Hello my friends, how are you?
It’s summer here, drop dead gorgeous, with clear blue skies, breezy and not too hot. Umbria is dressed in flowers this June.
I am so very glad that finally it’s time to publish another eggplant recipe.
I know, you probably eat eggplants the whole year. However, I don’t buy eggplant here until they start appearing at the outdoor markets. This means they are from Sicily, which in turns means they are really delicious.
In contrast with their spongy and slightly bitter counterparts sold in winter, they are fantastically mild, sweet, melt in the mouth when cooked in the right way.
The first good eggplants in the season are the deep purple oblong eggplants, followed by the gorgeous round eggplants in the photo above. Later in summer, we will have small Japanese style ones and by fall, the light striped eggplants.
Whatever variety you cook, you need them fresh, in which case the stem will still be green and they will feel heavy for their size. Pick them with a smooth and shiny skin, firm but not rock hard, and not too large or you risk to find them full of seeds.
I wonder if I should apologize because this recipe is made using a combinations of flavor which – save for the anchovy – is similar to the classic eggplant parmigiana.
As a matter of fact, you can roast the half eggplants as described below and top them with something else, a different cheese, toasted bread crumbs, olives and capers.
Me? I stick to the holy triad of tomato, mozzarella and basil. This is for me the taste of summer and I can never have enough of the goodness. Just please, don’t up the anchovy and don’t skip it either unless you are vegetarian. You need, those tiny salty bits to balance the sweetness of the other ingredients. Use olives if you can’t deal with fish.
Served with a slice of crunchy bread, this is a perfect meatless meal. You can also serve the roasted eggplants as an appetizer, or cut them into square pieces and serve for an aperitivo on the terrace. Your gluten-free and carb-free friends will be extra grateful.
And after dinner, I hope that you will be able to take a walk into the wonderful summer evening, full of that languid light of sunset. Enjoy the silence, broken only by the sound of the crickets. After dark, there might be fireflies. If you close your eyes, you could be here with us, atop our magical mountain.
- 4 eggplants
- 250 g (8 oz) soft fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 3-4 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- a 400 g (14 oz) can of plain crushed or diced tomatoes
- one handful fresh basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Clean the eggplants, remove the stalk then cut them in half lengthways. Use a sharp knife to make several parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at an angle to obtain a diamond-shaped or grid-shaped pattern (see a photo here).
Sprinkle the cut side with salt and place the eggplants in a colander with the cut side down for a couple of hours. The salt will draw away the excess liquid and any bitterness. When ready to bake, slightly squeeze to remove a bit more moisture, then pat dry.
Transfer the eggplant, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the flesh becomes soft and lightly browned.
While the eggplants are in the oven, add the finely minced the garlic cloves in a shallow pan ) and sautè over low heat with one tablespoon olive oil until fragrant, 30 sec to 1 min. Add crushed tomatoes, basil, a sprinkle of salt and black pepper and cover. Simmer for 10 min or until slightly thickened.
When the eggplants are ready, spread the cut side with the tomato sauce, top with mozzarella slices, 2-3 tiny pieces of anchovy per eggplant half, and an additional light sprinkle of oregano. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until the mozzarella is melted. Serve immediately with crusty bread.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or light meatless meal.