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A long time ago I met the most amazing Italian grandmother. She was born in Rome and spoke about her amazing life with her family. How her mother taught her how to make pasta from scratch (I will write about that another time). How she would help her family in the kitchen, cooking and preparing meals for everyone. She spoke of her family with such love and nostalgia; I was blessed to have known her and understood her love for cooking. I will truly miss her.
She taught me to make sauce from scratch, how to bread chicken properly, and even how to take the bitterness out of eggplant. The key to making a perfect eggplant Parmesan is to slice the eggplant thin and then sprinkle it with kosher salt…then it bake in the sun for an hour. When you return, you will see water seeping from it. That is the bitter part of the vegetable. Once it has sunbaked, wash off the slices and follow the recipe.
I promise if you follow this rule, you will never get enough of eggplant Parmesan. My family craves this constantly, and my children don’t even know that they are eating something healthy (well...slightly healthy; it is fried). But this is such a comforting food that I love to serve with rice. I do hope that you enjoy.
1. Follow my directions above to get the bitter out of the eggplant.
2. While the eggplant is draining, prepare tomato sauce. Combine tomatoes, garlic, and 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside. (I prefer to make the sauce the day before.)
3. When eggplant has drained, press down on it to remove excess water, wipe off the excess salt, and lay the slices out on paper towels to remove all the moisture. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine flour and breadcrumbs. Mix well. Pour beaten eggs into another wide, shallow bowl. Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat, and pour in a half inch of olive oil. When oil is shimmering, dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour mixture, then in the beaten egg. Working in batches, slide coated eggplant into hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Drain on paper towels.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In the bottom of a 10x15-inch glass baking dish, spread 1 cup of tomato sauce. Top with one third of the eggplant slices. Top eggplant with half of the mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with one third of the Parmesan and half of the basil leaves.
5. Make a second layer of eggplant slices, topped by 1 cup of sauce, remaining mozzarella, half the remaining Parmesan, and all of the remaining basil. Add remaining eggplant, and top with the remaining tomato sauce and Parmesan.
6. Bake until cheese has melted and the top is slightly brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
Until next time…Samantha Bann