Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan often appears on the menu of Italian restaurants. In Italian, eggplant Parmesan is melanzane alla parmigiana. It is a meatless main dish consisting of eggplant, cheeses and a tomato-based sauce. Sometimes the eggplant is breaded and fried, while in other recipes the eggplant is baked.

Eggplant basics

The eggplant is a vegetable native to Asia. However, it is grown in United States in several states. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, 159.8 million pounds of eggplant were grown in the United States in 2010. Most U.S. shoppers can find eggplant in the grocery produce section year-round; however, the eggplant's peak season runs from June through October.

Choosing the best eggplant

The Ohio State University Extension Office suggests choosing a medium-size eggplant about three to four inches in diameter with firm, smooth skin. Its coloring should be deep purple, and its cap/stem should be green and free of mold. Eggplants of poor quality may feel flabby when held and/or may have streaks in their coloring. These streaks may appear as dark blemishes. Eggplants that have begun to shrivel or have areas that appear sunken should be avoided, as these can have a bitter taste and are not the best choice for an eggplant Parmesan recipe.

Easy baked eggplant Parmesan

While many recipes suggest pan-frying the eggplant slices, baking the eggplant is easy, and the result is equally flavorful.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-size eggplants, sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 2 medium or one large egg, beaten
  • 2 cups Panko bread crumbs (plain)
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil or 2 leaves fresh basil, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

Place a nonstick baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Sslice the eggplant, and set it aside. (The recipe will taste equally good whether you peel the eggplant or not.)

Beat the eggs in a shallow dish wide enough to fit the eggplant. In a medium-size bowl, combine the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, basil and one-half cup of the Parmesan cheese.

As soon as the oven is preheated, remove the hot baking sheet and set on a heat-protected area of the counter. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg and then into the bread-crumb mixture. Be sure to coat both sides of the eggplant. Coat the baking sheet evenly with the olive oil. Place the bread-crumb-coated eggplant on the hot baking sheet in a single layer. Do not double-layer. Place the baking sheet back in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip each eggplant slice over and return to the oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

While the eggplant is baking, prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Coat it with nonstick cooking spray, and spoon a layer of sauce along its bottom. When the eggplant is done, remove it from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Add a layer of baked eggplant over the sauce. Top the eggplant with another layer of sauce. Top that layer of sauce with the rest of the parmesan cheese and the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheeses turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let tit stand for about five minutes before serving.

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