Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Week 3, Day 1: Parmigiana Di Melanzane

Buongiorno! Last night's dinner recipe came from Becky McCollaum. It's a bona fide Italian recipe, as her Aunt and Uncle are stationed in Naples. She has all the connections! (Click here to read all about Becky and what I love about her.)

Parmigiana Di Melanzane

2 1/3 lb large eggplants
olive oil for cooking
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 1/4 lb ripe tomatoes, preferably plum, peeled and chopped (*see note*)
10 oz mozzarella cheese
2-3 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
3 or 4 large fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the eggplants into thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander, preferably overnight, to draw out the excess water. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Heat enough light olive oil for shallow-frying in a pan over medium-high heat and add the eggplant slices in a single layer. Shallow-fry on both sides for a few minutes until the slices start to brown slightly. Make sure that the oil is hot before adding the eggplants to the pan, so that they do not absorb too much oil. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make a tomato sauce by heating a little oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft and transparent, before adding the tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook for 10 min until the tomatoes have broken up and reduced into a pulpy sauce.

As soon as the sauce is ready, arrange alternate layers of eggplant, tomato sauce, slices of mozzarella, and Parmesan in a greased baking dish. Make sure that you press down the ingredients well, so that you end up with compacted layers. Finish off with a layer of sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 min. Let stand for a few min to allow the ingredients to set slightly, then cut into individual portions while still in the dish. Carefully slide out onto serving plates using a spatula, and serve hot.

*Note on peeling tomatoes: It is not such an onerous task, peeling fresh tomatoes. Simply score the skin slightly with a sharp knife, blanch in boiling water for 10 seconds or so until the skin starts to soften and split, then refresh in cold water. This makes it far easier to use a sharp knife to peel away the skin. (I did it and it worked like a charm!)

The Verdict: 2 thumbs up, 1 thumb medium , 1 thumb down (one vote missing, as Isaiah was out with a friend). Not our favorite meal, but definitely not the worst, either. I was really worried serving essentially eggplant parmigiana to my non-vegetable loving family, but we all fared just fine. I assumed it was to be served over pasta, so I'm not sure if it was actually served correctly. (Sorry, Beck, we didn't have mineral water with it, either.) I actually cleaned my plate. But instead of a second helping, I filled up on garlic bread (which I made with the garlic butter from last week).

And dessert, also from Becky:

Zeppole Di San Giuseppe

9 oz butter
pinch of salt
14 oz Italian tipo 00 flour or all-purpose flour
12 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites
vegetable oil for deep-frying
confectioners' sugar for dusting
2 cups milk
7 oz sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
9 oz black cherry jam, to decorate

Put 2 c water, butter, and a pinch of salt into a pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the flour, stirring continuously until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool a little, then beat in 9 of the egg yolks and the 3 egg whites using a wooden spoon. transfer the mixture to a pastry bag and, using a large piping nozzle, pipe small ring-shaped doughnuts onto wax paper or similar.

Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a heavy deep-sided saucepan over med-high heat. To test whether the oil is hot enough, carefully slide one of the pastries into the pan using a metal spatula - it should sizzle right away. Cooking in batches, deep-fry the pastries for 5 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cool slightly, then dust liberally with confectioners' sugar.

Meanwhile, to make the crema pasticciera (custard cream), combine the milk, sugar, the remaining 3 egg yolks, and the vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over gentle heat, stirring until thickened. Use to decorate the zeppole, piping a little custard cream into the center of each one. Dot a teaspoonful of black cherry jam on top of the custard cream, and serve the zeppole warm or cold.
I have to admit that I was really tired last night (that's why this post didn't get done until tonight), and so I was already out of steam by the time I started the desert. Apparently, I wasn't the only one, as both Max and Isaiah fell asleep before I finished making it. And, since I was so tired I didn't take the time to pay attention to the conversions of the ounces to cups as I measured out the ingredients on the food scale. So, you get it in ounces, too.
The pastries turned out really well, although the recipe said it serves 4, and we guessed it was more like 4 dozen. Once they were fried up and dusted with powdered sugar, they were delicious! But the custard never set up. I'm not sure what I could have done wrong. We cooked and stirred for nearly an hour before we gave up. After sitting in the fridge overnight it was a thick liquid, and tasted like a delicious custard, though. We didn't vote on it since it didn't turn out and half of us were asleep (or nearly so) before we finished.


kimberly/tippytoes said...

The eggplant sounds awesome!

Becky said...

I'm sorry that you got so tired! I don't know why the custard didn't set up. I'll have to check my recipe with the one you posted to make sure I copied it correctly. And because I am a party of 1, I usually 1/3 it (because of the 3 yolks, its just easier) and that makes about enough for 4. I feel like I set you up for disaster (especially as this was one of the first recipes after you proclaimed you were feeling the wear of it all)! :( I'm sorry! But hopefully you enjoyed the Zeppole as a AM snack anyway!

Rachel said...

Oh, Beck, I didn't mean to make you feel bad! We really did love the zeppole, and ate a ton of them . . . and it's not your fault at all that I'm so tired. I've just been forgetting to sleep at night ;)