One of the interesting culinary tidbits in Calabria is that most home cooks do not use their oven during the summer months given the intense weather. The logic makes sense, however what does the dedicated cook do when s/he has a desire to make a baked dish? Well, how about using your stovetop?
- 3-4 medium sized Sicilian eggplant (the round variety with the light purple skin)
- Kosher salt
- 2-3 cups of tomato sauce
- 2 cups of sliced provola (you can substitute provola with whole milk mozzarella, but I'd stay away from the supermarket variety)
- Freshly ground pepper
- The key to any eggplant parmigiana dish is the manner in which the eggplant is pre-cooked. Most home cooks make the mistake of under cooking their eggplant and/or slicing the eggplant to thick. Eggplant is a vegetable that needs to be manipulated prior to cooking, so it needs a little bit of nurturing; think of eggplant as the antithesis of the tomato.
- Begin by slicing the eggplant (3/16th's of an inch is ideal). Next, salt each piece of sliced eggplant and let sit in large bowl (2-3 hours is ideal). Next, remove the excess water and dry each slice. At the same time, heat up a pan and add canola oil (if you like to fry in olive oil, despite it's smoking point, go ahead and use olive oil, per a reader comment below). Fry each slice of eggplant and set aside. Next, use a large non stick (a heavy duty stainless pan is fine as well) and begin layering the components: eggplant, tomato sauce, a bit of cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and freshly ground pepper. The first layer should contain a base of tomato sauce. Set your flame to low heat and cover with a lid. In about 30-45 minutes your dish should be complete.
- The end result is unlike any baked eggplant parmigiana this side of the North American continent! If you're looking for yet another alternative to the standard baked eggplant parmigiana, see our grilled eggplant parmigiana recipe.