Who was your first love?
Most people can answer that question readily. Some have married their first love; some are married to him/her still.
I recently saw an ad for a reality tv show about getting back your first love. (Which pretty much sums up the state of our country and culture, I guess. Non-reality.)
My first love was eggplant. My second was my Mother's lasagna.
My husband came much, much later.
Eggplant. What's not to love? So plump, so firm, such a gorgeous deep, rich purple color.
I will eat eggplant in any way, shape, or form, but my favorite and most loved is (natch) the most fattening: fried in slices.
This doesn't work out well for me at all.
My second fave is what Ma (my Grandmother) used to make: stuffed eggplant.
There are no recipes for the old time dishes we make, so bear with me.
She cut an eggplant in half, lengthwise.
She scooped out the 'meat', leaving the skin- like you would a squash.
She'd throw that which I affectionately refer to as 'the guts', cubed, into a pan with a little sauteed garlic and oil, and cook it until it was soft. This is not a dish for al dente eggplant.
Now you're cooking with gas! (My other Grandmother's line. Cracked me up.)
Eggplant reeeeally likes oil, and soaks it up fast. Keep adding water, and keep the pan covered once the oil is absorbed. Don't let it scorch. Season with salt and pepper when done. Then add fresh parsley.
Now: the world of possibility opens up.
I have, at this point, eaten it from the pan with a spoon.
But, that's me.
I have thrown it over pasta, with some ricotta. Oh, yes. It's good.
I've mixed it into risotto, with tons of fresh parsley. And once with truffle oil, but only because somebody gave it to me.
I've added it as a layer to lasagna. It negates some of the calories. Yes, it does.
Ma would take that pan, though, and let it cool. Then she'd add 2 eggs, a handful of grated Romano, and a handful of breadcrumbs, and mix it all together.
Then she'd take that and fill the two halves of the eggplant skin, and bake it until it was nice and brown.
She cooked it in the skin, because the skin is good for you.
There's vitamins and such in that skin, she'd say, when I wrinkled my nose up at it.
And she wouldn't let me up from the table until that skin was gone.
Don't tell Ma, but I don't eat the skin anymore. In fact, I don't even use it- I peel the eggplant, throw the skin in the compost bin, and cook the 'stuffing' in a greased baking dish.
And my kids LOVE it!
But you should try it in the skin. It is good for you, though it is bitter.
If you gag, or your kids look like they might be plotting your premature death, peel the skin next time. (BTW, the skin does not flavor the cooked 'stuffing' after baking.)
I buy a luscious eggplant or two every time I leave the island.
Today I cooked it, as usual, into my favorite 'stuffing', but only put half the mixture into the baking dish.
Then I took a pound of ricotta, mixed it with an egg, salt, pepper,parsley, grated cheese, and 2cups of shredded mozzarella. (Recognize the filling for lasagna?)
I spread that over the eggplant layer.
I topped it with the rest of the eggplant.