Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant is a vegetable which I have fallen for hard the past few years.  However I would treat it with much restraint, using it only for stock standard Eggplant recipes such as Baba Ghanoush.  This was until a friend introduced me to the delicacy that is deep fried, crumbed eggplant.  Done right, you get a wonderful crisp crumb, and a lovely creamy middle which is snacking bliss!

To make this joyous snack into a delicious meal, I combine layers of crumbed shallow fried eggplant with lots of mozzarella cheese, my home made sugo, bake it for half and hour and voila! - Eggplant Parmigiana. 

It is so simple I hardly need to give you a recipe, but I will just so you can add it to your repertoire.

Parmigiana di Melanzane (Recipe by Rosa Matto from the book 'Italian Food Safari')

3 large eggplants
plain flour
4 eggs, beaten
1-2 cups dry breadcrumbs (I add this step to the recipe as I like to crumb my eggplant.  If you are avoiding too much wheat, you can omit the crumb).
Olive Oil

80ml olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
750ml Passatta (or 2 tins Italian tomatoes)
salt and pepper
1/2 bunch basil leaves

250g bocconcini or fresh mozzarella, sliced
100g Parmesan, grated

Slice the eggplant no thicker than 1cm.  Sprinkle the slices with salt.  Stack in a colander and weigh down with a heavy object.  Leave for 1 hour.  This step is really important as you want to get as much moisture out of the eggplant.  The salt will help draw out the moisture, along with any bitterness that the eggplant may have. 

Pat the slices dry and lightly coat in seasoned flour.  Dip into the beaten egg and then into your breadcrumbs.  (If you are not using breadcrumbs, leave out this step and just dip in the egg).  Shake off the excess and fry in hot oil until golden brown on each side.  Drain well on paper towel.

To make the sugo, heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft.  Add tomato and bring to the boil.  Cook until slightly reduced.  Season to taste and add half of the basil.

Preheat oven to 180c.  Smear the bottom of a baking dish with sugo and add a layer of eggplant.  Dot with slices of bocconcini, a sprinkle of Parmesan and a few basil leaves.  Keep layering until you have used up all the eggplant.  Finish with a layer of sugo, and top with more cheese.

Bake for around 30 minutes, until the top is golden.  When cooked, allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

This dish is delicious with zucchini sauteed in olive oil and thinly sliced garlic, or steamed vegetables or if you are being really good, a nice green salad.  It is a great vegetarian alternative to meat lasagna.  I have served this to die-hard carnivores and no one has ever asked 'Where's the beef?'

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tomato Update (For those who have been following their progress)

My Tomato plants are sprouting and fruiting and right now are taller than me!  I am having trouble reaching the stakes to tie them off as they are getting out of my reach! (Must be all the singing of 'Tintarella di Luna' and 'Mambo Italiano' that they get from me daily).

I have 7 different varieties of Heirloom growing, having added a few extra varieties (Tigerella, Green and Amish) to my collection, which are all doing rather well.  My Siberian tomato plant unfortunately perished.  (It was a very sad day).  I am not sure what went wrong, but it yielded 2 small fruits which I am going to try and seed save for next season.

The plants I have growing look so green and lush and impressive.  I have to hold myself back from the vegetable seedling section of the hardware store as I was becoming rather obsessive over the tomato varieties.  I am out of patio space and pots! 

Along with my tomato grove, I have also added Lebanese eggplant, Strawberries and Rhubarb to complete my little backyard Market Garden.  Where possible I have selected Heirloom varieties, for their taste and the pure feeling of nostalgia they give me.

To see my beautiful plants looking so happy and strong has me really excited about cooking.  I mean, who wouldn't want to cook with their own home grown produce?

Apple and Rhubarb pie anyone?  (Stay tuned...) 

I am also very pleased to report that I am growing my veggies without pesticides (my fish is enjoying the grasshopper diet) and I am fertilizing with an organic fertilizer.  I can't wait to tell you how good they taste!

As you can see I am patiently waiting for the fruits of my love and labour to ripen.

Until next time...

Kitty xx