To be quite honest, I’m surprised a Friends reference hasn’t appeared earlier in this blog. I can quote obscure lines from the series at the drop of a hat and have a knack for relating any given real-life situation to one from the show. And I know you’re dying to know: if I had to pick a character I’m most like, it would have to be Monica (duh). I like things neat and clean (severe understatement right there) and I obviously adore cooking. Oh, and there is no steak in this recipe. I just had to throw in my random Friends reference:)
I typically like to have some sort of protein as the centerpiece of my meals. However, when I was perusing the aisles of the grocery store, I picked up an eggplant simply because it was gorgeous. Seriously, it is so shiny and purple and pretty; the picture doesn’t do it justice:
Of course, when I got home, I had no idea what I was going to do with this eggplant. On the verge of experiencing buyer’s remorse (after leaving a grocery store…with an eggplant?!), I googled a few eggplant parmesan recipes. None of them really appealed to me. Some relied too much on pan frying the eggplant, others had way too many ingredients I didn’t feel like buying, and some took around 2 or more hours to make from start to finish (no thank you). So I decided to go at this dish sans recipe, incorporating bits and pieces of a few of the recipes I read.
(Almost) all of the ingredients: 1 egg+2 tbsp water whisked together, 3/4 cup bread crumbs, 2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese blend, 1 cup standard marinara sauce from a jar, 2 tsp dried basil.
I had sliced the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices, threw some salt on each slice, piled them up in a colander, put a plate on top and a can of tomatoes to squeeze out all of the water. I let this sit for about 30 minutes to let the eggplant drain (there is a LOT of water in eggplants. Who knew?)
After taking the picture above, I threw in a bit of dried basil and oregano into the egg/water mixture before dipping the eggplant slices. After coating the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, I coated them in the breadcrumbs…
…and then pan fried them in a cast-iron skillet with a bit of olive oil, roughly 1 minute for each side to turn slightly golden brown:
I then coated a 9×13 glass pan with a very thin layer of marinara sauce, placed all of the pan fried eggplant slices in the dish, then covered everything in 8oz of shredded mozzarella, 2 tbsp dried basil, 2/3 cup shredded parmesan blend and then a little more marinara sauce (added after this picture was taken). Look at all the cheeeeeesy goodness:
I threw it into the oven at 425° for 35 minutes, until the top layer was slightly crispy and bubbled over:
And for the finished dish, I spooned more marinara sauce alongside the eggplant parmesan:
I love to wander up and down each aisle at the grocery store (my local favorites: Whole Foods, Fresh & Easy, Trader Joe’s) and usually end up taking home something new to experiment with. This time was an eggplant–I had never cooked anything with an eggplant before. I’m glad this beautiful purple vegetable (or is it a fruit because it has seeds?) caught my eye, because this is now on my list of go-to dinner recipes. The crispy cheese on top is to die for (especially if you love cheese as much as me). There are four different types in total (the parmesan blend has 3, but I’m currently blanking out on what the other 2 are). This dish is incredibly flavorful, without any of them being too overwhelming, and only using what really is just dried basil and oregano, and a ton of cheese. A perfect example of simple ingredients creating a dish that is anything but.
I highly recommend adding marinara sauce on the side of your finished eggplant parm, otherwise it might be a bit on the dry side. I survived a meal with a vegetable instead of a protein as the main dish…and it was surprisingly filling and oh SO GOOD!