Not what you expected? I know, I know. People seem to love it or hate it. I fall with a loud thud into the first category. I think eggplant is a glorious food: a berry as it so happens, a member of the nightshade family, and a great canvas for a tremendous range of flavorful "paint," if you will. My dedication to the eggplant is evident in my use of its french-anglo name as my company's moniker ("aubergine"). And my love of cooking with and eating of the eggplant is evident to all who know me ("What kind of eggplant dish are you preparing tonight?" many friends and relatives have asked me, tongues planted firmly in cheeks). So it's true. Sometimes I go overboard with the eggplant. The Italians call it melanzana -- derived from mela insana, or "crazy apple," which was the effect early Italians were sure it had on those who consumed it. So, call me crazy for the eggplant. I am still trying to successfully marry my two favorite foods: eggplant and chocolate. In the meantime, while I'm working on that alchemical miracle, here's a recipe for a very simple, but wonderful, Italian sauteed eggplant dish.
The sliced melanzana can be eaten as is, or used as a base for an eggplant parm; a stacked millefoglie with sliced mozzarella, tomato, and basil; or in involtini, stuffed with fresh ricotta and a basil chiffonade and rolled -- a great little appetizer with some chilled white wine. Like I said, a great canvas...
MELANZANE IN PADELLA
1-2 Medium-sized eggplants
Extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
Parsley, chopped, to taste
(red pepper flakes optional)
(red wine vinegar, optional)
-Slice eggplants across into rounds about 1/8-inch thick.
-Layer in colander in sink and generously salt each layer. Leave to drain for an hour or so.
-Pat dry eggplant slices.
-Heat olive oil to cover bottom of a saute pan over medium heat. Add whole garlic clove and cook, swirling clove around in oil, for 1 minute. Remove.
-Add 1 layer of eggplant slices and cook, turning once, until nicely browned around edges.
-Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Continue with remaining eggplant slices, adding oil to pan when necessary.
-When all eggplant is cooked, layer in a dish, sprinkle with salt to taste, parsley, and red pepper flakes if you like. Sprinkle with red wine vinegar if desired.