Garden Fresh Eggplant Parmesan

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I am a huge fan of really well prepared eggplant parmesan, but unfortunately much of the time when I order it out, it is quite dreadful. Many times this traditional Italian dish is heavy, very greasy, over sauced, and overburdened with cheese. Personally, I like my eggplant parmesan to be light, fresh tasting, and with just enough cheese to hold it together. I prefer to simply grill or broil my eggplant slices instead of breading them and frying them in oil which really allows the flavor of the eggplant to shine and keeps the dish nice and light. To me this dish is exactly what Italian food should be….simple, fresh, seasonal ingredients put together in a way that brings everything together.

This is my summer version that I call Garden Fresh Eggplant Parmesan because I layer grilled eggplant slices picked that morning from my garden with a fresh tasting tomato sauce. The sauce is made from ripe garden tomatoes also just picked that morning along with fresh basil from my herb garden. I use just a little of both grated mozzarella and Parmesan cheese to help bring everything together, then just bake it long enough for the sauce to bubble between the layers of tender eggplant and blend the flavors. This dish freezes well so I often make an extra one to enjoy later in the season, and it reheats beautifully the next day. I do not feel the need to peel my eggplant, but feel free to do so if you prefer. If I know my eggplant is fresh, I also skip the step of salting it as well. If concerned that your eggplant may be bitter, simply layer the slices with some salt, place in a colander and top with a plate and heavy can to weigh it down. Allow the eggplant to drain for 30 minutes, then pat dry.

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Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2014

Garden Fresh Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Trim the tops off your eggplant, and cut into slices 1/3 of an inch thick.
  2. Lightly brush the eggplant slices with olive oil.
  3. Either grill your eggplant slices until tender, or place on a baking sheet under a hot broiler and cook on both sides until lightly browned and soft.
  4. In a 9 inch square oven-proof casserole dish, layer eggplant slices just barely overlapping to cover the bottom.
  5. Spoon on a cup of the tomato sauce, half the mozzarella, and some of the Parmesan cheese.
  6. Add another layer of the eggplant, sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
  7. Add one final layer of the eggplant, rest of the sauce, and remainder of the Parmesan cheese.
  8. Cover with foil.
  9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until the dish is bubbly and lightly browned on top.
  11. Cool 10 minutes, then slice and serve!