Thursday, August 28, 2008
Fried Sicilian Eggplant and Pasta
This recipe was taught to me by a friend's mother years ago. It took me quite some time to get it just right and I have to say it finally tastes just right! Before I get into the recipe let me first apologize to all my ecofriendly friends over at bakespace.com. I really use a TON of paper towels while preparing the eggplant. If anyone can come up with a better way to do it I'd be glad to hear it!
1 Sicilian Eggplant
Parmigiano or Romano cheese, grated
fresh basil leaves
Prepared Marinara Sauce (I used two 16oz cans. Also, you don't want to use a sauce with any meat in it since the eggplant is the star of this dish.)
1 pound pasta (rigatoni, penne or ziti)
So if you are unsure of what a Sicilian Eggplant looks like I can't help you because I forgot to take a picture!!! :-0 I found some pics on the web but I'm afraid to link them since they come from other blogs. I'm still new to blogging so I'm not sure what the proper etiquette would be and I'm to impatient to wait for email replies. Sorry! Anyway, It's a round purple eggplant and I believe it has less seeds than a regular eggplant. I wish I took pictures of the steps but I was in a huge rush (as this takes a long time) and I forgot about taking pictures until I started frying them.
So you start by cutting the ends off both sides of the eggplant like you would a tomato or an onion. We don't peel this because the skin keeps the eggplant from falling apart. I think it looks pretty too. (If you don't like to eat it, no worries, it easily peels right off like the skin on a piece of soppresata when you bite into a slice.) Then you slice it in half lengthwise, place it cut side down (again, like an onion) and continue to cut slices so they look like half moons. I'm estimating, but I'd say slice them about 1/4 of an inch or 1/3 of an inch thick. They will shrink from the salt and the frying so not too thin and if they are too thick they will be hard in the middle. Yuck! So,put eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle with lots of salt. Make sure each slice has salt on it. Cover it with a plate that fits inside and weigh it down with something heavy. Place a bowl underneath if you are going to put it on the counter because a lot of liquid will come out. Leave it there for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours....not really an after work dinner...but I did it anyway and we at at 9pm! The purpose of salting the eggplant is to remove the bitterness and I believe the salted eggplant absorbs less oil when it's fried.
This photo was taken when I made Pasta Norma a few months ago. It's the same preparation method but the eggplant is diced so that's what you see peaking out from the plate.
Next step is to thorougly wash the eggplant under cold running water. Make sure you rinse each slice and rub it with you fingers to make sure there isn't any trace of salt left. That was mistake number one when I first tried to make this about 7 years ago. Here is where the paper towels come in. Lay out two layers of paper towels. You'll need a lot of them because you are going to dry them on the towels in a single layer and then top it with another two layers of paper towels. I like to do this early in the day in between doing other things so I know they are very dry. Press down on the eggplant slices with paper towel to absorb the water. This is the 2nd mistake I made that first attempt. They weren't dry enought and absorbed so much water that they were a greasy, salty mess. You live and learn though, right?
Once you are sure your eggplant is dry (it will still feel damp but you'll be able to tell) fry them in a large skillet with canola oil. Make sure the oil is hot or your eggplant will be too greasy. Depending on the size of your eggplant you may have to add more oil to the pan a couple of times. Let the eggplant brown until it's a beautiful brown color...not burnt but definitely with some color. Set the fried eggplant on a (again) paper towel lined plate and continue to layer paper towels between each single layer of eggplant slices.
When you have finished frying the eggplant add a layer of sauce to a plate or platter and sprinkle with grated romano or parmigiano cheese. Top with a single layer or eggplant, arraning the eggplant so they aren't overlapping and almost look like a flower, working your way from the outside of the plate in. You really can arrange it however you want but it always looks so pretty this way. You won't be able to see the pretty arrangement on mine because I made a double batch and fried two eggplants so I had to use a pyrex. On top of the eggplant add sauce, cheese and fresh basil leaves. Continue to layer in this manner until you have used up all your slices.
Serve this room temperature or cold, over pasta or on the side.