Marcella Hazan wrote on eggplant parmesan, “Perhaps some cooks find it too commonplace to attract their attention, but at home I have never stopped making it.” Hear Hear!
I knew that there would be no time last night to make dinner, so the day before I prepped this simple dish with these lovely baby eggplants.
With large eggplants, you normally lop off the green top, then slice the eggplant lengthwise about 3/8 inches thick. Goddess Hazan (G.H. for short) recommends peeling them first, and also seeping the eggplant for 30 minutes with a sprinkling of salt (standing them up in a colander), then patting them dry. For her eggplant parm, G.H. handles her components separately. She coats the eggplant slices in flour and then fries the slices in 1 1/2 inches of olive oil. She cooks her tomatoes separately, and just does multiple layers of eggplant, tomato, cheese, basil, until the last layer of eggplant upon which she finally puts a layer of cheese and pops in the oven at 400F for 35 minutes.
Don’t tell G.H., but I cheated and skipped all of that. I just took off the tops of the baby eggplants and placed in the baking dish whole and uncooked (they ended up looking like little squids, so perhaps if you are trying to feed this to an imaginative 10 yr old, you might cut them in half). I made a tomato and basil sauce rather than layering individually.
My independent streak might not serve me well with G.H., but perhaps she’ll bless me for using tinned plum tomatoes. But wait, on tomatoes, GH also says, “When buying canned tomatoes, if one has a choice one should look for whole, peeled plum tomatoes of the San Marzano variety imported from Italy. They are the best kind to use and, if possible, settle for no other.” Oh dear. I DON’T REMEMBER. I mean, I THINK they were Italian but San Marzano? and what if something else was on sale? Noooooooooooo!
Moving on before I get struck by lightning: I whipped together a very simple sauce. I chopped up a medium yellow onion and sauted it in a saucepan with a dash of olive oil until translucent, then added two whole tins of skinned plum tomatoes, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, about a tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a few grindings of fresh pepper, and two large handfuls of basil, loosely chopped. I brought this to a boil then let simmer for about an hour, stirring gently so as not to break open the tomatoes until the very end when I turned off the heat and chopped up the tomatoes using my wooden spoon (they are so fragile at this point they break up pretty easily).
2 tins whole, skinned, plum tomatoes
1 yellow onion
1 tbsp salt (but really do this to taste)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or chili powder)
2 large handfuls of fresh basil, chopped
I placed the eggplant in a baking dish and spooned half of the sauce around them. Then I scattered a generous layer of grated parmesan cheese and grated mozzarella cheese. As you’ll see in the below picture, I ended up getting impatient with grating and just layered a few more slices of mozzarella.
The final step was to put a layer of the rest of the tomato sauce on the top and pop into the oven for an hour at 350F. I let it cool, popped it into fridge, and reheated the next night for a quick, painless, and delicious meal. Commonplace and basic? No doubt. Satisfying? Unquestionably.