|Sauteed Melanzane fritte|
eggplant served on a ceramic
dish from Ceramica Marsalese, Marsala
In choosing eggplants, look for several factors. Eggplants are available year round in many North American markets, but the growing season is typically late Summer to late Fall and when you buy eggplant during those months, you will taste the difference. Seasonal eggplants are described in Sicily as being "tender"; not only is the texture different, but the flavor is milder, less acidic. For these recipes, choose the rounder, meatier Italian style eggplants. As I write, small round purple or white eggplant can still be found in the farmers markets of Southern California.
|Eggplants from the local farmers|
market on a plate from
Arte Ceramica, Marsala.
Eggplants are rarely peeled completely before cooking, but Sicilian cooks like to peel alternating large strips of skin to make them more "digestible". (Digestibility is very important to Sicilians.) The next step will be to cut the eggplant into long slices about a quarter inch thick, and sprinkle them with salt . I suggest you use sea salt such as SOSALT, which is imported from western Sicily and found in Italian specialty stores. This allows the eggplants to sweat. “Sweating” takes about a half hour and you will want to put the slices in a colander so that the dark bitter liquid that is deposited will drain. My mother and my aunts always place a plate face down on the eggplants and a weight on top of that to gently press the liquid out of the eggplants.
|Sliced and salted,|
they are ready to saute.
When the oil is hot, add the eggplants one by one, making sure not to overcrowd them. There should be enough room for each slice to be in contact with the bottom of the sauté pan, and the flame should be kept fairly high. The slices will cook quickly so keep an eye on them and turn them over when they turn golden.
|Saute on medium to high heat. |
Cooking eggplant quicky until golden brings
out its flavor.
Ciao a presto!