Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

There is no doubt that the picky eating that I stuck with in my youth was inherited from my daddy. My brother, sister and I learned "eeewww" from the best, and we're all slowly recovering from that in our adulthood. I was recently talking to my dad about my vegetable delivery service and how it made me realize how much I really love eggplant. I got a classic crinkly nose from my daddy, and even as I tried to explain that if it is cooked properly, eggplant is delicious, he kept arguing that he just KNOWS he doesn't like it, no matter how it is cooked (along with all squash, all of which, he says, is too squishy). Really, I'm happy with more eggplant for me! I've learned some tricks, including buying eggplant on the smaller side and slicing/salting/sitting for a little bit (and rinsing) before using in a recipe. All of this keeps the texture just firm enough and the flavor slightly sweet. I found this recipe on Cooking This and That and thought it would be the perfect way to use the small eggplants I received in my vegetable delivery basket (one of my last ones before I chose to cancel for the winter). As I'm reading the recipe to see what I changed, I realize that I changed quite a lot! I made these into stacks, but didn't create a lasagna style filling the way the original recipe called for. This is baked, not fried, but still had lots of flavor. After baking, I just stacked up the eggplant disks with a spoonful of (heated) pasta sauce and one leaf of fresh basil. The top slice received a generous amount of mozzarella before I covered the pan to simmer and melt everything together. My husband, who likes eggplant okay, but isn't a huge fan, thought this was a great Eggplant Parmesan. I will definitely make this again next summer when eggplant is in season again.

Eggplant Parmesan Stacks (adapted from Bite This via Cooking This and That )
2 lbs of eggplant (two small) sliced into 1/2 inch disks
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup bread crumbs (I used standard Italian Seasoned)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cooking Spray
1 24 oz jar pasta sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Place slices of eggplant into a colander. Sprinkle salt on both sides and allow to sit about 15 minutes. Rinse to remove salt and any "goop" that develops, then dry each slice well. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set up dipping trays: one tray with the lightly beaten egg, one with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese mixed together. Dip each eggplant slice in egg and then bread crumbs, flipping to cover both sides. Place each slice on a cookie cooling rack on top of a foil lined cookie sheet (this set up allows for really crispy oven fried goodness, I highly recommend it!). Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and crispy, rotating once. Meanwhile, gently heat pasta sauce in a large skillet. Dip both sides of eggplant in the sauce, then top with a basil leaf before stacking with the next sauce dipped eggplant slice. Continue until 3-4 slices high, then top with about a 1/4 cup of mozzarella. Repeat with other eggplant slices until you have 4 stacks. Cover and simmer until mozzarella is just melted. Serve with pasta and remaining sauce.

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