Asiago And Eggplant Are A Perfect Match

 

IMG_3257

 

Years ago I worked in a restaurant that baked with a lot of Asiago cheese. “Poor man’s parmesan” is what the chef called it. True, Asiago is less pricey than the King of Cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggiano, but don’t let this less than complimentary epithet discourage you, Asiago is a wonderful cheese that does indeed have a taste similar to parmesan, but has a personality all it’s own.

It is delicious on a fruit and cheese platter and also melts beautifully, making it a great stand-in for parm in dishes like chicken or eggplant parmesan. Add to this its lower price point and it turns out Asiago may just be one of the most versatile yet overlooked cheeses, at least on this side of the pond. Asiago hails from the eponymous region in Italy, and has a D.P.O.  that clearly defines its place of origin, the alpine areas of Veneto and Trentino, Italy where it is numero uno in terms of popularity. If it is not produced here it cannot truly be called Asiago.

 

asiago-mezzano-dalle-nogare

 

Asiago is available in two main forms, fresh Asiago Pressato, which has a smooth texture, and Asiago d’allevo, which is typically aged from 3 months to more than 18 months. Asiago starts off sweet and light coloured and as it ages gets a little darker and nuttier and even borderline bitter. In a good way. This nutty and slightly bitter characteristic adds a depth of flavour and sophistication that mozzarella can’t match, so its sort of like two cheeses in one.

 

54fe9a1a5a3cb-15-how-to-pick-a-good-eggplant-lgn

 

Baked Eggplant Parmesan has always been a great go-to vegetarian dinner, usually calling for parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, but asiago combines the best of both worlds, combining the nutty, slightly salty tang of parm and the meltability of mozzarella. Here’s a recipe for a classic baked eggplant parmesan that I’ve tweaked using Asiago instead of parm and mozzarella. Served with a side dish of braised escarole with chickpeas and a slice of crunchy garlic toast, this is a delicious and satisfying dinner perfect for a chilly and rainy spring day.

 

Eggplant Parm with Asiago Instead!

3/4 lb Asiago cheese, grated, about 3 cups.

1 large eggplant

2 eggs

¾ cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil

½ teaspoon each salt and pepper

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

1 6-oz can tomato paste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grate the block of Asiago. Prepare a baking sheet by placing a sheet of parchment paper on it. Place breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl or on a baking sheet or, my favourite, in a bread pan. Stir in basil, oregano and salt and pepper. Slice eggplant into ½ inch rounds. You can peel it or leave the skin on. In a large bowl or bread pan beat the eggs with a little water and dip the eggplant into the egg. Wipe off excess egg and dredge the sliced eggplant in the bread crumbs. Lay the eggplant on the baking sheet and cook in oven for twenty minutes. Turn pieces over and bake for another twenty minutes. Remove from oven and increase oven temp to 400 F.

Now assemble the dish: Mix the crushed tomatoes with the tomato paste. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with this sauce. Lay the eggplant slices on top of the sauce, then cover with the Asiago. Repeat 1 or 2 more times depending on whether you are using an 8×8 baking dish or a 9×13. Finish by topping with Asiago. Bake in oven about twenty minutes until dish is melty and bubbly and let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Braised Escarole with Chickpeas

 1 bunch escarole, rinsed and roughly chopped.

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic-chopped

1 shallot-chopped

1 cup canned chickpeas

½ cup white wine

Rinse the escarole and give it a rough chop, including some of the stem. Any really gnarly stem parts you can discard, but a little is good. Melt butter over medium heat and sauté garlic and butter. Add chickpeas. Add wine and escarole. Give it all a little stir and cover. Lower heat and let cook for about 5 minutes or until escarole is wilted, stirring once or twice. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

 

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

comments powered by Disqus