monkeygreens


Kitchen Angels and Eggplant Stories
September 7, 2011, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home, How I got Here, Recipes and Ideas

My dear friend Mary was kind enough to pass along a great chard recipe this morning and so I decided to clue her in on what I am preparing for supper at home tonight.

MonkeyMan and I have never been nuts about eggplant. We used to grow them but rarely ate them as they just didn’t offer much pizzazz. My favorite recipe for them is my mothers Eggplant Parmesan but I was never great at reproducing it. I decided to stop being a wimp and make it, and now the Mister is in love and wants it every week.

I will not pretend that devout prayer isnt the primary ingredient in this recipe.

However, ‘the key’ (I cannot stress enough) is to PRESS THE EGGPLANT OVERNIGHT. Since my husband and I are on a tight budget, getting 2 meals out of one eggplant too is really thrifty and a great weeknight supper.

 1 large epplant sliced in ¼ to 1/8 inch thick rounds

1-2 cups marinara

1 garlic clove

Fresh basil (opt)

Extra virgin olive oil

½ cup ricotta cheese or ! cottage cheese put through the blender

1 bag of shredded Italian cheese

Real butter

2 eggs

Fresh tomato rings (opt)

1 roasting pan or brownie pan about 2-4 inches deep

Flour

 

The night before, slice up the eggplant and salt each slice. I recommend using coarse kosher salt or coarse sea salt. My method to press is: I load a freezer bag with the eggplant, seal the air out, and place on a roomy shelf of the fridge with two cast iron pans on top. Or you can stack books on a plate (mom did that)

Why press the eggplant: eggplant contains a bitter juice that contributes to its often sinuey and rubbery texture; it also adds an acrid flavor that is not altogether pleasant. When you come back to the eggplant the next day, you will see an ugly puddle of water that looks like weak tea or garbage juice. Drain it all off. Even rinse the eggplant if you must.

The next day, pour some flour and salt and pepper in a paper bag and dust the eggplant while you heat olive oil (with the garlic clove) in a wide skillet on the stove (remove garlic before adding eggplant) and brown until light gold each piece on both sides; drain on paper towels. You can easily whisk up your ricotta, eggs and cheese (like for lasagna) while you fry the eggplant. If you think its too heavy add some milk.

When the eggplant is done, melt some butter in the roaster in your preheated 400 degree oven. Layer the eggplant – eggplant, marinara, ricotta (tomato if you are using it) and keep that up til everything is gone, then smother with remaining grated cheese and bake. I think at least 50 minutes is needed (I like crunchy cheese)

It should be crunchy outside and creamy inside. 

If I were going to eat anything as my last meal, it would be this, made by my mother, with a really nice glass of Pisano.

This may seem irrelevant to the recipe, but the other night I had a major meltdown missing my mom, and I bawled for about an hour or two. Performing this ritual not only reminded me how much I still miss her but how much of her I carry with me daily. For those who have not yet felt the loss of a beloved parent, please please take the time to listen to their stories, enjoy the food they prepare, and the wisdom they impart. Our bodies are only vessels to carry us through this fleeting journey, and yet what we do while we are here is everything. The yellowed pages of a cookbook, and the faded tears of memory may someday be all we have, unless we carry on the beauty of tradition.