Foodie Friday | TORTINO DI MELANZANE

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BTW… it is an Eggplant Cake (think along the lines of crab cakes but eggplant) with a bechamel sauce. The sauce keeps for a few days so you can smother everything with it… eggs, steak, french bread, anything really. Oh heck. Just grab a spoon. :-)

Pour self a BIG, BOLD GLASS OF RED VINO and turn on the Andrea Bocelli.

Chef/owner Gaetano Cicciotti of Cicciotti’s Trattoria in Cardiff by the Sea, was gracious enough to share a recipe from his cookbook, Cicciotti’s Kitchen Cookbook (PUBLISHED BY CHEFS PRESS INC.)

TORTINO DI MELANZANE

{Eggplant Cake}
Serves 4

2 large eggplants, sliced into 12 rounds
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Flour for coating
1/3 cup good-quality olive oil
12 large fresh basil leaves
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup Marinara Sauce (see below)
1/2 cup Besciamella Sauce (see below)
Garnish: Fresh basil

Dip eggplant in lightly beaten eggs, then coat lightly in flour. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, fry eggplant slices in olive oil until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, layer 1 slice of eggplant, then 1 basil leaf, and a generous sprinkling of shredded mozzarella; repeat two more times to create the tower. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes, until cheese melts.

Meanwhile, heat marinara and besciamella sauces in two small saucepans.

To serve: Spoon a pool of marinara sauce on a plate. While the eggplant tower is still hot, use a large spatula to carefully transfer it onto the plate. Drizzle besciamella sauce over the top. Garnish with fresh basil.

MARINARA SAUCE
Makes 2 quarts

4 cups finely chopped yellow onions
5 peeled and minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil Splash of white wine
Mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, Italian parsley)
3 dried bay leaves
3 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes (with basil if available)
Fresh whole basil leaves
4 tablespoons butter, chilled
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until golden brown. Add a splash of white wine. In a piece of cheesecloth or a bouquet garni bag, tie up the fresh herbs and bay leaves; add it to the stockpot along with tomatoes and a few fresh basil leaves. Cover with lid three quarters, reduce heat to
medium low, and cook for 35 to 45 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened. Stir occasionally. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Turn off the heat. Remove the bouquet garni, and let cool for about 10 minutes. Stir in butter to finish. Purée sauce in a blender until completely smooth.

Good for 5 to 6 days in the refrigerator.

BESCIAMELLA SAUCE
{Béchamel sauce}
Makes 2 quarts

2 quarts whole milk
2 cups butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, warm the milk over low to medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a second large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat.
Whisk in the flour until the mixture becomes paste-like and the raw flour taste
has been cooked out. Slowly add the warm milk, whisking constantly, until it becomes
creamy, about 15 minutes. For a thinner sauce, whisk in more milk to desired
consistency. Season with nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Good for 5 to 6 days in the refrigerator.

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