Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan for the Lazy Cook

Eggplant is in season! The regal beauties are on sale at the local supermarket this week, so I brought home a couple for a quick Eggplant Parmesan.

This isn't really a recipe - it's more of a technique. Amounts are VERY flexible and I tend to use whatever I have on hand. If I have lots of sauce, the dish gets saucier. If I'm a bit short on cheese, then the fat content drops. The eggplant is the important thing.

Devotees of classical Italian cuisine may recoil in horror at the use of unpurged, unpeeled eggplant (I've never found it to be bitter, and why remove that gorgeous purple nutrient-filled skin?), and elimination of the breading and frying steps. Any and all purists are welcome to come to my un-air-conditioned kitchen and stand over a spitting pan of oil in August while the oven preheats below. I will take the cooler route.

A note on the term "Parmesan": this word has been borrowed from the French, and is their translation of the Italian Parmigiano, which means "originating in Parma". Many Americans associate Parmesan cheese with the rather dreadful desiccated granules sold in a green-labelled jar. Away with such a product from the earth! True Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is a wonderful thing for those who can afford it - tangy, nutty, and smooth. Since I can't afford it, I settle for the next best thing: an adequately-aged, locally-produced, quite delicious cheese labelled "Parmesan". (I've tried all the supermarket brands in my area and this one wins the prize for value, mellowness and meltability. And cute packaging.)

Mrs. Micawber's Eggplant Parmesan for the Lazy Cook

Makes 4 large or 6 medium servings

Turn oven to 450º.

2 large eggplant, washed and cut crosswise into 1/2" slices (a serrated bread knife works well)
2-3 cups seasoned tomato or marinara sauce* (whatever you'd use for pasta)
Chopped fresh herbs if desired (parsley and basil for me)
2-4 cups grated cheeses* - Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Provolone all work well. Grana Padano makes a fine substitute for Parmesan (although that would change the name of the recipe).

*For this batch, I used about 2 cups of some leftover organic sauce from a jar, souped up with extra dried oregano, minced fresh garlic, and a generous dollop of olive oil. The cheese was half Mozzarella and half Parmesan.

Lay eggplant slices in large shallow pan lined with with silicone liner or parchment (if you don't have a liner or parchment, the pan may be oiled lightly). If all the slices don't fit, bake them in 2 batches.

Bake for 5 minutes, then flip the pieces and bake 5 minutes more. They will brown slightly. Cool briefly on rack.

Reduce oven to 350º.

Oil a 9" x 9" baking pan and get ready to layer your ingredients.

First, a layer of eggplant - pieces may be cut to fill the bottom of the pan. (Note to self - why not cube the slices after the initial baking and stir them into the sauce for easier layering? Will have to try that next time.)

Next, a layer of sauce:

Then a sprinkling of herbs:

And a layer of cheese:

First layers done

Repeat these layers until all the eggplant is used up, ending with sauce, herbs, and cheese. Don't worry if the eggplant doesn't come out even. If you end up with a few extra slices after the last full layer, just cut them up and distribute them evenly over the previous layer before adding the final topping of sauce, herbs and cheese.

All ready for the oven.  I added a bit of extra Parmesan
to the top. 

Bake at 350º for around 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Let rest for 5-10 minutes so the juices can settle.

Slice and enjoy!

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  1. looks wonderful- can't wait to try it. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing! I would never ever peel an eggplant. The colour is too beautiful.

  3. I like the fact that you neither peel nor salt them. I like (what we call) Aubergine but hardly ever cook them, I should remedy that. Thank you for the nudge.

  4. Yum, that looks delicious! I have been oven "frying" the eggplant for years but never skipped the breading. This looks even better.

  5. I'm anti fried food, so this sounds delicious. I may have to try it just to say I did! (The Lizard doesn't like eggplant, but I do.)

    I love the lasagna-style build-up. I'm fantasizing about what else I could stick in there...

    Oh, and WELCOME HOME!!! Missed ya!

  6. That looks delicious and does seem very easy to make. Will put aubergines on my next shopping list...

  7. that looks so lovely and yummy.

    I confess. I am vaguely aware of real parmesen. I've had it shredded on my salad at Italian restaurants, but I have the desiccate stuff in my fridge.

    Must try the real deal soon.

  8. Thanks all! It is very easy. Also very juicy. 2 cups of sauce seems to be plenty.

  9. Looks delicious. I can't ever get my eggplant to keep it's shape, it falls apart and looks limp. How do you get it to stay firm?

  10. I don't really know, Dr. R. Is there a lot of liquid in the recipe you're using, or do you use a long cooking time?

    My best guess is that the pre-baking may help by sealing the cut surfaces. Now you've got me wondering!


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