I have a confession. I had never had eggplant parmesan (does parmesan need to be capitalized? my spell checker wants it to be; it’s the anglization of parmigiano meaning something from Parma, Italy) before. I love Italian food (I believe it’s authentically Italian as I’ve seen it in Italy and Wikipedia backs me up) as well as the Italian-American versions with chicken or better yet veal so you’d think that I’d have tried it before now.
However, until very recently I was of the opinion that eggplant was ‘icky.’ A certain movie with an animated rat (which, by the way, I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet) made me decide that I needed to at least reevaluate my opinions of eggplant. At the time, I made a simple version of ratatouille and actually liked it (I spared Angela from even trying it as I was almost positive she’d give it a thumbs down).
When it comes to Italian food, I’m much more in my comfort zone and am much more likely to modify a recipe to suit my tastes (or what I think my tastes will be). I used Marcella Hazan’s recipe as a basis and it turned out to be different than I was expecting. For some reason, I expected there to be bread crumbs on the eggplant but this recipe did not call for them (although that would be an interesting variation to try in the future). It was also layered and I was expecting a single layer of eggplant. I suppose I was expecting chicken parmesan where eggplant has replaced chicken.
As to the recipe, it was pretty good. I don’t think I soaked the eggplant in salt long enough as it was still quite bitter (unlike the afore mentioned ratatouille) and didn’t seem to have exuded a significant amount of liquid. I only had dry basil (the original recipe called for fresh but the basil plant I bought a few months ago is pretty much dead; I have a brown thumb) but it would probably be better replaced with fresh basil added as part of the layering stage. Because I used less eggplant, I ended up with fewer layers. Also, as you can tell in the picture above, the dish did not retain its structural integrity (wow, that brought out my inner engineer) when it was removed from the serving dish.
And Angela hated it (but what do you expect, she hates vegetables).
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
1 medium Italian eggplant (the type that vaguely resembles a purple banana)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tbsp olive oil
3 roma tomatoes
1 tsp dry basil
2 oz mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Cut the eggplant into 3/8″ thick slices (for my eggplant, it resulted in about 4 different slices). Place in a collander over the sink and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Allow to sit for at least half an hour (if my experience is any guide, probably closer to an hour to remove more of the bitterness).
- Run the tomatoes through a food mill (if you don’t have one, buy one; or skin, seed, and dice the tomatoes). Add 1 tbsp of olive oil, the tomatoes, 1 tsp salt, and the basil to a sauce pan. Simmer until reduced to a thicker consistency.
- Dry the eggplant slices in paper towels. Dredge the eggplant in the flour.
- Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until just before smoking. Add the eggplant, cooking in batches if needed, until browned on both sides. About 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Grease a heat proof baking dish. Add a layer of eggplant, add a layer of mozzarella cheese, layer with tomato sauce, and sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese. Add another layer of eggplant, top with tomato sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 400°F.