This recipe is inspired by one taught to me by Palermo-born Maria Sindoni, who shared her secrets with me at the kitchen stove in her restaurant Azzurro in New York back in the early eighties. While her version of this traditional dish has never bored me as others have, I must admit I’ve tampered with it over the years, adding a little more here, a little less there to make it my own. What I did not change, and what I found so inspiring, is Maria’s method of cooking each vegetable separately to retain its natural flavor and texture.
If you follow my instructions closely in steps 1 and 5, you will not have the problem endemic to so many fried eggplant dishes: heaviness due to the vegetable’s propensity to absorb large amounts of oil. By first soaking the eggplant in a water bath and then frying the vegetable in a cazuela, which keeps the temperature of the oil constant, you’ll attain the lightest possible golden brown eggplant.
You can make this great appetizer spread several days in advance. It’s one of those magical dishes that gets better and better as it mellows.