The Literate Chef

Posts Tagged ‘Italian Eggplants’

You Can Take it With You

In General Articles on August 5, 2012 at 12:32 PM

When my mother died six years ago, she took her recipe for Baked Eggplant Parmesan with her. As has been noted earlier, Dorothea believed in the oral tradition and hardly ever wrote down her recipes; this was one of them. It was a special Melanzane Parmigiana, in that it was neither breaded, nor floured and it contained hard-boiled eggs.  I remember it being tangy and delicious, tasting like no other “eggplant parm” and even better served cold. Her granddaughters remember it too, and they miss it and miss her as well.

So, recently, I tried to recreate Melanzane Parmigiana alla Dorothea. Mom used a basic tomato sauce with her eggplant parmesan, probably the old tried and true Del Monte Tomato Sauce doctored up. I decided to use Silver Palate’s San Marzano Marinara Sauce, doctored up. I also used the smaller Italian eggplants rather than the larger American ones, as they are less bitter. And of course, since fresh mozzarella is so readily available in almost any supermarket these days, and even on-line, I used that instead of the packaged, rubbery type. I also used freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, rather than Locatelli-Romano, which she undoubtedly used.

The end result was very good, but not quite hers! Served cold, with a loaf of crusty, Italian bread it was delicious, but still not the way it was remembered. Had my memory failed me? Had I mythologized that baked eggplant, and tasted in my mind something other than the reality of the dish? My older daughter assured me that no, while my “re-creation” was very good, it was “not Grandma’s, it didn’t have that tang.”

Back to the drawing boards! Next time, I will try a little less tomato sauce (my attempt was a little too soupy), more hard-boiled egg and maybe Locatelli-Romano, instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano. In the meantime by all means follow this recipe, or make the foregoing adjustments, I can assure you that you will love it, either way. As for me, I will continue to seek that elusive Baked Eggplant Parmesan of happy memory. Maybe mom will somehow communicate the secret to me, since she did take it with her.

Rigatoni all’ Oltrarno

In Pasta, Recipes on May 12, 2011 at 1:27 PM

Rigatoni with Roasted Eggplant and Black Olives in a spicy tomato-based sauce.

NOTE: This recipe, which makes about 5 quarts of sauce can be frozen in batches and is enough for 3 lbs. of Rigatoni.

Ingredients:

  • 12 -18 small “Italian Eggplants” (about 3 lbs.), remove tips and cut into 1-inch cubes (you can also use the large eggplants if you cannot find the smaller ones, which I find are more tender and less bitter)
  • 1 cup + 6 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon each of kosher salt & ground black pepper
  • 12 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon of Hot Red Pepper Flakes (if you do not like it spicy, use ½ tablespoon or 1 teaspoon).
  • 1 pint of pitted, imported black olives (Gaeta or Moroccan) chopped coarse
  • 3 cans (35 oz. size) San Marzano Tomatoes cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 – 3 lbs. dried Rigatoni (see note above)
  • 30 leaves of fresh Basil
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Ingredients for Rigatoni all' Oltrarno

Steps:
1.    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2.    In a large bowl, toss the cubed eggplant with 1 cup of the olive oil. When fully coated, sprinkle with salt & black pepper and toss again.
3.    Spread the eggplant in one layer on 1 or 2 cookie sheets, roast in the oven between 30 and 40 minutes.
4.    Heat remaining olive oil on high in an 8 quart pot.
5.    When oil is hot but not smoking, reduce heat to medium, stir in the chopped garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Quickly add the hot red pepper flakes followed by the olives, stirring constantly for about a minute.
6.    Add the tomatoes and their liquid; return heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
7.    Add the roasted eggplant and wine, turn heat to low and simmer covered for about an hour to fully blend flavors, stir periodically.
8.    Fill a large pot with sufficient water to cook the Rigatoni according to directions on the box of pasta.
9.    When Rigatoni is cooked, drain it and toss it with the sauce.
10.    Tear basil leaves into small pieces and add to pasta, toss well again and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Hot crusty Italian Bread makes a great accompaniment for this pasta dish, as does a bottle or two or three of full-bodied  Sangiovese.

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