Melanzane alla Lina
Before I moved to Italy when I was 16 I had never had eggplant before, of course I knew what it was, but it wasn’t a vegetable that I was curious about. Living with a family that was not my own I wasn’t allowed to turn my nose up at anything and so I had no choice but to try this purple fruit. My host mother, Lina, would frequently prepare eggplant on a grill pan with olive oil, garlic and mint on top. This soon became on of my favorite dishes that she made and one of the dishes that I brought back to the States with me.
My old roommate from New York requested in a comment that I put up a post on this eggplant dish, so Maura here it is! Whenever we would have a party in our apartment in the West Village I would always make this eggplant, along with other Southern Italian veggies to eat on slices of good bread, which is the best way to eat it.
I know that eggplant is prepared this way all over Southern Italy, often served as an antipasto or as a side dish, I don’t know if it has a specific name, so I have decided to call it alla Lina in homage to my host-mother in Marconia, who is an amazing cook.
Melanzane alla Lina
- 2 large eggplant, sliced in 1/2 inch medallions
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- bunch of mint
- around 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil (hard to measure, eggplant tends to absorb a lot of oil)
Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch medallions, sprinkle each slice with salt and set in a colander to sweat. The sweating not only releases the ridiculous amount of water that eggplant contains, but takes away its bitterness. Leave the medallions to sweat for about 30 minutes.
Heat a skillet or a grill pan over medium-high heat (I use a cast-iron skillet, which is perfect, but you have to be careful because the eggplant can stick, non-stick also works even though it will give you cancer). Cover the skillet with 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil; coating it, you don’t want to fry them. Pat the medallions dry and place as many on the skillet as will lie flat. Press them with a spatula like you would a grilled cheese sandwich (maybe a little harder). I bent my metal spatula last night doing this, so be careful not to ruin your kitchen utensils.
Once the medallions start to release water after pressing, flip them. Continue pressing and flipping until they are deeply browned on both sides. They may fall apart, but they aren’t meant to be pretty.
When the medallions are done place them around a plate and place one slice of garlic and one mint leaf on each medallion. Drizzle with olive oil and start cooking the next batch. I generally have to add a bit more oil for every batch that goes on the skillet. When every batch is done pile them up on top of the other eggplant on the plate, continuing to place a slice of garlic, mint leaf and a drizzle of olive oil on every slice.
This is something that you want to eat at room temperature, you can prepare them the day before and they are sometimes even better. I should also note that even though it is an easy dish to prepare it is pretty laborious and takes forever, especially if you are only using one pan and making a lot of eggplant.
It’s all worth it though!