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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

This is not your typical gloopy eggplant parmesan casserole.  This recipe is life-changing!  So take advantage of eggplant available at the farmers market or farm stands and try it!  It's hearty enough to please even the most die-hard of carnivores, yet lightened up enough by baking and using Panko bread crumbs to be diet-friendly too.  Serves 2 (can double).  Slightly adapted from Cooks Country August/September 2010.  Photo from the bittenword blog.

1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup shredded provolone cheese

1.CUT EGGPLANT*. Cut two ¾-inch planks lengthwise from center of eggplant, halve each plank crosswise, and cut remaining eggplant into ½-inch dice.

2.  SET UP DREDGING STATION.  You will need 3 shallow plates/bowls.   Place flour in shallow dish. Beat egg in second shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in third shallow dish. One at a time, coat eggplant slices lightly with flour, dip them in egg, and dredge in bread-crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer to wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and let sit 5 minutes (or refrigerate up to 1 hour).

2. COOK EGGPLANT. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat ½ cup oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook -eggplant slices until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to wire rack set inside baking sheet and bake until eggplant is tender and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

3. MAKE SAUCE. Meanwhile, pour off oil and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped eggplant and ¼ -teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining oil, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 -seconds. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until eggplant is tender and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper; cover and keep warm.

4. ASSEMBLE. Combine remaining Parmesan and provolone in medium bowl. Top browned eggplant slices with cheese mixture and bake until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer half of sauce to platter and top with eggplant slices. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Serve.

*How to Cut the Eggplant
This recipe deviates from the traditional round circles you normally see in eggplant Parmesan.  Instead it uses heart ¾-inch planks to reduce the amount of batches you need to pan fry before baking.  Turn the eggplant so it is standing up tall and using a serrated knife, slice off the curved side of eggplant (reserve).  Then cut two ¾-inch planks from the center.  Cut planks in half crosswise so they’ll neatly fit into the pan for frying in a single batch (making 4 pieces).  Chop reserved side pieces into strips, then into ½-inch cubes, and set aside for building the tomato pan sauce.   (This website has great step by step photos but note they cubed the entire eggplant for a different recipe.)

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