Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not My Usual

If you know anything about my cooking style, you know I love capturing traditional dishes of world cuisines. I'm talking little-known pasta shapes from rural Italy, Persian dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves), Tunisian turnip salad, or shrimp and grits from South Carolina. I don't care where in the world you're talking about, I want to make classic food from that place. I don't typically go for "fusion-food", like Korean tacos or pasta with corn (yes, I've seen a recipe). Getting even more picky, I usually don't make "American" versions of world cuisines (I never make "curry" with curry powder). Often, this applies to Italian-American food. Sure, I make pizza and pasta. But I also make polenta and risotto and porchetta and grilled zucchini and piadina and other dishes that aren't slathered with red sauce and called Italian food.

But. But. Tonight I had some eggplant that I needed to use, and wasn't in the mood for the dishes I would normally make with eggplant--green curry (Thai), tagine (Moroccan), baba ghanoush (Middle Eastern), or ratatouille (French). So I decided to make eggplant parmesan. Perhaps one of the most definitive Italian-American dishes out there.

I sliced some (skinny) eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips, salted them, and let them sweat in a colander. Meanwhile, I made an excellent red sauce by sauteing onion, a chili pepper, garlic, and oregano with crushed tomatoes. Patting the eggplant slices dry, I dredged them in flour (I added pepper and lemon zest for a fun twist--worth it), and briefly fried in olive oil, hot and fast. Then I simply layered the eggplant slices in a casserole with sauce and tons of fresh mozzerella and grated parmesan and baked on a 400 degree oven until browned. Served the classic Italian-American way with a bed of angel hair. And on a checkered tablecloth, no less.

My "normal" style be damned, this was a bloody good meal, and I encourage you to make it yourself. The eggplant gets smoky, the sauce is spicy, the cheese hugs your stomach, and the lemon brightly hums. Worth a departure from the norm.


Michele said...

This looks delicious!! You can make this for us on our next visit!
Love the tablecloth, the painting, the food, and most of all YOU! xoMom

Sam said...

wow, looks great! I'm thinking a sempre girasole cookbook on the horizon? hope all is well. sending blessings your way. sam+