GENIUS EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA

I am so excited about this recipe! I saw Jeff Mauro prepare it during a recent show of The Kitchen, and just knew I had to try it right away. Right away as in same day. That’s what happened. And then I could not wait much longer to share. Eggplant is a tricky veggie. It soaks oil like nobody’s business, I love eggplant parm, but usually avoid the breading and the frying and end up with a very simplified version starting from grilled slices. It is ok, but compared to this method? It doesn’t even seem like the same recipe.  Try it and I know you will be amazed.

EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA
(from Jeff Mauro, as seen in The Kitchen)

1 medium to large eggplant
2 eggs, beaten with a teaspoon of water
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
tomato sauce
slices of mozzarella cheese

Heat a baking sheet – empty – in a very hot oven, 450 to 500F.

While the baking sheet is heating, peel the eggplant, cut crosswise in 1/2 inch slices. Reserve.

Put the eggs, water, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Mix the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano cheese in another bowl next to it. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg wash, but allow just one side to get wet with the mixture. Dip it in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat, and carefully place on a rack with the crumb side up.

Make sure you have the tomato sauce warmed up and ready to go, and the cheese slices also nearby. Remove the baking sheet (careful, it’s going to be very hot) and drizzle the olive oil to coat the hot surface. Working quickly, add the eggplant slices with the crumb down. It will stick to the oil and start to get pretty hot right away.  Add the tomato sauce on top, cover with cheese, and place in the oven, reducing the temperature to 375 F.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. I added a little extra tomato sauce on top after 10 minutes.  When the cheese is starting to get golden brown at the edges,  the eggplant will be done. Serve right away with your favorite side dish.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I hope I made myself clear about how much we loved this recipe. Eggplant without excessive oil? Check. Eggplant with a delicate crunchy component? Check. Eggplant cooked to perfection, not a slight hint of mush? Check. Melted cheese with a bonus of browned up edges to nibble on? Check.

I doubt I’ll ever make it any other way. For the two of us, one-quarter sheet pan held 6 slices of eggplant, perfect for our meal with two slices leftover for a light lunch next day. That was exactly one eggplant. I used store-bought tomato sauce this time (Rao is a brand I like very much), and provolone cheese instead of the more traditional mozzarella.

I do hope you try it and let me know if it will make you do an extended version of a Happy Dance. Now, when you make it, please skip the exotic maneuver I used. When I was about to crack the second egg for the egg wash, it slipped and headed at 9.8 meters per second squared to the floor. With lightning fast reflexes (I am very proud of that, actually), I grabbed it between my knees, but that cracked the egg. There’s only so much luck a person can have.  Egg yolk miraculously stayed put inside the broken shell, but egg white made a truly epic mess in my pants. There was intense profanity going around, and a husband pretty much folded in two laughing. Thankfully, no pictures. But you can use your imagination, in case you need a good laugh, like some humans apparently do.

Never a dull moment, folks… never a dull moment…

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PALEO MOUSSAKA

Do I follow a Paleo diet? No, not really.  But I am quite open-minded when it comes to food, and love a recipe that turns something a bit on the heavy side into a lighter but still delicious version.  I have zero interest in lighter food that loses a ton in the flavor department. Or texture.  This is another gem of a recipe I found at Mike’s site, The Iron You, made and loved.  It is amazing how versatile cauliflower can be, in this preparation it doubles as a pseudo-bechamel sauce, and I guarantee you won’t miss the real thing. Plus, instead of having a hard time getting up from your dining chair because your stomach acts as if it’s trying to digest 14 bricks, you’ll be light as a feather slowly dangling through the air. Ok, not quite as light.  But close enough.

Paleo Moussaka

PALEO MOUSSAKA
(slightly adapted from The Iron You)

for the eggplant layers:
2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
olive oil
lemon juice
sea salt
ground black pepper

for the meat sauce:
1 lb ground beef (or ground lamb, more authentic)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 handfuls fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon red vinegar
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
A pinch of ground black pepper

for the Paleo bechamel sauce:
¾ cup almond milk  (I used half milk, half almond milk)
2 cups  (7 oz) cauliflower florets (best to weigh it)
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
A pinch of ground black pepper
3 eggs

Heat oven to 400°F.

Whisk a little olive oil with lemon juice. On a baking sheet brush eggplant slices with the oil/lemon mixture and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast in the oven until soft and golden about 25 to 30 minutes. While the eggplant is roasting make the meat sauce.

In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat, add shallots and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add meat and cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until meat is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, cinnamon, vinegar, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In the meantime make the paleo bechamel sauce. In a saucepan add cauliflower florets, milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Remove from the heat and with an immersion blender, blend until smooth, or use a food processor.  Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl, add a little of the warm sauce to temper them, then slowly add them to the sauce.

To assemble the moussaka, lightly grease baking dish large appropriate to make two layers of eggplant slices. I used a round, 10-inch diameter baking dish. Arrange eggplant slices to form a uniform layer. Cover the eggplant evenly with half of the meat mixture. Repeat to make a second layer. Carefully spoon the cauliflower bechamel sauce over the meat mixture and spread evenly to the edges.  Try not to disturb the meat mixture too much.
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Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes, until the top is nicely puffed and browned. Let rest 10 minutes, and serve warm.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

moussakacomposite

Comments: I like to peel my eggplant slices after roasting, but if you prefer to peel before, or to leave the slices  unpeeled, go for it.  I am not too fond of the bitter taste of the peel and find its texture unappealing, so I definitely remove it before assembling the moussaka.  For dishes such as this one, I am happy to remove the peel on my plate, as the presentation is nicer with the intact Solanum melongena.

