Spanish Eggplant

You could call this a variation of eggplant Parmesan or you could call it a variation of moussaka but truth be told this method of preparing eggplant for the table—en casserole, with tomatoes, onions and peppers—has been a standard for centuries all over the Mediterranean, the distinction here being roasted red peppers, pimientos, sweet thick-skinned red peppers. This dish is fine right out of the oven, but best served cold as a side for grilled meats.

For the seasoning, use a mixture of dried herbs: three parts basil, two parts thyme, one part parsley and one part oregano. You might sniff and say, “Well, that’s just the same thing as that ‘Italian seasoning’ stuff they sell in the supermarket,” to which I would reply, “No, it is not, because the ratios are different; the supermarket blend has far too much oregano, which will make anything you use it in bitter, so there!”) Use plenty of fresh garlic; at least two large cloves. As to the cheese, you’re going to need a queso blanco though any soft unripened or semi-hard cheese—like a Monterey jack, just sayin’—will work quite well.

Peel two large eggplants and cut into thick slices. Brush these liberally with olive oil—you don’t have to use EVO, people, any good olive oil will do—and grill or broil until slightly blistered and soft. Sauté half a large or one small yellow onion with a sweet thin-walled pepper such as a banana or a poblano—you want about two cups of each, coarsely chopped—with the garlic. To this mixture, add a #300 can of whole tomatoes, quartered with juice and reduce by half. Season to taste—about two tablespoons, perhaps—with the herbal mixture along with a dash (or so) of crushed red peppers, layer two roasted and peeled red bell peppers—or six cherry peppers, if you have them—and eggplant with this mixture, top liberally with cheese and bake in a very hot oven until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned. It’s great with pita.


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