Friday, August 8, 2014

Not eggplant parmesan

We had some beautiful, small eggplants fro the farmers market that, after cooking, turned out to be some of the sweetest and least bitter that I have ever had. I wanted to make a dish of Marcella Hazan's where you pan-cook eggplants with breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley and then melt on some fresh mozzarella.  However, Amy is (very successfully) following a low-carb diet, so I try to be a supportive spouse.  Breadcrumbs were out.  She doesn't even like to eat too much tomato sauce.  So working with what we had around -- mushrooms, miso, parsley and fresh mozzarella, I came up with this.  The mushrooms are delicious on their own since the miso heightens their innate umami-ness, but I think that they are even better in this dish.

Eggplants with mozzarella, mushrooms and miso

Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5 pounds eggplant, more or less (I used four small light purple ones.  Use whatever you can get, preferring ones at the market that are firm and heavy in the hand.)
  • 1 pound cremini (or your favorite) mushrooms, washed, stemmed and sliced -- see below for a quick washing technique
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sweet white miso (I love Two Rivers brand)
  • 1/4 cup washed, chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine.
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella (we always use salted), shredded or diced
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. If you are using small eggplants, cut them in half lengthwise and place in a lightly oiled (or sprayed) shallow casserole that will accommodate them in one layer.  If you use large eggplants, cut them in about 3/4 inch slices.  In any case, the eggplants should fit in your baking dish in a single layer. 
  3. Drizzle the eggplant with oil (or spray them) and sprinkle with salt and bake them for 20 minutes, until the eggplant is tender when tested with a fork.  The time will vary widely depending on how you cut the eggplant.
  4. Meanwhile, make the mushrooms.  Put about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet, add the mushrooms and sprinkle  them lightly with salt.  Cook them on high heat until they give off their liquid and it evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown in the oil.  Turn the heat down and add the garlic and parsley and cook gently for about 2-3 minutes until the garlic looses some of its raw aroma.  (Adding the garlic late rather than early both prevents it from burning and preserves some of its pungency.)
  5. Add the miso and stir to distribute evenly and blend with the mushrooms. 
  6. Add the wine and boil down until the miso dissolves and the liquid reduces and thickens, about 2 minutes.  
  7. Broil the eggplant for 2-5 minutes until nicely browned.  They can go from brown to burned quickly, so don't leave the oven and check frequently. If you are using eggplant slices rather than halves, turn them over if you want to brown the other side.  
  8. Return the oven to 425 degrees.
  9. Spread the mushrooms over the eggplant in the casserole, season with pepper and salt if needed (taste the mushrooms, which may already be quite salty) and sprinkle the top with the mozzarella.  Bake until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.
  10. Broil until the cheese browns lightly. (Again watch this carefully.)
  11. Let rest a minute or two before serving.
Serves 4 with other dishes. 

Washing mushrooms: The conventional wisdom used to be to scrub each mushroom individually with a light damp paper towel.  This was said to prevent them from getting waterlogged, but life is too short. Try this instead: dump them into a bowl that will hold them comfortably, cover them with cold water, and swish them around for about 15 seconds.  Lift out the mushrooms and pour out the dirty water and rinse the bowl.  Repeat.  The mushrooms will now be pretty clean.  Dry them quickly with a paper towel, rubbing off any dirt that may remain.  If you are cleaning more than a few ounces of mushrooms, this is far faster than wiping them individually.

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