This was one of my first forays into eggplant cookery, or fryery maybe I should say. I’ve charred eggplant, smoked it, made baba ghanoush, made an eggplant and fish sauce dish that I learned from my partner who learned it from their uncle but never a classic Italian salt, dry, and fry. Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is a tome to say the least. The wealth of information there is so juicy and exciting, I decided to dive in with this simple dish, just scratching the surface of possibilities I feel like it’s offered me. I didn’t have all the ingredients and tools I needed but I think I fared pretty well. I used a mixture of pickled peppers and spicy red pepper flakes instead of fresh, hot red chili pepper, added ovular slices of garlic along with the chopped, and used an oven rack to cool my eggplant after I fried it (I didn’t want to waste paper towels and don’t currently own a drying rack). I was pretty pleased with the results and enjoyed it with my best friend and partner as we sipped a Chenin Blanc from Clos De L’elu, and watched the 1995 documentary Unzipped.
Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper
What you'll need:
About 1 pound eggplant
Vegetable oil for frying the eggplant
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 ¾ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
Chopped red hot chili pepper, to taste
1 pound pasta (No other shape carries this sauce as well as spaghettini, thin factory-made spaghetti.)
Trim, peel and slice the eggplant, steep it in salt, before cooking, thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Choose a large frying pan, pour enough oil into it to come 1 ½ inches up the sides, and turn the heat up to high. Test the oil by dipping into it the end of one of the slices. If it sizzles, the oil is ready for frying. Slip as many slices of eggplant into the pan as will fit loosely without overlapping. Cook to a golden brown color on one side, then turn them and do the other side. Do not turn them more than once. When both sides are done, use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack to drain or to a platter lined with paper towels.
Put the olive oil and garlic into a sauce pan, and turn on the heat to medium. Cook and stir the garlic until it becomes lightly colored. Add the parsley, tomatoes, chili pepper and salt and stir thoroughly. Adjust heat so that the sauce simmers steadily but gently, and cook for about 25 minutes, until the oil separates and floats free.
Cut the fried eggplant into about ½ inches wide. Add to the sauce, cooking it for another 2-3 minutes, while stirring once or twice. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.
Cherry’s note: spoon over pasta and serve with fresh chopped parsley and grated parmesan.