Ahhh September, the glorious month when so many fruits and vegetables are harvested and available to our bellies. This would include my favorite "weird" veggie, eggplant. For the last three weeks they've been on sale for $1 each!
Now, given my current crazy budget of trying to only spend $30 a week on groceries, I just had to buy a couple. Last night I made a Thai Basil Eggplant Tofu dish, but it wasn't anything to write home about. I also found a great eggplant salad recipe I'll be making later in the week. But besides these recipes, I haven't had much luck with eggplant. What do you DO with them?
Queue eggplant parmesan. Is it safe to say this is the dish for our beloved eggplants? Is it probably the only thing most of us cook with eggplant? Unfortunately I think that's the truth...if you have a great recipe for eggplant, I'd love to hear it!
So naturally, the first week I bought a few eggplants I had to make the classic staple, eggplant parmesan. I have been absolutely in love with every recipe I've made from this cookbook "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" so had to try this one! Of course, it came out beautifully. And also of course, I paired it with Italian wine.
Like all the other Italian dishes I have prepared, Italian wine is plainly a natural match. Most Italian dishes we consume in this country include tomatoes, including this Eggplant Parmesan. Tomatoes have high acidity (acidity is the sourness you get from things like lemons that make the sides of your cheeks water). Most Italian wines also have high acidity. Acidic wines pair wonderfully with acidic foods, so its a match made in heaven.
I paired a Chianti with this dish--not Chianti Classico or Chianti Classico Riserva (to learn more about the different Chianti's, check out this guide I posted). Eggplant parmesan is a mix of earthy, crispy eggplant, rich cheesiness, fresh basil, and vibrant, fresh tomatoes. It begs for a light, acidic wine that won't overwhelm it. I believe most Chianti Classicos or Riservas would overpower this dish. I actually tried to serve Cabernet Sauvignon with the eggplant parmesan leftovers....bad mistake. Don't do it, its way to heavy for the dish.
If you don't have Chianti available to you, there are other options. Chianti is a Sangiovese-based blend so that's the other natural option. I would also love to have a good Italian or Californian Barbera with this dish. If you're at the grocery store and they don't have any of these wines, go visit a wine shop. Just kidding. Pick up a Pinot Noir and it will also pair decently.
As I mentioned above, I highly suggest you pick up this cookbook if you're interested in Italian Cuisine...I randomly received it when I bought my All-Clad pots and pans set, and it has been the best cookbook to come to my house by surprise! I changed a few things around in the recipe and my eggplant was to die for. My biggest advice with this dish: buy really good canned tomatoes or use fresh from your garden. I swear by canned tomatoes imported from Italy as they have the highest acidity and best flavor of any canned tomatoes I've had.
Prep time: 50 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 1 hour 20 mins
- 2 large eggplant
- vegetable oil
- 2 Cups canned tomatoes, preferably imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut into small pieces. Save the juices
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 pound fresh mozzerella
- 8 to 10 basil leaves
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 Cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Cut off the top and bottom and peel the skin from the eggplant.
- Cut the eggplant across its width, creating slices about 1/2 inch thick that look like cylinders.
- Line the slices on the sides of a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Layer more slices on top and sprinkle again with salt. Continue until no more slices remain, sprinkling salt on top of each layer.
- Place a dish under the colander to catch water that will be expelled from the eggplant. Let the eggplant sit for at least 30 minutes.
- After the last step has been completed, pat each eggplant slice thoroughly dry with paper towels; set aside.
- Fry the Eggplant: In a large frying pan over high heat, pour enough vegetable oil in to come 1 1/2 inches up the sides.Dredge the slices of eggplant in flour, coating them on both sides. Then place them one by one into the hot oil. Only put as many eggplant slices into the pan that will fit in one single layer. Once the bottoms of the eggplants slices are golden and crispy, flip each over and repeat on the other side. Remove from the fryer when done and place on a cookie rack or paper towel over a plate. Continue frying the remaining pieces.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Put the tomatoes and olive oil in another large skillet. Turn the heat to medium high, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook the tomatoes down until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
- Slice the mozzerella into very thin slices. Wash the basil and tear each leaf into tiny pieces.
- Smear the bottom and sides of the baking dish with. Place a layer of fried eggplant slices on the bottom. Spread a little bit of the cooked tomato over them, then sprinkle a layer of mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and basil over. Top with another layer of fried eggplant and repeat the procedure until all ingredients have been used. I had three layers of eggplant in my dish.
- Place the dish in the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes or until the top is a little crispy. Let it sit for a few minutes before bringing to the table!