July 19, 2022. Finally cooled down enough to turn on the oven. Just in time for the abundant supply of Summer eggplant at Farmers Markets. At seasonally low prices. ‘Tis the season for Summer Eggplant Parmigiana.
You want to make this the way the great Marco Canora does it in his wonderful book, Salt To Taste. The bright tomato and fresh basil flavors make this taste like Summer. And the eggplant – ripe and luscious – is not breaded. So it’s light. Much lighter than the classic Italian-American restaurant version with as much breading as eggplant. Breadcrumbs that retain a lot of olive oil. I just couldn’t do that to the beautiful eggplant that just arrived in our CSA farm share.
This is very simple and pretty quick. You can put it together in about twenty minutes. Fry the eggplant slices in olive oil while you get the tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, basil and oregano ready for the baking pan.
I used a small loaf pan, 10″ x 6″. Made more than enough for dinner for two. The leftovers were great, warmed up, a day later. So you can make this in advance and refrigerate it.
2 small eggplants
8 whole peeled tomatoes, canned
1 tablespoon of thinly sliced garlic
2 tablespoons of chopped oregano
1/4 cup or more of torn basil leaves
1/2-cup of grated parmigiano reggiano
4 – 6 ounces of fresh mozzarella
While you slice the eggplant into half-inch thick discs, preheat your oven to 350 F. And heat up a quarter-inch of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
When the oil is hot and shimmying but not smoking, fry the eggplant slices until they’re golden brown. A few minutes on each side. Then drain them on a paper towel and salt to taste. You’ll do two or three batches.
Now assemble the layers of ingredients. Crush two tomatoes by hand, right above your pan. After you’ve squeezed the juice out, tear the tomatoes into pieces and make the bottom layer. Then add a half dozen or so of the garlic slices and sprinkle a pinch of the oregano and a light dusting of the grated parmigiano cheese on top. A little salt and pepper, too. Then a layer of thin mozzarella slices.
Next up: some of the torn basil leaves, then a layer of the fried eggplant slices. Now two more crushed and torn tomatoes, topped by a layer of thin mozzarella slices. Repeat the seasonings: oregano, parmigiano, salt and pepper. Then another layer of eggplant. Two more crushed, torn tomatoes on top of that. Basil. And another layer of fresh mozzarella. And season again.
Almost done. A final layer of eggplant. Two more tomatoes. Basil. A lot of mozzarella. And the final seasoning. Into the oven for 40 minutes, until it’s very bubbly and the cheese begins to lightly brown around the edges.
It’s very hot and juicy, so let it rest for at least 15 minutes before you try to slice and serve it. Spoon the juice onto the slices. It’s a light, bright, herbaceous tomato sauce. On top of a rich, slightly gooey but amazingly light parmigiana. The eggplant is melting. The tomato is bright and sweet. Everything smells like fresh basil.
$3.50 per serving for a light, bright, sweet, herbaceous, rich, luscious and gooey main course. No breading. No oil. Low glycemic load.
The Olive Garden wants $15.95 for their fried, breaded version (it comes with spaghetti). More than four times the price of your own fresh, melting and luscious version. As usual, Better is Cheaper.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.
Buy your vegetables from a farmer. “In 2006, 19 cents of every dollar spent on U.S.-grown food went to the farmer for the raw food inputs …” (USDA Economic Research Service). The other 81 cents? Marketing and transportation.
Just the recipe
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