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Neapolitan Eggplant Parmigiana

4 medium eggplants, 3-1/2 to 4 lbs
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
4 cups canned undrained imported Italian plum tomatoes, pureed and strained
1/2 pound thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Peel the eggplants and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Place
slices on a large dish and sprinkle with salt. Let stand 30 minutes.
The salt will draw out the eggplant's bitter juices. Pat the slices
dry with paper towels. Heat 1 inch of oil in a medium-size skillet
over medium heat.

Coat the eggplant slices lightly with flour and slip them, a few
at a time, into the hot oil. Cook until they are lightly golden
on both sides, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining eggplant
slices and drain on paper towels. Heat the oil in a small saucepan
over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and let them turn a golden
brown, then discard them. Add the tomatoes and season with salt.
As soon as the tomatoes come to a boil, reduce the heat to low and
simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, or until the sauce
has a medium-thick consistency.

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread a few heaping tablespoons of sauce
on the bottom of a 12x9-inch baking dish, and cover with a layer
of fried eggplant slices, slightly overlapping each other. Spread
some more sauce over the eggplant and cover with a layer of mozzarella
and a sprinkling of Parmigiano. Repeat with one more layer of
eggplant, tomatoes, mozzarella, and Parmigiano. Add a final layer
of eggplant and tomatoes, and sprinkle with Parmigiano. Place the
dish in the oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and
let the dish settle for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

The traditional Neapolitan way of eating eggplant Parmigiana is at
room temperature. This dish tastes even better after it sits for
several hours or a day. If prepared a day in advance and refrigerated,
bring it back completely to room temperature before serving.


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