Monday, July 13, 2009
I Dream of Eggplant
Grilling season has hit in earnest, and contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood shares his favorite grilled eggplant recipe. You can find him and his extra virgin olive oil, Katz Orleans method vinegars, Profumi Estensi balsamic vinegar from Modena, hand harvested sea salt, lye-free brined and oil-cured olives, farro, and beans most Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 pm at Activspace, 833 SE Main #110-111, on the ground floor in the inner courtyard.
Grilled Eggplant “Parm”
Judith’s Sicilian roots introduced me to the joys of eggplant parmesan. Her father made it old school, breading the slices of eggplant and frying them before layering with tomato sauce and cheese. Judith used to bake the eggplant to cut down on the oil and labor. However it was made, the highest and best use for eggplant parm was making a sandwich from the cold leftovers the next day.
I’ve been grilling a lot of eggplant, and recently a plate of leftovers from the previous night’s grilling made me hungry for an eggplant parm sandwich.
If you don’t have any leftover grilled eggplant in the refrigerator, slice a large round one, brush both sides with olive oil and grill over direct heat until nicely browned on both sides. (I think salting the eggplant is a waste of time, and I’ve never felt that anything I made with unsalted eggplant was bitter.)
Make a simple tomato sauce by cooking a chopped onion in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes, then adding a large can of ground tomatoes (diced or any other form work fine, but you’ll need to do some work to get the degree of smooth or chunky you desire). Simmer for a few minutes, then set aside.
Combine a couple of cups of homemade breadcrumbs with a good glug of olive oil in a heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat until the crumbs are brown, about 10 minutes.
Slice or grate about a half pound of mozzarella or provolone and about a quarter pound of pecorino Romano or Parmigiano. (Despite the name, you don’t need to use Parmigiano cheese; eggplant dishes came to Italy via the Arabs who occupied Sicily, and the word “parmigiano” is a corruption of the Sicilian dialect word Parmiciana, meaning “in the style of Persia.”)
Spoon a little tomato sauce into a baking dish, then alternate layers of eggplant, breadcrumbs, cheese, a few leaves of fresh basil, and sauce. Save enough cheese for the top, then bake for about 45 minutes or until nicely browned. It’s okay to eat it hot (it’s delicious), but save enough for eggplant parm sandwiches the next day.