Signora Vincenza’s Sicilian Eggplant Parmesan
Pino’s wonderful mother, Signora Vincenza taught me how to cook various Sicilian dishes – and not only: she was a wise woman and a font of knowledge about every subject from Greek mythology to the origins of Sicilian dialects to… the American Revolution!
Signora Vincenza taught me to make summer eggplant Parmesan the Sicilian way: not oven-baked but all done stove-top.
The origin of this dish? I imagine that in Sicilian August heat, not many housewives would turn on their ovens….!
Here’s how to make the buonissimo Sicilian Eggplant Parmesan:
Ingredients (for about 8 persons):
8 – 10 – medium-sized eggplants (head to your garden to pick them if you can! If not in your garden, be sure the ones you buy are firm and not too large)
generous bunch of fresh basil, q. b. (“quanto basta” or “as much as you need”!)
Parmesan cheese / about a cup
sunflower seed oli, grape seed oil or other (q. b.)
olive oil (q,b,)
For the sauce:
extra-virgin (only!) olive oil
about 15 or so very ripe Roma tomatoes (should be soft to the touch and when cut open, fully red – no white filaments!)
3 cloves garlic
small white or yellow onion
salt q.b. (“quanto basta”)
Cooking the eggplants:
Wash eggplants and slice into rounds or cut longitudinally if small eggplants. Cover with water in large pot and dump in about 5 fistfuls of Kosher salt. Let soak about 30 minutes – or longer – until water is brownish in color. Drain. Rinse eggplants a couple times until no taste of salt. Set out on clean dishtowel and pat dry.
Use part seed oil and part oil for frying the eggplant and the oils should be about 1 “ deep or more in frying pan. Heat and the oil will be ready for frying when a “test” eggplant slice you put in oil browns nicely. Fry eggplant slices, browning til crisp on both sides, lifting out of oil with fork and drying on paper towel. Be sure eggplant slices fill the pan but do not overlap, to assure proper frying. As one eggplant slice comes out of the oil, another should be slipped in to assure that oil does not smoke and burn.
(Note: sauce can be made while eggplants are soaking and while you are frying).
Wash the tomatoes and then put them in a pot of water and squeeze them under the water so that the seeds are eliminated.
Cover bottom of saucepan with olive oil, add garlic cloves, onion (no need to chop!) and simmer about 20 minutes. Add salt q. b. and fresh basil and continue simmering until the water of the tomatoes evaporates.
Put tomato mixture into a food mill and pass. Adjust salt as needed.
Creating the dish:
Spread fried eggplant slices on an oval dish and then spoon sauce over the eggplants. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and then chopped basil leaves.
Repeat another layer of eggplant, sauce, chesse, basil. Continue til the dish is full – or you have used up all your eggplant!
Dish can be served at room temperature.