I never expect to see shiny, plump and beautiful eggplant in the grocery store until mid/late summer, but we’ve gotten lucky this year as a booming crop became readily available in our local market (unlike the empty paper towel and toilet paper shelves!) Since this is one of my favorite summer comfort foods, I thought I’d share and old world recipe with you. (If you want to skip a step and use purchased tomato sauce, that’s a great time saving option.)
You might ask why you need to soak your eggplant in salt water first. This does two things: it draws out any of the bitter juices that can be found in older eggplant and tightens up the flesh, making the eggplant less likely to soak up too much oil when you are frying them. This recipe will make 2 – 9×13″ pans. Since it can be a bit time consuming to make, it enables you to put one pan away in the freezer for another time.
Wash eggplant. Remove the top and bottom from the eggplant and slice across into 1/2" rounds (no need to peel) Submerge in a large bowl of cold water with 3 Tbsp Salt. Put a plate across the top of the bowl to keep the eggplant submerged. Let soak 30 min to 1 hr.
Prepare the sauce: In a medium pot on top of the stove, heat the oil and add diced onion and a teaspoon of sugar. Cook over low heat until the onions are translucent and soft.
Add the torn basil leaves, oregano and garlic. Continue cooking for another minute, watching that the garlic doesn't burn. Add the the salt and pepper and the tomatoes and the remaining sugar, if desired.
Continue cooking over low heat until the flavors meld. Let simmer 30 min. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Drain eggplant and dry on paper towels
Mix together the Flour, salt and pepper on one plate. In a second large shallow bowl or pie plate, beat the eggs together.
One at a time, dip the eggplant in the seasoned flour and then in the beaten eggs
Heat oil in a large skillet or fry pan
Fry the eggplants until golden on one side and then turn to continue frying on the other side. Remove to a paper lined sheet pan.
When all the eggplant are fried, you are ready to assemble!
Spray two 9X13" pan with PAM spray
Put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of each pan
Lightly sprinkle with the grated pecorino romano cheese
Layer the eggplant slices - touching but not overlapping
Sprinkle grated mozzarella over
Lightly sprinkle with grated pecorino romano cheese
Continue layering in this order:
Sprinkle Chopped Parsley
End with Sauc
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 min. Let rest 10-15 min.
Greetings from Barga, Italy! For the past several weeks I have been serving at the Community’s outreach in Tuscany, and learning about Italian food in the process. During the holidays I made one of my most favorite Italian dishes: arancini. You would be hard pressed not to find comfort in these creamy risotto balls stuffed with cheese, aside from the fact they are also breaded and deep fried…mama mia.
As with most things I’ve encountered in Italy, this dish brings a centuries-long history to the table, dating back to 10th-century Sicily. While arancini has undergone some modern interpretation over the centuries, it remains a delicious treat. Buon appetito!
Fill a saucepan, crockpot or deep fryer with 4-5 inches of oil and heat to 350 degrees, regulating frequently with a thermometer if not using a crockpot or deep fryer appliance.
Form a ball of risotto no larger than a golf ball in your hand and press it flat on a piece of wax paper. Place a mozzarella cube in the center, and close the risotto around it. Reshape into a ball if needed and set aside and repeat with remaining risotto.
Once all the risotto has been formed, gently roll in flour, then egg and finally the breadcrumbs until fully coated.
Working in batches, gently drop risotto balls into the oil, frying until the outside becomes a light golden brown color. Remove from oil and place on a cooling rack to drain excess oil.
Serve warm or with a red or white sauce of your choosing.
Our gardens are bursting at the seams with eggplants. I just love the shiny purple beauties and feel slightly sorry for the bad rap they get from opinionated palates! Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to attempt to set those opinions straight and give you some trusted recipes that will transform this ordinary vegetable into an extraordinary culinary delight.
In writing this, I am reminded of a wonderful book I read many years ago as a young Sister when I was exploring my Jewish roots. The book, To Life! by Rabbi Harold Kushner, is filled with wonderful insights into human nature and God. I underlined over and over as I read through the book. One particular quote has remained with me, the author says, “To be human is to choose to be good; to take something unholy and make it holy, something ordinary and transform it into the extraordinary. To sanctify the world and live a Godly life”.
Praying that co-working with God today will begin to make the ordinary extraordinary.
Heat the 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a heavy (non-aluminum) saucepan.
Add the onion and half of the basil, the Italian seasoning and the salt.
Allow to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Cook until the onion is translucent and then add the garlic.
Add the tomatoes, cover with a lid, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and have melted into a sauce.
Add the sugar to taste and adjust seasonings.
Continue cooking so the sauce can thicken and add tomato paste, if desired for a thicker sauce (you don’t want your sauce to be watery!).
Adjust seasonings to taste.
Cut the eggplant into slices and sprinkle with salt. Put them in a colander and leave for 30 min. while the bitter juices drain away.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry on a paper towel lined sheet pan. Mix the flour in a separate pan with some salt and pepper and lightly dust both sides of the eggplant with flour.
Heat enough olive oil in a heavy cast iron skillet, or other heavy pan, and fry the eggplant in batches until golden brown on both sides (watch your heat so the oil doesn’t burn – lower is better!). Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil, and repeat.
To assemble: spoon a little of the tomato sauce into a 12” oven dish, or 13x9” pan. Cover with a layer of eggplant slices. Add a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce, then a layer of the mozzarella cheese. Add the remaining basil leaves. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and repeat the layers to use up the ingredients, ending with the cheese.
Put into the oven and bake for 20-30 min. or until the top is slightly golden and crusty. Cool slightly before cutting into servings. If you are using a cold, ready-made sauce, allow a little extra cooking time (if sauce is not already hot). Serve hot or at room temperature.
It works well to make this the day ahead. Cover the casserole with foil and heat in a low oven for about an hour or until heated through. This also freezes well – assemble in a pan and freeze uncooked. When ready to use, thaw, and bake as above. You will enjoy this during the winter months if you have a harvest now. Andiamo mangiare!