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Chronicles of Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana at the Parma restaurant which specializes

Eggplant Parmigiana at the Parma restaurant which specializes in the local cuisine, Trattoria Del Tribunale in Italy. (Newsday Photo / Peter Gianotti) Credit: Newsday / Peter Gianotti

On this sticky, uncomfortable day, I am reminded of shrimp Parmigiana. I hope it's not the special tonight.

I like shrimp. I like mozzarella. But after many years spent depleting the shellfish supply and downing enough cheese to blanket a pizza the size of Lake Ronkonkoma,  I don't think they work together. Ever. The verdict is final and the only appeal rests on which partner is guiltier of being more overcooked. Sentence: leave the preparation for thinly sliced, carefully breaded eggplant.

Although, even in Italy, Parmesan cheese still seems the better choice than mozzarella. After all, it's not called eggplant a la mozza.

So, let me digress. If mozzarella challenged Parmesan to a test of any kind except melting fast, Parmesan wins.

This summer, I sampled plenty of Parmesan cheese, at home, on Long Island, on the road, in Italy. The most original tasting was in an astonishing restaurant in Modena, city of Pavarotti and balsamic vinegar. At Osteria Francescana, chef Massimo Bottura creates an appetizer of Parmesan cheese, equal parts art and science, a meditation on taste and texture. It was five variations on the theme of Parmesan: water-gel, vapor-foam, souffle, crisp wafer, cream — complex, compelling, and enough to make you believe in molecular cuisine.

But I'd still keep Parmesan away from the shrimp, too.

Eggplant Parmigiana ... in Parma


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