As I was serving up a large portion of this fragrantly delicious Basil Eggplant Parmesan, something profane accidentally slipped out of my mouth. I don’t know what came over me, but I said, “You know, I actually don’t really like lasagna.”
Big mistake. Especially since I was in the presence of a full-blooded Italian. Well, I tried to cover my tracks by stuffing the words back into my mouth, but it was too late. The damage had been done, and as a result, I had some major reconciling to do.
I guess, in all truthfulness, I prefer the meatiness of the eggplant, and the simplicity of the sauce, cheese, and overall preparation, as opposed to the wet-noodle layering process that comes along with making lasagna. Do ya follow me?
I understand how racy I am being right now, and I am truly sorry for any uncomfortable sentiments towards one of the world’s most glorified “comfort food’s” dish, but someone had to question it, right?? I suppose I’ll take the heat… unless there are other non-lasagna fans out there?
Sidenote: don’t get me wrong, I will wolf down lasagna in a heartbeat, especially homemade, but I am just talking preferences. Example: if I were stuck on an island, and the only thing I could eat was either lasagna or eggplant parmesan, I would go with the latter choice.
I have prepared Eggplant Parmesan several times, but as I was searching for different ways to prepare it, I was inspired by this nice and simple recipe. Normally, when I have more time to spend in the kitchen, I will sauté some garlic, onion, mushrooms and zucchini, and add a can of diced tomatoes, season it up and use that as my sauce to layer with the breaded and baked eggplant. However, since it was such a beautiful weekend, I ended up spending pretty much all day in the sunshine playing beach volleyball, which was slightly more appealing than being cooped up in the kitchen.
This dish came together like so:
Eggplant. Such a curious veggie.
Slice it up in even 1/2 inch rounds. Salt both sides and see directions below on how to extract moisture before battering and baking the eggplant. This is a vital step if you want your eggplant to keep its meaty texture, rather than turning into soggy mush.
Makin’ the tomato sauce. Quite a saucy little mixture, I daresay. It’s so easy to make, so please resist taking the store-bough-marinara sauce shortcut. You would kick yourself later, if you did that…
Add the basil, and give a final few pulses to incorporate into the sauce. Then transfer to another bowl and set aside in the fridge while you prepare the rest.
Batter and bake eggplant rounds, turning halfway
Bottom layer: sauce, eggplant, cheeses, basil leaves
Top layer: eggplant, sauce, basil, cheeses
Basil Eggplant Parmesan
Serves 4 (see note at the bottom to double the recipe)
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, unsalted
1 large eggplants, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cups of Italian blend shredded cheese, or mozzarella
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus ¼ cup for blending into sauce
salt and pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp onion powder
Salt each side, and press the moisture out of the eggplant rounds by laying them flat in between paper towels and weighing a flat object and heavy pan on top. This will extract the extra moisture from the eggplant, and will allow it to hold up to the sauce when baking it later on. (No one wants mushy eggplant). Let this sit for at least two hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Using a food processor to combine, add the can of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend for about 30 seconds, until there are minimal chunks. Add ¼ cup coarsely chopped basil, and pulse 6-8 times, to incorporate. Transfer to bowl, cover, and set aside in the fridge.
When the eggplant is ready, press any remaining moisture out of the rounds, brush off the excess salt and begin the breading process. To bread the eggplant, first combine the flour and panko breadcrumbs in one bowl and the beaten eggs in another bowl. Dip each eggplant round in the egg first and then in the flour mixture to coat. Place on a lined baking sheet and put in the oven on 400 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes, flipping over halfway through, until crisp and slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before handling them.
Now for the layering: First place about a cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish or glass baking dish. Then put one layer of eggplant, topped with about ½ of the Italian cheese blend, ½ of the parmesan cheese, and ½ of the basil leaves. Then layer with more eggplant and top with another cup or cup and a half of sauce to cover. Add remaining basil leaves and push them partially into the sauce. Top with the remaining Italian cheese and then sprinkle the rest of the parmesan on top. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
*Little Yellow Note: This recipe serves about 4, but there will be about 1 cup of extra tomato sauce. You can freeze it for next time or use it a yummy pasta dish later in the week! Or, you can double the amount by simply using one more large eggplant, doubling the cheese, and finding a larger baking dish.
From The Little Yellow Kitchen,