Wow...it's been a while! Life is busy these days with the little ones, they demand just a bit of attention most hours of the day. So while we're still growing and cooking our own food, the free time for posting recipes on the blog has been nonexistent. But this one found the time, it's too damn tasty not to be shared. It's a classic dish, perfect for the cooler fall weather. Now that summer is over, the very last of the peppers and tomatoes are being harvested from the garden. The big hauls are long gone, but they were plentiful this year, despite the lack of any sustained heat this summer. Lots of tomato sauce in the freezer (didn't feel like canning this year, that time thing again), many jars of habanero hot sauce stashed in the back recesses of the fridge. The eggplants were long-ago plucked, half of them grilled and the other 2 (only 1 plant) sliced for this hearty meal. Grocery-store eggplants will be just fine, as will canned tomatoes- the better quality ones, like the San Marzano variety. You will probably also have to buy some fresh basil, unless you now have a little plant or two growing in the kitchen window. If you don't want to splurge on fresh basil without any from the garden, feel free to substitute dried basil for the sauce and then use chopped fresh parsley for the garnish.
Yes, it does take a while to assemble this awesomeness with 3 steps, but it's mostly hands off time and well worth the effort. Don't skip sweating the eggplant- otherwise you'll have a mushy pile of hot cheesy garbage. And of course, use good quality fresh mozzarella and real parmigiano reggiano cheese.
2 large purple eggplants, sliced just under 1/2" thick
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, finely diced
28 can whole tomatoes
3/4 C fresh basil, chiffonade
1.5 C fresh bread crumbs
1.5 C good parmigiano reggiano
3/4 C AP flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 lb. good mozzarella, sliced 1/2" thick
Lay out the eggplant slices on racks over cookie sheets, you'll have two large ones. Sprinkle generously on each side with kosher salt and let sit for 3 hours.
Fire up the oven to 425°F. Set up your breading station- a shallow bowl or pan (pie pans work great) with flour, one with egg, and one with the bread crumbs mixed with 1/2 C of parm reg. Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towel and wipe down the cookie sheets of any moisture. Spread a TB or so of EVOO on the sheet pans/cookie sheets. Dredge the slices first in flour, shake off any excess, then dip into the egg. Let any excess egg drip off, then place into the bread crumb mix dish. Press well on both sides to cover with the crumb and layer evenly on the sheet pans. Put a little EVOO on top of the eggplant rounds also, and then bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through until nicely golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool to the touch.
While the eggplant is baking, assemble your sauce. In a medium saucepan, saute the onion in a bit of EVOO for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a minute, then introduce the tomatoes. Crush them up with a wooden spoon, season with a bit of S&P, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add 1/4 or so of the basil, can also substitute a little dried basil or Italian herb mix. Once thickened up and smelling all good remove from heat.
With the oven at 350°F, you're ready to assemble the eggplant parm.
Using a 9x13 glass baking dish, layer about 1/2 C of the sauce on the
bottom. Next is 1/3 of the eggplant rounds, playing a little Tetris to
cover the bottom as best you can. Layer half of the sliced mozzarella
over the eggplant, then 1/3 C of the parm reg. Another 1/3 of the
eggplant followed by 1 C of the tomato sauce, finish that layer with the
other 1/2 of the mozz and 1/3 of the parm. The last 1/3 of the
eggplant rounds, the rest of the sauce, and the remaining parmigiano
reggiano for the last strata.
Talk to you in another 6 months!