Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A Sicilian Success!

Insalata di Penne alla Norma alla Brace & Melanzane alla Brace allo Salmoriglio
Pasta Salad alla Norma from the Griddle & Grilled Eggplant with Salmoriglio

It took me just one eggplant, one griddle, one hours time and with next to no effort, I soon had one hell of a tasty supper on my hands! Consisting of two terrific and traditional Sicilian dishes, this was easy as can be to make and to tasty not to share... And so sharing it I am!


I had already decided that I wanted to make my favorite Sicilian pasta dish as a salad, using grilled eggplant and tomatoes rather than fried eggplants and tomato sauce- but of course, one whole eggplant would have been too much to make one serving of pasta... And so I decided make another favorite dish using the rest of the eggplant instead!

Problem solved, 2 courses cooked and feeling in touch with my Sicilian roots, all I can say is that this was definitely a win-win situation!


The Sicilian national pasta dish, created as legend has it in honor of Bellini, when he was in Catania presenting his opera of the same name, consists of 6 basic ingredients: eggplant, tomato, garlic, basil, salted ricotta and of course the pasta of your choice. The only other thin you will need is a little olive oil and of course salt and pepper to season it with... Which is great!

And in order to make the other eggplant dish, all you need are the few simple ingredients to make the "salmoriglio": the juice of a lemon and a little zest, 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, a handful of fresh parsley, a tablespoon of dried oregano and salt and pepper to taste.


This is a much lighter preparation than the traditional one for pasta alla Norma, where the eggplant is usually fried... And that's a good thing! Especially so when it served up as a cool and refreshing salad... You'll like it for sure!


Begin by cutting your eggplant into slices of about 1" thickness and by sprinkling them with salt, then setting it to one side for 15-20 minutes, so that the salt draws out any bitterness the eggplant may have. Toast on a hot griddle, with a little olive oil, a few slices of garlic and some freshly ground pepper.

Let the eggplant sit still for the first 2-3 minutes before flipping it over, then continue cooking from the other side until it has a lovely golden color and some equally lovely, dark and delicious scorch marks. Press down on the eggplant very firmly, so that you squeeze the juices right out of them and thus enable it to steam a little and to cook through much more quickly- and much better!

Once it is all done, simply set it to one side to cool and continue with the cherry tomatoes.


Whilst you are boiling your pasta, add the tomatoes to the pan with the cut surfaces facing downwards, so that they will also slightly scorch just a little, before flipping them over to continue frying for a further 2-3 minutes. Of course, this will cause the juices to cook-down into the garlicky residue of the eggplant... Which is just fine!

When your pasta is done, add a ladleful of the water to the pan to deglaze it before you drain it, then add the tomatoes and the little bit of water from the griddle to your pasta. Stir through thoroughly and set to one side to cool.


In the meantime, prepare yourself a little simple "salmoriglio" using a little lemon zest, the juice of the full lemon, 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, some fresh parsley, some dried oregano and a little salt and pepper.


Lay out 3/4ers of the lukewarm slices of grilled eggplant on a serving dish and prepare to work your magic with them, with that lovely, tangy dressing... Just like we always have done in the Old Country! You're going to love it!


Spoon over generously and allow to soak-in and marinate whilst you get back to your pasta dish and get ready to assemble it!


Cut the remaining 1/4 of the eggplant into strips and add them to the pasta, along with plenty of basil- I prefer to tear it rather than cutting it as the leaves are so fragile, I find they get crushed and lose most of their essential oils into my chopping board otherwise. Season with more freshly ground pepper, add a tad more olive oil and grate with salted ricotta... Delicious!


I don't think there can be any arguing with this picture, do you?

And I think it is safe to say that the same applies to this one, too!

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