Our town’s farmer market is held every Wednesday afternoon in front of a strip mall, literally almost right across from the sub division where we live. They’ll have several stalls of local farmers displaying their gardens bounty and sometimes baked goods. As much as we love to cook, you would think that we’d be lining up there every Wednesday. But the truth is, with our work schedule… it is very difficult to get there on time before they pack up and leave for the day, which is around 5 o’clock.
Last week however, Red and I decided that we would make time to stop by, even if it’s just for five minutes to see what they have left. Sometimes I have a reservation that maybe whatever left at the stalls would be of lesser quality. Boy, was I wrong! I found these gorgeous looking eggplants which I knew right away that I absolutely had to have! Red asked me what I wanted to do with eggplants and I thought of this eggplant Parmesan dish. He didn’t look too convinced, but we still went home with two eggplants in tow.
As the temperature drops outside, this is such a perfect dish to have baking inside your kitchen. It has a lot of the ingredients that satisfies the “comfort food” criteria, like marinara sauce (I like mine spicy), cheeses (I have not met a cheese I don’t like!), sliced egg plants fried in bread crumbs… and layers of them! It is great as a main dish for vegetarian meal (an alternative to vegetarian lasagna), but still hearty enough for a light supper. I used Tyler Florence’s recipe from Food Network for the eggplant part, and cheated on the sauce by using the ready to use marinara sauce from a jar– and it turned out fantastic. I also think that this will make a nice appetizer if it is baked in an individual-size gratin. Another keeper recipe that will warm up our house and tummies this winter!
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds medium eggplants, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 pounds whole ricotta
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Romano
2 pounds shredded mozzarella cheese
Combine the bread crumbs, garlic powder, and oregano in a shallow bowl; season generously with salt and pepper and mix well. Crack 3 of the eggs into another shallow bowl; season with salt and pepper and beat with a fork to mix. Put the flour in another shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the eggplant, flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs on a work surface near the stove.
Heat about 1/4-inch olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, dredge several eggplant slices first in the flour, then dip them in the egg, and finally coat them in the bread crumbs. Put as many eggplant in the skillet as will fit comfortably in a single layer and cook until tender and well browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Cook all of the eggplant slices this way, adding more olive oil to the pan as needed.
Stir together the ricotta and 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano cheese. Stir in the basil and remaining 2 eggs, and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To assemble the dish, first get yourself set up with a large, buttered baking dish. Have ready the eggplant, the ricotta mixture, the tomato sauce, the shredded mozzarella cheese and the remaining 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano. To start, spoon some of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Now add a layer of eggplant. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Spoon another layer of tomato sauce over and sprinkle with about one-third of the mozzarella. Repeat with a layer of eggplant, the rest of the ricotta, tomato sauce, and another third of the mozzarella. Finish with the rest of the eggplant, the rest of the tomato sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella. Sprinkle with the 3/4 cup Parmigiano.
Put the dish in the oven and bake for about 1 hour, until golden and bubbling. Let stand for about 20 minutes before cutting.