Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

If you are a fan of the eggplant parm at your local pizza dive, clear your mind of it's former associations, and think of this as a different dish entirely. Reminiscent yes, but lighter and tangier. Using the marinara sauce made from all the extra tomatoes in your garden, (see earlier post), and the eggplants passed on to you by your wonderful friend, (who is a member of a thriving CSA, but has never developed a taste for the nightshade), you may find an even deeper love for the combination.
Grab a block of high quality parmesan, some artisan cornmeal, and your practically there.

Eggplant Parmesan:
*4 small eggplants, sliced 1/2 inch thick, lengthwise
*3 cups prepared marinara
*2 cups cornmeal and whole wheat flour for breading
*2 eggs, beaten
*sea salt and pepper
*olive oil
*parmesan for topping
*fresh basil for garnish

Place eggplant slices in a bowl of cool, salty water for 10 minutes.

Remove, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry on a dish cloth.

Spoon 1/2 cup of the marinara over the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drizzle with olive oil to coat parchment.
Mix together the cornmeal, flour and a pinch of sea salt and pepper in a rimmed plate or shallow bowl.

Whisk the 2 eggs and a splash of water in a shallow dish. Working with one slice at a time, dip the eggplant into the egg and dredge in the cornmeal mixture, coating each side. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining slices.

Generously drizzle the breaded slices with olive oil. The key is to add enough oil to make the slices crispy, but not too much to turn the breading soggy. Bake until golden and crispy.

Arrange golden slices over the bottom of baking dish. Spoon marinara over top and sprinkle with shaved parmesan. Repeat creating as many layers as you have enough eggplant for, finishing with marinara and shredded parmesan.

Reduce oven to 350. Bake until top is golden and sauce bubbles. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving. Sprinkle with chopped basil.

*The Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, in Brazil released a study showing eggplants effectiveness in treating high blood cholesterol levels. It is also a good source of folic acid and potassium, while proving to block the formation of free radicals in the body.
Botanically a close relative to tobacco, eggplant contains nicotinoid alkaloids concentrated in the seeds, creating a bitter taste. Thus the salt soak, which helps to draw out this flavor before cooking.

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