Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Full Steam Ahead!

Melanzane Ripiene con Fiocchi di Pomodoro, Mollica, Grana & Menta
Stuffed Eggplant with Tomato Flakes, Bread Crumbs, Grana Cheese & Mint


Packed with old-school, Sicilian flavor, I invented this dish to try a different kind of preparation... You know me and how I prefer to think up something of my own rather than follow a recipe!

At the same time, I love the old, tried and tested flavor combinations, that remind me of home and bring all of the comfort that is connected to those flavors... And this dish had all of that and more going for it... Although there is no way anyone makes their eggplant like this in The Old Country.  


There are so many dishes in Sicilian cooking, that have a simple filling of bread crumbs, herbs and cheese- so typical and so simple... And so good, because it simply works!

One thing we don't have in Sicily though- well, not traditionally anyway... Are tomato flakes. Sure, we have sun-dried tomatoes... But not these dehydrated, fine, crumbly flakes of intense tomato flavor... Get some if you can!


So, what do we have here? Another super- simple selection of ingredients, that's what! 1 eggplant, 2-3 tablespoons of bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon of dehydrated tomato flakes (regular sun-dried tomatoes will be fine if you can't find the flakes), some Grana Padano cheese (or similar), fresh parsley and mint, and not in the picture, obviously salt, pepper and a little good olive oil for seasoning.


Get ready for some craziness, because I am going to suggest that you steam your eggplant- I'm not kidding! That was what I decided to try out this evening, to let the steam reconstitute the tomato flakes so that once they became moist and juicy, that gave off those rich juices into the bread crumbs and the eggplant directly... Seemed like a good idea at the time! And seems so even more right now after me trying the results!


To prepare the filling, simply mix the bread crumbs and the tomato flakes in with the chopped mint and parsley and the grated cheese. Season with plenty of freshly ground pepper and stir together well. That's all!


Once you have made sure you have an even mix... You are ready to go!


Cut the eggplant in half, lengthways and then make a crisis-cross pattern of deep cuts into it. Gently spread the eggplant open a little and season lightly with salt... and then you can begin to carefully spoon the filling into all of those cuts... Which sounds tricky, but is not really that difficult. You can always ask someone to help by holding the eggplant spread open whilst you add the filling... But hey! I managed on my own... And you all can too!


I then popped the filled eggplant halves into a steamer and let them cook for 10-15 minutes and in the meantime, turned on the oven to have it hot and ready.


Here you can see the reason for the steaming... Everything is as dry as dry can be! But not for long!

Once it has steamed for 15 minutes, the eggplant is half done and nice and soft, the crumbs and tomato flakes have swollen up and have become rich with flavor and all it now needs is a last, little sprinkle of cheese and pepper and a nice drizzle of olive oil... And into a hot oven, at 180 C it goes for 15-20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and delicious.


Crispy on top and moist down below, this is so delicious without being soaked in olive oil, especially when fried... This is a really nice preparation that makes a pleasant change... Whilst still having all of the flavors that I love!

My kinda food!

This would make a terrific appetizer or antipasto and will definitely delight your guests next time you prepare an Italian (or Sicilian!!!) meal... But don't take my word for it! Give it a try and find out for yourselves!


I think this is going to be a new favorite of mine for a while to come!


Just take a look at that! I think it may become a favorite of yours too! Haha!

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