madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking

I’m going eggplant

13 Comments

Eggplant, aubergine, has been around the Mediterranean for more than 500 years. No wonder this luxurious vegetable of Indian origin became a staple of Sicilian cooking. In a land too dry and warm to support large-scale cattle breeding, meat was an expensive rarity. Peasants in Southern Italy lived on a basic diet of olive oil, pasta, cheese and vegetables, occasionally fish. Eggplant, enriched by cooking in oil, must have been a welcome addition to their simple dishes.

Later in history some unknown gastronomic hero conceived the heavenly combination of tomato and eggplants. Fried eggplants are still used for a number of spectacular – and virtually vegetarian – dishes like eggplant parmesan,  caponata, pasta incasciata. I promise recipes for all these.

In my memory, the aroma of fried eggplants permeates images of luminous Sicilian summers. Memories of  green shutters closed against the heat. Tiny whitewashed alleys where you don’t see anybody but someone is cooking something magical somewhere. Memories of fragrant spaghetti with the sweetest tomato sauce piled high with slabs of golden aubergines and a sprinkle of baked ricotta, pasta alla Norma.

Yes, you can use grilled eggplants instead of fried, I know. But for a real bite of Sicily, please just try, even if only once. Fry and be happy.

Author: madonnadelpiatto

Former scientist, I now run B&B and cooking school Alla Madonna del Piatto in Assisi, Umbria, central Italy, together with my husband Ruurd, daughter Tea and truffle dog Google. We love good food and wine, travel, beautiful handicrafts like textiles and pottery. We feel fortunate to be able to share our magical mountain with many friends from all over the world.

13 thoughts on “I’m going eggplant

  1. Ciao Letizia!
    I watched your video over at Diana’s blog … you did a great job putting it together! :-)

    My parents are from Calabria and when I was growing up, eggplant was a staple in my mom’s cooking. But she would always dip it in egg, then breadcrumbs and fry it. I like your version better of omiting the “messy” steps and just frying it.

    I wish my husband liked eggplant. I only cook it when he’s not around. But at least my oldest son is starting to like it. ;-)

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    • Hi Rosabela
      the world seems to be divided among those who love eggplants and those who don’t. I always have the feeling that people who do not like them have never had well prepared eggplants. People cooks eggplants in funny ways, sometimes too bland sometimes way to heavy and greasy. My recipe for fried eggplants is a compromise. If you fry them with no coating they are lighter but still very flavorful. It’s good you have converted your son!

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  2. Letizia, what a brilliant video — you and Tea look wonderful! I hope this is just the first of many such videos!

    I’ve not really tried cooking with eggplant, except when it’s diced in vegetable dishes. But the idea of frying slices and then layering them in pasta alla Norma sounds so good!

    Like a lot of North Americans, I’m a bit wary of cooking with much oil. But you make an excellent point, that it’s often heavy coatings (and not the vegetable itself) that absorb and retain most of the oil.

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  3. Hi Sandra!
    do not worry, Italians are particularly wary of cooking with lots of oil. Fried eggplants is not really on our everyday menus BUT they are mandatory if one wants to make a few really flavorful Sicilian dishes for a party or holidays. As you know I cook with relatively small amounts of fats and condiments. When I prepare the eggplants this way I let them drain overnight. Indeed because they are not coated they loose a significant amount of the oil. Then they are perfect to be used with other ingredients.

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  4. Pingback: pasta al forno alla siciliana « madonna del piatto

  5. Wandering through your marvelous recipes looking for what to cook for supper tonight. Sought out how you prepare your eggplant. Of course, divine, and perfetto! For our house, we eat eggplant EVERY night. Without fail. It is a staple. I merely roast it, with salt, EVOO, garlic and fresh basil. The winter months it is hard to find good, hardy eggplants, but I search hard for them! In the summer, I grow my own – and then it’s really an eggplant party until the sun fails us as Fall comes, yet again. Love your recipes and your website as well as the beautiful photography.

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  10. How long can it sit before using after being fried? In the book :”Blood, Bones, and Butter”, the author talks of leaving the fried eggplant sit in a cabinet for several days in southern Italy. I would think it would go bad!
    Maybe the oil preserves it??

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    • Hi Mark, I never leave them longer than one day as I find they become mushy. I think they would spoil if left at room temperature. My mother was Sicilian and she never did anything like that, she would always refirgerate them if left out for more than a few hours and so do I!

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