So then, I have fabulously firm eggplants, a large bunch of basil, a bunch of spinach still smelling of the earth. From previous weeks I have some leftover tomato sauce in the freezer and luckily a ball of mozzerella made by our local Italian cheese and sausage maker.
Jamie Oliver has a sublime recipe for Melanzane all Parmigiana which is simple and delicious-friendly to omnivores and vegetarians alike. This is inspired by this recipe from the cookbook, Jamie’s Italy.
I’ve added a technique to his recipe and played around a little with the ingredients but the result is like a pasta free lasagna and very yummy. It sounds like a lot of steps but if you have the sauce on hand and once the eggplant is ready, it is very quick to assemble. As you can see this is a casual homey looking dish and you don’t need much else with it. Perhaps the cesar salad from the last post?
Preparing the aubergine:
Slice about 1/4 of an inch thick, place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Set to drain for about 30 minutes.
Place salted drained pieces on paper towels or clean dish towels and weigh down. I do this by placing my heavy maple cutting board on top and weighing down with canned goods. Leave for about 20-30 minutes.
Using a grill pan, an actual grill or the broiler in an over, get the fire really hot. Add drained aubergine to the pain or grill in one layer, turn when browned and remove.
Aubergine and spinach in fresh tomato sauce.
1 recipe of tomato sauce (see recipe below)
1 bunch spinach
1-2 cloves garlic
1 pinch red pepper
3 smallish aubergines, washed and sliced and prepared as above.
3 good size fistfuls of good quality freshly grated parmesan
1 ball of good quality mozzarella (sold in water)
1 small bunch of basil leaves washed and dried
1 handful of bread crumbs
If you don’t have a tomato sauce recipe, make a simple tomato sauce by adding chopped onion and garlic to warmed olive oil. Add a good pinch of oregano and cook until soft. Add either 800 grams of canned Italian tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatos and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then add a splash of wine or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and basil. Substitute your own sauce if you have a favorite. It’s nice to do this ahead-I like to keep lots in the freezer.
Cook the spinach by sauteing until almost done with sliced garlic and a little red pepper, if you like. Drain
Grate about three big handfuls of good parmesan and slice up a ball of mozzarella.
A small scoop of warm sauce to cover the bottom of a baking dish.
Add a layer of aubergine.
Sprinkle with a handful of parmesan.
Sprinkle with 1/3 of mozzarella
Sprinkle with a small amount of the fresh basil
Add another thin layer of tomato sauce
Add all of the cooked spinach spread
Repeat the entire process and finish with one more layer of sauce, and one final handful of parmesan and dot with mozzarella. (Sprinkle with bread crumbs, opt.)
Let sit for at least 2 hours but a day ahead is good. Bake in a 375 degree over for 30 minutes or until it is bubbling and hot to the center.