Week Night Yum Yum: Easy Eggplant Parmesana

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's summer time!!!! And that means the best tomatoes, basil and eggplant you'll get the entire year. And those ingredients immediately sends me into Eggplant Parmesana mode.

The traditional eggplant parmesana involves a laborious basic breading system -- flour, egg, bread crumbs, then fry it up -- which with two kids, I frankly don't have the time, space and patience to do. I've found you can get the same delicious taste without the hassle and calories of the whole breading step by just frying up the eggplant dusted in a little bit of seasoned flour. That's it. Then top with marinara sauce (homemade or store bought), low-fat cheese and fresh basil. It's easy to make, relatively healthy, and best part is you can get your kids to eat eggplant!

Easy Eggplant Parmesana
1 medium eggplant
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
about 2 cups of marinara sauce
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
about 3/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the top and end off of the eggplant. Slice it into 1/2 inch thick rounds. You should end up with around 12 "disks." Set aside.

Combine the flour, salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes if using) in a shallow dish. Set aside.

Take the largest fry pan you have (or two medium-sized ones) and place a good amount of olive oil in the bottom. You want enough to cover in a layer the whole bottom of the pan. Heat on high heat until very hot. Take each eggplant round and coat it in the flour mixture, dust off any excess. Once the oil if very hot, carefully slice the eggplant into the oil and cook until golden browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. You will probably have to do this in batches, so make sure you discard any oil from the prior batch as the flour will brown it and give it a bitter taste. Always fry in new oil.

While the eggplant is frying, place about 1 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a lasagna dish. Smooth it out with a spatula, creating an even layer. As the eggplant gets fried, layer them in the lasagna dish. It's ok if they overlap. It should look like this:

Top the fried eggplant with the rest of the marinara. You don't need to cover every inch of the eggplant. The point is you have sauce on the bottom and sauce on the top to help keep the eggplant moist while it cooks in the oven. Then top with the chopped basil, parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and melted completely.

Let stand for 3 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve hot!
My Notes:
For an even healthier version you can grill your eggplant. Cut the eggplant thinner (about 1/4 inch thick) and brush with olive oil. Give a quick grill and layer with sauce and cheese as directed above.
If you want a more substantial dish for a main course, you can add a layer of cooked Italian sausage on top of the eggplant. Either sliced up thinly or out of the casing is fine.
This is very make-ahead friendly. You can make it the day before even and cover and bake off when ready. You can even freeze it! Prepare everything and instead of baking it, let it cool to room temperature. Cover very well with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze. Just add another 15 minutes or so to your cooking time if using a frozen version.

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