Thursday, October 2, 2008

Taking what the garden gives

My mom is incredibly generous with the vegetables her beautiful garden produces. She shares bags full of fresh basil, dozens of tomatoes, and tiny jalepeno peppers with me all summer long. And last weekend, she gave the gift of all gifts: the only eggplant her garden grew.

He was a fine looking specimen, though. Fat and purple and heavy for his size. But there was a certain amount of pressure to do something worthwhile with him. The garden gave us just the one, after all.

I was flipping through the newest Food & Wine searching for some dessert inspiration. I didn't find any, but I did find this. A great way to showcase the lonely eggplant.

Eggplant Parmesan with Bread Crumb Topping
Adapted from Food & Wine

You will need:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus about 2 cups for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 can of crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 medium sized eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped basil
1 cup Parmisan cheese3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

In a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil. Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper. Working in several batches, cook the eggplant over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 8 minutes per batch; add more olive oil to the skillet between batches. Drain the eggplant slices on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of a pie plate. Arrange one-third of the fried eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese*. Repeat this layering twice. Sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the top of the eggplant Parmesan. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top of the eggplant Parmesan is golden and the tomato sauce is bubbling. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

*The original recipe calls for some mozzarella added in between the layers along with the Parmesan cheese, which would have been wonderful, I'm sure, but I didn't have any on hand.

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