• One large firm white eggplant, or several small ones, (you're going to have to go to an Italian market or high-end greengrocer to get white eggplant, but they're heavenly) or an Aubergine (in which case use only the firm part; not the deep insides where the seeds lurk). You'll need at least 2 quarts of eggplant, once it's cubed into 1 1/4" cubes.
     
  • Two fat, pristinely fresh one-pound balls of Mozzarella. This must be the kind found in water, not the "plastic" stuff one would, I guess, put atop bad pizza.
     
  • Three absolutely fresh, absolutely ripe Beefsteak tomatoes.
     
  • As much fresh sweet Basil leaf as one can stand, cleaned and picked of stems, and sliced to shreds, lengthwise.
     
  • Wine, Preferably Chianti, but any lightly or non-oaked Italian, red or white, will do. Nero D'Avola goes great, as does Montalpulciano d'Abruzzo.
     
  • 1 jumbo egg, scrambled
     
  • 1 Cup Flour
     
  • Peanut Oil for frying.
     
  • Good Virgin (no need for extra-virgin) Olive Oil - about 6 Tbs.
     
  • Good Balsamic Vinegar - about 3 Tbs.
     
  • The zest (yellow part of the skin) of one lemon. Use the rest of the lemon for something else.
     
  • Salt and lots of coarsely cracked black pepper.

Place one Cup of the wine in a glass and set aside.

Take another glass and fill it with some of the rest of the wine. Don't just stare at it; drink it!.

Skin the eggplant. If using Aubergine, remove about 2" of the inside, the soft part, leaving only the firmer outside part. Cut the pieces into 1 1/4" cubes.

Fill a bowl with the wine and a teaspoon of salt. Toss the eggplant cubes in this, then add water to cover. Mix thoroughly and set aside at room temperature.

Remove the Mozzarella from the water and cut into 3/4" cubes. Pat dry with paper toweling. Refrigerate.

If you want to be elegant, peel the tomatoes: blanch the tomatoes for 20 seconds in boiling water then plunge into ice water. Using a sharp paring knife, cut an X-shaped nick in the bottom and remove the stem part. Peel using the paring knife, working upward from the nick in the bottom. The skin should come right off. Use caution with these devils, they're really slippery and you don't want to hurt yourself with the knife. A piece of paper towel makes a good holder to get the last 1/4 of the peel off.

If that's too much trouble, just wash them and proceed. Cut in quarters so you can conveniently squeeze out the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into 3/4" cubes.

It's time for another glass of wine. Relax for a moment.

Scramble the egg. Drain the liquid you've just soaked the eggplant cubes in but for about 1/4 cup (guesstimate). Add the egg and mix the whole thing up with your hands, so as to evenly cover the eggplant. Place the eggplant cubes in a large sieve or colander and let all of the liquid fall off of them, but don't let them dry.

On a large cookie sheet or baking pan, place the flour and distribute evenly. Flour the eggplant cubes thoroughly until they're evenly coated. Then, either one by one or using a flat Japanese sieve, remove the excess flour from the eggplant cubes and place them on waxed paper on another portion of the counter. Let the eggplant cubes dry for a good half hour.

In an enormous bowl, mix the tomatoes, the Mozzarella, the zest, the basil, and some salt and pepper to taste.

Fill a large skillet with about 1 1/4" of the Peanut oil. Get it good and hot but not smoking. If you have a candy/frying thermometer it should read 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Now's a good time to either guzzle the rest of the wine right from the bottle, or set it aside, 'cause we're gonna get cookin'!

Deep fry the eggplant in batches. Handle them gently, the idea is for the outsides to be crispy and the insides to be tender/firm. In-between batches you might want to take a spatula and gently remove the dark-brown or black bits from the bottom of the fry pan so they won't impart a bitter flavor on the later batches. Work Quickly and remove the cooked eggplant to plates lined with paper toweling.

The moment you're through with the frying, add the fried eggplant to the bowl containing mozzarella, tomatoes, etc. Drizzle with the olive oil and the vinegar and toss ever so gently so as not to smash up the eggplant coating. Season to taste with cracked pepper and salt and serve at once.

If you've done this right, the mozzarella will start to wilt; not melt, under the heat from the eggplant. The combination of creamy mozzarella, tomatoes and fried goodies is worth all the work.This salad can be a salad course for eight or a meal for four, along with good bread and perhaps some slices of hot (spicy) Capicola. Arugula makes a lovely bed for this salad.

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