Friday, March 26, 2010

Eggplant Parmigiana

As a child, I disliked all things having to do with eggplant. Except for my mom's eggplant parmesan. How could anything not be delicious when breaded and fried, not to mention topped with a layer of melted cheese? Of course now I love eggplant, especially when it is mushy.

There's no frying or breading of eggplant in this stellar version. Believe me, you won't miss it. This flavorful, fresh dish tastes better than any other eggplant parmigiana I've ever had. I love the layering of flavors: garlicky tomato sauce, fresh basil, and two cheeses. Fantastic!

I prefer to use baby eggplant because it isn't as tough as large eggplant. Plus it makes the presentation much more fun and delicate. I served this dish with a tasty side of zucchini with almonds and lemon zest and penne a la vodka. My mouth was watering for more eggplant parmigiana (actually it still is) but sadly, I only made 2!!!

Eggplant Parmigiana
2 baby eggplants
2 + 1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz of crushed tomatoes (I used about a third of a 28 oz can- the only size I had on hand)
1 clove of garlic, minced
a pinch of salt
a pinch or two of crushed red pepper
3-4 deli cut slices of mozzarella
2 tbsp of parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
6 basil leaves, chiffonade

Prepare eggplant
Preheat oven at 450. Remove stem and cut off about 1/4 inch of eggplant lengthwise on each side so that the sides are flat, discard. Cut middle section lengthwise into 4 equally thick slices. It is important that the slices are equally thick because otherwise the cooking times will be different and some parts will be tougher than others. Keep the 4 eggplant slices in order because they will be re-stacked at the end.

Line baking sheet with foil (otherwise the eggplant will stick to the sheet). Brush both sides of eggplant slices with 2 tbsp of olive oil and place evenly spaced on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 18 min, flipping slices halfway. Remove from oven and let cool.

Prepare sauce
Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in small saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes and salt. Let simmer for about 7 minutes until sauce is thickened.

Lower oven temperature to 350. Over each slice, spread about a tbsp of sauce (or, generously coat) and sprinkle basil on top. Place one slice of mozzarella on top of basil, avoid cheese hanging over the edge. My eggplant slices were not very big so I used 1/3 of a mozzarella slice on each eggplant slice. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of parmigiano reggiano. Restack the slices in order.

Bake the stacks for about 5 min, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let sit for a minute. Carefully transfer to serving plates. If you like extra sauce, first spoon sauce onto the plate and place stack on top of it. Garnish with basil. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

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