13 November 2007

Eggplant Parmigiana

Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmigiana (with title)
Warning: this is a bit sappy. But I didn't call this blog "No Special Effects" for no reason-- I have no need to put up an exoskeleton of unfeeling. If you don't love your parents, that's your problem. I'm planning on making my leaving this country (at least temporarily) inevitable. Two of the things causing me to stall are my parents. Worst of all is my dad. He won't admit it but he is extremely sentimental, probably (without judgement here, folks) because he came from the province (Pampanga to be exact), where families are very tightly knit. He can't imagine why someone would ever want to leave the warmth of his home and family, especially someone like me, who honestly speaking is incredibly lucky in the grand lottery of parents and has lived in relative comfort all his life. He won't cry, but the hurt and disappointment shows in his voice, and he makes up a lot of lame reasons why I shouldn't leave. Ever.

Anyway. We were driving home and talking about it semi-passionately and a lot of the usual buzzwords were used-- "change" (I need one), "training", and "opportunity." And of course, I said that I couldn't stay just to keep people happy, and I need to find out what's out there for me. TAKE NOTE I haven't even applied for a license abroad yet. Premature much? Truth is, he didn't need to make up excuses for me to stay-- the love of my family is the best reason to stay, and though I doubt I will become resentful if I ended up training here (I'm quite respectful and obedient), I will always feel stifled. I'm stalling because I value the time we have left together, and that should hold true even if I'm not leaving. "Life isn't permanent," I said, and I hope he knows what I meant. So I cook for my family not only to somehow take me to another place right in my own kitchen, but so they see that I'm not thinking of leaving because I don't love them. Because I don't just cook for anybody, you know.
Eggplants after grilling
In any case, I felt my dad was beginning to feel down about it, so I cheered him up by whipping up an authentic eggplant parmigiana (for the first time, mind you), that only took 5 minutes of active time. It cut both ways, though: now they tell me I can't leave because they'll have to rely on restaurants for great food. What the hell?!?! My family is funny. (Recipe follows)

This recipe is adapted from-- you guessed it-- Jamie's Italy. I swear I'll change influences in the next posts. I've just been having too much of a vegetable blast (sounds like a gross euphemism for gastrointestinal troubles). The grilling process cooks the eggplant without making them slimy and gross. It only serves two so multiply as needed.

  • one large, fat eggplant

  • olive oil

  • a handful (100g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce*

  • a few sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves chopped

  • a handful of dried breadcrumbs

Preheat a grill on high until very hot (can't bear to keep your hand hovering over it for 10 seconds). Remove the stem from the eggplant and slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush each slice on both sides very lightly (I stretched just a teaspoon of olive oil for the whole eggplant) with olive oil. Grill the slices until lightly charred, about a minute or so for each side. Set them aside on a tray.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In a small ovenproof dish, spread a thin layer of marinara, followed by a thin sprinkling of Parmesan, then one layer of eggplant slices. Repeat building these layers (I was able to make 3 layers), then finish with a little marinara and a good sprinkle of Parmesan. In a small bowl, toss together the breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and the chopped oregano until combined and sprinkle over the top of the dish. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and crispy on top.

* If you want to make the tomato sauce from scratch:
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 14-oz can of plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • salt and fresh-ground pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon wine vinegar

  • small handful fresh basil leaves

In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the garlic, onion, and dried oregano in a little olive oil until the onion is soft and the garlic is slightly colored (10 minutes). Stir in the tomatoes and simmer slowly for 15 minutes with the lid on. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the wine vinegar and basil.

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