After a long week of dinners with friends, after-work errands and other commitments that kept me out of the kitchen, I was super excited that we had nothing much planned this weekend, leaving me plenty of time to cook. I was even more excited when I picked up my CSA veggie bag on Friday and discovered the most gorgeous little eggplant ever.
The first thing that came to mind was eggplant parmesan — something I’ve always enjoyed at restaurants but have never made at home. Once I remembered the container of my Grandma’s famous meatballs and sauce that I’d tucked in the freezer after my last visit home, my mind was made up.
Although I’ve certainly enjoyed the many versions of eggplant parmesan I’ve had at restaurants, I knew I didn’t want my version to be greasy, heavy or drowning in sauce and cheese. I wanted to be able to actually taste the eggplant. I reviewed several different versions online and ultimately came up with a hybrid version.
Rather than a casserole or lasagna style dish, I chose to peel and slice my eggplant into thick discs, bread them and bake them. Only then, when the breading was crispy, did I take them from the oven, and gently stack them into towers with a thin layer of sauce, mozzarrella and parmesan cheeses topping each. From there, I placed the towers in the broiler for a few minutes…just long enough to melt the cheese. Then I served them alongside penne tossed with G-ma’s bolognese sauce, and topped with a meatball and a piece of Italian sausage. Obviously, not light meal, but boy was it good.
Apparently, JiT had never had eggplant parmesan, so he gave me the usual…”You crazy girl” look…followed quickly by exclamations of delight…and seconds. Even without the benefit of your grandma’s homemade sauce, these eggplant towers are really lovely. The mellow, earthy veggie seems to melt beneath the crunchy breadcrumb/cheese coating and the cheese and sauce finish things off perfectly.
If you’re up to it, I do encourage making homemade sauce, but a good jarred sauce would probably serve the purpose. And, though there are a couple of steps to the eggplant dish, it really did come together in under an hour. And it was sooooo good!
Eggplant Parmesan Towers
Serves 2 -4
1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch discs
1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
1 cup breadcrumbs
2-3 shakes of italian seasoning
1/4 cup grated, good quality parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
more parmesan cheese for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle each eggplant slice with a bit of salt on both sides and place in a colander for 30 minutes to pull moisture from them. Meanwhile, combine breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and italian seasonings in a shallow dish. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with olive oil.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. After 30 minutes, places eggplant slices between paper towels and gently squeeze/pat to dry. Dunk each eggplant slice in the egg/water mixture, then dredge in breadcrumbs until well coated on all sides. Place each slice on the cookie sheet.
Bake eggplant slices for 15-20 minutes, turning onces halfway through, or until both sides are golden and crunchy. Remove cookie sheet from oven. When cool enough to handle, stack eggplant slices in layers of three (on the same cookie sheet), placing a small dollop of spaghetti sauce, and a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan cheese between/on top of each layer.
Turn the oven to broil and place the cookie sheet, with assembled towers back into the oven until the cheese is melted and golden — watch carefully to ensure they don’t burn.
Serve immediately with additional sauce on the side.