Making Eggplant Parmesan the old country way is truly a balancing act. This is another favorite recipe of mine from Nancy Verde Barr's cookbook, "We Called It Macaroni" where she features her grandmother's recipe from Southern Italy.
She says, most American eggplant dishes are overworked and her grandmother's method "results in a delicate - yes, ethereal- affair that balances all the flavors". I agree. Simple, distinct flavors are balanced here and there are no messy breadcrumbs burning in the cooking oil or overwhelming the eggplant flavor.
Eggplant Parmesan (Parmigiana de Melanzane)
*1 medium eggplant, 1 1/4 lbs
*4 large eggs
*Olive oil for frying
*1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (She refers to her sauce recipe, but, use your own or store bought. I didn't have any of my own on hand so I used a no-salt organic sauce and salted it myself)
*2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
*Salt and pepper to taste
Peel the eggplant and cut into paper-thin slices (paper-thin slices are the secret to success she says - I did my best but I kept some peel on for nutrients).
Next step is draining and salting the eggplant to remove the bitter juice. I skip this step as I don't notice a difference and read in Cook's magazine that it isn't necessary.
Beat eggs with some salt and pepper (avoid or go light on salt, especially if sauce is salty). Preheat a little oil in frying pan on medium heat. Dip eggplant slices in egg, and working with a few pieces at a time, cook until slightly golden and tender. Add more oil as needed. Drain on paper towels. Alternate layers of cooked eggplant and sauce into an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top and bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes:
So, how did it end? My kids are just starting to like Eggplant Parmesan after years of having them try it over and over again in small amounts and they liked it.
To lower sodium, rinse artichoke hearts (I couldn't find frozen or low-salt artichoke hearts).
Fresh rosemary bread from Whole Foods was delicious with this meal.
I've tried making Eggplant Parmesan with roasted eggplant and don't like it as much. When I roast eggplant, though, I've noticed that salting and draining the juices help remove the bitterness a little. For tips on salting and draining and different ways of cooking eggplant go to http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to/cook-eggplant-to-perfection.aspx.
The above recipe is a nice size for 4 servings, with maybe a little leftover for one sandwich. Since it's a process to make, double up for more leftovers and for big eaters.