Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

It's been a while, but I have an excuse. Well, two. One, school started up again, and that always means fewer hours in the kitchen. It also means about two months of trying to get used to waking up early again and being exhausted all the time. I've made some meals between summer and now that have really made me want to blog about them, but nothing as good as what I made last night: eggplant parmesan with ricotta cheese. And just to think, it all happened because of a mistake.

I've been thinking of making eggplant rollatini for some time now. It's something I love but only eat at restaurants, really. It never seemed like a hard dish to make, so I gave it a try last night. And it was all going well, until I realized that instead of cutting the eggplant lengthwise, so as to be able to roll it (hence, the roll in rollatini), I cut it width wise. What to do? Well, I had the eggplant ready, and the ricotta and mozzarella mixture was done too, so why not just make a classic eggplant parmesan with a twist? I've seen recipes for eggplant parmesan with ricotta, and when I was in Italy last year we made it with bechamel, so I gave it a try.

Here's the recipe for the ricotta and mozzarella mixture, which I got from Epicurious. Very simple, and do use the whole milk ricotta and mozzarella, preferably fresh.
  • 3 cups (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese (preferably whole-milk)
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
The sauce:
1 can whole, peeled plumb tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
peperoncino (hot pepper flakes)
lots of fresh basil
handful of Parmesan cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
~Saute the onion, garlic and peperoncino in good olive oil until golden. Start the onion a minute or so before the garlic, as the onions take longer to cook and you don't want the garlic to burn.
~Using a hand mixer or blender, blend the tomatoes without their juice until smooth.
~When the onion and garlic are golden, add the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients, stir, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

For the eggplant, I coated the slices in flour first, then egg, and then a mixture of parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and baked them in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning them half through. Of course, you can fry the eggplant in olive oil too, which, in my opinion, makes for the tastier dish.

After the eggplant is ready, simply layer an oven safe dish with sauce, then a layer of eggplant, then the ricotta and mozzarella mixture, then sauce, repeating until everything is used up. Your last layer should be sauce and a bit of  just mozzarella, and then sprinkle it with parmesan. Cook for about 45 minutes, covered, on 350.  One trick to eggplant parmesan, at least something my mother always does when serving a dish like this, is to allow it to set for a few minutes after it's done baking.

I enjoyed a glass of sangiovese with this, and it was perfect. Buon appetito!

My history geek moment: Eggplant is native to India, and Arabs brought it to the Mediterranean region in the Middle Ages.