It’s been so long since I have had Eggplant Parmigiana. I’ve been dairy free for nearly 4 years, so it was before that that I last had it at my Nona’s house. It has always been one of my favorite dishes. So I’m not sure why it has taken me this long to make it. I did make Eggplant Rolls stuffed with Quinoa and ‘Mince’ a while ago, which believe me doesn’t look as good as it tasted.
Eggplant Parmigiana or Melanzana alla parmigiana or Parmigiana di melanzane, is a stew made of eggplant, that can be eaten freshly baked out of the oven or cold. It is a southern Italian dish, that is similarly prepared throughout the south.
The name and the origin of this dish is often debated. Some believed that its name is from the city of Parma or Parmigano cheese. However, this dish is not found in Parma cuisine. Rather the word parmigiana actually refers to the method in which the vegetable is sliced and arranged in alternating layers. Some believe it is from the Sicilian word parmiciana, which means overlapping wood strips on the shutters. Others believe it refers to the way that Parmigiani (people from Parma) cook their vegetables in layers.
It is also often argued that this dish is from Naples, which was the capital city of a large kingdom that included Sicily and Southern Italy, some centuries ago. This recipe is for Parmigiana was first documented in the treatise Il Cuoco Galante by Vincenzo Corrado. It was a dish served to the most prestigious families in Naples during the 18th and 19th century. However, it was not eggplant that was used but rather zucchini, pumpkins, parsnips and tomatoes. It wasn’t until 1837 that Eggplant Parmigiana was first documented by Ippolito Cavalcanti, the Duke of Buonvicino, in his most important work, Kitchen theoretical practice.
This dish is made by first shallow frying sliced eggplant, then layering with cheese (mozzarella/Parmesan/both) and tomato sauce and then baking it. Some recipes use flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs before frying the eggplant.
There are many variations of this dish using breaded meats (veal/chicken), which have also become popular outside of Italy by Italians migrates. The Chicken Parma or Parmy is a very popular pub dish in Australia and is served with a side of chips and salad. It is often topped with sliced ham or fried eggplant, tomato sauce and cheese. In Argentina, it is called Milanesa (beef/veal) or de Pollo (chicken) or de Berenjena (eggplant) or de Cerdo (pork) and is topped with a slice of ham, melted cheese, tomato sauce and a slice of tomato and served with chips or salad. In America and Canada, both the Veal Parmigiana and Chicken Parmigiana are often used as fillings in Sub Sandwiches or served with with pasta. In England they even have their Parmo, which is made of either pork or chicken.
The recipe I made is how I remember my mother and Nona cooking it. The eggplant is dusted in flour, dipped into soy milk instead of eggs and then dipped in corn crumbs instead of bread crumbs. I then layered it with vegan mozzarella and fresh oregano from my garden. It did take me a long time to prepare it all, since there was a lot of eggplant. But it paid off. It was absolutely delicious. Even though its dairy free and gluten free version, it tastes just like I remember it. This is definitely a dish for those who want to indulge and is also great to share with friends. Me and Marco are the only ones that got to share this dish tonight. He really, really liked it. I fear we might be a few kilos heavier in a few days, once we have finished devouring it.
Eggplant Parmigiana (vegan, gluten free, nut free)
1 large eggplant, thinly sliced into circles or half-moons
1/2 cup arrowroot flour or gluten plain free flour
3/4 cup whole soy milk
1 cup corn crumbs or other gluten free bread crumbs
olive oil or canola oil to fry
1.5 jars x 500g tomato pasta sauce
2 cups vegan mozzarella (I used Notzarella)
1/3 cup oregano leaves
4. Heat a large pan (I prefer to use a wok) and heat oil. Then shallow fry eggplants pieces, until golden brown. Leave them on paper towel to draw out any excess oil.
5. Take an oven prove dish, then place some pasta sauce on the bottom. Then add a layer of eggplant, sprinkle sea salt & black pepper, then a layer of Notzarella and some oregano leaves. Continue to do another 3-4 layers, until all the ingredients have been use.
6. Cook in the oven covered with aluminum foil for 20 mins.
7. Uncover and cook for a further 10mins or until the vegan mozzarella has browned a little. I had to cook mine for a further 10 mins as the Notzarella took time to melt.
Parmigiana di melanzane <http://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Parmigiana-di-melanzane.html>
Libro di cucina/Ricette/Parmigiana di melanzane <http://it.wikibooks.org/wiki/Libro_di_cucina/Ricette/Parmigiana_di_melanzane>
Parmigiana di melanzane <http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmigiana_di_melanzane>