2 medium eggplants, cut in ¼ inch slices
2 raw eggs + 4 Tbsp. water
2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup peanut oil + ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups homemade red gravy (recipe below)
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. Frank Davis Sicilian Seasoning
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
The first thing you want to do, long before you even begin to think about cooking, is to take the sliced eggplant and soak the pieces for about 30 minutes in a glass bowl filled with cold salted water. This does tow things: (1) It removes the oxalic acid from the eggplant (which is the stringent substance in the vegetable that gives eggplants their notorious "bite") and (2) it seals the pores and fibers of the eggplant (which prevents the vegetable from acting like a sponge and soaking up oil as it fries.)
Once the soaking process is done, remove the eggplant slices from the water and drain them well (in fact, for best results I suggest you even pat the slices dry with paper towels. Then, in order, (1) beat the egg and water together to make a wash and place it into a shallow plate; (2) place the bread crumbs into a shallow baking pan; and (3) dip the eggplant slices first into the eggwash and then into the bread crumbs.
Be sure you take your time and coat each slice thoroughly, because it’s the "coating" that actually binds the ingredients—the gravy and the cheeses—to the eggplant slices within the recipe. Then when all of the slices have been done, set them aside on a sheet of waxed paper for about 5 minutes (you want to give the crumbs a chance to adhere to the egg, otherwise they will fall off the eggplant when it fries).
In the meantime, mix together the olive oil and the peanut oil, pour it into a sauté pan, and bring it up to medium-high heat. Then, a few slices at a time, begin browning the eggplant. As you remove them from the pan, place them on paper towels to drain.
Finally, in an 11x14x2 Pyrex casserole dish, first ladle in a base layer of tomato gravy (about a half cup or so). Then lay in about half of the eggplant slices and top that layer with dollops of the ricotta. Next, sprinkle the dish lightly with some of the Sicilian seasoning and black pepper, follow that with a uniform sprinkling of both the Parmesan and mozzarella, then lade on some more of the gravy. Then merely repeat the whole layering process once again and end up crowning the casserole with a healthy handful of Parmesan.
All that’s left is to slide the dish into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake it—covered for about 50 minutes, then uncovered for about 10 minutes to brown the crust. Serve it hot from the oven as an entree or ice cold from the refrigerator as an appetizer. There’s no way you can serve it that’s not fantastico, molto bene!
Mary Clare’s Fantastic Sugo!
It would be a shame to make this dish with bottled commercial sauce. So to ensure that you get only gourmet authentic quality, see the attached sugo recipe for Mary Clare’s Homemade Italian Gravy. It’s so easy to make even non-Italians can do it. Traditionally, in Southern Italy and Sicily pasta is served with every meal…and over the top of the pasta is a rich Italian gravy made with tomatoes. But unlike the gravies made in America, "real Italian gravy" is rich but not thick! So if you want to make gravy authentically Italian, you gotta make it just like my wife does. Here’s how it’s done! Ingredients:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large can Contadina tomato paste(18 oz. size)
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
¾ cup bell pepper, diced
½ cup celery, diced
1 tsp. sweet basil
½ tsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. Frank Davis Sicilian seasoning
2 whole bay leaves (medium size)
3 Tomato paste cans filled with chicken broth (1-1/2 qt.)
Salt and black pepper to taste
First, in a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil to medium high and fry down the chopped onions, celery, and bell pepper until they wilt. Then drop in the tomato paste, stir it well into the softened vegetables, and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes. The trick is to sauté the tomato paste until the consistency is velvety smooth. I recommend you stir the mixture constantly.
Next, drop in the tomato sauce and the garlic and blend them well into the tomato-paste mixture. Then stirring constantly, cook everything together for another 5 minutes.
At this point, toss in the basil, oregano, Sicilian seasoning, and bay leaves. And—yep! stir them in well too! Remember, everything has to be smooth.
Then slowly stir in the chicken broth—simply fill the tomato paste can three times to get and accurate measurement—and mix all the ingredients once more. I suggest you use a wire whip for the final mixing—it’s the best way to get a uniform blending.
Finally, season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste. Then cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let the sauce simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half before serving it over hot pasta, in lasagne, in parmegiana, or whatever you cook.
Remember, "real" Sicilian sauce is not pasty-thick; it’s just rich.
If you want to drop eggs, chicken, sausage, pork chunks, or meatballs into the sauce, you should put them in immediately after the salt and pepper is added so that the flavors can marry together.