Eggplant Parmesan

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eggplant-parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

I was inspired to create this recipe by my dear friend Tatiana, who is married to a wonderful Italian guy with whom they have two beautiful girls. Every summer she and the girls spend time at the family home in Italy's Venetto region traveling the country extensively and this summer was no exception. When they came to visit us in the Hamptons, Tatiana volunteered to make Melanzane alla Parmigiana, a classic Italian baked eggplant Parmesan casserole. Her version was a bit healthier than what I am sharing with you today, the eggplant slices were baked and layered with fresh ricotta cheese. It was incredible, by all means a winner, and I announced that I am using her recipe as an inspiration for my next food post on the blog. So Tatiana, forgive me for my alterations! In my version, I sliced two eggplants into rounds that were drenched in seasoned flour, dipped into eggs and then nicely breaded. The eggplant slices were deep fried for few minutes in smoking hot vegetable oil until golden. I skipped the pre-salting of the eggplant and instead, seasoned each slice precisely right after frying, but only on one side. The tomato sauce is very basic, I make mine spicy by adding either red pepper flakes, sriracha or harissa sauce - whatever ignites (pun intended) your taste buds! Of course, adjust the level of spiciness according to your taste. Two ingredients are a must - plenty of minced garlic and basil leaves. As the sauce will be reducing, it will thicken and flavors will develop, some chefs add sugar and vinegar to brighten the sauce but I tend not to. My friend's version of using ricotta and parmesan cheese, instead of mozzarella is brilliant. Even though my eggplant is fried, the use of ricotta makes this dish tender with airy texture. There are only two layers of eggplant slices that are interspersed with the sauce, thin layer of ricotta and parmesan cheese. Bake for forty minutes but then finish it by broiling for five minutes so that the casserole will be covered with that amazing golden crust. When you slice into eggplant you can almost hear the delectable crunch of breaded slices underneath and your mouth fill with anticipation of that first tantalizing bite! This is one of the best dishes the Italians created for the world. Comfort food in its best sublime form!

eggplant-parmesan-ingredients

Ingredients

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Peel and cut in half medium-size onion. Slice it into thin wedges.

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For the tomato sauce: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season with salt and red pepper and cook until the onions become translucent stirring often to prevent them from burning, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

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Then add tomatoes and using a wooden spatula break down the tomatoes. Add thyme and basil leaves. Cook the sauce for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. The sauce will thicken and flavors will come together.

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Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Kitchen tip: If you wish, add half a teaspoon of sugar to make the sauce less acidic. Discard basil leaves.

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Slice eggplant into 3/4-inch rounds.

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Since I make this recipe in oval-snapped gratin dish, I like to use medium size eggplants as they fit better and taste less bitter in comparison to a larger size variety. But of course, ultimately, the size of eggplant and the shape of the dish you will be making your eggplant parmesan doesn't really matter.

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Measure flour, breadcrumbs and eggs into three separate shallow trays or bowls. Season flour with salt, pepper, thyme and oregano leaves.

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Working one at a time, lightly press eggplant slices into flour on both sides, shaking off excess flour.

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Break the eggs with a fork. Then dip eggplant slices into eggs, flip with a fork, lift up and let the extra eggs drip slightly before transferring into breadcrumbs.

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Transfer eggplant slices into breadcrumbs. Press until fully coated and flip on the other side, sprinkle with bead crumbs on top.

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Transfer eggplant slices into a gratin dish or baking tray.

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Fully breaded eggplant slices.

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In bowl combine ricotta cheese and eggs. Season with salt and mildly spicy red pepper, mix gently to combine. The cheese should become less thick and more pliable.

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On the stove top set up a station with a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, deep enough to prevent splatters; breaded eggplant slices and baking sheet lined with cooling wire-wrack.

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Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly or test with a thermometer it should register approximately 400 F.

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Cook eggplant slices, turning once, until deep golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling-rack. Season precisely with salt while still hot on top.

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Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices.

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Spread about 1/4 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of gratin dish.

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Top with a layer of the fried eggplant; the eggplant slices can overlap slightly.

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Garnish eggplant slices with fresh torn basil leaves.

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Spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture over the eggplant, covering the entire surface.

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Grate a generous amount of parmesan cheese over ricotta, then sprinkle with mildly spicy paper flakes.

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Spoon the sauce and repeat the process one more time. Firmly press second layer of eggplant slices into the dish.

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Garnish with basil, spread the rest of ricotta cheese on top.

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More parmesan, please.

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Drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle extra mildly spicy red pepper on top.

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Bake at 350F for about 40 minutes. Then increase the temperature to 500F and broil eggplant parmesan on a top shelf in the oven for additional 3-5 minutes, closely monitoring of how browned you would like it to be.

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Garnish with extra Parmesan shavings and fresh basil leaves on top.

eggplant-parmesan

eggplant-parmesan

 

 

 

 

Bon Appétit!
Svitlana

Eggplant Parmesan

recipe details

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For the eggplant
  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 3/4" rounds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large organic eggs
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt
For the tomato sauce
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • garlic clove, minced
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz. can San Marzano peeled whole plum tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt
For the cheese
  • 1 lb. fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo or Marash red pepper
  • salt

Directions

  1. For the tomato sauce: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season with salt and red pepper flakes and cook until the onions become translucent,  stirring often to prevent them from burning about 8 minutes. Then add tomatoes and using a wooden spatula break down them. Add garlic, thyme and basil leaves. Cook the sauce for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. The sauce will thicken and flavors will come together. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Discard basil leaves and thyme sprigs.
  2. For the eggplant: Measure flour, breadcrumbs and eggs into three separate shallow trays or bowls. Season flour with salt, pepper, thyme and oregano leaves. Working one at a time, lightly press eggplant slices into flour on both sides, shaking off excess flour. Whisk the eggs with a fork. Then dip eggplant slices into eggs, flip with a fork, lift up and let the extra eggs drip. Transfer eggplant  into the breadcrumbs. Press until fully coated and flip on the other side, sprinkle with bead crumbs on top. Transfer eggplant slices into a gratin dish or baking tray.
  3. On the stove top set up a station with a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, deep enough to prevent splatters; breaded eggplant slices and baking sheet lined with cooling wire-wrack. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly or test with a thermometer it should register approximately 400 F. Cook eggplant slices in batches, turning once, until deep golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a cooling-rack. Season precisely with salt on top while still hot.
  4. For the cheese: In bowl combine ricotta cheese and eggs. Season with salt and mildly spicy red pepper, mix gently to combine. The cheese should become less thick and more pliable.
  5. To assemble: Spread about 1/4 of the sauce on the bottom of gratin dish.  Top with a layer of fried eggplant slices, they can overlap slightly. Garnish eggplant slices with fresh torn basil leaves. Spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture over the eggplant, covering the entire surface. Grate a generous amount of parmesan cheese over ricotta, then sprinkle with mildly spicy paper flakes. Spoon the sauce and repeat the process one more time by firmly pressing the second layer of eggplant slices into the dish. Drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle extra mildly spicy red pepper on top. Bake at 375F for about 40 minutes, covered with foil. Discard the foil and increase the temperature to 500F. Broil eggplant parmesan on a top shelf in the oven for additional 3 to 5 minutes, closely monitoring of how browned you would like the top to be. Garnish with extra Parmesan shavings and fresh basil leaves on top, serve hot or room temperature.

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