Lovin’ Fresh is a series of recipes designed to showcase produce gathered from local farms or grown in my own garden.
Without fail, every trip to a diner sees eggplant parmesan on my plate. I mean, seriously, you could bet your entire life savings on me getting eggplant parmesan – for me it’s the quintessential diner food. It also gives me terrible heartburn afterwards, which no doubt begs the question – why do I repeat the experience every single time? Well folks, I love the combination of breaded goodness with marinara sauce and cheese. If I ate chicken, I might switch it up once in awhile but those days are behind me. So it is that I routinely take on the heartburn demons for the sake of melty crispy indulgence.
That is until I discovered this recipe, which brings together all the delights of my beloved eggplant parmesan without the dreaded after-effects. I’d love to tell you where I got the recipe, but it’s one of those that I scribbled down on a piece of paper and put in “my” cookbook – a battered (both figuratively and literally thanks to all those food bits attaching themselves when I have it out to make a recipe) spiral notebook stuffed full of handwritten slips, newspaper clippings and torn magazine pages. Anyway, the recipe has morphed greatly over the many times I’ve made it so it probably matters little where I originally got it. By the way, do any of you keep a similarly crazy haphazard collection of clipped/torn out recipes? My mom always had one so it seems normal to me, but I’m starting to wonder if I’m just a pack rat and not this “aspiring chef collecting menu ideas” that I feign to be.
Where was I? Oh, yes, a fantastic knock-off for eggplant parmesan. If you have picky eaters at your table (i.e., kids or boyfriend), you need to give this recipe a try. Don’t forget the garlic bread on the side (slice a baguette in half, toast it in the oven, rub cut sides with a fresh garlic clove and spread on some good butter). And the leftover eggplant is excellent for lunch the next day so make some extras.
PANKO BREADED EGGPLANT SLICES
2 medium or 3 smaller eggplants
1 T. salt
2 c. panko bread crumbs
1/2 c. finely shredded parmesan cheese
2 t. finely chopped fresh basil OR oregano
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 T. milk
2 c. tomato sauce
2-3 oz. goat or feta cheese, crumbled
Partially peel eggplants, leaving on a bit of skin for color and substance. Slice eggplants into even rounds a little thicker than 1/4 inch. Lay out some paper towels and place eggplants on top in a single layer. Sprinkle generously with salt and allow to stand for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Pat eggplant slices dry with additional paper towels. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs and milk together. In a second shallow bowl, combine panko bread crumbs (crush them in your hand first to make them a bit finer), shredded parmesan cheese, herbs and pepper. Toss well with your hands to be sure to evenly distribute the cheese.
Dip each slice of eggplant in the egg and then into the bread crumb mixture. The bread crumbs might be reluctant to stick so press firmly and don’t worry if you can still see the eggplant through the crumbs. Lay breaded slices in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. Place full baking sheet in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden on the outside and tender in the middle. While eggplant is baking, bring tomato sauce up to a simmer and set out the goat or feta cheese. When ready to serve, pile eggplant slices on a plate and top with sauce and crumbled cheese. If you make extra to use for lunch the next day, store breaded eggplant and sauce separately and combine just before serving.