Thursday, September 15, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana

Did you know eggplant is botanically classified as a berry?! We didn't either! We think that eggplant is typically under-appreciated as a food, but it can be super delicious - stuffed, baked, in a stir-fry or even chili. However, one of the most common eggplant dishes you'll see in a restaurant is eggplant parmigiana. We made this a few times for some dinner parties (and my parents!) with great success. Here's the recipe we used, adapted from Simply Recipes.
2 lbs (about 2 large) eggplants
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (or diced or crushed, whatever your preference)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (we used fine ground whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs (we omitted these and replaced with flour)
4 large eggs, beaten (we used Egg Beaters)
1 1/2 lbs fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (or you can use shredded)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (or ~1/2 cup loose dried basil)
olive oil (or canola oil)
salt, pepper

Pre-cooking steps

1. Cut eggplant into 1/4-inch slices (either rounds or lengthwise). In the bottom of a colander, arrange a layer and lightly sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant, salting between layers, until all the eggplant is in the colander. Weigh down the slices (a large stack of bowls worked for us) and let moisture drain for a couple hours. When we made this, we put paper towel between layers of eggplant to help absorb the moisture. NOTE: As an alternative, you can broil the slices for a few minutes per side instead of salting them.

2. While the eggplant is draining, make the tomato sauce by combining the tomatoes, garlic, and 1/3 cup oil and mix well. If you don't want tomato chunks, you can blend the mixture in a food processor to smooth it out. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. (Additionally, we added some garlic, and oregano would also add some extra flavor.)

Cooking steps

3. Preheat oven to 350°F.

4. After eggplant has drained, wipe off excess salt and wipe or pat down with paper towel to remove as much extra moisture as possible. In a large shallow bowl, combine flour and breadcrumbs (or just flour). Pour beaten eggs into another large shallow bowl. Heat some oil in a large skillet.

5. To cook the eggplant, dredge the slices in the flour mixture, then dip them in the egg. Lightly fry the slices until they are golden brown on both sides. It's not necessary to use a lot oil, but if you run out just add a little at a time to the skillet. NOTE: As an alternative to frying - after dredging the slices in flour and egg, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes on each side.

6. In a baking dish, spread a cup of tomato sauce, then layer with about 1/3 of the eggplant slices. On top of the eggplant, spread a layer of mozzarella (either slices or shredded) using about half the cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil. Repeat the process for a second layer, using the rest of the mozzarella. Put the remaining eggplant slices on top, then top with the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle and even layer of Parmesan cheese.

7. Bake about 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and the top is slightly brown. Let the dish cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

The finished eggplant parmigiana can be served on its own, or with pasta of your choice. Enjoy!


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