When we fry food we always try to do it outside on the side burner of our grill. While we were gone in Wisconsin (we are back in Medford, yeah!) we had our gardener take our old nasty grill to the dump. I went down to Home Depot and bought a new grill and took it home. It was in a box so I spent an hour just getting it out of the box and another 2 – 3 hours assembling it. At the end, as I was adding the side shelves, I came to the realization that it had no side burner, which made it useless to me. I ordered another one on-line and I am waiting to get it in a few days. Meanwhile I need to return the assembled grill to Home Depot, but I don’t have a truck or someone to help me load it onto a truck.
I went down to Home Depot yesterday and talked to them. Long story, but Chad from their paint department volunteered to help me load and unload it if I rented their truck. He is doing this on his day off, bless his heart. Nice people here in Medford Oregon!
I had intended to make a stir-fry recipe using eggplant and had bought the ingredients for it expecting to have a side-burner to cook it on but no side-burner. So to plan B.
I found this recipe online with a 5 star rating. I followed it pretty much to a tee, but I refuse to use cooking spray, which the recipe called for. Anything that can stay in a spray can indefinitely has to have some chemicals that you do not want to put in your body. I used avocado oil to coat the bottom of the baking sheet and drizzled some olive oil on the top of the breaded eggplant before baking. I used avocado on the bottom because it has a high smoke point and I was baking these at 400 degrees. Olive oil has a smoke point around 380 degrees so using it to coat the pan is asking for trouble. I also increased the baking time of the eggplant slices to insure they got nice and brown and crunchy. The recipe suggests using Italian seasoned panko. I supposed I could have added some Italian herbs to my plain panko, but I just used as is and everything turned out fine. Recipe suggested using chopped fresh basil but I just sprinkled some dry basil on at the end. I did not use the entire jar of marinara sauce as I believe, as does Alton Brown, there is such a thing as over-saucing Italian food.
At any rate, Laura pronounced this the “best eggplant parmesan” she has ever had. I was pretty proud as she can be a harsh judge. Try it for yourself and see. We served it with a light salad of Romaine lettuce dressed with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. By the way, it is important to allow plenty of time to sweat the eggplant with salt, if you don’t you will wind up with mushy eggplant and who wants that.
1 large eggplant, sliced 1/4″ thick – you will need 12 slices
3 eggs, beaten
8 ounces panko – you can use Italian seasoned panko if you wish, I didn’t
1 jar marinara sauce – our favorite is Mezzetta’s
16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
avocado oil, or other neutral oil
extra virgin olive oil
1. Sprinkle some salt on both sides of each slice of eggplant. Layer the slices in a colander and place the colander in your sink. Allow to sweat for 30 to 45 minutes. Rinse well with cold water to remove salt and blot dry with paper towels.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with avocado oil. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs, pressing crumbs down with fingers if needed to cover evenly. Place in a single layer on avocado-oiled baking sheet and lightly drizzle tops of breaded eggplant with olive oil. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, taking care to rotate if using multiple baking sheets, then carefully flip each slice and cook an additional 15 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
3. In a 9×13 inch baking dish spread just enough marinara to cover bottom of dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Cover each slice with a spoon full of marinara, a slice or two of mozzarella, and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Repeat with one more layer. Pour any leftover marinara and around edges of eggplant slices and top with any cheese that is left. Sprinkle basil on top.
4. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 30 minutes.