2019: E… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: Eggplant
I’m back for “year 4” of the A to Z… April Challenge!
My first year of this challenge had me racking my brain for a writing topic… especially as I didn’t quite understand the process. But finally I came up with 2016: Southern Foods and Memories. They said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew. 2017: Conversations with Mama was a somewhat easy one for me as I’d journaled our conversations for years so I researched some of my favorite topics to write on. 2018: All About Nancy Drew has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another to equal it. It literally had me researching every day for over six months… researching, reading and perfecting every post. I was totally consumed with Nancy Drew for months… and still am! I didn’t want to “not” participate this year, but I was drawing a blank. Finally, mid February, I came up with writing on my husband’s Italian family foods and memories. I did my Southern foods the first year, so it was time to finally give his family their due! I’m also participating in the yearly 52 Ancestors 52 Stories this year… I am really feeling over-extended this month. April is a tough month for me, as we usually are traveling to my mother’s and my son in Florida… but somehow I’ll manage!
I think I can safely say that before marrying into an Italian family, I had never eaten any of the foods I’m blogging on this month… such an underprivileged child I was! Growing up in the South where we ate fried chicken, okra, black-eyed peas, butter beans, mashed potatoes, creamed style corn and southern biscuits! Oh My…!
My grandfather in Georgia never grew this purple vegetable!
It took me a long time before I ventured to try eggplant, but after watching my mother in law fry it so many times… and seeing everyone but me love it… Eventually I tried it… and soon developed a love for it… I was hooked!
Ingredients: Eggplant, eggs, parmesan cheese, vegetable oil, salt & pepper, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese
Prepare: I was taught to always peel the skin off… many leave it on, but I feel it gives a bitter taste and totally changes the taste… at least to me! So “off with the skin“! After skinning the eggplant, find your sharpest thin-blade knife and make the skinniest slices you can make… but watch those fingers! My mother in law always laid them out on a pan and slightly salted… letting sit for about 20 minutes… the salt draws out some of the moisture in the eggplant. Pat the slices dry… and you’re almost ready to fry!
There are two choices in frying eggplant, and it’s totally up to your taste. They can be dredged in flour or Italian seasoned bread crumbs or even panko. You also need an egg wash to dip in. Originally my mother in law used a wash of eggs and grating cheese mixed together, but I’ve shortened it to only batter of eggs. I went through too many eggs that way, so I changed it up… adding grating cheese on the layers when I prepared the Eggplant Parmesan. I don’t think it tasted any different, but you can change it up either way.
Don’t forget to use paper towels in between layers… I absorb as much oil off as I can. My husband cooks, but I don’t let him fry anymore… he tries to simmer! I told him fry them fast and get them out of the pan.
My mother in law only used flour as part of the frying process… first flouring several of the slices before starting. I keep flouring the waiting slices while one batch is frying. You can either flour them first, then dredge through the egg wash, then in the pan, or through the egg wash, through the flour and then back in the egg wash, then to the pan; double dipping gives them a thicker crunch on the outside. It often depends on my mood as which way I use… there are some days you don’t want to stand any longer than needed over a frying pan… I’d be missing Facebook time!
In frying the eggplant slices, have your oil hot… you want to quickly brown them and get them out of the pan. Lingering in the oil, only allows the eggplant to soak up more oil. Have a waiting pan layered with paper towels… and the more you fry… add more paper towels in between the layers.
Nothing is better than enjoying a freshly fried eggplant slice… be sure and grab the jar of parmesan cheese and sprinkle on. I learned that trick from my father in law… he only liked them freshly fried, no sauce. Whenever I made eggplant, I always took him a small dish of just fried eggplant… no sauce! I love both ways though!
Eggplant Parmesan: Once the frying is over… youre ready to wrap this dish up. You can either make your own tomato sauce or use a jarred sauce. We all have our own “go to” sauce when we don’t want to make.
Use the dish of your choice, small or large. I add a thin layer of sauce on the bottom, then layer eggplant slices, sprinkle parmesan cheese, S&P, then repeat until you reach close to the top… keep your distance as you don’t want it to bubble over… and we’ve all done that. I add a light or heavy layer of mozzarella on top. Hubby likes to always put a pan under mine to save the stove bottom… it’s come in handy more than once!
I cover mine with tin foil… helps to keep the heat in and cook faster. Cooking time at 350 depends on the size of your pan. I check it in about 30 minutes and if it’s bubbly and I can stick a knife in and it feels tender… it’s done!
All ready for the oven!
How do you eat your eggplant? I like mine just fried, or as eggplant parmesan, which we usually eat in a hard roll as a sandwich. If I make a large dish, I like to always freeze a dish of it for one of those days when you just don’t know what to eat… or want to cook… and those days come more frequently now… the “not wanting” to cook part!
Do you have a favorite eggplant recipe… do share with me and let me hear how you enjoy it!
Continue reading more of the A to Z… Cooking Famiglia Italian Foods and Memories
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