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.

 

Melanzane Alla Parmigiana aka Eggplant Parmesan

Here’s another Sicilian recipe from Sicilian Cookery. Eggplant Parmesan is one of my favorite Italian dishes, so I was excited to make this.

I do have to warn the dear readers that eggplant is a fussy one-eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater. Wait. That’s something else….

Ok, so maybe it doesn’t fly and eat people, but it is purple, you could say it has one horn, and trust me when I tell you that it can be a difficult vegetable to cook.

I was going to seguue a joke about eggplant emojis, but I just found out Prince died. It just doesn’t seem right to do now. I mean Prince is not an eggplant emoji, but when it comes to purple beings you can’t deny that he reigns them all.

What would Prince have to say about all of this? I wonder if he enjoyed eggplant? I have a feeling he did. I mean it’s his favorite color and based on that pancake skit from Chapelle Show I have a feeling the man liked to cook.

So, Prince, I dedicate this purple recipe to you.

Here’s what you need for your Prince Eggplant Parm

  • 5 eggplants
  • 2 pounds of tomatoes
  • 1 pound of onion
  • 6 oz of Primosale cheese
  • 1 cup of grated cheese
  • basil
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Eggplant is kind of princess and needs special treatment, so the first step is to give it a nice salt water spa bath for 30 minutes.

Drain, rinse, and pat your princess dry and then fry her in some hot oil.

If you are like me and was never taught how to fry food, then you might need some help here. Even if you were taught how to fry food, eggplant can be troublesome. Eggplant soaks up oil like a succubus and that makes monitoring the frying process extremely difficult.

Soaking the eggplant in salt water is supposed to prevent the mass soaking of the oil, but in my case I soaked and that purple succubus still managed to suck my oil dry.

The internet tells me that larger eggplants seem to be more likely to do this, so I can deduce that if you have a larger variety then extending the soak to an hour will reduce the effect.

If you find that during the frying process that it’s still greasy and oily, my best advice is to blot out the oil with a paper towel as much as possible.

The time it takes to fry eggplant can take up to ten minutes. Again the internet told me this. I enjoy this cookbook, because it is authentic Sicilian food, but it’s not the best teaching tool for cooking. They leave out a lot of details like how long to fry the eggplant.

Since it does take ten minutes to fry, feel free to start cooking your sauce. Again, the cookbook doesn’t give you too many details about how to do this. All it says is “make some tomato sauce with plenty of basil.”

Yeah. I know.

Thankfully I was taught how to make my own sauce. So when I read that, I knew what to do. I’m going to assume that my readers might not though, so here is how you do that.

The first step is to cut an x on the top of your tomatoes listed above. Boil those tomatoes until the skin starts to peel. Once that happens, remove from the heat and rinse with cold water or place on a bed of ice. Ice is more ideal by the way. When the tomatoes have cooled, peel them and then cut into cubes. Place the tomato chunks in a pan and then cook until it resembles a sauce.

Feel free to add your favorite spices to the sauce as well. I stuck with just the basil because of the cookbook, but I ended up adding oregano and garlic later.

When the eggplant is fried and the sauce is cooked, you will bake. Oil a pan of your choice and place a layer of eggplant on it. Cover that layer with sauce and a layer of cheese. Continue this layering until everything has been used up.

Drizzle the top layer with oil and then bake for 15 minutes.

The final result is a simple eggplant Parmesan recipe that you can use as a base and later add your own personal preferences to it.

I, for example, doctored up my leftovers by adding different spices to my sauce and eating it with a side of spaghetti.

My initial tasting of this did disappoint me. This was because I didn’t properly fry my eggplant. It was greasy, spongy, and oily.

My leftovers were much better than my initial tasting thankfully. I think this was mostly because when I re-heated the eggplant it somehow diminished the oily, spongy texture.  The tweeks I made to the sauce also helped.

Anyway, I’d love to make this again but I’d probably be lazy and buy a jar of sauce and use mozzarella for some layers to give it more of a gooey stringy cheese texture.

So, so good, that gooey stringy cheese taste.

Aubergines en Vinaigre AKA Pickled Eggplant

I haven’t posted in a good while. I was busy putting up scenes in my acting class like a mad Max Furiosa and once I was done with that I booked an extra gig for an independent film that lasted a couple of days. I don’t normally do extra work, but I’m still looking for a day job and needed the money. I did meet a fellow actress who was in a similar boat though. She was from England and could only do work related to the entertainment field because of her visa.

She was not happy to be doing extra work at all! I liked her though. We bonded over our mutual hatred for feeling the pressure to promote ourselves on social media, The Kardashians and how they are promoting that behavior, selfies, butt selfies, and actors who just want to be pretty and not artists. I found a fellow snob, basically.

Not that I disliked the other extras. I overheard some real funny stuff actually. That’s the best part of doing background work, meeting kooky characters. One woman, who had to have been at least my parent’s age, but seemed older to me, (my parents are in their mid 60s) claimed to have a 22 year old friend with benefits. I know it’s terrible of me and I kept my mouth shut, but if I had no filter I would have asked what this kid saw in her. She wasn’t an ugly woman, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. As I was pondering this a woman who was probably in her 40s, who did seem like someone who could attract 22 year olds said, “You gotta be careful with the young ones, they get attached!”

