Insofar as it is baked with tomato, basil, and mozzarella, this dish resembles eggplant parmigiana. It diverges, however, from the classic parmigiana version in several significant ways. There is a lusciously fleshy quality to the consistency of the eggplant itself because it is cut in half instead of in slices. In the parmigiana style the eggplant is fried before the dish is assembled and baked; here it is sautéed with slivers of garlic buried within it. When you are slicing and frying eggplant it’s advisable to steep the slices in salt before cooking so that they shed their bitter juices. Whole eggplants, on the other hand, or even eggplant halves, seem to purge themselves of their astringency as they cook, so I have omitted that preliminary salting step. And I have put in a peeled bell pepper to add a secondary layer of flavor. To obtain a full measure of the pepper’s distinctive aroma and sweetness, you must free it of its skin by peeling it raw as the recipe describes.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.