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Eggplant Parmigiana

“Three things hold my heart a prisoner of love–the fair Ines, ham, and eggplants with cheese.” –Baltazar de Alcazar, Sixteenth-century Spanish soldier

After a few days of running around visiting the family and documenting the experience, I had a craving for something simple, low fat and non-meat related. I was attracted to the beautiful, deep purple color of the eggplant. This recipe is simple, rustic and completed in under 30 minutes.

I have a tendency to over-think things and while I was putting this dish together I was wondering:

Why is Eggplant Parmigiana called Parmigiana if so many recipes include mozzarella cheese, but not Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese?

It could be because traditionally the recipe calls for both cheeses. It could be a regional name, but the dish is claimed by both Campania and Sicily. But, while “parmigiana” usually means “from Parma” in Northern Italy, the dish is not part of the cuisine of Parma. My best guess is that “parmigiana” refers to the aesthetics of the dish, rather than the type of cheese or the region that it’s from. The Neapolitan word for horizontal slatted shutters also happens to be “parmigiana”. The layers of eggplant in this dish kind of resemble the layered shutters of those beautiful old Neapolitan apartments.

The old world

Old world apartments

I had a quiet night for myself tonight so I adjusted a Mario Batali recipe slightly and changed the numbers to serve just one:

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 pound of shredded part skim mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (I added dried thyme and rosemary to the bread crumbs that i had leftover from another dish and then crushed them all together)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Slice the eggplant into pieces 1/4 inch thick. Lightly season each disk with salt and pepper and place on and oiled  baking sheet. Bake the eggplant at 450 degrees F until the slices begin turning deep brown on top, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the eggplants from the oven. Remove the slices from the baking sheet and place them on a plate to cool.

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In an oven safe dish, place the largest eggplant slice evenly spaced apart. Over each slice, spread a generous spoonful of tomato sauce and sprinkle with fresh basil. Place a few pinches of shredded mozzarella or a slice of mozzarella over each and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated Parmigiano (optional).  Place the smaller slices of eggplant over each of the disks and repeat with tomato sauce, basil, and the 2 cheeses. Repeat the layering again until all the ingredients are used.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the eggplant dish, and bake uncovered until the cheese is melts and the tops turn light brown, about 20 minutes. Serve!

Eggplant Parmigiana before the oven

Eggplant Parmigiana before the oven. They definitely resemble louvered shutters.

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