Now is the time for eggplant. If there is none in your garden, surely there is plenty at the farmers market. A lot of people don’t like eggplant, but I think that’s mainly because of how it’s cooked. Eggplant is the sponge of the vegetable world; when fried, it can absorb a lot of grease and turn into an unappetizing brownish mush. But when cooked in other ways, such as broiled or grilled, eggplant is hearty and flavorful.
Eggplant parmesan is one of the dishes many people think of when they think of eggplant. Unfortunately, the eggplant is usually smothered beneath breading, heavy tomato sauce and cheese — not the epitome of a light summer dish. This version of eggplant parmesan, which I made the other night to raves, is lighter, tastier and easier than the traditional version, and it takes advantage of the garden goodness that’s so abundant right now.
Here are the differences between this recipe and the traditional dish:
- The eggplant is broiled, not fried, and it is not coated with breading.
- The tomato sauce is a quick one, preferably made with fresh tomatoes.
- Keep a light hand with the cheese.
Time to make: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Yields: about 4 servings
- 1 lg. eggplant
- olive oil for drizzling
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup or more tomato sauce, preferably made with fresh roma tomatoes (recipe)
- handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded
- 4 oz. whole-milk fresh mozzarella
- 4 oz. grated Parmesan
First prepare the tomato sauce. Amounts are approximate as I didn’t measure how much I used, but if you have the tomatoes, make extra and freeze the rest or use it for pasta.
While the sauce is cooking, preheat the broiler. Slice the eggplant into half-inch rounds. There is no need to peel or salt the eggplant, unless you suspect it may be particularly bitter. Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Drizzle lightly on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until tender, 8-10 minutes, turning once during cooking time. Set aside.
Turn the oven heat down to 425 degrees. In a casserole dish, spoon a thin layer of sauce. Add the eggplant slices in a single layer. Top with more sauce and scatter the basil over. Slice the mozzarella thinly. Layer the mozzarella on top, also in a single layer. Scatter over the Parmesan cheese.
Bake until bubbly, 20-30 minutes. Delicious served with a side of pasta.
Notes: You could easily turn this into chicken parmesan. Just cook the chicken as instructed here and substitute it for the eggplant. Thickly sliced, broiled zucchini or portobello mushrooms would also make a good substitution or addition to this dish.
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