Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eggplant Parm

Last week, in between tutoring gigs, I stopped for lunch at a place called Ziti's on Speen Street in Natick, MA and ordered its eggplant parmigian ($7.95).  It was sublimely delicious.  So tonight I tried to duplicate it here at home.  I came very close.

First get a firm, fresh, standard eggplant.  Peel it and cut it into 3/4 inch rounds, discarding the ends.  Then place two layers of paper towels on a cookie sheet and, salting the eggplant pieces liberally on both sides with Kosher salt. place them on the paper towels.  Cover them with another two layers of paper towels and another cookie sheet and then something heavy (say a big cast-iron frying pan.)  Let them stand for at least an hour.  Remove and discard the paper towels.  Pat the rounds dry.  Then grind fresh black pepper on both sides.

Now place the big cast-iron frying pan on high heat, covering the bottom generously with extra virgin olive oil.  When quite hot, start frying the eggplant rounds in batches (adding lots more oil as required) until nicely browned on both sides ... removing them to more paper towels.  (No egg wash and bread crumbs ... why the extra calories?)  Finally, in the remaining oil, saute three minced garlic cloves, red pepper flakes to taste (I used about four shakes), a pinch of salt, some fennel seeds, and a large can of good crushed tomatoes.  Cook about five minutes.  Then place about a cup of the tomato sauce on one of the cookie sheets (should have at least 1/2 inch sides), then the eggplant slices, and a good slice of fresh mozzarella cheese on each.  Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce over the cheese and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake in the top half of a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is brown and bubbling.

Eat until you burst.  No need for anything else.  And the next time you are in Natick, MA stop by Ziti's and say thank you (over a plate of its eggplant parm.)

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