Friday, October 5, 2012

Easy Cheese-y Eggplant Bake

Today's recipe is inspired by that rich classic, eggplant parmesan.  But instead of breading and frying the eggplant before assembling, the eggplant in this dish is sliced and browned in a skillet brushed with olive oil before layering with tomato sauce and cheese and baking.  The resulting dish has more eggplant flavor and is considerably lighter than its classic counterpart.

You can make this dish with full-size eggplant or the smaller Asian eggplant we've been getting in our CSA boxes lately.  Even better, you can cook up the eggplant a day or two in advance and assemble the dish right before baking.

I like to use my Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce (see recipe in 9/24/10) for the tomato sauce in this recipe, but you can use a store-bought sauce if you prefer.  But remember:  the better the sauce the tastier the dish.

To prepare the eggplant:  Slice 1 lb. eggplant about 1/3" thick.  Heat a heavy skillet (such as cast iron) over high heat.  Brush with olive oil.  When hot, turn the heat down to medium.  Cooking in batches, add the eggplant slices in a single layer.  Brown on one side, then flip and brown on the other side.  Adjust the heat and brush with more oil as needed.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the browning eggplant, if desired.

Remove the eggplant slices as they brown and add more until all eggplant is browned.  Eggplant can be used immediately or stored in the fridge for 2-3 days before assembling the dish.

For 4 side servings or 2 generous main course servings:

1 to 1-1/2 C chunky tomato sauce
1 lb. eggplant, prepared as above
1 to 1-1/2 C loosely packed grated mozzarella or provolone cheese
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese

1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  Spread 2-3 T chunky tomato sauce in a small baking dish, such as an 8" round pie plate.

3.  Layer 1/3 browned eggplant slices on top of sauce.

4.  Spread another 2-3 T chunky tomato sauce over eggplant.

5.  Sprinkle on 1/2 the grated mozzarella cheese.

6.  Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4; then repeat steps 2 and 3 again, ending with the sauce.

7.  Top with 1/4 C grated parmesan cheese.

8.  Bake at 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling.  Serve hot.

Feel free to substitute slices of fresh mozzarella for the grated mozzarella, if you prefer.  To make this dish a little fancier, top with a white sauce instead of the grated parmesan.  You can even stir the grated parmesan into your white sauce.

If you happen to have browned eggplant slices left over, you can marinate them in a balsamic vinaigrette for a nice addition to an antipasto platter.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Broccoli and carrots;

From Jimenez Family Farms:  Red onions, iceberg lettuce, Romanesco squash, cilantro, dill, assorted peppers, and butternut squash;

From K and K Ranch:  Apples, grapes, eggplant, and jujubes;

From Moua's Farm:  Heirloom tomatoes, yu choy, and kale.



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