One of my favorite vegetables is eggplant…those big beautiful dark purple globes…sliced thin, breaded and fried then slathered with butter. When I was a kid my Auntie Babe made eggplant just like that and I would stand next to the counter waiting for a crispy disc to land on my plate. She didn’t salt the eggplant before breading and I can’t remember it tasting bitter. Consequently I’ve never salted eggplant before preparing it. Whether in ratatouille, minestrone, baba ganoush or eggplant parmesan my customers at Coco’s never complained of bitterness and always enjoyed these dishes.
This Eggplant dish is similar to lasagna without the pasta or meat but with a generous amount of ricotta cheese, a chiffonade of fresh basil and a simple tomato sauce. I make myown ricotta cheese…its so easy and inexpensive. Just bring 2 quarts of whole milk to a boil, add 1/3 cup of white vinegar and stir gently until the curds separate. Remove curds with a slotted spoon to a fine mesh sieve and let drain for 5 or 10 minutes. Add 1 tsp of salt and combine with 1 egg to make the filling for this eggplant dish.
Serve with a green salad, crusty bread and a glass of red wine.
Eggplant Parmigiano Ingredients: 4 servings
- 1 large purple eggplant, washed and sliced into 1/4-3/8 inch thick discs
- 1 egg beaten with 1/4-cup milk in a pie plate for the egg wash
- 1/2 cup flour or Italian bread crumbs with 1/2-tsp salt and 1/4-tsp pepper in a pie plate for dredging the eggplant
- olive oil for frying
- 1 cup ricotta cheese (commercial or homemade) beaten with 1 whole egg and 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups shredded fresh mozarella cheese (buy fresh mozarella packaged in water)
- 4-5 Tbsp. fresh basil-chiffonade ( thinly sliced)
- 3 cups basic Italian tomato sauce (recipe follows)
- 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (please don’t use the stuff in a can)
- Dip eggplant slices into egg wash, dredge in seasoned flour or bread crumbs and fry batches of breaded eggplant in oil over medium high heat until golden brown on both sides. Add additional oil to skillet as needed. To reduce fat, oven bake eggplant slices on a foil lined baking sheet in 400° F. oven until golden on one side then turn and bake until golden on the other side.
- Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on bottom of a deep casserole dish or 9X9 inch baking tin with at least 2 inch sides
- Layer fried eggplant over sauce, overlapping slices slightly.
- Spread another 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over the eggplant then spoon over 1/2 the ricotta cheese and egg mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mozarella cheese over the ricotta and top with 2 Tbsp of basil chiffonade.
- Repeat layers ending with eggplant topped with remaining tomato sauce, remaining basil and sprinkle entire top with parmigiano reggiano cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350° F. for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 15 minutes to brown top.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before cutting.
Basic Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 1 rib celery, minced
- 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes (or 5 large beef-steak tomatoes, skinned and diced)
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or few dashes of Tabasco sauce)
- Saute onions, carrot and celery until wilted, add garlic and a pinch of salt, cook for 2 minutes more.
- Add tomatoes and wine and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add remaining herbs and season to taste with salt and peppers. Cook until sauce thickens about 5 minutes more.