WITH TOMATOES AND GARLIC
A poorly prepared eggplant is a miserable thing: spongy, fibrous, and bitter — true vegetable punishment. But give an eggplant the leisure of time, the right amount of heat, and just a little attention, and you’ll be left with a result that’s the complete opposite. Indeed, a slow-simmer allows the eggplant’s innate seductiveness (so round, so curvy) to shine through, and transforms what was tough into something tender, silken, and sweet. My advice: start prepping your eggplant in a big dutch oven, while sipping your first glass of red wine on a Saturday evening. Throw together a salad as it bubbles away. (Maybe chopped endive, radicchio, and blue cheese, with just salt, pepper, oil and vinegar?) Queue up a Cary Grant dvd. (Notorious? Charade?) Grab some pillows and blankets and the rest of that wine and a warm somebody to sit with. Dinner will be ready by showtime.
1 1/2 cups flour
salt and pepper
3-4 eggs, beaten
1 large eggplant
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large can strained tomatoes (I like Muir Glen or Pomi)
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1 large onion, chopped roughly
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 leek, sliced thinly (optional)
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1. Scoop flour onto a plate and season it with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, gently whisk eggs. Slice eggplant into thin rounds (about 1/2-1/4″). One by one, dredge eggplant slices in the flour and then the egg. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven over a medium flame. Then, working in small batches, fry the eggplant on both sides until it is slightly crispy and golden. Set aside the finished slices as you go.
2. In a separate bowl, combine tomatoes with oregano, rosemary, fennel, salt, and vinegar. Once you have finished frying all the eggplant slices, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the dutch oven and saute onions, garlic, and leeks until the onions have softened and turned translucent. Pour a quarter of the tomato and herb sauce over the onions and then place a layer of fried eggplant slices, side by side but not crowded, over the sauce. Continue layering eggplant and tomato sauce until you have used them all. Finish with a layer of tomato sauce, cover the dutch oven, and simmer it gently, over a medium-low flame, for 45 minutes. Serve spooned out into shallow bowls, with a generous sprinkling of parmesan, and a salad.