Eggplant: hate it, hate it, hate it, LOVE IT!

I’ve never really been a big fan of eggplant, but that may be changing.  My mouth is big on texture and when you cook eggplant it sort of loses any form of texture.  Apparently my mind and mouth are not communicating well because my mind seems to have a determination to like it, even though I’ve tried it several times without success.  The good news is, I’ve been working with a lot of eggplant lately and things are going well.

I’ve grilled it (marinated in Greek vinaigrette), stewed it (in a spicy vegetable ragu) and now fried it.  Each time I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I enjoyed this last recipe so much, that I wanted to share it.  Now, I’ve made Eggplant Parmesan several times over the years for friends, and I’ve never been able to connect with it. I’ve also made it several times for myself, with hopes of loving it. Almost everyone I know loves it and it seems to be a staple of the vegetarian diet, which I am working towards.

So here’s the recipe along with a couple of tips I think really helped in preserving the texture.

Tips

  • After peeling the eggplant, I slice it on the short side, as shown in the photo above.  This gives me a smaller piece to cook, which cooks faster and soaks up less oil.  It also makes for a much better looking presentation.
  • I let my cleaned eggplant sit with the salt for at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half.  Most recipes call for 30 minutes, which is fine, but I prefer longer.  It really gets a lot of the extra moisture out.
  • Take your time with the dredging process.  Make sure that every spot on the eggplant is covered in flour and shake off excess before moving on to the egg stage.  In the egg stage, make sure you cover the whole piece of eggplant and drain off excess.  If the entire piece is not covered in the egg, your breadcrumbs will NOT stick.  As for the bread crumbs, I lay the eggplant in the breadcrumbs, spoon or scoop some of the excess breadcrumbs on top and give a firm, but gentle pressing into the breadcrumbs on all sides.  This insures a nice thick crust.  Also, don’t forget to bread the sides of the eggplant.
  • After frying in shallow oil, be sure to drain in a single layer on several sheets of paper towel.
  • When placing in the baking pan, also work in a single layer.

Eggplant Parmesan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eggplant

  • 2 large eggplant, peeled and sliced about 3/4 of an inch thick, on the short side
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and granulated garlic
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs, whole wheat Panko
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
  • Oil for shallow frying (1/4” or so coverage on bottom of pan)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (see below)
  • 12 oz. Fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/4″ thick

Lay out eggplant in a single layer on a couple of sheets of paper towel and salt each side.  Let eggplant sit for at least an hour, to remove excess moisture.

Prepare tomato sauce as directed below.  You can also make your tomato sauce a day in advance.

With your oven rack in the middle position, preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat oil in a deep 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking

In a shallow dish, mix together flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and a ¼ teaspoon of granulated garlic.  In a separate shallow dish, lightly beat eggs, then in a third shallow dish, mix together breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  You’ll want to be sure to have your dredging station close to the cook top so you can transfer breaded eggplant directly into your oil.

Take your eggplant, one slice at a time, and dredge well in the flour mixture.  Be sure to cover all sides and shake off excess.  Then dip in egg letting the excess drip off, and dredge in breadcrumbs (see tip above) until evenly coated. Transfer eggplant to your hot oil, placing in a single layer.  Fry eggplant 4 slices at a time, turning over once, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.

Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of a large baking dish.  You may need additional baking dishes so you can arrange eggplant in a single layer.   Place eggplant slices in baking dish with about half an inch of space between each piece. Cover each eggplant slice with about half a cup of sauce and top with a slice or two of fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes.

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp. Olive oil
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minces
  • 1 30 oz. Can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. Sugar, adjust to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 20 leaves, fresh basil, torn

Heat Olive Oil in a 5 quart pot on medium high heat until hot, but not smoking.  Add crushed red pepper, minced garlic and onion.  Stir well and cook until onions and garlic are transparent.  Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar and let simmer for about 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and add torn basil.  Stir well.

I served this with a simple salad of my home-grown buttercrisp lettuce, vine ripened tomatoes and a simple vinaigrette.

Enjoy!

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