Parmigiana di Melanzane

Another gloomy day, so something from the Med is required to cheer it up. This is a hybrid of quite a few recipes – purists will doubtless shudder – but I’ll get my supper earlier.

  • two large aubergines
  • a litre of Tomato Goop (see earlier notes – I’ve added a teaspoon of dried oregano and half a teaspoon of dried basil)
  • 250g grated cows’ mozzarella
  • parmesan to taste (I’m a noted Parmesan Pig, so won’t embarrass myself by revealing the actual quantities)

This is what you do.

  1. Slice the aubergines lengthways into 5mm slices, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt, and then put under a hot grill, ’til slightly brown and sizzling
  2. layer the aubergines, cheese and sauce in a baking dish – try and plan it so you end up with about two or three layers (note that the aubergine slices will shrink when you grill them)
  3. bake for around an three quaters of an hour at 160C, and put a layer of grated Parmesan on top about ten minutes before the end
  4. serve with more Parmesan

s-DSC00749

Caveats

A few things to note.

  • you don’t need to peel the aubergines
  • you don’t need to salt the aubergines
  • aubergines are oil hungry – you will need to use a brush – and rapidly at that – in order to get the oil onto them
  • some recipes tell you to flour and deep fry the aubergine slices – I think this just results in the final product absolutely swimming in oil
  • you could make a very simple tomato sauce just using tinned tomatoes, garlic and onions, plus a few favourite herbs – some Italian delis will make this stuff in bulk on the premises and sell it in little tubs
  • don’t use fancy buffalo mozzarella, what you want is the hard mozzarella made from cows’ milk: if it comes pre grated in a plastic bag, all the better – you can just pop the remains in the freezer

Variations

The following ingredients will add joy and happiness.

  • about a dozen anchovy fillets
  • a handful of chopped up black olives

Jane Grigson says not to even bother with grilling the aubergine – merely blanch the slices for two minutes in boiling water. (Her Vegetable Book lists some interesting regional variations as well.)

Mrs Grigson also very sensibly points out that once layered in the baking dish, this can be popped into the freezer instead of the oven, and brought out on another date.

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