Eggplants “Cardinale”  

(“Melenzane alla Cardinale”-“Sacchietti ri Milinciani”) 

  

Mrs. Rosalia Salvo whose maiden name is Cardinale, likes to share with us her family recipe, that her mother Mrs. Pietra Cardinale taught her how to prepare. Mrs.  Pietra Cardinale is originally from Carini, a town near Palermo.
This dish is served covered with marinara sauce and because its color mimics the red of the “redbird” (the Northern Cardinal), as well the color of the habits of Catholic Cardinals and also because of the concurrent name of Mrs. Cardinale, the name “Eggplants Cardinale” seems very appropriate.
This unique recipe “Eggplants Cardinale” can be served as an entrée or as a side dish. Either way it is very convenient because it can be prepared ahead, baked and finished at the last minute, before serving.
The most important feature of this dish is the taste which is an explosion of savors, the smell which is a potpourri of extraordinary fragrances, and its appetizing appearance.
The stuffed eggplants are very easy to prepare, because most of the ingredients for the stuffing are in your pantry, and because it is a meatless recipe is also a vegetarians’ delicacy.
The recipe call for 2 cans of tomatoes to prepare a marinara sauce to use as a dressing for the eggplants and for condiment to some cooked pasta, if you want to make a complete dinner, otherwise the sauce made with the 28 oz. can of tomato will be a sufficient amount for the eggplants. 
For a complete dinner cook a pound of pasta and dress with some marinara sauce, add a salad, fresh bread and a young red Avola Sicilian wine or a Californian Merlot from the Napa Valley. 

  

SERVES 5  

INGREDIENTS 

  

·        3 eggplants- sliced into 1½ inch thick rounds (not peeled) Buy the light purple skin, called Sicilian or Tunisine Eggplants, or the white Asian Eggplants  

  

For the Marinara Sauce 

·        3 tablespoons of olive oil  

·        2 cloves of garlic- crushed  

·        28 oz. and 12 oz. cans of peeled tomatoes, roughly crushed  

·        5 basil leaves torn in pieces  

  

For the Stuffed Eggplants 

·        ½ cup of olive oil  

·        1¼ cup of toasted breadcrumbs, plus a ¼ of a cup  

·        2 cup of pecorino cheese or of your preferred grated cheese  

·        3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped  

·        ½ cup of chopped parsley  

·        ½ cup of olive oil  

·        Salt and pepper  

·        Basil leaves for garnish  

  

PREPARATION  

The Tomato Sauce 
In a 3 quart saucepan, over a medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the garlic. When it is golden brown add the crushed tomato and simmer at a medium heat for 10 minutes. If sauce becomes too dry add some water. Add basil leaves, and salt and pepper to taste; continue to simmer at a low heat for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Taste the sauce and if salt is needed add it; if sauce is a little sour simmer for an additional 5 minutes and if needed, add some sugar at the end.
Remove and discard garlic and set the sauce on the side.
If making the sauce using vine ripe tomatoes: blanch 15 medium size tomatoes (3 lb.) in boiling water, when they are cool remove skin and seeds. Chop tomatoes and proceed in the preparation as per above directions. 

  

The Stuffing 
In a bowl, combine and blend well 1¼ cup of breadcrumbs, 1 cup of grated cheese, the garlic, parsley, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and some of the marinara sauce to give to the stuffing a paste-like consistency. 

  

The Eggplants 
Place eggplants in a colander and salt lightly; set aside for 20 minutes.
Rinse the sliced eggplant, and drain for a few minutes. Gently pat dry with a clean dish towel or paper towels.
With a sharp knife cut a 1½ inch slit on the side of each slice and cautiously split to form a pocket into which the stuffing will be placed. Be careful not to cut completely across. 

  

The Assembly
Carefully fill each pocket with just less than 1 tablespoon of stuffing and place in a large dish. 
Prepare two rectangular baking pans 13 X 9 inches and sprinkle each with olive oil about 2 tablespoons on each.
Brush both side of the stuffed eggplants with olive oil and place in the baking pan. 
Add to the leftover stuffing a ¼ of a cup of breadcrumb and sprinkle on top
of the stuffed eggplants and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until tender. 
Place cooked eggplant in a serving dish, garnish with the marinara sauce, sprinkle with the pecorino and add the basil leaves. Serve any left over cheese and marinara sauce on the side. 

  

NOTE:  

To prepare this dish ahead of time and to avoid that the eggplant turn dark because of oxidation, bake the stuffed eggplants at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, keep in a cool place or refrigerated, but do not sprinkle on the top the leftover breadcrumb nor drizzle them with the oil.  
When you are ready to cook, sprinkle the eggplants with the breadcrumbs, drizzle with the oil and bake at 400 degrees for additional 20 minutes or until tender.
 

 Eggplant alla Cardinale