Jamie's Italy by Jamie Oliver
(melanzane alia parmigiana)
This classic northern Italian recipe is a great way to serve eggplant. By layering the eggplant with Parmesan and tomatoes and then baking them, you get an absolutely scrumptious vegetable dish. Great served with all sorts of roasted meats and with roasted fish as well. One of the tweaks I really like doing with this recipe is to grill the eggplant - this makes it a bit more creamy on the inside - instead of frying it in oil, which tends to make it greasy.
• 3 large firm eggplants
• olive oil
• 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 1/2 a bulb of spring garlic, if you can get it, or 1 clove of regular garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
• 2 14-oz. cans of good-quality plum tomatoes or 2¼ Ib. fresh ripe tomatoes
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• a little wine vinegar
• a large handful of fresh basil leaves
• 4 large handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 handfuls of dried breadcrumbs
a little fresh oregano, leaves chopped
• optional: 1 5-oz. ball of buffalo mozzarella
First things first: remove the stems from the eggplants, slice them up into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and put to one side. Whether you're using a griddle pan or a barbecue, get it really hot. Meanwhile, put 2 or 3 glugs of olive oil into a large pan on a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and dried oregano and cook for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and the garlic has a tiny bit of color. If you're using canned tomatoes, break them up, and if you're using fresh tomatoes (which will obviously taste sweeter and more delicious, if they're in season), very quickly prick each one and put them into a big pan of boiling water for 40 seconds. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put them into a bowl of cold water for 30 seconds, then remove the skins, carefully squeeze out the seeds, and cut up the flesh. Add the tomato flesh or canned tomatoes to the onion, garlic, and oregano. Give the mixture a good stir, then put a lid on the pan and simmer slowly for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, grill the eggplants on both sides until lightly charred - you may have to do them in batches, as they probably won't all fit into your griddle pan in one go. As each batch is finished, remove them to a tray and carry on grilling the rest, until they're all nicely done. When the tomato sauce is reduced and sweet, season it carefully with salt, pepper, and a tiny swig of wine vinegar, and add the basil. You can leave the sauce chunky or you can puree it.
Get yourself an earthenware type dish (10 x 5-6 inches). Put in a small layer of tomato sauce, then a thin scattering of Parmesan, followed by a single layer of eggplant. Repeat these layers until you've used all the ingredients up, finishing with a little sauce and another good sprinkling of Parmesan. I like to toss the bread crumbs in olive oil with a little freshly chopped oregano and sprinkle them on top of the Parmesan. Sometimes the dish is served with torn-up mozzarella on top, which is nice too. Place the dish in the oven and bake at 375°F for half an hour, until golden, crisp, and bubbly. It's best eaten straight away, but it can also be served cold. You can use the same method substituting zucchini or fennel for the eggplants - both are delicious. But do try making it with eggplants - you'll love it!