Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

I LOVE Eggplant Parmesan. It’s probably one of my absolute favorite meals! Talk about a cold-weather comfort food! YUM.

If you’ver never tried eggplant because you are leary about it… THIS is the way to have your first taste!  How could you not like it? I mean anything smothered in marinara sauce and cheese HAS to taste delicious! :)

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Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:
1 Jar of your Favorite Red Sauce (I personally love all of the Bertolli or Classico flavors)
1 Large (1 LB) Can Whole Tomatoes - Coursely Chopped, reserving the liquids
1 TBS Olive Oil
6-8 Cloves Garlic - Grated
1/2 Medium Onion - Diced
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp dried Oregano
1/4 tsp dried Basil
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Dash of Cayenne (optional)
1 Scant TBS of Sugar

For the Eggplant:
2 Medium Eggplants
2/3 Cup Whole Wheat Panko Bread Crumbs
1/2 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs
2/3 Cup Flour
1 Egg plus 2 Egg Whites
Salt and Pepper to taste

Other:
Pasta of Choice (Rotini, Spaghetti, Penne, etc...) - Cooked according to box instructions, right before you are ready to serve the Eggplant Parmesan
Olive Oil
Freshly Grated Mozzerella Cheese (1-2 Cups)
Fresh Basil (6-8 Leaves) - Chiffanoded

Directions:

Cut the tops & bottoms off of the Eggplant. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the strips from the eggplant, leaving small bits of the purple 'skin' in between. Slice the Eggplant crosswise into 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick rounds. Line a baking sheet (or two) with paper towels and lay the eggplant rounds in one even layer (be sure they don't overlap). Sprinkle thoroughly with salt and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes and then flip and repeat with the other side. This process draws the moisture out of the eggplant which helps them crisp up when baked in the oven!

While you are waiting on the eggplant to release some of its moisture, go ahead and heat up 1 TBS of olive oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and saute until it begins to soften (about 5-8 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes, watching closely as to not burn it! Add the chopped tomatoes (& juices) and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Last add the jar of sauce and all of the Seasonings (garlic powder. pepper, salt, oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and Sugar). Turn heat down and allow to simmer until ready to use. The longer it simmers, the better the flavors will meld together - a good 30 minutes should do the trick!

Next, set up an assembly line (using 3 pie plates or other similar shallow dishes) to coat the eggplant. In the 1st pie plate, add the flour and season with a little salt and pepper. In the 2nd pie plate, beat the egg and the egg whites together. In the 3rd pie plate, mix the Panko Bread Crumbs with the Italian Bread Crumbs.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place 1-2 TBS of olive oil in each of the baking sheets and tilt until the oil coats the entire surface. Place oiled baking sheets into the oven and allow the oil to heat up.

One at a time (using tongs or a fork), dredge each piece of eggplant in the flour, then the egg mixture, and then thoroughly coat with the Panko/Bread Crumb Coating. Set aside and repeat until all of the eggplant is coated well. Remove pre-heated baking sheets from the oven and place the coated eggplant rounds in an even layer. Bake on 400 for about 20-25 minute, flipping halfway through (you may need to add another TBS of olive oil when you do so). Once the eggplant is golden and crisp, remove from oven.

Turn heat down to 350°. Spray a large oven safe baking dish with non-stick spray (Note: You may need to use 2 baking dishes). Pour a spoon full or two of the sauce into the bottom of the dish (making sure there is a thin layer coating the bottom). Place the eggplant into the dish next and then ladle on more of the sauce. Last, sprinkle the cheese, followed by the fresh basil. Place back into the oven and bake until cheese melts (about 5-8 minutes). Remove and serve with hot pasta that has been tossed with the remaining sauce.

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