Ciao a tutti!
Eggplant, called melanzana pronounced mel-an-zahn-a, is a popular Italian vegetable although not originally from Italy. It is actually native to India. It is one of the night shade vegetables and can be found just about anywhere in Italy, since it grows well in warmer climates.
Melanzana is full of water and to get the recipes to turn out good, it is best to cut the melanzana a day before you want to cook it, put salt on it and let it sit for a day. The salt helps to bring out the water so it isn’t as soggy when cooking.
The most famous dish known to contain melanzane is melanzane alla parmigiana found in the regions of northern Italy and other areas of Italy. It is specifically from Parma in the Emilia Romagna region, hence the name “alla Parmigiana”. It is not traditionally vegan. The parmesan and mozzarella can be substituted for faux parmesan or mozzarella cheese. The recipe does not call for pasta, but some Italian-American restaurants will add pasta to the recipe. This is, in Italian eyes, a no-no.
Another popular way to eat melanzane in Italy is to grill them. Grilled melanzane can be found pre-packaged in supermarkets, severed freshly grilled in restaurants or can easily be made at home. You do not necessarily have to have a grill, however it does work best. Just put into a frying pan with some olive oil. Remember to let sit with some salt for a day before grilling, otherwise it will take forever to cook and may end up soggy.
Melanzane sott’olio “Eggplants in Olive Oil” is delicious when eaten as a side dish or served on top of sandwiches. It can be homemade, although takes a while to wait for them to marinate and jar them. The same versions can be store bought or purchased at local markets where people make them at home. These versions are vegan, as the ingredients are simply eggplant, salt, oil, vinegar and sometimes hot peppers, basil, parsley or garlic is added.
You can also use melanzane to make a tomato/eggplant sauce for the pasta. This is a very easy way, since you do not have to wait for the eggplant to loose any water. You can dice it up and put it into a pan with boiling water and salt, to cook it down first. When it is nice and soft, strain it and add it into another pan that has been prepared with the tomato sauce, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and oil. Let it cook down for about 30 minutes, or until the melanzana is very tender.
There is also caponata, a traditional Sicilian side dish appetizer with melanzane and black olives. It has been known to be used as a main dish as well. The base ingredients are cooked vegetables, eggplant, black olives, celery, capers and tomatoes and is vegan, although there are some areas like Palermo where versions of it have included fish or octopus. It goes great with anything and can also be used on toasted bread, sandwiches, on rice, pasta or eaten just as is! If you don’t want to make it, you can also purchase it in the supermarket.
Try it breaded, too! Melanzane can be sliced and put into the oven with breadcrumbs. A little bit of olive oil and salt and voila! It can also be deep fried or if you don’t have a deep fryer, you can fry them on the stove top. Adding the bread crumbs helps it to have a nice crunchy taste for a buon sapore!by