This is the first time ever that I’ve attempted cooking eggplant parmesan. It looked like a relatively easy recipe with something like six lines of instruction. Simple, right? Except, at the first line I began to panic:
“Peel eggplant and cut into 3/8 inch slices.”
Doesn’t that sound a bit…precise?
I know, cooking is just as much science and chemistry as it is art, but really…3/8 inch?
If the recipe had said ½ inch you’d figure “Eh, ½ inch give or take. I’ll let recollection be my guide. That looks to be about ½ inch riiiiiiiiggghhhht there.” CHOP!
½ inch, whole inch…they sound like suggestions, right? You never saw Julia Child sautéing with a slide rule in her hand. And that loud Cajun guy, whosit…Emeril. He just picks up handfuls of spices and throws it in the pan. BAM! He doesn’t say “ Now add 3.14159265 ounces of spicy stuff to your shrimp pie and stir at 37 strokes per minute.”
I can’t do precise. This is why you don’t want to hire me as the architect for your new house. Graph paper? Peh. A line here, a line there and presto! Your powder room toilet is now placed in the middle of the family room and isn’t that convenient during those hour-long HBO series without the commercial breaks?
Anyway, measuring eggplant into 3/8 inch slices may be okay when Frank Lloyd Wright is making dinner. What I need to find is a cookbook for the spatially and mathematically challenged. I need a cookbook for slacker-liberal-arts-major types.
I need The Poet’s Cookbook.
Eggplant Parmesan from The Poet’s Cookbook
- 2 eggplants, broad and boastful in their purple magnificence!
- Salt! Singing, crystalline jewels of the kitchen!
- One can- of size and shape ready-made to fit the hand of Zeus - filled with whole peeled tomatoes, bloody stumps recollected from the fragile bodies of lesser gods
- 1 clove garlic, that tiny heart of evil sprung up from Satan’s footprint, peeled and minced and set inside one's souls
- Olive oil, enough to fill Dante’s shoes
- Freshly ground black pepper in amounts which would cover the heads of four angels
- Flour! Flour! Flour!
- Fine dry breadcrumbs strewn across the counter. The muffins weep to see the slaughter.
- 4 large eggs, beaten…somewhere…a chicken runs to find its head.
- Fresh mozzarella cheese, the firm round weight of it reminds me of the Mutter Museum, we stood before the Secret Tumor of Grover Cleveland, the glass case between us and infamy, our tender amour sliced forever in morbid cross-section
- Parmesan cheese…much…much…
- Packed fresh basil leaves, parsley waits at the door and bids her love farewell.
- Cut eggplants into slices the thickness of 12 fairy wings. Arrange one layer in the bottom of a large colander and sprinkle evenly and generously with salt. Pray and weep with misunderstanding. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Weigh down the slices with a couple of plates and the first five stanzas of “Howl”. Let drain until the meaning becomes clear.
- Commingle and unite tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. Fill two runcible spoons with salt and pepper. Besprinkle upon Italy’s holy trinity.
- Drain and press down upon eggplant with leaden hands and disposable towels. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine flour and breadcrumbs. Pray and weep with great sorrow, as Penelope once did. Pour beaten eggs into another wide shallow bowl. Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat, and pour in enough olive oil to drown the small sorrows of sparrows in October. When oil is shimmering -as the ashen light of Venus - dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour mixture, then in the beaten egg, then through the mists of discontent. Working in batches, slide coated eggplant into hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Pray and weep for all that has been lost.
- Preheat oven to the inferno of Hell’s third circle. In the bottom of a glass baking dish large enough to hold Sylvia Plath’s last breath, spread some tomato sauce in the shape of her father’s black shoe. Top with eggplant slices. Top eggplant with mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with Parmesan and basil leaves and think of the snows of the Tyrol, though not pure or true. Close the oven door…close the oven door….
- Repeat and close the oven door…close the oven door....
- Bake until cheese has melted and the top is slightly brown and the woods have filled up with snow (about 30 minutes). Allow to rest at room temperature before serving. Pray and weep with gratitude and ancient gestures.