Melanzane Alla Awesome

I love recipes that only contain 5 or so ingredients. No matter how long it takes to make, the fact remains that it will be a simple dish that won't cost loads or require a massive amount of time and effort and shopping. I also love recipes that take a seemingly unhealthy dish and turn it into something surprisingly good for you. Not to mention, allergy-friendly. (By the way, isn't that a weird phrase, allergy-friendly? It's like saying "Yes, we welcome you, allergies. Please sit down and have some tea." No! It's the opposite! But you can't call something allergy-hateful...)

So last night's dinner was just this - something I loved as a kid, but can never ever order at a restaurant now. That is melanzane alla parmigiana, or "eggplant parm" if you're from philly. The original would be a couple of huge slices of breaded eggplant, smothered in tomato sauce and melting parmesan cheese. The one I made last night has no breading, and uses grated goat's cheddar instead, but you could easily make this dish vegan by substituting a soy cheese.

Necessary: fresh basil. Don't even bother making this if you don't have any.

Baked Eggplant Italiano

Leave yourself about 2 hours to prepare this. I'm serious. Also, I have no idea why I'm making this face:

The particulars:

  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 2-inch thick slices
  • extra virgin olive oil, for frying
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3/4 large jar of tomato puree
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves roughly torn
  • 1 cup grated goat's cheddar (or parmesan or cheese substitute)
  1. Lay the eggplant slices on a chopping board or baking tray. Sprinkle some sea salt over each slice and place another chopping board or baking tray on top. Place a heavy weight on top and leave to press for two hours. Meanwhile, pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a medium pan and fry the garlic and onion until it begins to color. Add the puree and simmer gently for about 45 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Season and leave to cool.
  2. After the eggplant slices have been pressed, rinse them and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a griddle pan and when it's very hot, add the slices and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Add more oil by the spoonful as necessary during cooking and when turning the eggplant over. Drain on paper towel.
  3. Heat the oven to 400F. arrange the eggplant slices in a small ovenproof dish and spoon the tomato sauce over each slice. scatter the basil leaves, then the cheese over the top and bake for 20 minutes. Serve nice and hot!