One day we had a photo session for the magazine taking pictures of a local farmer lady, who grows - oh, everything. She came with box full of eggplants and tomatoes. I took them home and looked at them. I had so many ideas of what to cook – baba ghanoush, grilled whole and served with some sriracha sauce, grilled slices, baked in the oven, lasagna, moussaka, and.... Sometimes those decisions are harder than choosing which dress to buy. But then I remembered the evening of 26 June when, after a 2-day drive, we finally arrived in Casale Marittimo (Tuscany) and went to our lovely taverna where I ordered eggplant parmesan. That was it. I knew. I did happen to be standing next to my new Bergner pans when I decided this, so an obvious choice was to choose something from them. And I did (this is one of the advantages of being a brand ambassador for brands you love – they spoil you with the greatest things). And though you might wonder why anyone would make such a large batch, the answer is honest – because it takes time and better to make good use of that time. And the dish tastes perfect even on the third day.
2 kg tomatoes
20 ml olive oil for frying
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
3 basil sprigs
4 thyme sprigs, only leaves
1 fresh marjoram sprig, only leaves
1 fresh oregano sprigs, only leaves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 smoked paprika
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.5 kg bing and small sized* eggplants, cut into 7 mm slices
olive oil to fry the eggplant (be ready to use quite a lot)
100 - 150 g freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or as needed
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
handful of fresh basil
Bring a pot of water to boil, enough to completely submerge the entire tomato. Use a sharp knife to score a small X on the tomato (cut just enough to pierce the skin). Place the scored tomato in the boiling water, leave it there for about 20 seconds, remove, and put in ice cold water. Do this with all the tomatoes and then peel off the skins. Cut tomatoes in half, drain all the juice, and cut the flesh into very small pieces. Put in a sieve over a bowl, so that all the juices run out**.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onion, celery, and garlic. Sprinkle with some salt and sauté on low heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Add thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano, fennel seeds, cinnamon, smoked paprika, and pepper. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, wait for it to start bubbling and then lower the heat a bit, cover, and simmer 20 - 25 minutes. Adjust salt to your taste.
Salt eggplant slices generously on both sides and leave to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then wash off the salt and dry each slice. This might take time, but who cares! The result is melt-in-the-mouth dinner. Heat the pan, add olive oil, let it get hot, and add the slices (just in one layer). If you have two pans, fry in both, as it will go faster. Fry them on both sides, so that they are golden brown, take off the heat, and place on paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Fry all slices in this way.
Preheat oven to 180°. Take a 30 x 30 cm large ceramic baking pan (since I did it for my dear Bergner, I used theirs). Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce on the bottom, cover with a single layer of eggplant, and add a thin layer of Parmigiano and repeat until all ingredients are used up, ending with a little sauce and a sprinkling of Parmigiano. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes until eggplant mixture is bubbly and the center is hot. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes before serving. Decorate with basil leaves before serving.
* You can use the small rounds to cover all the small places in the pan.
** You can use this juice – it will be thick – to serve with bread. I divide it among small bowls, add a bit of olive oil and zaatar, and everyone can dig into their own.
In cooperation with Bergner MASTER PRO
Recipe and pictures: Signe Meirane
Camera: Sony Alpha 7s