Chris' Recipes

Bon Appetite!

Baby EggPlant Parmesan

Written By: Chris - May• 28•15

You can find fresh eggplants in the grocery store year-round, but they’re at their peak in late summer.  Even though it’s barely summer here in Minnesota, I found some fresh “Baby” eggplants at Costco! The most common variety is the large, dark-purple globe eggplant.  When you’re shopping for them, look for smooth, shiny skins with fresh-looking stems and no blemishes. The fruit itself (eggplant is actually a berry!) should feel weighty in your hand. And when you press on the skin, it should be firm but give slightly, and then bounce back.  If you’re not preparing your eggplants right away, store them in the crisper of your fridge.  If you keep eggplant too long, it can become bitter.

Egg plant is a rich source of phytochemicals, which are nutrients from plant-based foods.  I’ve read that people who eat more phytochemicals have a lower risk for heart disease.  The skin is entirely edible, and if your eggplant younger and on the smaller side, the skin can probably be left on for skillet frying or braising.  Otherwise, peel the skin because it can be a little tough in the larger ones.

I don’t prepare them often, so the first thing that came to mind was “Egg plant Parmesan”! It is really quite simple to prepare using ingredients that you have on hand, but is a little time consuming.

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Ingredients: 

3 – 4 Baby Eggplant, fresh
1 – 2 Cups Good Marinara, homemade is always best!
4 Garlic Cloves, slivered
1 Cup Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2/3 Cup Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, shredded
Flour, seasoned with Salt & Pepper
2 Eggs, whisked with 2 Tablespoons Water
1 Cups dry Italian Bread Crumbs
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning, dry
Fresh or Fresh dried Basil
Sunflower Oil, for frying
Chicken Breast, optional

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Rinse eggplant, slice off top green stem and slice into about 1 1/2  inch thick pieces.

The next decision is “To Salt or Not to Salt”.  I salt and don’t peel.  My friend Jen who’s a great cook peels and doesn’t salt!  It is a much debated topic.  Salting eggplant slices or cubes does have advantages.  For one, it draws out juices, which, particularly for older eggplants, can be bitter. It also tightens and firms up the flesh, making the eggplant less likely to soak up as much oil.  Salt adds flavor, which is a good thing since they are a little bland.  Modern varieties of the eggplants are not bitter like in the past and smaller varieties including Japanese and Chinese eggplant are probably just fine without salting.  If you’re using the globe eggplants, I suggest you experiment for yourself.

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If you choose to salt your eggplant, first slice or cube it, and then salt generously, allowing it to sit in a colander for at least a half an hour, preferably longer.  Before cooking it be sure to rinse off the salt and pat them dry with paper towel, pressing gently to remove juices. (This is particularly important when frying your eggplant slices).

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Meanwhile, prepare your red sauce.  I sauteed garlic in olive oil and used some grape tomatoes that were beginning to become to soft for my liking. (another hint: I pop these into the freezer and always add them to store-bought marinara, to doctor it up and make it more like homemade!) 

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Cook down over medium low heat until the tomatoes are soft and can be smashed into a sauce. Combine with red sauce and add herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

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Prepare a breading station with three shallow dishes.  Combine flour with salt and pepper to season.  Scramble an egg or two with a couple of tablespoons of water and combine bread crumbs of your choice with dried Italian seasoning.

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First heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Dip eggplant slices in the seasoned flour.

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Using a fork and tongs, next into the egg, and then in crumbs.  Either use remaining dipping ingredients for chicken immediately, or discard.

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Gently place them into hot oil and pan fry only two to three minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

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Spread the marinara or red sauce onto the bottom of a baking dish.  Line each of the fried egg plants overlapping only slightly if necessary to fill the dish.

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Shred the cheese and top each of the fried egg plants with a big of each variety.

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Bake in the oven, uncovered for 15 minutes.

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I prepared some breaded chicken while the egg plant was baking by pounding out chicken breasts until about a half an inch thick.  Season with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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Using a tongs, coat the chicken with the remaining breading ingredients.  (I didn’t think to keep the seasoned flour and eggs, prior to using the bread crumbs.  I would normally treat the chicken just like the egg plant steps.) Fry over medium high heat; turning once until cooked through. (160 to 165 degrees internal temperature)  

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Allow to rest for five minutes or so prior to slicing.  Serve with a side salad and fresh greens.  Asparagus is in season!

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We paired this delicious meal with a 2012 Old Vine Syrah from Gamble Family Vineyards.  So good!

Enjoy!
Cheers!
~Chris

 

 

 

 

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