I’m going to leave aside the question of whether small-scale hothouses consume a lot of energy, because I don’t really know the answer. For the moment, I’m letting myself have the thrill of getting summer produce a month or two early from local farmers with hothouses. Two weeks ago I bought a gorgeous hothouse eggplant at the market. I was going to roast it along with some zucchini and mushrooms, but the week went by and those veggies got used for other things. So, what to do with a single small eggplant and not a whole lot else? Well, I still had an onion, and some canned tomato sauce, and some mozzarella, and a tube of cooked polenta from Trader Joe’s. The meal plan, kind of a minimalist take on eggplant parmesan, wrote itself.
First, I sliced the eggplant and salted the slices, placing them between paper towels for about half an hour. This process removes moisture and some of the bitterness. Then I placed the eggplant slices on an oiled baking sheet along with sliced onions, a couple cloves of garlic, and some half-inch thick slices of polenta. Everything went into a 400 degree oven until the eggplant and onions just started to brown:
I squeezed the roasted garlic into the bottom of a personal-size baking dish and put in two slices of polenta. Then I layered in some eggplant and onion, followed by some spoonfuls of tomato sauce and sprinklings of salt and pepper. Then I added another layer of polenta, and so on:
When the dish was mostly full I topped the whole thing with a lot of grated mozzarella. This went in the oven again to melt the cheese and heat up the sauce. I like my cheese extra brown on top, so at the end I blasted it with the broiler for a few minutes.
Oh, was it good. And not particularly fussy dish – a good recipe to keep handy this summer when the real eggplant season begins and my garden starts throwing them at me.