Creamy lush aubergines tucked away under a blanket of crunch: my savory Mediterranean twist on a British classic is melanzane al gratin, a sort of savory eggplant crumble.
Ingredients for 6
3 purple eggplant
2 white onions
150 g (3/4 cup) Parmigiano, grated
150 g (3/4 cup) very cold butter, possibly salted
150 g (3/4 cup) unbleached flour
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 180° C (356° F - mark 6).
Wash the eggplant under running water and dry them accurately.
Cut crosswise into slices 1/2-inch thick. Make a layer of these in a sieve and sprinkle with salt. Continue layering and sprinkling with salt until all of the slices are used. Top with a plate and a heavy weight, like a pot.
Place the sieve over a bowl or in the sink. Let this stand for 1 hour to drain off the bitter juices. Rinse off the salt and dry the eggplant slices with paper towels.
Addendum: Salting the eggplant slices draws out their bitter juices. If the eggplant is very fresh, this step is not essential, but if you are unsure about their provenance, it's a good habit against a disappointing dish.
Dice the leached eggplant slices and do the same with the onions. Pour them in a fairly high-rimmed baking pan with the oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and mix to coat well.
Cut the butter in flecks and work into the flour and grated Parmigiano cheese with your hands. The warmth of your blood will sensually melt the butter and allow it to absorb the powdery textures into a coarse crumbly blob. Don't get too carried away doing this or it will turn too creamy and not serve its purpose.
Sprinkle the obtained crumble in one uniform layer over the dressed veggies in the baking pan.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the topping appears golden and crisp. Check often, as cheese tends to brown suddenly. Should this happen soon before the cooking time has elapsed, lower the temperature to 150° C (300° F - mark 5) and wait. On the contrary, should 35 minutes into baking not show any signs of golden hues on the crumble, raise the heat to 210° C (410° F - mark 7) while you slip into something more comfortable.
Let the crumble cool 5 minutes before serving.