From Vegetables: The Most Authoritative Guide to Buying, Preparing, and Cooking, with More Than 300 Recipes, by James Peterson.
Makes 4 first-course (antipasto) servings
One of the wonderful things about restaurants in Italy is the long tables of freshly made antipasti set out for all to see. Some restaurants let you get up and help yourself, but in other places the waiters bring platters of cold cooked vegetables and cured meats and arrange them around you at your own table. One often-seen antipasto consists of sauteed eggplant slices topped with various cooked vegetables. The first step in this dish is to prepare the sauteed eggplant slices (cheese-coated ones are best) and then arrange a tablespoon of one of the toppings, given below, on each of the slices. The amounts given here are enough for one recipe of the sauteed eggplant slices - about 12 large slices - so if you decide to prepare more than one topping, adjust the quantities accordingly. These antipasti are all served at room temperature or slightly cool.
Basic Sauteed Eggplant:
Peel the eggplant and slice it crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick rounds - you'll end up with about 12 slices.
Grind pepper over the slices. Spread the Parmesan cheese or flour on a large plate. If you're using the cheese, dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonstick pan or heavy well-seasoned iron skillet over high heat. Turn the slices over in the cheese or flour and pat them to get rid of any excess. Place the slices in the hot oil, in a single layer, and saute gently for about 5 minutes on each side, until they soften and turn golden brown. If they brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Add more oil or butter as needed to keep the slices from sticking. Drain on hot paper towels and serve immediately. Repeat until you've used all the eggplant. About 1 tablespoon of oil is required per batch.
Sauteed Onion Slices: Thinly slice 3 medium red onions and cook them gently in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until completely soft, about 20 minutes. Don't let them brown. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the onion mixture on top of each of the cooked eggplant slices. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Grilled Peppers: Prepare 1 recipe of Marinated Peppers. Arrange a small mound of this colorful mixture on each of the eggplant slices. If you like, top each eggplant slice with an anchovy or two.
Marinated Mushrooms: Slice 1/2 pound mushrooms and toss with 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic or sherry vinegar, or more to taste, and 1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil or tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let sit for 1 to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
Tomatoes: Make 1/2 recipe of Tomato Bruschetta and use the eggplant slices instead of the bread.
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