I've been singing the praises of local farm stands and farmer's markets lately, and this week is no different.
I stopped at a farm stand for corn on my way home from an appointment on a recent Friday evening, and the bins of fresh string beans, tomatoes and eggplants were calling my name.
You already know what I did with the green beans and the tomatoes, but what about those eggplants?
I've tried ratatouille. The word that rhymes with that phooey! sums up my opinion on that dish.
So, I gave into the Italian side of my Italian-Slovak heritage and sought out my mother's recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana. Problem was, I didn't have one. I've made it before, so I trusted my instincts.
I just didn't have the amounts, but to be honest, that is exactly how my mother cooked from memory and by taste. It was hard sometimes to get a recipe in writing from her, because for her, it was second nature.
It's the same way for my husband and music. He can hear a tune and can tell you what the key is or what chords are being played, then, he can sit down and play it on the guitar or the piano.
I am a conformist and I like to follow directions, but it seemed with this dish, I was on my own. Once I started, it all came back pretty quickly.
Although there are several steps, it really is a simple dish that is easy to make. It's also pretty impressive, and would be perfect for company just add a salad and some good Italian bread, and you're done.
To go with this dish, I used my mother's recipe for pizza sauce, which I ran a couple months ago. Her recipe for this sauce and her marinara sauce are very similar. I'm repeating the recipe here, or you could just use your favorite marinara recipe.
For more recipes from this column, go to www.tnonline.com/lifestyle/comfort-and-joy.
Makes 10-12 servings
3 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into -inch slices
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
Oil, enough to be at least 1-inch deep in your pan
3-4 cups marinara sauce, or your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded or cubed
cup freshly grated parmigiana cheese
Place a layer of eggplant in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt; repeat until all of the eggplant is in the colander. Place the colander on a large dish to collect liquid and set aside for a half-hour to an hour to drain. (I had almost a quarter of a cup of liquid from this batch.)
After draining the eggplant, spread the slices out on two paper towels, then cover with a second paper towel; press down to remove any excess water from the eggplant. Top paper towel with another layer of eggplant, and continue building up until you have laid out all of the eggplant.
Heat oil to 325-350 degrees. Beat eggs with water until combined.
Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg mixture, and then dredge in the bread crumbs. Carefully place in the hot oil, frying for about a minute on each side; remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Continue until all of the eggplant has been cooked. You can cook several pieces at a time, but don't crowd the eggplant into the pan.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large baking dish, 13-inches by 9-inches or larger, ladle a spoonful of marinara on the bottom of the dish, then place a layer of fried eggplant and top with a handful of mozzarella and sprinkle with a tablespoon of parmigiana cheese. Then ladle another light layer of sauce, followed by eggplant, mozzarella and parmigiana. Continue this until you have layered all of the eggplant. Top with one more layer of sauce, and a healthy dose of mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmigiana.
Bake for about 45 minutes until hot and the cheese is brown and bubbling. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Eggplant Parmigiana can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, and will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen.
Mommom's Pizza Sauce
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can pureed tomatoes
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon baking soda, if needed.
Cover bottom of large sauce pan with oil and heat; add half of the chopped garlic. Do not brown! Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients, except remaining garlic and baking soda. After the sauce begins to simmer, add remaining garlic. You may need to add more garlic or other seasonings to taste. Return to a simmer and add baking, quarter teaspoon at a time, if the sauce tastes too bitter. Stir until bubbles and foam are gone. Simmer on low.