Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Fear Eggplant

By the time Capri Flavors Chef Titina’s students arrive for the evening class, the eggplant has already been draining for hours. Eggplant is easy if you remember to start early in the day. A lot of cooks shy away from this beautiful vegetable because they’ve heard (or learned the hard way) that it can be bitter. Titina handles this by buying fresh, using it quickly and salting and draining or purging eggplant before she cooks it.

Think--slice it, salt it and walk away.

Not so hard and more than worth the trouble for this classic Italian taste.

This week, Titina is teaching students to fry eggplant with bell peppers and garlic, adding a chopped tomato near the end of cooking. Peperoni Saltati is a big hit on her Fiesole menu. (the pork with fennel is also delicious)

But when it comes to eggplant, the headliner is, of course, Eggplant Parmesan. Lots of students sign up just to learn the secrets of this dish that is so well know in America. Here’s Titina’s authentic recipe. Just don’t forget to slice, drain and walk away.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmigian

2 lbs eggplants
2 eggs, whisked
Oil, for frying
1 lb mozzarella sliced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil
Sciuè-Sciuè sauce (see following page for recipe)
1/2 lb asiago cheese

Serves 4; Preparation: 30 minutes; Cooking: 45 minutes; Level of Difficulty: Easy

Wash the eggplants. Cut into long slices about 1/2 inch wide, sprinkle with salt, and leave to drain for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce (Chiummezzana or Sciuè-Sciuè sauce).
Pat the sliced eggplant dry with paper towels. Coat in whisked eggs. Heat the oil in a large frying pan (non stick) add one layer of eggplant, and cook over low to moderate heat, turn and cook on the other side. Remove from the pan, and repeat with the remaining slices.
Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F. In a wide shallow baking pan spread a little tomato sauce in the bottom, cover with a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle with parmesan and cover with a layer of mozzarella and asiago, spoon on some tomato sauce and add the basil.
Repeat until all the ingredients are used up ending with a covering of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan on top.
Bake for about 45 minutes.

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