Thursday, September 8, 2011


Eggplant has a chewy, spongy texture and meaty flavor that makes for very satisfying vegetarian entrees, as well as a flavorful addition to meaty stews.
All summer, I roast them in mixtures with other seasonal vegetables, from the first summer squashes through to butternut season. I don’t peel them for roasting, though I like the texture of eggplant in casseroles like moussaka and eggplant parmigiana better when it is peeled.
There are two kinds of eggplants: the Asian and the Italian varieties. I prefer the long, skinny, Asian eggplants for roasting, because they have almost no seeds and so have a superior texture. When I'm making a casserole, I go for the more familiar (to me) Italian style eggplants, which are about the size and shape of a butternut squash: up to a foot long, and usually with a shiny black skin, although both Italian and Asian eggplants come in colors from milky white through purple to black.
Eggplant parmigiana doesn’t have to be drenched in melted mozzarella. I made some recently that was very good, and proof that you only need a small shaving of Parmesan cheese to top this dish. The richness comes from the fried eggplant. Between the crumb coating and the creamy eggplant, it has a satisfying, comforting texture. For a light meal, I serve it as the main dish with some salad or cooked greens.
To make a heartier meal, it’s terrific as an eggplant parm hero on Italian bread. Toast the bread and eggplant parm serving separately, then assemble the sandwich.
I make my own breadcrumbs. I only eat good bread, and I don’t want to eat the toasted, broken leftovers of who knows what kind of white bread, that is sold in cans in the grocery store. I save the heels of bread loaves, or any that’s threatening to go stale, in the freezer. When I have a bunch of bread scraps, I cube the bread, then pulse the frozen bread cubes in the food processor until it’s a coarse meal. I freeze the crumbs and grab a handful whenever I need them: for breading and frying cutlets, to go in meatloaf or on top of a casserole. I
also make my own tomato sauce, especially at this time of year when I can make it from fresh. Use your favorite kind. A nice fresh marinara with herbs is a good choice.
This is great as an entree with a side of greens, or as a light, starchy side dish.

Eggplant parmigiana

Makes 4 servings as an entree.
Doubling Notes: This recipe may be doubled. Use a larger casserole dish. Baking time will be about 15 minutes longer.
1 large Italian eggplant (about a pound), peeled and sliced into ¾-inch rounds
3 cups of fresh breadcrumbs
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh oregano, finely minced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
3 eggs
2 cups or more of fat for frying: a high-heat oil like sunflower or safflower oil, rendered lard, or ghee
2 cups tomato sauce
Equipment Needed:
A food processor (to make bread crumbs)
A wide skillet with high sides for frying
Two pie plates
An oven-safe casserole dish (8”x8” is large enough for one eggplant; 8”x14” is large enough for two)
  1. In a wide skillet, heat the fat over a high flame.
  2. Beat the eggs with half a teaspoon of salt and ¼ tsp of black pepper in a pie plate.
  3. Mix together the breadcrumbs, remaining salt and pepper, oregano, and garlic in another pie plate, sifting them together with your hands to keep the mixture light.
  4. Use your fingers and a fork to dip a slice of eggplant into the egg mixture, then turn it over to coat both sides of the slice.
  5. Move the slice directly to the bread crumb mixture, pressing the slice gently into the crumbs. Turn the slice over to coat both sides as completely as possible with an even coating of breadcrumb mixture.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. When the fat is very hot, lay a prepared slice of eggplant in the skillet. Prepare additional slices of eggplant in the same manner and lay them in the skillet, close but not touching. Adding the slices one at a time keeps the oil hotter, which fries the slices more crisply.
  8. Fry each slice for a few minutes, until golden brown, then flip the slice to fry the other side.
  9. Remove to a plate covered in paper towels to drain. Separate layers of fried eggplant with several paper towels.
  10. When all of the eggplant is fried, place a single layer of fried slices on the bottom of an oven-safe casserole dish. Top each slice with a tablespoon or two of tomato sauce, and a small sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. Put another layer of eggplant on top: I like to stagger the slices but it’s not important. Continue to build the layers of eggplant, sauce, and cheese until you run out of eggplant. If you want to freeze the dish or store it to serve later, cover and refrigerate or freeze it now.
  11. Bake the dish for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese on top melts. Serve hot.
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