Monday, 14 December 2015

See the Light!

Parmigiana di Melanzane Leggera
"Light" Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan- so delicious! But doe we really have to do all of that frying, you ask? Well of course not, I reply! Whatever makes you think that? 

If that eggplant is going to be baked in the oven anyway, why not make use of the oven whilst you prepare your simple tomato sauce and pre-bake your eggplant rather that frying it? Duuuh! It's hardly rocket science and it works! And how!

Eggplant, parmesan cheese, basil, oregano and tomato... some of the most typical and well-loved ingredients in Italian cuisine. You may have to be patient with the cooking time, at around 1 1/2 hours in all- but it is easy to prepare and you will be delighted with the result!

This is what I needed to prepare my simple version of this classic dish and to prepare 4 nice servings. 1 large, round, Sicilian eggplant or 2 larger regular eggplants. 15-16 cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato purée, 1 onion, garlic (optional), dried oregano, plenty of fresh basil, salt, pepper, olive oil and of course- Parmesan cheese!

This is a very basic version of the classic dish, but much lower fat without the frying and yet equally delicious. It is not as if I am "on a mission"- really it isn't... or maybe I am? I just like to stop and think about what I am doing and to maybe think of a new way of doing it. I think it is good to question things and try my own ideas out. And I do love getting good results whilst doing things my own way- especially when they are edible and delicious good results!

Step one is to turn on the oven and in particular the broiler. Step two is to slice the eggplant up thinly and to salt it lightly. And step 3 is to bake those slices in the oven for around 4-5 minutes from either side, until they soften up and are basically half-done. 

But whilst you work your way through baking the eggplant, you can prepare your simple sauce!

For the sauce, simply fry your chopped onion until it becomes translucent and then add the diced cherry tomatoes, 4-5 torn-up leaves of basil, salt and pepper in a little olive oil. Feel free to add garlic or chili pepper if your prefer- this time, I kept it more plain.

Once the tomatoes began to soften, I added a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée and then fried and stirred everything together for a good 5 minutes, until the purée became completely blended-in and the tomatoes softened right down.

I then added water, little by little and stirred it in until the purée and the tomatoes pieces became a light sauce and then reduced the heat to a simmer and let the sauce bubble away and reduce down for the next 10 minutes or so.

In the meantime, I had baked my eggplant slices and they had cooled off nicely, so I could easily handle them to start assembling my "Parmigiana".

I first spooned out a couple of ladles of sauce onto my baking dish and then laid out the first layer of eggplant slices. I spooned sauce over them, added a few leaves of basil, plenty of black pepper, a good sprinkle of oregano and coarsely grated Parmesan- I prefer a course texture to fine grains for the inner layers of the parmigiana as they help everything to stick together more nicely.

By the time I had used up all of my eggplant slices and covered them with sauce, there was quite a bit that had seeped out into my baking dish- which was just fine, as this would be absorbed by the eggplant during baking and would of course reduce-down further.

I finished it with a generous sprinkle of oregano, pepper, cheese and a few more basil leaves, which I pressed down to that they would be moistened by the sauce and then popped my baking dish into the oven at 200°C for around 45 minutes.

And my patience was rewarded by this beautiful sight, the wonderful aroma... and a simple, traditional Italian dish that was fit for a king! Or for me at least! But I am sure it will be good enough for all of you good people too! Haha!

Allow it to cool slightly, then cut into portions and serve... and fall in love... and enjoy!

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