I love old gospel music. Two years ago, it rained on Good Friday and Leonard Lopate played the most amazing gospel music all morning (he does this annually). I recently downloaded that playlist (full of James Cleveland, Marion Williams & The Pilgrim Travelers) after attending an inspiring Sunday church service in Washington, DC this weekend.I haven’t been in church since I asked my secular parents to take me to get baptized and make my communion at ten. I thought it was very cool that I would be washed of all sin. After all, I had been up all summer night wrapped in guilt that I gave Steven Hernandez a bold middle finger on the last day of school. LORD, forgive this girl! I was tired of listening to my soldier’s cot squeak with each new toss and turn.
I really did enjoy this weekend’s service though. One passage the priest read particularly struck me: “I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (Kings, 17:12). Now mind you, I’m not a religious person. I like to think the good we do in the world we can take our own human credit for. We all have the power to be divine. We may eat, and then die.
I knew today called for eggplant parmigiana. The weather is cool enough for it. My aunt is famous for this dish. When I was little, I sat in the kitchen with her and watched as she coated the eggplant first with salt and then with egg. As always it’s important to have really fresh ingredients: fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce. The sauce I made this morning has some kick to it. I let it simmer for 2-3 hours.
Zeke’s Favorite Tomato Sauce
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 shallots, diced
- 4 sun dried tomatos, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 28oz canned organic whole tomatoes
- 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- salt, black pepper
- 1 wooden spoon tomato paste
- 6-8 fresh, torn basil leaves
- Heat olive oil In a large dutch oven or pot. Add sliced garlic and cook until golden, constantly stirring. Add the diced shallots. When the shallots and garlic are soft, add red pepper flakes, oregano and anchovies, constantly stirring.
- Once aromatic (almost immediately but wait 2-3 minutes), add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil leaves and sugar, constantly stirring.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust salt, pepper and sugar to taste.
The sauce is your foundation. If you don’t have time to make both the sauce and eggplant in one night (it’s a 3 hour production), make the sauce a few days ahead. This recipe is well worth the time!
- 1 large eggplant
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups plain bread crumbs
- 10-12 fresh, torn basil leaves
- homemade tomato sauce
- Fresh mozzarella
- Thinly slice the eggplant in round discs. (I used a mandoline this time). Salt each piece and place them on paper towels to soften and sweat. Rinse and dry them off after 10-15 minutes.
- Beat the eggs and coat each piece of eggplant. Bread them with plain bread crumbs and set aside. Once they’re all breaded, cover them and place in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
- In a large pan, over a medium-high heat, heat 3 tablespoons of oil. Pan fry the eggplant so each side is lightly browned. Do not burn! Make sure that you add enough oil to keep the eggplant from sticking and losing its breading.
- Once all of the eggplant is fried, set aside. Preheat oven to 375.
- In a large casserole pan, cover the bottom with an inch of tomato sauce. Place one layer of eggplant in. Layer each eggplant with a slice of fresh mozzarella, basil leaf and dollop of tomato sauce. Add another layer of eggplant and repeat until all of the eggplant is gone. Grate the final layer of eggplant with fresh parmigiana-reggiano cheese.
- Place in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes.
- Serve over pasta tossed with olive oil, fresh basil and remaining tomato sauce.
There’s only a little oil in my cruse.