Whenever I forget what’s for dinner or, more precisely, realise that I have forgotten to make anything for dinner, I pray for the presence of an aubergine to be in the near vicinity or, ideally, in our kitchen. It is unusual for there not to be some fresh tomato sauce and some mozzarella but aubergines, in the summer, putrefy at an alarming rate. The deep purple swollen bull’s pizzle that one carefully selected from the market’s phallic array will soon darken and soften if not used quickly. How true that is of life, but back to the kitchen. This holy trinity of ingredients will, in time, become one but melanzane alla Parmigiana is a very slow affair which is a very good thing for both taste and contentment. Cooking with sensual ingredients is a great pleasure. Slicing the aubergine into even slices that are just the right thickness, a thickness that varies with each person who makes this dish regularly, entails a sharp knife and clean, straight cuts to reveal the slabs of palest green flesh rimmed with darkness that collapse onto the chopping board. A favourite frying pan, large enough to hold three big slices of aubergine, is on the hob. The dark base of the pan is shining with a shimmering film of hot olive oil upon which the slices will gently burnish. The tomato sauce needs to be highly seasoned with garlic, chilli, salt, pepper, red wine and an overdose of deep green olive oil to make it shine with silkiness. A thin layer of this sauce is laid in the base of the cooking dish and the first slices of golden aubergine are placed on top of it and are sparingly seasoned with a pinch of sea salt and some ground black pepper. A couple of slices of creamy, soft white mozzarella are laid on top of these and so the layers continue until the aubergine slices are all gone. Parmigiana cannot be left out of melanzane alla Parmigiana so remember to be generous when grating this wonderful cheese over the surface. Generosity is the key to this dish…generosity in flavour, care and time. Put the dish in a hot oven for 40 minutes or until it looks right for you. I serve it with some spaghetti olio, aglio e peperoncino.
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