Growing up with a large Sicilian family on my father's side, I learned to love eggplant early in life. It was most commonly served sliced, dipped in egg yolks, breaded, and fried in olive oil. By layering the slices with cheese and tomato sauce, you end up with eggplant parmiggiana--a beautiful and delicious meal. Below is my recipe, adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites (Clarkson Potter/Random House, 1996):
2 large eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 24 slices total)
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated parmiggiana or romano
1/4 tsp powdered garlic
1-2 tsp dried basil
1-2 cups ricotta
1 lb sliced provolone
3-4 cups tomato sauce (about 2 28-oz cans or recipe below)
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2)Slice the eggplant. In a low-rimmed pie dish, beat the egg whites and the salt together with a fork. In another pie dish, mix the bread crumbs with the cheese, garlic, and basil.
3) Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg white mixture to coat both sides lightly. Then dip the eggplant in the bread crumb mixture to coat both sides.
4) Set each slice of dipped eggplant onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. (You'll need two cookie sheets.)
5) Bake the eggplant for 20 minutes. While the eggplant is baking, make the tomato sauce.
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
several cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 c white vermouth
2 28-oz cans chopped, diced tomatoes
1 28-oz can tomato sauce
2-3 tbsp chopped parsley
salt, pepper, and dried basil (or Italian seasoning mix), to taste
1) Heat olive oil in a large kettle. Add chopped onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
2) Add vermouth and cook off alchohol, about 3 minutes.
3) Add tomatoes and tomato sauce; stir in parsley, salt, pepper, and basil. Heat thoroughly. Set aside until you're ready to assemble the eggplant.
1) In a 9 x 13 baking dish (I use glass, a Le Creuset baking dish, or another nonreactive dish), spread about half the tomato sauce in the bottom.
2) Place about half the eggplant slices on top of the sauce in slightly overlapping rows.
3) Spread the ricotta on top of the eggplant, then add about half of the provolone slices in slightly overlapping rows.
4) Add the rest of the eggplant on top of the cheese. Cover with the rest of the tomato sauce, a light layer of the remaining bread crumbs, and the rest of the provolone. (You'll probably still have leftover bread crumbs; toss them.)
5) Bake uncovered for 35-45 minutes, until the eggplant is thoroughly heated and the cheese is nicely melted.
*This recipe amply serves 6-8 people and is a great dish to serve with a simple green salad and a baguette or two at a dinner party. Or like SJG and me, you can make it on the weekend for easily reheated lunches and dinners during the week.