Summertime brings all kinds of new opportunities for cooking…All the fresh vegetables and herbs with their bright colors creating such savory flavors! It truly is my favorite time of the year to be a personal chef and I couldn’t wait to have my first taste of one of my favorite seasonal vegetables..Eggplant! On a recent episode of Giada At Home on The Food Network Challenge, I watched as she created mini eggplant parmesans that looked so crisp and tasty; I knew I had to try it!
My first hurdle was the inability to find mini eggplants without going to several different stores so I decided that they would just be regular sized but individual Eggplant Parms! I used one large Eggplant and it was enough to feed 4 people as a main dish course. (I was interested in bringing her appetizer as my star main dish on the plate.) In her recipe, she called for store bought marinara sauce and I am quite certain that her preference would have been her own brand but I couldn’t find that either, so Emeril Legasse won that race with his delicious sauce. I was tempted to use my own sauce that I canned over the summer but I wanted a little different taste and it was a nice change. This is my version of the recipe using it as a main dish instead of appetizers. There were very little changes necessary…a great recipe!
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup jarred tomato-basil sauce, such as Giada De Laurentiis for Target (or Emeril…ha, ha)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 large egg whites
1 large Japanese eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Fresh basil leaves, chopped, to garnish
For the sauce:
Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium. Add the garlic, shallots and salt. Stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce, basil, oregano and crushed red pepper. Simmer the sauce until the flavors blend and the sauce thickens, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Mix in the vinegar.
For the eggplant: Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Place the panko breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl. Whisk the egg whites in a medium bowl until frothy.
Dip each eggplant slice in the flour mixture, then into the beaten egg whites, and then into the panko breadcrumbs to coat completely.
Heat the oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot (the surface will appear to be shimmering), 2 to 3 minutes. Add half of the eggplant slices.Cook until deep golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Transfer the eggplant to a paper-towel-lined plate. Fry the remaining eggplant. (Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
Preheat a broiler. Toss the mozzarella and Parmesan in a small bowl until well blended. Spread 1 generous teaspoon of the sauce over each eggplant slice. Top with a rounded teaspoon of the cheese mixture; spread out to cover and press lightly to adhere. Top with chopped basil. Transfer the eggplant slices to a rimmed baking sheet.
Broil until the cheese has melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
Cook’s Note: For a smoother consistency, the sauce can be pureed in a blender or food processor.
This is a perfect recipe! I can see how it would be lovely as an appetizer because you can make them ahead and pop them into the oven at the last minute. I actually made them before watching the Belmont Horse Race yesterday and dinner was a snap after I did my celebratory dance (my horse won ;-)! They were so perfectly crisp and I am thinking they may reheat nicely on rack in the oven to put on meatball sandwiches?? That would be an awesome twist…Hmmm maybe that blog will be later this week!
I served them along side a pasta dish that I literally created at the spur of the moment so I will share that with you soon. It was delightful! Until then, let me know how this works in your kitchen and Keep On Cooking!