Eggplant Parmesan, Second Generation Style

Here’s something you should know about me: I live for splurge meals. My absolute all time favorite foods usually fall into this category. In my normal routine, I try to adapt some of these recipes into clean versions, but on splurge day anything goes. Fried stays fried, pasta stands in for itself, and I put cheese on my half too.

It took me approximately 2 seconds too decide what tomato week’s splurge recipe would be. Growing up, my dad (originally from Italy) would make his eggplant parmesan maybe once or twice a year. It’s not a quick undertaking, and I knew it was a big ask to see if he would make it with me so I could blog about it. The thing is, what I really mean by “second generation style” is that I want to learn how to make this dish exactly like his, because it is absolutely perfect. The effort is always worth it. Plus, it makes your house smell sooooo good.

Best of all, eggplant is in season right now and I can’t help but pay thanks to this versatile crop. What a fine nightshade you are, eggplant. Thanks for being you.

Traditional Eggplant Parmesan
makes enough to fill 2 13×9 baking dishes, about 16 servings

Ingredients:
3 medium size eggplants
3 quart jars cooked tomato sauce
2 lbs fresh mozzarella cheese
vegetable/ canola oil for frying
2 cups grated romano/ parmesan cheese

for batter:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
a few cups of cold water

*Note: Since this takes a few hours, I usually make an extra batch to freeze or give away. Cut everything in half if you are only making one dish.

To make your batter, combine flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add eggs, lightly beaten. Once well mixed, start adding water about a half cup at a time. The batter should be the consistency of runny pancake mix. Keep adding water and mixing until the batter is thin enough that it will run off the end of a spoon easily. There should be no lumps.

eggplant-parmesan-batter
Next, trim off both ends of the eggplants and slice them about 1/4 inch thick. Do your best to keep the thickness consistant so the pieces cook evenly.

perfectly-sliced-eggplant-for-homemade-eggplant-parmesan

Meanwhile, in a deep saute pan, heat up 3/4 to an inch of cooking oil on medium heat. Test the oil temperature with a drop of water or batter. It will sizzle when hot. If you have a thermometer, oil temperature should reach between 400-450 F.

Once the oil is ready to go, dip each slice of eggplant in the batter and just cover both sides. Let any excess batter run off, and then carefully place in the hot pan.

deep-frying-eggplant-homemade-eggplant-parmesan

When the underside becomes golden brown (1-2 min), flip them over and fry for another minute or so. When cooked, drain each piece of excess oil as you remove them from the pan.

draining-excess-oil-from-fried-eggplant-for-eggplant-parmesanAs the slices come out of the fryer, lay them on a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up extra grease as they cool.

freshly-fried-eggplant-for-eggplant-parmesan

While the eggplant is frying, grate your mozzarella and parmesan. To make grating easier, place the cheese in the freezer for 15-20 minutes first. Now is also a good time to preheat your oven to 375 F.

grated-parmesan-cheese-for-eggplant-parmesan

If there is any batter left over when the eggplant is done, you can pour it into your hot oil to make a zeppoli, or fried dough ball (more like a pancake in this case.) Cook it the same way as the eggplant.

homemade-zeppoli-frying-in-oil

When it’s done, sprinkle a little powered sugar on top and enjoy! Besides being delicious, this snack might distract you from scarfing down tons of hot, crispy eggplant as it comes out of the pan. It also might not. I usually eat both, and chase them with large chunks of mozzarella. Extras are built into the recipe to allow for this unstoppable force.

powered-sugar-covered-fresh-homemade-zeppoli

Assemble everything in a baking dish in layers. Start with a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then eggplant, mozz, parm, and a drizzle of sauce.

Repeat until your tray is full. Only use a little bit of sauce in each layer so it doesn’t become too wet.

assembling-homemade-eggplant-parmesan-layers

End with the cheese layer on top.

complete-homemade-eggplant-parmesan

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45-60 minutes. Take the foil off for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking to let the top get crispy.

eggplant-parmesan-just-out-of-the-oven

Enjoy! Freeze whatever you can’t eat. This type of dish tastes better every time you heat it up.

detailed-image-of-homemade-eggplant-parmesan

I would also just like to thank my good friend Jennifer for shooting the amazing photos for this blog while helping me fry eggplant for hours. They have added so much to this project, and I hope this is just the first of many collaborations between us. I mean, they’re incredible. I’m not the only one drooling on my computer, right?

Tomato Sauce To Write Home About

This year we finished up our annual day of tomato canning with over 100 jars of crushed perfection. Alas, no matter how many we make, it’s never enough to last through the year. You’d think we were dealing with gold bars the way everyone in my family gets all greedy and stealth-like when dividing up the shares. I kid you not when I say I have had to smuggle jars out of my house to share with friends, and even my grandmother. It’s never pretty, but that’s just how treasure is.

So, until my allotment runs out, I’ll be feasting on my favorite meals and not rationing properly at all. Of course, all my favorites start with tomato sauce.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes about 6-8 servings (I always make at least this much so there is extra to freeze.)

Ingredients:
2 one qt. jars (or 2 28oz store bought cans of whole tomatoes*)
1 large yellow onion
a few fresh basil leaves
sea salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves (whole)

*Store bought canned tomatoes often contain citric acid and other additives. Because tomatoes are naturally quite acidic, they stay well preserved without additives. Look for a brand that contains just tomatoes, or tomatoes and fresh basil.

In a large, deep sauce pot heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on med-low. I use a deep pot because the sauce doesn’t lose as much water while cooking and ends up with a better consistency.

While it’s heating, slice your onion as thinly as possible. When the oil is nice and hot, add onions and allow them to caramelize on low for 5-10 minutes. Make sure that they do not start to brown.

sliced-yellow-onion-for-fresh-tomato-sauce

Once the onions are translucent, add in your tomatoes. Here’s a tip: pour the tomatoes over the back of a wooden spoon to keep from splattering yourself.

sliced-onions-carmelized-in-olive-oil

Turn up the heat and bring everything to a slow boil. Then, reduce the heat to low and simmer. Stir in in the garlic cloves, basil and a pinch or two of salt. Simmer on low, covered, for at least 45 minutes. If you have the time, you can let it cook for longer. Stir every 15-20 minutes with a wooden spoon.

simmering-fresh-tomato-sauce

During the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the lid to allow the sauce to thicken up. Taste again and add more salt if necessary.

Freeze the unused portion for quick weeknight meals.