Eggplant Parm with Catch Me If You Can Cheese

My next recipe comes from Sicilian Cookery and you could say it is a variation of eggplant Parmesan with a substitute of a cheese called caciocavallo which is a native cheese of Southern Italy.

The quest to find caciocavallo was the hardest part of making this dish and finding it caused a bit of a hiatus for my cooking goals. My first attempt to buy this cheese was at a specialty cheese shop where they just happened to run out the previous day. They ordered it again, but by the time I got there it was sold out. I had no idea this cheese was so popular. I decided to go to Whole Foods after that and ended up empty handed, thankfully Bristol Farms had some. I must have been lucky that day, because I looked for it again out of curiosity after making this recipe and it was M.I.A. in the cheese section.

Hopefully you’ll have better luck with that than I did.

What you’ll need

  • 3 eggplants
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes
  • 4 oz or 1/4 pound of caciocavallo cheese
  • 2 oz or 1/2 cup of grated cheese
  • 4 or 5 basil leaves

The first step is to prepare the eggplants by cutting them lengthwise into sections as evenly as possible. Then you will cut slits into the fleshy part of the eggplant and soak in salted water for ten minutes.

I wanted to look up the physics as to why salting and soaking is necessary for eggplants and ended up finding this useful article from the LA Times. According to Russ Parsons, it only makes a difference to salt if you are frying. He also feels for there to be a true impact, the soaking should take place for at least 60 minutes.

I have to say, I think Russ is on to something, because when I’ve salted eggplant for only ten minutes, it didn’t do much at all.

Whatever you decide, once you’ve soaked the eggplant, you will pat dry and then allow it to cool. While it is cooling, you can prepare the tomato sauce that will eventually go on top of our eggplant concotion.

To make the sauce, the first step is to prepare the tomatoes by skinning and chopping them. If you don’t recall the proper way to do this, what you need to do is cut x’s into the top of the tomato and then boil them for about a minute. Throw those boiled tomatoes on some ice and then the skin should peel off.  After that, you cut and set aside.

The next step for the sauce is to fry two whole cloves of garlic in oil. Remove the cloves once they’ve been sufficiently fried. I love garlic and didn’t want to remove them, but leaving fried garlic in sauce can make the sauce bitter. If you want to keep the garlic anyway, I suggest mincing the garlic and lightly frying. My mother always told me the longer you let a garlic fry, the more sugar you have to add later to sweeten the bitterness.

Food is like people sometimes.

Once the garlic is ready, whether you keep or discard, the next step is to add those chopped tomatoes. Do so and cook for 5-10 minutes while stirring and sprinkling basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

As the sauce cooks, cut the garlic and caciocavallo into pieces that will fit in the slits you made for the eggplant pieces.

Once the slits are stuffed, sprinkle with some basil and then top them off with tomato sauce. As long as the sauce is cooked, of course.

The final touch will be to sprinkle with grated cheese and oil and bake for 30 minutes on the 350 setting of an oven.

Once your time is up, you’ll have a tasty alternative version to eggplant Parmesan.

My final result turned out well enough. I prefer Parmesan when it comes to eggplant. Caciocavallo is a bitter and harder cheese than Parmesan. I feel it doesn’t compliment the eggplant in a way that I like. I prefer the delicious gooey texture of melted Parmesan that pulls apart like string cheese.

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Mmmm, string cheese

Have I mentioned that I love cheese lately? It’s important to tell the people things you love that you love them everyday. The little things count in this troubled world and the comfort of cheese is getting me through these troubling times every day.

Back to this dish, though. It was an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t beat Parmesan for me and it’s not worth the effort and hunt to use caciocavallo, in my opinion. If you’re adventurous, definitely try it out. Life is too short to not try new things.

 

Hannibal Lector’s Favorite Salad

Today we will discuss Classic Pasta at Home’s Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad. A favorite for Dr. Lector, he pairs it with his favorite Chianti and liverwurst that he gets at some special butcher shop. I can’t remember which one….I think it’s called Buffalo Bill’s Exotic Meats or something.

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Dr. Lector and his Chianti

Unfortunately, I ran into Dr. Lector while shopping for fava beans. His love of fava beans has no bounds. He bought them all up at the grocery store and was unwilling to share any with me. He said something about having a special dinner party and that he would invite me, but he had already “outdone” himself as it was. I don’t know what that meant, but Dr. Lector has always been a little off.

So I had to substitute with lima beans. Thankfully no other substitutes were needed.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 lbs of fava beans
  • 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of minced green onion, stem included
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 8 – 12 soft lettuce leaves, preferably red. (Dr. Lector prefers the shade of Chianti)
  • 2 oz pecorinio cheese such as Toscanello or Manchego.

The first step in making this salad is to shell the fava or lima beans. To do this, you must either soak overnight or boil them for what seems like an eternity. Don’t be impatient with this step because it can make or break this salad. In other words, you don’t want the beans to be hard.

If you use the boil method, have a bowl of ice water ready. This creates a fast hot to cold effect that will rip off the skin of the bean. Buffalo Bill told me about this wonderful method by the way.

Drain the water once you let it cool down and then mix the beans in a large bowl with the olive oil and the green onions. Once these are mixed, you can add the salt, pepper, and lemon juice to your liking.

We are now ready to add the lettuce. Do so by tearing the lettuce into bite sized pieces and tossing gently along with rest of the salad.

The final step is to garnish with some cheese! My favorite part!

The cookbook recommends using a vegetable peeler and shaving the cheese into paper-thin slices. I grated mine, but I do think the shaved method would produce a greater taste of cheese. Being a cheese lover, I wished I had done this instead.

Can’t live in the past, though, right?

Anyway, you will want to toss the cheese as well. Once you have done so, it will be ready for consumption. Pair it with whatever you wish, unless it’s Hannibal Lector that is. I wouldn’t recommend that.

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