Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of eggplant. It seems weird, given that I love most vegetables, but eggplant has always been on my “meh” list.
I think it has to do with the texture. I like when it’s mashed up into a dip or one of my favorite Indian dishes, baingan bharta. But I don’t like it when it’s grilled and the skin gets crisp, or when you sauté it and it gets slick and slippery.
Before I turn you off eggplant forever, let me tell you about this Eggplant Parmesan. It will make even skeptics like me eggplant believers. I made it the other night for dinner and my boyfriend and I loved it. It was even better the next day for lunch. The flavors had a chance to meld and the eggplant was even more tender.
I think the reason why I like this dish so much is it sets eggplant in the background. Yes; it’s a major ingredient, but the real star is the sauce and cheese. The sauce is made from tomato passata, which is kind of like tomato sauce but without all the additions and seasonings. You add those later. The recipe, which is from Mimi Thorisson’s “Old World Italian” cookbook, includes basil, garlic, and onion, so you get a lot of flavor.
For the cheese, I’d recommend grating a ball of Mozzarella instead of buying the pre-shredded stuff. There’s something about the flavor and texture of fresh(er) Mozzarella that is more authentic and Italian than the stuff in a bag. You should also opt for a higher-quality Parm. Paying attention to little details like this will elevate the dish to Italian restaurant status.
One other tip for making this Eggplant Parm: Try to get as much moisture out of the eggplant as you can before you start cooking. The recipe recommends that you slice the eggplant, sprinkle them with salt, let them sit for 30 minutes, then pat them dry. This works, but I think the eggplant would have fried even better if I left them in salt for an hour or more. Eggplant has *a lot* of moisture, so you want to get as much out as you can.
Here’s a song to get you started on your Eggplant Parm journey. It doesn’t really have to do with Italian food, but I heard it the other day and it really summarizes my perspective as of late.