Farm to Feast: Eggplant Parmesan

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Eggplant Parm. It is a personal favorite of mine. It is my go-to at any decent Italian restaurant. The combination of the mushy eggplant and the cheese and the sauce...heavenly. And, since eggplants are in season right now, what better way to enjoy it. Plus, I'm adding instructions to make your own sauce. You don't have to, and can totally use a really good, chunky jarred sauce for this instead.

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Ingredients:

For the sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil

8 cloves garlic, crushed or minced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 medium red onion, diced

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup dry white wine

2- 28 oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes

1/4 cup basil (you can chiffonade or just tear into pieces--the more you mess with basil, the more it bruises)

1/2 tsp italian seasoning or dried oregano

Kosher Salt

For the Eggplant Parm:

4 lbs eggplant (you can use whichever type you prefer. For this, I used Italian Eggplants)

Kosher Salt

Bread Crumbs (preferably panic)

1 tsp italian seasoning

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese, split up

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

6 large eggs, beaten

1 1/3 cups olive oil

1/2 cup chiffonade of basil and parsley (Italian, or flat-leaf, not curly)

6 oz grated low moisture mozzarella

6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

Preparation:

Sauce:

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute´ until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil to cook out the alcohol, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes by crushing them with your hands (this is my favorite part!). Add the juice from the cans. Fill one of the empty cans about 1/2 way with water and add (this is a good way to get any residual sauce clinging to the can, out), along with the basil and seasoning. Cook on medium-low for two hours.

Season with salt and pepper

Eggplant:

Place a layer of paper towels on the bottom of a sheet pan.

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Lay eggplant slices on the paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt. Add another layer of paper towels, add another layer of eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Continue until all slices are salted and covered with paper towels. Let sit for 44 - 60 minutes.

Combine bread crumbs, parmesan, seasoning and pepper in a blender and pulse until finely ground.

Set up three bowls: one with flour, one with the eggs, one with the breadcrumb mixture.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat up the olive oil.

Dip the eggplant slices first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture, careful to shake off any excess before putting into the pan.

Pan fry in batches, until golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes), careful not to crowd the pan. (Wipe down pan in-between batches before the residual crumbs begin to burn.) Place on paper towels to absorb the oil.

Add 1 cup of the tomato sauce to the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan. Add one layer of eggplant, then add 1/3 cup of the sauce (or more, if you prefer), then sprinkle 1/3 of the parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella and Italian seasoning.  Continue layering until done.

Bake, uncovered for 25 minutes.

Increase temperature to 425°. Add sliced mozzarella to the top and return to the oven another 15 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.

*Note the huge portion already devoured before I could take a pic!

Serve with linguine and some yummy Italian bread.

Enjoy!