Monday, July 5, 2010

Meatless Monday | Eggplant Parmesan

Ugh, this post started as a background story on how I came to eat the way I do now. But it was turning into a memoir, and I would like to keep some of my life a mystery. Basically, over the last few years I have realized the importance of eating fresh vegetables and high quality ingredients. I am not a vegetarian, but I don't eat a lot of meat. I do not believe meat is evil, I believe the modern meat industry is. I read a great article on Civil Eats about this topic, please read it here. The author explains Meatless Monday campaign in a way that makes sense. It's not just PETA protesters throwing paint on hummers, it's also people who want quality nutritious meat that doesn't have huge environmental impacts. She also points out, if you eat less meat on an every day/every meal basis - then you can afford to buy the better quality. She has definitely inspired me to really step up the quality of my meat.

So every Monday I will post a new meatless recipe. Today's recipe is a very in season and yummy classic, Eggplant Parmesan. I got it from the William-Sanoma cookbook Cooking for Yourself. It's not the deep fried version that grandma makes, but something a little more waistline friendly. Don't worry... there is cheese on it! And there is a very cool homemade tomato sauce with it (perfect for the bountiful crops here in Alabama). I made this last week while Dennis was out of town. One of my friends from college came over and ate with me. We caught up, ate, and drank wine. It was good times.

It's pretty easy to make. Takes about an hour from start to finish. The recipe claims to serve one, but I think my eggplants may have been bigger than what the writers intended. They probably purchased the cookie cutter produce from some upscale market. Mine came from a local farm through my Grow Alabama box. Maybe if I ate only the casserole, it could have passed as a single serving. But I actually got about 3 servings out of it. If Dennis had been there, it would have been a solid two. He is bummed he missed out and I've promised to make it the next time I get eggplant. This time last year I got eggplant on a regular basis until about September.

The recipe calls for grated Roma tomatoes. I did not use Roma, I used whatever the tomato was in my box. And I put mine through the food processor. Easy peasy. I did add a pinch of chili flakes to my sauce and one extra clove of garlic, but that was it. At first, I didn't think there would be enough sauce, but it was just the right amount. For kicks, I added the left over breadcrumbs from the Spaghetti with Fried Eggs recipe. This recipe instantly earned it's spot in my soon to be made binder.

I served it with whole wheat pasta and a cucumber salad.

The ingredients, tres simple.
Testing out my new cast iron griddle pan.

Making the sauce.

Fresh out of the oven.

Eggplant Parmesan
(Serves 1-2)

2 Asian Eggplants, 6-8 oz total weight
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and ground pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup grated plum (Roma) tomatoes
4 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
2/3 cup shredded whole-milk mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat a broiler (griller).

2. Trim ends off the eggplants, then cut lengthwise into slices ¼ inch thick. Using the 1 tablespoon olive oil, lightly brush both sides of the eggplant slices and arrange on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Slip under the broiler and broil (grill) until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Turn and broil until lightly browned on the second side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer the slices to paper towels to drain.

3. Preheat an oven to 375F.

4. In a small frying pan over medium heat, warm the 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute to release its fragrance. Add the tomato and basil and season with salt and pepper. Simmer briskly, stirring often, until the mixture forms a sauce, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

5. Choose a baking dish just large enough to hold the eggplant in 2 layers. Arrange half of the eggplant in the baking dish, then spread with half of the tomato sauce. Top with half of the mozzarella. Repeat the layers, then top with the Parmesan cheese.

6. Bake until bubbling hot and the cheese is nicely browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before eating.

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