It’s been awhile since I’ve done a food-related blog entry.
Last week I was watching a morning talk show program and they made eggplant parm and of course I suddenly had to have some. I love fried foods but I hate frying. All of that hot oil spitting up at me from the frying pan freaks me out so I either buy fried foods pre-made or I use no-fry recipes whenever possible.
Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen, a tried and true source for great recipes, has a really great recipe for Eggplant Parmesan recipe that calls for baking the breaded eggplants in the oven instead of frying them. I’ve used their recipe before and you have to make your own breadcrumbs and tomato sauce from scratch.
This is the recipe:
Why this recipe works:
We wanted our eggplant Parmesan recipe to be a fresher, lighter take on the classic Italian version—meaty slices of eggplant with a crisp and substantial (but not heavy) coating, napped with a simple tomato sauce, and well-flavored with Parmesan cheese. For our eggplant Parmesan recipe, we wound up skipping the frying altogether, instead baking the slices that had been coated in flour, eggs, and bread crumbs seasoned with Parmesan cheese. We then layered the eggplant with a simple tomato sauce, leaving the top layer of eggplant exposed so it stayed crisp.
Serves 6 to 8
Use kosher salt when salting the eggplant. The coarse grains don’t dissolve as readily as the fine grains of regular table salt, so any excess can be easily wiped away. To be time-efficient, use the 30 to 45 minutes during which the salted eggplant sits to prepare the breading, cheeses, and sauce.
- 2 pounds globe eggplant (2 medium eggplants), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 8 slices high-quality white bread (about 8 ounces), torn into quarters
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 generous tablespoon)
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves chopped
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 8 ounces whole milk mozzarella or part-skim mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
- 10 fresh basil leaves torn, for garnish
1. FOR THE EGGPLANT: Toss half of eggplant slices and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt in large bowl until combined; transfer salted eggplant to large colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and kosher salt, placing second batch in colander on top of first. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.
2. While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor to fine, even crumbs, about fifteen 1-second pulses (you should have about 4 cups). Transfer crumbs to pie plate and stir in 1 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; set aside. Wipe out bowl (do not wash) and set aside.
3. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour; seal bag and shake to coat eggplant. Remove eggplant slices, shaking off excess flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with bread crumb mixture; set breaded slices on wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
4. Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 tablespoons oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of breaded eggplant on each sheet in single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.
5. FOR THE SAUCE: While eggplant bakes, process 2 cans diced tomatoes in food processor until almost smooth, about 5 seconds. Heat olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of diced tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes (you should have about 4 cups). Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. TO ASSEMBLE: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp; sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately.
The reicpe’s a little involved but the results are delicious. The baked, breaded eggplant slices end up with crispy surfaces just like you’d fried them but without the heavy, greasiness of frying. This time though I wanted to save myself some time and effort. I decided to use store-bought seasoned Italian breadcrumbs and jarred tomato sauce which eliminated a lot of steps.
Note: if you’re thinking of doing the same, you need to watch the time carefully. Since dried breadcrumbs are -obviously- drier than breadcrumbs made with fresh bread, they’ll crisp up and burn more quickly. Baking time will depend on your oven. With mine, the breaded eggplant slices took 15 minutes per side to crisp. Also, dried breadcrumbs will absorb a lot of tomato sauce compared to fresh breadcrumbs so you’ll probably have to increase the amount of sauce that the recipe requires or else you’ll end up with a dry eggplant parm. For the three medium eggplants I used, I needed to use almost two full 24oz jars of tomato sauce. Next time I’m going to try the recipe using Japanese panko breadcrumbs. I think that’ll give the eggplant parmesan more crunch on the surface and an even less heavy feeling, and it probably won’t absorb and require as much tomato sauce.
I had three large eggplants in the fridge that needed to get used soon before they spoiled. The recipe only calls for two eggplants so that’s why I ended up with so much eggplant parm. No prob. It freezes well 😀
I threw together a quick salad with some Romaine lettuce, some random fruits from the fruit bowl (oranges, apples, grapes), and Italian dressing to go on the side.
My sister would freak at the way I’ve plated things. She likes her foods to be separate and distinct. According to her, no two foods should ever touch each other so she’d prefer the salad to be in a separate bowl. Me, I don’t care. I’m more “buffet style” and just pile everything onto one plate.
And, guess what, it’s Girl Scout Cookie time!
As I was heading from the parking lot to the supermarket entrance I was swarmed by a Girl Scout troop. Normally, I wouldn’t buy any of their cookies. The cookies I’ve tried before tend to be much too sweet for my tastes (e.g. Samoas/Caramel Delights, Thin Mints, Tagalongs) and expensive for what they are. But I heard that this year they were going to be selling a new lemon cookie which really piqued my interest.
I love desserts that are lemony and a little sour such as lemon tarts, lemon curd, and lemon squares. I’ve bought the Lemon Chalet Creme Girl Scout cookies before and I like them but they’re still a little sweet for me so I was hoping these new cookies, the Savannah Smiles, would hit the spot.
According to the Girl Scouts the new Savannah Smiles are “bite-sized, lemon wedge cookies, dusted in powdered sugar, […] bursting with zesty lemon flavor.”
I’ve read that the Savannah Smiles are actually a renamed, retired cookie called Lemon Coolers but I don’t think the troops near me ever sold that variety so the Savannah Smiles are totally new to me.
I purchased one box for $4 and I have to say I really like them. The Savannah Smiles cookies are hard and crisp, kind of like Nabisco Nilla Wafers, Animal Crackers, or European-style tea biscuits, and they have a nice sweet lemon flavor with a zippy tartness to balance things out.