Thu, 7 July, 2016
It's always fun to make a fridge clearout dish - this one sorts out your vegetable drawer. Just throw lots of Parmesan over it and nobody will guess the aubergine was a bit wilty!
What is a parmigiana?
Technically, parmigiana is an Italian dish of layered aubergines, tomato sauce and cheeses. That's it - no variations allowed. But as most recipes travelling out of Italy across the ocean, parmigiana alla melanzane soon became a chicken parm stateside: that's chicken Parmesan, not even parmigiana! I have seen (and made myself) other variations: pork parmigiana, very nice indeed, or veal.
What does 'parmigiana' mean?
You might think that anything with added Parmesan can be called parmigiana but the original dish is actually derived from the southern palmigiana or parmisciana meaning ‘shutters’ and referring to how the aubergine slices are laid in the dish overlapping each other, like shutters’ slats.
This recipe started as a side dish of grilled vegetables but I had some leftover tomato sauce and a bit of time on my hands. I love those accidental dishes! I swear to heavens, the best things ever turn up on Friday nights when I just throw together random end-of-the-week things lounging in the fridge to use them up.
Zucchini with cheese. Chilli mushrooms in butter. Eggs poached in spinach. Green beans with cream. Really, I should be doing that in my test kitchen and working out revolutionary recipes out of my accidental dishes but the problem is, they never taste as good when made on purpose!
Courgettes, aubergines, mushrooms, tomato sauce
You might ask whether I can call it 'parmigiana'. Well, if the rules are pre-cooked vegetables, layered slats-style, tomato sauce and Parmesan then I most certainly can. And even if you insist I call it courgette, aubergine and mushroom bake - it will be just as tasty.
vegetable parmigianaServings: 2Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 1 large fennel
- 1 large aubergine
- 100g cup mushrooms
- 1 large courgette
- 2-3 small fresh figs (optional)
- 1 tsp butter
- a tin of chopped tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- 3-4 tbsp. cream cheese or thick sour cream
- 50g grated Parmesan
1. Wash and trim the fennel and cut it vertically into about ½ cm thick slices. Slice the aubergine and courgette into discs of the same thickness, trim the mushrooms stalks and cut them across in halves. Slice the figs across into three or four pieces each.
2. Preheat a dry griddle or a large frying pan. Spray or brush all the vegetables with oil. Fry all in batches on both sides until slightly charred and soft.
3. Brush a large gratin dish with butter. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
4. Place a layer of fennel at the bottom of the dish, season with salt and pepper, top with a third of the chopped tomatoes, a few dots of cream cheese or sour cream and a third of the Parmesan.
5. Follow with a layer of aubergines, salt and pepper, tomatoes, cream and Parmesan and finish with courgettes and mushrooms plus the same toppings.
6. Add the fig slices on top, if using. You can of course make four layers if you wish and have prepared enough vegetables.
7. Bake for 40-45 minutes until bubbling and crispy. Let it rest a few minutes before serving.