Sicilian Braised Eggplants with Garlic and Melting Cheese

August 26, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

For all you eggplant lovers out there, this is one tasty dish!  And young, tender eggplants are everywhere in the farmer’s markets right now.  The original recipe for this called for the elongated Italian ones, which we don’t see typically in our markets.  I have used small globe eggplants in the past and this time I used the long slender Japanese variety.  Both have worked well.  While this recipe calls for cheese, it can easily be omitted with equally delicious results.  Serve with a salad, baguette and white or red Italian wine, and you’re all set for a great late summer meal.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, medium dice

8 large cloves garlic, sliced

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

pinch of sugar

4 medium globe or 6-7 Japanese eggplants, totaling about 2 pounds or so (2-3 Italian eggplants if you find them)

1/3 cup each chopped fresh mint, basil and flat-leaf parsley

3-4 ounces fontina or provolone cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick and cut into pieces

Prepare the eggplants by first rolling them on a flat surface to soften the insides.  Cut slits in the eggplants.  These will naturally be shallower with the Japanese variety and should be a couple of inches deep in the globe or Italian eggplants.  Stuff the slits with half of the garlic slices and pieces of the cheese. Work to close the slits and set aside.

To prepare the braising mixture, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or Dutch oven.  Add the onion and cook, covered, for 5 minutes until it softens.  Add the half the garlic and cook another 2 minutes until the onion starts to brown a little.  Add the tomatoes, chile flakes and sugar and cook, covered for about 5 minutes. Place the prepared eggplants on top of the tomato mixture.  Sprinkle with half the herbs.

Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the eggplants, cover the pot and braise for 60-90 minutes depending on how big around the eggplants are.  Check every 30 minutes and baste the eggplants with the tomato gravy.  They are done when very soft but not falling apart.  Remove the eggplants to a platter.  The sauce should be moderately thick, so if it’s watery, turn up the heat and cook, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened.

I always cook an amount that will result in leftovers because this is great served with pasta as a second meal.  Just cut up the eggplants, heat in the sauce and then toss with your favorite small pasta shapes.  Serve with or without grated Parmesan or Romano.

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