All About Eggplant: Eggplant Parmigiana

I love everything about eggplant. I know I must say that about all food, but seriously! You can pretty much transform it into any dish, whether it be eggplant french fries, roasted eggplant dip, eggplant arancini (risotto fritters), eggplant ravioli, eggplant parmigiana…the list goes on.  You can stuff it, grill it, fry it, roast it — there are no restrictions, which is why I love eggplant.

Let’s start with the basics: Eggplant Parmigiana

This was the first eggplant recipe I ever had and adored. I had mixed feelings about eggplant until I discovered its versatility and flavor potential. My mom taught me this recipe, so you won’t find it anywhere else!

You will need: 

1 or 2 eggplants (1 is enough for 2 people)

1 package organic cherry tomatoes

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1 package fresh mozzarella, grated

1 piece of whole parmesan cheese, and a micro-plane grater (or a regular grater with tiny holes)

1 jar organic tomato sauce (the good stuff)

1 bunch basil, sliced into a chiffonade, which means little ribbons (layer 4 or 5 pieces of basil, fold in half, and slice thin, repeat)

2 eggs, beaten with a whisk , and set aside in a shallow dish

whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (place in another shallow dish with salt, pepper, and garlic powder)

sea salt + freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the eggplant:

1. Start out by partially peeling the eggplant – the exterior should look like black and white stripes

2. Slice the eggplant into 1/2″ thick discs. Lay out on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Let rest for 10 minutes or so. This process extracts some of the natural bitter flavor – a must when cooking eggplant properly.

3. Wipe off excess moisture with paper towels.

4. Dip eggplant in egg batter, and then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Set aside. Repeat until all pieces of eggplant are covered with egg and breadcrumbs. You are ready to sauté!

Prepare the balsamic reduction: 

1. Heat balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan; bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by at least half, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. This reduction will be used as a garnish when you are ready to eat.

Roast the cherry tomatoes:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out whole tomatoes.

2. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Roast for 35 minutes; or until the skin is blistery and the insides are soft.

Sauté the breaded eggplant:

1. Drizzle olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauté pan. Preheat pan with medium heat, and add breaded eggplant slices when oil begins to ripple. Do not overcrowd the pan – so you can fit about 5 slices at once, depending on the pan.

2. Flip eggplant slices when brown and crispy on one side, and cook until both sides are even. Repeat with all eggplant slices and set aside.

Layer cooked eggplant in baking dish and bake:

1. Increase oven temperature to 400° (the tomatoes should be done at this point). Drizzle olive oil in an oven-proof glass baking dish (such as Pyrex)

2. It’s time to build the eggplant towers. Start with an eggplant slice, and top with a little tomato sauce and some grated mozzarella. Add another slice, add more tomato sauce and mozzarella. Add one more slice (you should have three slices per tower), and top with sauce, mozzarella and a few roasted tomatoes. Repeat until you have several towers sitting side by side in the baking dish.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Top with freshly grated parmigiana, roasted tomatoes, slices of basil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Mangia mangia!

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