Thursday, April 5, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

I love sandwiches. Enveloping something in delicious bread just seems like such a great strategy for success! Of all the sandwiches that I typically make, Tricia's favorite is my eggplant parm. Go figure - the only vegetarian sandwich that I ever make (not counting grilled cheese of course)! This past weekend, I was trying to think of a simple meal, and I resorted to this trusty sandwich. The keys to making this delicious are properly cooking the eggplant, making a delicious marinara sauce, and choosing the right bread. All of these are incredibly easy, and I hope you give it a shot! And for those of you that are thinking, "eggplant? not my favorite thing..." I urge you try this - when cooked correctly, it's delicious.

The ingredients for this one are simple:

- 1 loaf of good quality, crusty, Italian bread - I tend to favor sesame seeds on the bread myself

- 1 medium sized eggplant - when picking eggplant, feel it to determine how could it is; it should be springy to your hand and not too heavy (hard and heavy = old and seedy) - avoid bruised eggplant

- 8-12 campari or other vine ripened tomatoes - for making great marinara, fresh and juicy tomatoes go a long way

- a few leaves of basil

- a few handfuls of mozzarella cheese

- parmesan (obviously!)

- seasonings: crushed red pepper, granulated/fresh garlic, Italian herbs, panko bread crumbs

Start by preparing the eggplant. We want it to be cooked through, so that its flavors come out and it is not hard in the middle. Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the eggplant into 1/4" slices. Toss them in olive oil, a healthy sprinkling of salt, a few teaspoons of Italian herbs, garlic and crushed red pepper to taste. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. To give them some crisp, I like to coat them in panko at this point - this is optional:

The eggplant will need to cook 20-25 minutes until lightly browning and being cooked through. In the meantime, we can start on the sauce. Dice your tomatoes first. I like my sauce chunky, so I cut them large (I quartered these medium sized tomatoes), but this can be done to preference. If you had grape tomatoes on hand, you could even cook them whole. Mince about 3 tsp of garlic, and rough chop your basil.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it start to shimmer, add the garlic and cook until just fragrant. Add your tomatoes in, and stir. Allow the tomatoes to cook a few minutes at which point they will start giving off all of there water. At this stage, you can use a wooden spoon to crush them a bit to form the sauce. You can also add some tomato puree or crushed tomatoes to add body. Next, add the basil, 1 tablespoon of Italian herbs, crushed red pepper to your heart's desire, and salt to taste. Stir to mix, reduce heat to simmer, and cover the sauce. Done!

 Now back to our eggplant. When they are fully cooked, they'll look like this:

Try one to make sure it's cooked through. Now it's time to assemble our sandwich. If you used an entire eggplant, you will easily be able to fill an entire loaf. Again, I put major emphasis on using a really good crusty bread with soft interior:

Start by layering your eggplant in the bottom. The more, the better, so go ahead and put it all in there. Next, ladle in as much sauce as you like. Finally top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan. Close it up, and let it go back in the oven for about 8 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy on the outside. Cut it up and dig in!


  1. I'll definitely try this!

  2. Probably one of my favorite dishes of all time. Eggplants are so delicious, available year-round. And who doesn't like crispy, fresh bread smeared with rich marinara sauce?