Nightshades are synonym of summer and in these hot and damp Venetian days we have been eating plenty! The islands of the lagoon have been generous and we have had aubergines from practically all of them, all with a slightly different flavour!
The ones I am using today come from Giudecca, where I went shopping yesterday, precisely at the Orto delle Meraviglie (Garden of Wonders) from the work-in-jail weekly stall. Organic veg at excellent prices! Anyway, their aubergines are medium size and nice and meaty, with an almost sweet aftertaste.
Aubergines have a long history (wonderfully described by Venetian food expert Monica Cesarato in this post here) and I didn't know that they were considered so dangerous that the Arabs, who first introduced them in Europe, had brought them to kill the enemy!
How could that have been possible, though, I cannot understand, so tasty and succulent their flavour! Aubergines -or eggplants, if you prefer- are rich in dietary fiber, vitamin B1, B6, K, copper, magnesium and certain phytonutrients and in the summer months it should be an ever present ingredient in your kitchen.
I find them so versatile, easy to fry, grill or bake. Sometimes, when I really don't feel like cooking, I just remove top and bottom and stick them in the oven for about 20/25 minutes at 180° and then, with a hand blender, make an hummus, simply adding olive oil, garlic and a few leaves of basils.
Today, although I'm still keeping it simple, I want to make something fresh, so I decide to re-interpret the sarde alla beccafico recipe, originally from Sicily, and replace the sardines with some grilled aubergines and to make some changes to the filling too.
The concept at the basis of all my recipes is: use what you have at home and try to be as creative as possible with what there is. In fact, when I saw that in the cupboard there were some pistachios, half a loaf of old leftover bread and a bunch of raisins, I though "how perfect!".
With regard to Parmesan and basil, I always have them in the house: I use Parmesan practically everywhere to add salinity, while the basil grows happily in its vase -every respectable Italian family has at least a couple of herbs-.
Anyway, we're going to use lemon too, both the juice and the zests (so buy organic). The procedure is really easy, just grill the aubergines and, in the meantime, prepare a mix of breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan, raisins, lemon zests and crushed pistachios and then, when the aubergines are ready, grease them with some olive oil, pass them in the mixture and then, adding a little bit more mixture, roll them, sprinkle some lemon juice and bake them for about 10 minutes. The fresh basil leaves will add the final touch.
As easy as it seems and as delicious as it looks!
Just a few ingredients, a couple of minutes and ... what a result!
AUBERGINES BECCAFICO STYLE
INGREDIENTS (Serves 2)
3 long aubergines
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup crushed pistachios
fresh basil to garnish
the juice of half a lemon
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the grill. Wash and slice the aubergines lengthwise.
Grill the aubergines and keep them aside. Pour a few drops of olive oil and, in the meantime, preheat oven at 180°.
Crush your pistachios and combine most of them in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, the raisins and the grated Parmesan. Put the mixture on a cutting board, pass your greasy aubergines on the mixture on both sides and then add more mixture on just one side and roll gently. Repeat for all the slices.
Squeeze the juice of a little less than half a lemon and grate the zests.
Place the stuffed aubergines on a baking tray, grate more Parmesan, add the remaining crushed pistachios, the lemon zests and pour the lemon juice and a few drops of olive oil.
Bake in the oven for about 10/15 minutes and use the grill mode for the last 5.