Today I want to talk eggplant parmesan. This is not eggplant parm that you pick up at the next door hoagie place. It is not too dry or too greasy. It is not deep fried in a vat of day old oil. It is also not covered in any sort of fake, Kraft sliver of orange cheese. This is the elegant, panko coated, Southern Italian quality eggplant parmigiana.
Eggplant parmesan is really a vegetarian’s utopia. It’s like an herbivore version of a Peter Luger steak. Nothing is better than a sweet eggplant, lightly breaded and fried then smothered with cheese and sauce. The best part is definitely when you bite into the eggplant and there’s still a little crunch from the crusty breading.
Ariel’s First Red Sauce
1 carton of sweet cherry tomatoes (about 20)
1 large can skinned and crushed tomatoes with the juice
1 large shallot (or two small)
4 cloves garlic
sprinkle of sugar
basil and parsley
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons cream
salt and pepper to taste
I made up this recipe for red sauce. I’ve never made sauce before but I decided to give it a try. I used the cherry tomatoes and canned because sometimes I worry that canned tomatoes have too much of a concentrated tomato flavor and aren’t sweet enough.
Dice up the shallots and garlic and saute in a pan with some olive oil. After the shallots have softened and the garlic is cook (but not burnt), add in the cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and canned tomatoes with juice, along with the sugar. Let the whole pot come to a boil, then let simmer. At this point, I poured the mixture into a food processor. You could also use an immersion blender. Pour the mixture back into the pot. After things simmered for a few more minutes, I added all the fresh herbs, salt, pepper, and the cream. Let everything come together while you’re making the rest of the dish.
1 medium sized eggplant, slice into 1/2 inch thick rounds
panko bread crumbs and flour for breading
vegetable oil for frying
salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese
Slice eggplant. Dip each slice first into the flour, then into the egg, then into the panko crumbs. Heat oil and fry the slices. I fried each side for about 3 minutes- this gave me a light browned color. After the slices have been fried, let them drain on a paper towel.
To set up the whole thing, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a 8 by 8 pan, brush the bottom with olive oil. Layer some sauce and then cover the sauce with eggplant slices. Atop each slice, put on a half inch piece of mozzarella cheese. Cover the whole layer with parmesan cheese. Do another layer of sauce, eggplant, cheese. With a medium sized eggplant, you should have only about two layers. Cover the rest in sauce and top with a generous heap of parmesan cheese. Put in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned on top.
So this is it; eggplant parmesan done right! I’m not going to say this was an easy one. It took a long time for everything to come together. But OH was it worth it. It was a perfect comfort food for the upcoming cold weather, while also using fresh produce. I’m not saying it’s healthy, but it’s better than a fried milky way right?
I just wanted to add on by saying DON’T FORGET to check out our launch party! All the info is on our Nosh and Tell Launch Party Facebook event page. All the funds raised from our raffle are being donated to Share our Strength to fight against Children’s hunger. If you wish to donate (and be entered into our raffle) click here! We have tons of sweet prizes from a Le Creuset grill pan, to a gift certificate to Dean and Deluca. You won’t want to miss this!