I love the meat sauce with its touch of cinnamon. The smell as it simmered was to die for!  And I must share this picture, because it’s a rare occasion: I managed to catch a photo of steam rising from the pan… how sexy is that?   I was impressed by Karen’s achievement in her post a while ago, and managed to get there too….

MeatSauce

 

Since it was my first time making pseudo-bechamel with cauliflower,  I decided to be precise and weighed the florets. I suppose eyeballing 2 cups would work too, but I felt like playing safe. The best part of the dish? Leftovers were even better than on the first day. In fact, I would almost advise you to make this dish a couple of days before showtime. The flavors mingled together perfectly, the dish had a more wholesome feel. Awesome.

When I served this moussaka, I did not tell Phil the modifications to make it Paleo.  He could hardly believe when I divulged the dirty secret to involve cauliflower. It works so well, it’s kind of surprising. Don’t be put off by it, give this method a try, it is so much lighter than the real thing, but it still feels like comfort food. A gastronomic win-win situation.

Mike, thanks again for the great recipe, your blog is a constant source of inspiration!

served

Dinner is served!

 

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GOING SKINNY AND LOVING IT!

No, my weight has not dropped that much.  What is going skinny is my Eggplant Parmigiana, since I radically changed my recipe after stumbling on this post by Mike at The Iron You. Mike’s blog line is “Eat Well – Exercise More – Become a Healthier You”.  I can definitely sign below that. He knows how to match nutrition with a challenging exercise routine, and his posts are always super-fun to read.  Anyway, he started that particular article with a mild rant about the way most people approach this classic dish.  Reading it, I was forced to admit to being guilty of some of the crimes. Granted, I’ve never went to the extent of frying my eggplant slices, but I definitely used a heavy hand with the cheese and sauce. My version of eggplant parm made me leave the table feeling heavy and sluggish, a feeling I don’t care for at all. Mike proves that there’s no reason for it. Just a few tweaks and you will have a fantastic dish, still able to carry the label of comfort food, but considerably lighter than 99% of the recipes in restaurants, cookbooks, and the blogosphere.  I hope you will give this version a try, it will knock your socks off.  And, apparently in English that is a very good thing.

SkinnyEggplantParmigiana

SKINNY EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA
(very slightly modified from The Iron You)

3 medium eggplants
2 garlic cloves, peeled (I omitted due to our vampire genes)
1 29 oz / 820 gr can diced tomato
1 cup / 1.8 oz / 50 gr Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons almond milk (my adaptation)
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, divided
black ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) and place a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease with some olive oil. Set aside.

Cut each eggplant lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices, liberally sprinkle with salt on one side, and add the slices back together, tightly assembling the eggplant and wrapping with plastic wrap.  Leave them over the counter for about 20 minutes. You will notice a darkish liquid forming inside the package. Open the package over the sink, and briefly rinse the slices, drying them with paper towels.

Arrange the eggplant slices on a single layer on the baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the slices begin to turn deep brown on top.  Remove the slices to a platter and allow them to cool slightly before proceeding.

In the meantime make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add shallots and garlic and saute’ for 5 minutes, until onion begins to golden. Add diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, basil, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and set aside.

Lightly grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil the bottom and sides of an 8 by 12-inch baking pan. (a brownie pan works perfectly). Beat two eggs with the almond milk and reserve. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with some tomato sauce and arrange eggplant slices on top to form a uniform layer. Cover the eggplant with some tomato sauce, some Parmigiano cheese and top with 2 tablespoons of beaten eggs . Repeat to make 3 layers, making sure to end with a uniform layer of tomato sauce and top with the remaining cheese.
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Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until hot and beginning to brown. Let rest at for 10 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

And now it’s time for me to brag a little… Many years ago, I sent a cooking tip to Fine Cooking magazine, and my tip won the best of the issue!  I got several cool gifts, including a salad spinner I still own, and love.  It was a nice surprise to win.  The cooking tip I submitted was what I just shared here with you, the way I draw the bitter juices out of eggplant. Most instructions involve salting the slices and weighing them down, or submerging them in salted water.  I find my method very convenient, and quite efficient.  It is explained in detail in the recipe, in case you missed it. The secret is to tighten the package of plastic well around the eggplant.

SkinnyEggplanComposite

I cut the eggplant lengthwise, and when assembling the dish,  each layer goes in one orientation, so that they criss-cross. That makes slicing the casserole a lot easier later.  Also, since the beaten eggs are a little hard to spread over the layers, I added a touch of almond milk to thin it, a la egg wash.  You can omit it, or use milk or even water if you prefer, but don’t add too much, just enough to make it easier to spread.

It was so much fun to make this dish, that I feel like sharing a couple of shots of the process…

firstlayerHere is the first layer ready, just a little cheese and a little beaten egg on top of the eggplant…

LayersReadyAnd the dish, ready to go into the oven… make sure to bake it over a larger baking sheet to avoid messing up your oven.

It is very important to let the dish rest for at least 10  minutes, but longer will be better. Next day, leftovers were perfect warmed up for a few minutes in the microwave.  In fact it tasted even better than the first day, so if you have a dinner party to host, this could be a nice option to make in advance.  It is also gluten-free, in case you have friends with gluten issues.

Leftovers

We loved this preparation so much,  there is no way I’m going back to my former recipe!  I also think that if you cut the eggplant parmigiana in small squares they could work well as appetizers for a dinner party.  Substantial for an appetizer course, but so very delicious!  You would definitely have to cut it the following day, because  when it comes out of the oven it will be too tricky to do it.

Mike, thanks again for the wonderful take on one of our favorite eggplant preparations!

 

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