If you read about caponata in last week’s post, you know why I was a pretty old guy before I tasted eggplant parmesan. Though my mother distrusted eggplant, I really think that she would have tolerated it in this classic Italian dish. Browned slices of eggplant smothered with tomato sauce and cheese. Absolutely delicious, and one of a very small handful of vegetable dishes that I will accept as a main course. Generally, in my dictionary, main course and meat start with the same letter, but some egg dishes can be main courses and eggplants are…. You get the point. Right now eggplants are going for a song at farmers markets. Get a couple and surprise the family, If they look suspicious, tell them that it has cheese and tomato sauce like pizza.
1 large or 2 medium eggplants, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 to 4 T olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce (2 eight ounce cans)
1/3 tsp. sugar
1 teaspoon dried leaf basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lb. mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Wash the eggplant and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Layer slices in a pie plate or other shallow dish and sprinkle each layer with salt. Put a weighted plate on the slices and let them sit for 30 to 60 minutes to remove the bitter juices. Drain, rinse and dry the slices .
Stir the salt and pepper into the bread crumbs and spread them on a plate. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl until lemon yellow. Dip each each slice into the beaten eggs then dredge them in the seasoned bread crumbs. Place the slices on a plate and chill for 30 to 45 minutes.
While the slices are chilling, bring the tomato sauce, sugar, basil, and oregano to a boil in a saucepan and simmer very gently for ten minutes to blend the flavors. Slice the mozzarella and grate the Parmesan. Grease the baking dish with a little olive oil. Just before you begin frying the eggplant, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a heavy skillet. Fry the eggplant slices on both sides until golden brown and drain them on paper towels. Spread 1/3 of the sauce in a greased 8 x 12 x 2-inch baking dish. Layer half of the eggplant, half of the mozzarella cheese slices, another 1/3 of the sauce, and half the grated Parmesan. Repeat the layers. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. As a main course, this recipe makes enough for four hungry people or eight to ten reluctant children.