, especially those with lots of seeds.
After 20 minutes or more, rinse the eggplant off and pat dry. Bring a large non-stick up to med-high heat and start to brown the eggplant slices in olive oil on both sides. Once golden brown remove and place on a cookie rack so they can drain and stay crisp on the outside.
Cut your Mozz into slices as thick as the eggplant.
Time to assemble. This is even more like architecture than my original recipe. Start with a slice of eggplant, next a slice of mozz, then a basil leaf. Another slice of eggplant, mozz, basil, and then one last slice of eggplant to cap it off. Top the whole thing with some of the roasted tomato sauce, plenty of chile flake, sliced basil, and an extra drizzle of super quality oil.
Taking a fork full from top to bottom your mouth is overwhelmed with freshness. The eggplant is silky and pungent. The mozzarella (from whole foods – the best I’ve found yet) is creamy and adds just the right amount of dairy to the dish. The sauce, with it’s smokey aroma and rustic consistency binds each mouthful together. And lastly, the basil, sweet, slightly anise-like, a perfect compliment to the other flavors and the real star of the dish.
So long winter, from here on out its gonna be fresh herbs and ripe veg, preferably with some tasty critter splayed out on the grill.