*Melanzane alla Parmigiana* – Eggplant Parmesan

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This recipe was given to us by our friend Giorgio, who introduced us to his delicate and shape-holding version of the usually gummy, runny Eggplant Parmesan.  It can (and should) be made ahead as it keeps well for several days.  It also, he assured me, can be frozen successfully.  This would be excellent as a first course or as a side with the main course.  It could even be the main event for a vegetarian.

Some notes:  I think it might be very good to use fine bread crumbs (impanatura) instead of flour when dredging the eggplant, though Giorgio says he has never tried it that way. If you really need to save a bit of time I imagine you could use bottled tomato sauce.  The Parmigiano cheese throws off a fair amount of oil; let the dish sit for at least an hour or two so the oil will be reabsorbed; it should be served at room temperature.    The directions below make a smallish dish, but it would be sufficient for four large helpings or six smaller ones.  Also, these ingredients made only two layers; a smaller pan or increasing the amounts would, obviously, make a more layered presentation.

the ingredients (3)

First, the Eggplant

1  medium Eggplant, peeled

1 egg, beaten

1/2 Cup flour (or impanatura – fine unseasoned bread crumbs), more if needed

4 Tbl. olive oil

Slice the eggplant thin – about 1/4″ (.5 cm), salt and place the slices on paper towels to drain for about 15-20 minutes.  While the eggplant is draining, make the sauce

the sauce:

1/2 onion, chopped fine

1 Tbl olive oil

5 large, fresh tomatoes,  skin removed and chopped (To skin a tomato, submerge it in boiling water for about 1 minute. When you take it out the skin will peel right off.)

1 Vegetable bouillon cube (or 1/2 vegetable dado)

1/4 Cup cream

1 tsp dried oregano (or marjoram), or 2 tsp fresh, chopped fine

Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan, and lightly saute the onion until it is soft, but not brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and the bouillon cube.  Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat until the sauce has thickened.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and the oregano.

the sauce

Back to the Eggplant:

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.

Pat the eggplant slices dry and dip them first in the beaten egg, then in the flour, and fry them until they are nicely browned.  Set aside.

frying eggplant

Third, the Parmesan, or Parmigian0 Cheese

Giorgio said that this recipe calls for ‘a mountain of Parmigiano.’  I take this to mean you can add as much as you like.

2 1/2 Cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (not the kind that comes in a round green cannister)

Assembly

Put a very light layer of sauce in an oven proof dish, then a layer of the eggplant, then a layer of sauce, then an abundant layer of parmesan cheese.  Continue layering the eggplant, sauce and cheese until you have used them up, ending with a layer of cheese.

assembled

Bake in a 300 F (150 C) oven for 30-40 minutes.

If I may digress for a moment.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again, a small toaster oven is a great investment.  It uses far less electricity than a large oven, and if one is baking something small, like the e.p. above, why waste all that energy heating a big oven?  Another benefit: if it’s really hot, you can move your operation outdoors and not heat up the house more than necessary.

baking (2)

finished (2)

Buon Appetito!

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