This is a different kind of eggplant “parmigiana.” You’ll notice there isn’t any mozzarella and very little Parmesan. While this recipe calls for a lot of preparation ahead of time, there’s no fussy breading or layering steps. The presentation is fun – there’s an eggplant on my plate! The flavor is large and delicious. This is not a quick dish – don’t think that – but you can easily make most of it ahead of time and hold it until you want to serve it.
I paired this with polenta which cooperatively had to bake for the exact amount of time and at the same temperature as the eggplant. Topped with an arugula salad, it made a whole meal.
Eggplant and filling:
5 small eggplants, about 7 oz. each
1 1/2 c. tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tbls. chopped herbs – basil, oregano, and/or parsley
1 1/2 tbls. butter
4 1/2 tbls. AP flour
1 1/2 c. milk
3/4 tsp. salt
a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg
1/8 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1/8 c. breadcrumbs
- Wash eggplants and place whole on a baking sheet. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes. (This will soften the eggplant enough to enable you to scoop out the flesh but won’t ruin the skin.)
- After the eggplants have cooled a bit. Rest them on your cutting board and see where they sit naturally. (Which side wants to be the top?) Cut a lid in the top side of your eggplant. (Use the same technique you’d use for a stuffed potato. Check the photo here.)
- Cut the flesh from the lid and discard that piece of skin. Use a spoon to scoop the rest of the flesh out of all the eggplants. Discard one of the eggplant shells. (You need the flesh from five eggplants to make four eggplants to serve.) Place the remaining four eggplant shells back on your baking sheet to await filling.
- Rough chop the eggplant flesh.
- Drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add eggplant. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and a few dashes of pepper. Cook covered, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. Toss in garlic and stir around once or twice.
- Add tomato sauce and herbs. Cook for three minutes. Remove from heat.
- Stuff the shells with this tomato eggplant mixture.
*Stop here, if you’re making this ahead of time. Hold the eggplants in the refrigerator until needed.
- Bake filled eggplants for 10 minutes at 450F.
- While your eggplants are baking, prepare the sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, salt, and nutmeg. Cook four more minutes. If you like, pass the sauce through a sieve once. Keep on low heat, if necessasry.
- To make the topping, mix breadcrumbs with about one tbls. of olive oil and then mix in cheese.
- Pull the eggplants out of the oven. Top with white sauce and sprinkle with topping.
- Bake for 20 more minutes.
- Alternatives to the tomato sauce recipe above include roasted vegetable sauce or a quick sauce using canned tomatoes.
- Polenta is a good match for this meal. To make, add 2 cups polenta to 6 cups boiling water and 1 tsp. of salt. Simmer over very low for 25 minutes. Spread into an oiled 9X13 pan. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Flip over on cutting board. Slice. Bake for 20 minutes at 450F. If browning is desired, broil for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time.
It’s definitely hard to find an eggplant around here, but when I do, I tend to agonize about just the right way to fix it. I really want to savor it. Nine times out of ten, I return to my favorite eggplant preparation, dipped in breadcrumbs and crisped in the oven.
Baking eggplant instead of frying it is a trick my mom perfected years ago, but others are just now coming to this conclusion. On Mark Bittman’s blog, which I enjoy reading now and then, the technique was hidden in an article about improving Eggplant Parmesan. You could certainly use the recipe below as a starter for that main dish. I am of the opinion, however, that it’s good enough to eat alone. Technically, you would serve this eggplant as an appetizer. Put it on a platter with other breaded vegetables (zucchini and mushrooms are nice), serve with a zippy red sauce, and watch it disappear. Or, if you’re like me, eat more than your fair share and call it dinner.
Mom’s Baked Eggplant
All measurements are approximate. Mix according to your taste and needs.
one medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch sticks
about 1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs
about 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated finely
1/2 tsp dried or fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. salt + more to taste
1 cup flour
1/4 c. milk
- Preheat your oven to 475F.
- On a plate, mix the flour with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. On a second plate, mix breadcrumbs, cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt, herbs, and a sprinkle of pepper. In a small bowl, scramble your egg and milk.
- Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with a piece of parchment and spraying it with olive oil.
- Dip each stick in the following manner: egg, flour, egg, breadcrumb. Place gently on the prepared tray, with at least a finger’s width between each one (to allow for proper browning.)
- When finished, evenly spray with olive oil.
- Bake for about 15 minutes. (There is no need to flip, if you’ve properly preheated.)
- Substitute zucchini easily for this recipe. Sometimes I like to cut it into half-moon shapes instead of sticks. Voila! Zucchini nuggets.
- Looking for a cheap kitchen gadget that will change your life? Try this.
- If you’re making a large batch, you might try putting the flour and breadcrumb mixture into plastic bags. You can shake a few sticks at a time to coat. It’s messy but efficient.
- You can make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, but not for long. Also, this eggplant is best eaten right out of the oven while it’s still crispy.
Oh, how I love eggplant. Here’s an easy summer sauce to serve over pasta.
about 4 medium size tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
one ball of fresh mozzarella, chopped into small pieces
olive oil, salt, pepper
optional: fresh basil and/or oregano
- Prepare the veggies. Slice off the ends and remove skin of eggplant with a sharp knife. Cut into one-inch dice. Wash and slice tomatoes into chunks. Peel and mince garlic.
- Heat a skillet over medium low and then add 2 tbls. olive oil. When the oil is hot, add eggplant, salt, and pepper. Saute for about 4 minutes, tossing often. Your eggplant will begin to soften and look translucent. It’s best to taste it at this point to see if it’s too your liking. Add tomato and garlic. Stir until the tomato is just soft.
- Lower heat. Add the mozzarella and herbs. Stir until the cheese is just melted. Serve over fresh pasta or crusty grilled bread.