My mind was blown and at the same time it kind of made me feel better at getting older and being single. I mean these women are still dating and seem to have an active sex life. It makes me feel like there’s hope for me. My last three boyfriends were all younger than me, so I like to joke that I am a cougar-in-training. I swear I don’t do it on purpose though. It just keeps happening.

It seems I’ve digressed enough, so let’s move on to the recipe at hand. This recipe is from French Farmhouse and is another easy, simple recipe that is more about waiting than actual doing, which funny enough, is a lot like doing background work on a film. I swear I didn’t even intend to make that distinction, but there it is wrapped in a pink bow for you.

I still have some waiting to do in fact and will update this entry once the eggplant is ready. The reason I have to wait is because it’s a pickled recipe, which basically means putting a bunch of ingredients in a jar and waiting two weeks or so.

For this pickled eggplant, you will need 2 medium eggplants cut into 1/2 inch cubes, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 peeled, 10 black peppercorns, 15 sprigs of fresh thyme, 3 imported bay leaves, and olive oil.

The first step is to place the eggplant cubes in a colander. You will then sprinkle the eggplant with the salt and allow it to drain for about an hour to an hour and a half. Once drained, pat the eggplant dry and place in a large soup pan along with the vinegar, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves, 5 peppercorns, a handful of thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Bring this to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes.

Once that’s over with, you will drain the liquid, cool the eggplant and then place it in jars with the remaining ingredients. The final step is to fill your jar with olive oil until everything is covered.

Refrigerate this jar for about 3 to 4 weeks. I have a couple of weeks to go myself, but once it’s ready I plan to use my eggplant in an udon noodle stirfry of some sort. The author of French Farmhouse recommends using it on pizza or as an appetizer paired with Sourdough bread. I have to say those sound like good options as well.

For now, though, here is a lovely picture of my jarred eggplant.

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So here is the update on the pickled eggplant. I ended up making a pizza with jalapenos, onion, manchango cheese, and Parmesan. I also added them to some ramen noodles for a stir-fry. The stir-fry also had jalapenos and onions, but I added to chicken as well.

The stir-fry was ok. The vinegar in the eggplant didn’t really mesh well with the sauces I used for the noodles. The pizza, was delicious though! See the results below.

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Eggplant pizza

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Eggplant ramen

Eggplant Rolls

This recipe comes from Classic Pasta at Home and is fairly simple to make. It’s a bit time consuming though, not so much in physical labor, but in waiting time. The eggplant cooking process is kind of like cooking with a crockpot, so to speak.

What you need for this recipe is 2 eggplants, 2 red bell peppers, 1/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs, 3/4 cup of grated pecorino cheese, one tablespoon of pine nuts, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, basil leaves, white wine vinegar, and parsley.

Your first step in making this dish is to trim and cut the eggplant into 1/3 inch slices. You are only going to use 8 of these slices, however. Once you’ve got your 8 slices, arrange them on a rack and sprinkle with salt. Let them stand on the rack for about two hours. This is done so the eggplant softens, making it easy to roll up.

When the eggplant has soaked enough salt, you pat it dry and then boil it in water for 5 minutes to soften even further. After the boiling process you transfer the eggplant strips onto a towel to dry.

Now you are ready to make your filling. I got a bit annoyed with myself on this process. I almost always refer to the recipe list for my measurements, forgetting that those measurements are sometimes divided into different sections of the cooking process. Needless to say when a recipe says “throw all the stuff together!” I take it for it’s word and then just look to the ingredients list instead of paying attention to the details within the recipe.

I never said I was a good cook people. Read my intro, I admit fully I lack in culinary skill.

Anyway the first step in making the mixture I got through unscathed. That was to set the oven to the broiler setting, though. So do that and then cut your bell peppers in half. Remove the seeds and place inside the oven. Broil until the skin has blackened and then peel once they have cooled down. After they are peeled, cut the peppers finely and mix with one tablespoon of olive oil, not four like I did. You will also add pine nuts, (which I omitted because although they are delicious, they are also expensive) breadcrumbs, and 1/4 a cup of the cheese. Guess what I did with the cheese? Added too much like the oil. Thankfully my mixture turned out ok, despite this error.

The garlic is also added to your mixture, but after it’s been sautéed in olive oil for a minute. This should be done with one tablespoon of oil and the garlic should be minced before cooking.

When you finally mix everything together, all you need to do is spread the filling onto your eggplant strips, add a strip of basil, and roll up. Drizzle the eggplant with the remaining olive oil, which should be two tablespoons by the way and sprinkle with white wine vinegar.

Your rolls are now ready for baking. To do so, set the oven to 375 and bake for about an hour. Remove from the oven, sprinkle more cheese, touch it up with some parsley, and you’ve got a tasty little eggplant roll!

My rolls came out a little over cooked and stuck to the bottom of pan, but they tasted amazing! I recommend cooking them for a half hour instead to prevent this problem. I think the full hour is not needed. I haven’t tested this theory, though, so feel free to check for yourself.

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Overstuffed eggplant rolls