|Delicious Eggplant Parmesan - the following day - still delicious!|
Today's recipe was going to center on crostini, those small Italian toasts topped with various tasty morsels. The eggplant in my CSA shipment put an end to that idea. I would never order an eggplant dish in a restaurant and had never cooked with eggplant so I was initially at a lost as what to do with the medium sized purple thing taking up space in my refrigerator.
I will never worry about eggplant again. I now have two eggplant go-to dishes: Sundried Tomato and Eggplant spread (to put on crostini) and Eggplant Parmesan. Today, I share with you the second. You must make a promise before making this dish...you must make all of the components. You cannot use canned sauce nor Progresso breadcrumbs, not that there is anything wrong with using pre-made items. For this first time, just take a little extra time and make sauce, make breadcrumbs. It is so, so easy and it will make such a difference. Don't worry. I am going to walk you through the entire process.
Never, never again should you throw out bread. That baguette that you did not finish last night...throw it in a bag and put it in the freezer. The ends to that loaf that is too stale for sandwiches...throw it in the bag. Once I have a bag of pieces, I have several options: (1) slice and keep for fast and easy crostini; (2) dice and keep for fast and easy croutons to add to salads or soups; (3) pulverize and use as breadcrumbs. Let's discuss Option 3.
Break up bread into smaller pieces and add to a food processor. I have found that if you have different types of bread, go ahead and mix them in...it makes for more dynamic breadcrumbs. If you want to add parsley, go ahead. Pulverize them for a few seconds. Then place the crumbs in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and put into a 250 degree oven. Let the crumbs dry; it might take 20-30 minutes. Midway through, mix them up a bit so that the bottom bits dry as well. Once cool, put into a large ziplock bag and keep in the pantry. Now you have breadcrumbs whenever you want them. Easy, Peasy.
Never, never again should you use jarred marinara sauce, nor canned marinara sauce. It is just too easy to make a great quality sauce and you can control the ingredients.
1 28 oz can of Italian diced tomatoes (San Marzano or the best you can get)
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 T olive oil
Dash of Red Pepper
2-3 T chopped fresh basil (yes, use fresh basil)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Do not brown or overcook. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then drop the temperature to low and let the sauce simmer for five to ten minutes. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste. That's it. Go ahead and double, triple the recipe. Put in individual ziploc bags and freeze until you need them.
1 large eggplant or 2 small ones, sliced 1/4" thick.
Flour for dredging
4 eggs, slightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup grated high quality mozzarella cheese - or more if you want
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat about 2 inches of oil in a pan over medium high heat. In batches, dredge the eggplant through the flour, then the eggs (letting the excess drip off) and then pat evenly through the breadcrumbs. Fry for 2-3 minutes until the eggplant rounds are golden brown. Drain on a paper towel until all eggplant rounds are fried.
In a baking dish, put down a layer of sauce. Then add a layer of eggplant slices. Cover with sauce, but not too heavily. You want some crunchiness from the fried eggplant coming through the sauce. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan. Add another layer of eggplant, sauce, and cheese. Continue doing this until you reach the top of the dish or run out of eggplant. Cover top layer with sauce and cheeses. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Oh, that is so, so good!
I had a few rounds of eggplant left and they made a great appetizer later in the week. Fry up the slices. Place two slices on a plate, top with a bit of warmed sauce and sprinkle with some Parmesan. Really easy app!
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