Monday, March 12, 2012

Best improvisational dinner

May I have the envelope please --

I had made a red sauce/ragu for pasta earlier in the week but there was about a cup and a half left over.  When a beautiful huge eggplant appeared in our kitchen, it was time for creative improvisation.  I waited too long in the afternoon to do my classic eggplant parmigiana, which starts by nuking the whole eggplant in the microwave, then assembling a casserole and baking it.

So I sliced some of the eggplant and sauteed it in olive oil in a skillet.  I chose an ovenproof skillet thinking that I might finish the dish under the broiler without having to decant it.  But then I figured out an even simpler way.

After the eggplant slices were cooked through and nicely browned, I pushed them to the side of the pan and poured in the leftover red sauce.  Spread about half of it out on the bottom of the pan and arranged the eggplant slices on top.

I covered the top of the slices with breadcrumbs and a bit of parmesan cheese.  (If you don't want to get out the tools for grated cheese and risk it going all over the counter, just use a vegetable peeler and shave off very thin hunks of cheese.  Much faster, and it's going to melt anyway.)

Then I spooned the other half of the leftover sauce on top of the eggplant, and topped that with some leftover shredded mozzarella.  Perhaps you wonder about those pasta shells -- they were left over too, mixed in with the red sauce.  Not enough to really count as a carbohydrate, but once the cheese got melted over the top we didn't even realize they were there.

Since the sauce was cold I knew it would have to stay on the stove for at least several minutes, and I was afraid it would dry out or even burn.  So I poured some red wine in the bottom of the pan.

The skillet was too wide for any of my large pot lids, so I put the biggest mesh spatter guard over the pan, then perched the biggest lid on top.  It didn't seal the pan, but certainly helped keep the heat in.  Eight minutes later everything had heated through, the cheese was melted and it was ready to eat, with only one dirty skillet.  The wine had cooked away, leaving the red sauce hot but not very wet.  In fact, this dish had exactly the consistency of the best restaurant parmigiana.

We rated this dish about as high as you can go, which was nice because I made up every step as I went along. If I had to write up an ingredient list, most of them would show the quantity "as much as you have."  Not sure the stars (and the leftovers) will ever be in this conjunction again -- will we ever get to do it again???


  1. You have described typical Greek household cooking, and what I always used to love about my (Greek) grandma's meals. My favourite food most often comes out of one pan like that, and is often made up as I go along.