I have been hearing all about this August being “zucchini season”. Although those little green beauties do seem to grow overnight this time of year, and yes, they provide an abundance of vegetable without fair notice. However there is another vegetable sneaking up on me. The (seemingly forgotten about) eggplant has been looking so deeply purple, plump, and just pulling me toward them at the farmer’s market. I haven’t been able to help myself; unfortunately I don’t have a rolodex of recipes for eggplant.
Eggplant tends to get a bad reputation for being high maintenance, difficult to cook, and not the most delicious vegetable. I think the nay-sayers have it wrong. Eggplant can be extremely versatile, here are a few suggestions:
- Grill slices for a quick side dish
- Cube and use as a pizza topping
- Roast and mix with olive oil and garlic for a dip
The first time I experienced Eggplant parmesan was at an italian chain restaurant as a child. It came to the restaurant frozen, was warmed, covered in sauce and cheese, then served with gummy spaghetti noodles. As crazy as it sounds, this is when my love of eggplant parmesan began. Since I’ve since grown up and my taste buds have changed I make this recipe at home instead of eating it at a restaurant. I would be lying if I said this recipe was quick or easy but I assure you the extra effort reaps large rewards in terms of flavor. Here’s how I make it…
- 2 large eggplant (or 3 medium size)
- 2 c. flour
- 3 eggs, beaten with a splash of water
- 3 c. italian bread crumbs (keep an extra cup on hand, just in case)
- 1 tsp italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 jars marinara sauce (I like tomato basil flavor)
- 1 c. mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
- Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. First, set up your breading station. Classic breading technique is to run the ingredient (meat, vegetable, fish) through flour, then egg wash, then seasoned breadcrumbs; this is exactly the technique we will use with our eggplant. I use chinese take out containers that I re-purpose for breading; you will need three containers.
Place flour in one container and season lightly with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Egg goes in the next container beaten with a splash or two of water to thin it out; season with salt and pepper. Last mix breadcrumbs with italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Use fingers to mix together. Cut eggplant into about one inch thick slices.
Coat the eggplant slice thoroughly with flour mixture on both sides; shake off excess (this gives the egg something to stick to). Place into egg mixture and toss to coat (this gives the breadcrumbs something to stick to). Next, coat the eggplant in breadcrumbs and place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. By the way, it is not easy to take a picture of these steps while your fingers are coated with more breading than your eggplant; I should have planned that better! Repeat with all eggplant slices; this usually takes two large baking sheets. Drizzle eggplant slices with olive oil, and bake in oven until bottoms begin to turn golden brown; approximately 15-20 minutes.
In a large baking dish spread marinara sauce to coat the bottom. Arrange eggplant slices so they are overlapping.
Top with a layer of marinara sauce and then sprinkle on mozzarella and parmesan cheese. One last drizzle of olive oil to keep the casserole moist; place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.
The eggplant keeps some of its crisp breading on the edges, but softens in the center with the help of the marinara sauce to create a luscious texture. The cheese creates a great crust; this is my favorite part! Serve with a mixed greens salad for a light summer vegetarian meal. Enjoy!