Food + Wine

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan with Balsamic Vinegar and Roasted Garlic

I would say that most Americans eat eggplant only in the occasional Eggplant Parmesan.  Perhaps they don’t now that it’s also great diced and used in Caponata, or cubed and roasted as a side dish, just to name a couple examples.  But most Americans, I would say, are getting their eggplant by way of Eggplant Parm.  I would also say that most Americans aren’t the ones cooking their Eggplant Parmesan.  It’s not a difficult thing to prepare, but I think a lot of people are scared of doing it themselves because of the frying involved.   I don’t blame them actually, I don’t fry at home.  It’s not out of a fear per say, but I just don’t like the idea of feeding my family deep fried foods when there’s a better alternative.  And there is always a better alternative.  When I make french fries or potato chips, I roast them.  When I make egg or springrolls, I bake them.  Fried plantains?  Nope.  When I make coconut shrimp, I bake them.  It’s just my preference.  And I really don’t think you have to fry the eggplant in order to make this dish delicious.

In my recipe I’m roasting the sliced eggplant and brushing on extra virgin olive oil with a pastry brush instead of drizzling the oil over the eggplant or tossing it with oil in a bowl.  This trick works well with other large, soft vegetables you would want to roast like portobello mushrooms, sliced summer squashes, etc. Here’s why:  If you were to drizzle the eggplant with the oil, you would end up with very oily spots and very dry spots on each slice because eggplants are like sponges and soak up a tremendous amount of liquid very quickly.  And if you were to toss the eggplant slices with the oil in a bowl, chances are, you would have too oily of an eggplant, rendering your Eggplant Parm very greasy.  Brushing on the oil allows you to have a very even coating.  I’m also making a roasted garlic and balsamic vinegar ‘slather’ to spread on the eggplant slices before they sit between tomato sauce, bread crumbs and yummy cheese.  It’s wonderful, not at all heavy, extremely flavorful, and you aren’t missing out on any of the flavor you get from the traditional fried version.  Here’s how I did it-

-Preheat your oven to 375 and prepare your garlic for roasting-

Slice off the top of 2 heads of garlic (don’t discard the tops!  Roast it too).  Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and wrap tightly in foil.  Place in the oven while it’s preheating and prepping your eggplants.
Take 7-8 small or 4 large Eggplants, totaling 3 1/2 lbs. (whichever variety looks the best to you at the store or farmers market) and cut off the ends before slicing about 1/2 inch thick.

-Line 3 cookie sheets with aluminum foil and spray well with cooking spray.  Place your eggplant slices on the cookie sheets in a single layer. 
Pour about 1/2 cup of good extra virgin olive oil into a bowl.
Using a pastry brush, paint each slice with a good coating of oil.  Season the face-up sides well with salt and pepper.
Roast for 40 minutes or until it becomes golden brown and a little crispy on the edges.
Remove your garlic from the oven.  (Bump the heat up to 425.) The garlic is done when it’s golden brown and squishy.  Allow it to cool a bit before handling.
Squeeze the roasted cloves into a bowl.
Mush the garlic with a fork.  Add a small handful of fresh basil leaves, minced, 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp sugar, and 2 good splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Stir well and set aside.

-Assemble your casserole-
-Spray a 9x13in casserole dish with cooking spray and cover the bottom with 2 cups of tomato sauce, (homemade or your favorite brand.  You will need a total of about 7 cups, or almost all of 2 24 oz jars if you’re using store bought).  Layer half of your eggplant slices over the sauce, sprinkle the eggplant with plain breadcrumbs and top with 1 cup of sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese and 3 ounces of sliced or shredded provolone cheese, (you will need a total of 2 cups of mozz and at least 6 ounces of provolone).
-Begin the layering again by pouring another 2-3 cups of tomato sauce over the cheese layer, then placing the rest of your eggplant slices (overlapping if necessary) over that.

Take your garlic ‘slather’ and using the same pastry brush as before, brush it all over the eggplant slices.
Sprinkle with more breadcrumbs.
Layer another cup of mozzarella cheese and 3 ounces of provolone.  Pour another 2 cups of tomato sauce over the cheese and sprinkle with enough grated parmesan cheese to cover the top.

-Place the casserole on a foil-lined cookie sheet to catch any possible bubble-overage (use one of the same foil-lined sheets that you used with the eggplant, no need to waste more).
-Bake in the now 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is well melted and the top is golden brown.

-Allow to cool and set for at least 20 minutes before serving.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Velva September 26, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Eggplant is definitely an under appreciated summer vegetable. You are right, Americans need to explore all the possibilities with eggplant.

    Cheers.
    Velva

  • Reply Everyday Champagne October 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks Velva!

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