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White: Fatone's eggplant Parmesan

By Lee White

Publication: The Times

Published September 20. 2012 4:00AM   Updated September 25. 2012 11:26AM

My veggie garden harvest is still going on. A couple of weeks ago, I picked most of the fairly-hot peppers, most of the tomatoes and even more basil. In the herb garden, there is still more basil, lots of thyme, rosemary and parsley. Soon I will pick most of the parsley and make more Bolognese sauce, which uses lots of parsley, and try a parsley pesto, the latter of which I will add walnuts to instead of pine nuts (pine nuts are much more expensive). Both the Bolognese and the pestos freeze beautifully.

Although my gardens are almost done, so many friends are giving me some of their bounty that I'm cooking up even more, but I am not complaining. I have green beans in almost all colors and sizes, more tomatoes (Romas are the best for roasting), lots of dark greens and, just before I was ready to go on vacation, eggplant.

I love eggplant and figured out that I could definitely make ratatouille, which I enjoy. But then I thought, eggplant Parmesan from a recipe my neighbor Kathy makes that the Fatone family's restaurant in Niantic used to serve.

Kathy makes it more often that I do, so much that I allowed her to adopt my electric slicer. Then I borrowed it back to make the eggplant Parmesan that I will freeze and take on vacation to the Outer Banks.

Eggplant Parmesan

Adapted from the original recipe of Fatone's restaurant in Niantic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

2 to 4 perfect eggplants (ask your produce person for the gorgeous ones)

salt

4 to 5 eggs

flour for dredging

vegetable oil for frying

marinara sauce (recipe follows)

½ to 1 pound thinly sliced provolone

freshly grated Parmesan cheese

The day before you plan to make the dish: peel the eggplants and slice off the top crown. With a slicer or a mandoline (or with a very steady hand), slice the eggplants vertically ¼-inch to ½-inch thick. On one or more cookie sheets, cover with paper towels. Place eggplant slices on towel, with no overlapping, and salt liberally. Place another paper towel, more eggplant and salt, ending with paper towel. Place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. (I changed the paper towels halfway through.)

When all liquid has seeped from the eggplant slices, begin the frying process (and it's nice to have help for this: one person eggs and flours, the other fries). Beat the egg in a large bowl and place lots of flour on a plate. Coat eggplant slice in egg, then dredge in flour, patting flour on both sides, then shaking off excess. Fry in single layer, in batches, in about ½-inch of oil (temperature of oil should be at least 350 degrees). Drain on paper towels.

To assemble: In a large baking or gratin dish, spread a thin layer of sauce. Lay slices of fried eggplant over sauce. Top with slices of provolone and cover with sauce. Repeat until done, ending with sauce. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until bubbling. This can be served hot or at room temperature. If you want to assemble the dish earlier in the day, it can sit on the counter for a few hours before baking.

Nibbles

I enjoy Thai food and was thrilled when I heard about Mindy K in Old Saybrook. But to get my favorite Thai food at a sit-down restaurant, I had to drive to Sawasdee in Groton, which is a good 25 minutes away from where I live.

Now the people who own Sawasdee have opened another, called Spice Club, in Niantic. It's really pretty, bigger than its older sibling and has two things going for it: it's eight minutes from my house and it's walking distance from the Niantic Cinema and the Book Barn annex that sells used cookbooks.

Is the food as good as their place in Groton? It sure is, and I'm told that on weekends there may be a wait for a table. But trust me, it's terrific, from the spring-type rolls to the curries to the superb pad thai and the miso and the Tom Yum soups. And it's open for lunch, too.

The Spice Club

239 Main Street

Niantic, Connecticut

(860) 451-8121

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