Monday, September 1, 2008

Weekend dinner: Baked eggplant parmesan

On the whole, our first CSA experience has been wonderful. It has taught me the true meaning of "The Omnivore's Dilemma:" when faced with thousands of out-of-season, shipped-across-the-country options, how would anyone be able to decide what to have for dinner? But when faced with a few in-season, at-their-best local ingredients, the choices become a whole lot easier. I find that I waste less, and I eat better food. Not to mention the reduction of stress when presented with the question of what to eat. The weekly CSA box has also introduced me to some new favorites (beet greens! turnips!), heightened my admiration for old ones (tomatoes! snap peas! potatoes!), and forced me to eat some veggies I used to say I didn't like (peppers, radishes, eggplant).

To deal with the four small Japanese eggplant we got in last week's box, I decided to make eggplant parmesan. It seemed the safest route -- I'd never had it before, but I'd heard that the eggplant is so disguised by all the breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, and cheese that you could be eating styrofoam and you wouldn't know it. I searched for a baked version, primarily to avoid the mess of frying, secondarily to make it a tad bit healthier. Martha's version did quite well. While I don't know that I'll be purchasing eggplant on my own free will any time soon, I will definitely make this again next year when the eggplant turns up in the CSA box.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Olive oil, for baking sheets
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plan dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (I accidentally left this out!)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced
6 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (I used fresh; I learned a good trick recently. Before grating or slicing fresh mozzarella, which often tears, freeze it for about 15 minutes before using. It's a very moist cheese, so it will get a little bit hard and be easier to work with.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tbsp water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil; season with salt and pepper.

Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off; then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well. Place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until golden brown on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400 degrees.

Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9x13 baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella; sprinkly with remaining parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes.

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