Every now and then a completely random, unprovoked meal idea will pop in to my head. Such was the case for last Friday night's culinary extravaganza, although in retrospect I think my subconscious may have been at work. Ryan's on vacation this week (without me!), and we wanted to have a nice dinner together before his departure. I suggested going to an Italian restaurant in Manayunk. He suggested a French place in Fishtown. Ultimately we both decided we'd rather stay in than fight the Friday night I-76 city traffic. Cue the brainstorming of dinner ideas! Eggplant parmesan immediately came to my mind for no good reason at all other than I already had Italian food on the brain.
Having never cooked with an eggplant before I wasn't sure what to expect. As I meandered through the produce section at Genuardi's it occurred to me that I hadn't ever even touched an eggplant before. "Weird", I thought, considering I grew up in a household where vegetables were incorporated in just about every meal. Not feeling the least bit intimidated by the culinary feat lying ahead I picked up the shiny, bulbous vegetable. The unblemished skin was firm to the touch yet its weight implied an airy and delicate texture within. I wondered if one eggplant would be sufficient. The eggplant weighed in at slightly over 1 lb., exactly what I needed, but I was still nervous that it might not be enough...so I bought two. I also bought (gasp) jarred pasta sauce. If you were to mention this to anyone that knows me well they will tell you that this is extremely uncharacteristic, almost unfathomable. They might even accuse you of lying. I've always had an aversion to jarred pasta sauce, but it was Friday night, and after a long, exhausting week frankly I just didn't feel like making my own. So I cheated and bought a jar. Every cook deserves a break now and then, right?
Back at home, and hopeful that this would be a success, I started the prep work. Earlier in the day I had researched a bunch of eggplant parmesan recipes and ultimately decided to adapt one by Martha Stewart. As a side note, I always find Martha's recipes to be very practical and easy to modify. I was extremely pleased with the result and can't wait to make this again. With Lent beginning tonight this will definitely be incorporated in to our recipe rotation for meatless Friday meals. Cheers!
Olive oil for baking sheets
1 tbsp. water
3/4 c. Italian seasoning bread crumbs
1/2 c. finely grated parmesan plus 2 tbsp. for topping
1 large eggplant (slightly over 1 lb.) sliced crosswise in to 1/2-inch rounds
1 c. part skim shredded mozzarella1 28oz. jar pasta sauce (I used Prego's Tomato Basil & Garlic pasta sauce)
1/2 c. chopped, fresh basil
Coarsely ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil. I used old pizza pans which I find heat and bake better than non stick baking sheets, but use what you have. Set aside the baking sheets.
2. In a bowl whisk together the egg and 1 tbsp. water. Set aside.
3. In another bowl combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 c. parmesan. Season with pepper.
4. Dip eggplant slices in the egg mixture, let the excess drip off and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture making sure each side is well coated. Place each slice on a baking sheet.
5. Bake the eggplant until golden brown on the bottom, about 15-20 minutes. Turn the slices and continue baking until browned on the other side, another 15-20 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven, and increase the heat to 400 degrees.
7. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, approximately 15-20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.