Eggplant: black gold
Eggplant, aubergine, melanzana: it doesn’t matter what you call it the taste is always the same. But what an easy vegetable to cook badly. When cooked badly, it’s a bitter, rubbery mess; when cooked well, it’s culinary alchemy. The secret? Not to undercook.
The taste test
There’s a tipping point with eggplant where the colour changes from pale and opaque to rich and slightly translucent. At that same point, the flavour changes from bland to sublime with a piquancy like mature cheese. I tend to judge a restaurant (or even home chef) by their ability to cook eggplant. It’s not hard but you need to know when not to stop.
Melanzane a funghetto
Melanzane a funghetto (eggplant cooked like mushrooms) is a great classic of Neapolitan cuisine. As with most southern Italian recipes, the eggplant is fried in olive oil to get it to the right consistency. For me, this has two problems: firstly, it can result in a slightly greasy consistency to the dish, if not done well; secondly, eggplants absorb a huge amount of oil during frying, so there are a lot of hidden calories.
My version of the dish cuts down on the amount of oil used through roasting the eggplant rather than frying. If you use the setting with heat from the top on your oven, you can create the same texture as frying. Make sure to shake the pan a few times during cooking to stop them burning on one side though.
Traditionally, this dish is a contorno (a vegetable side). But it can be eaten in a variety of ways. You could serve it as part of an antipasto platter, as a bruschetta loaded onto some toasted Italian bread, you could use it as a pasta sauce (as a Roman friend of mine’s mother does), or even use it as a pizza topping. It’s best left to cool down overnight and then served at room temperature. Buon appetito!
1kg eggplants 1 tablespoon salt extra virgin olive oil 1 clove garlic 20 cherry tomatoes 100ml (1/2 cup) water 1 tablespoon Aceto Balsamico di Modena 15 leaves of fresh basil
1 tablespoon salt
extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
20 cherry tomatoes
100ml (1/2 cup) water
1 tablespoon Aceto Balsamico di Modena
15 leaves of fresh basil