All through high school I worked at a local Pizza place, there were a few items that I swore that I would never try; they looked and smelled WAY too funky for me. Here is yet another example of never say never. Feta cheese came in a metal vat filled with what I believe was oil or a vinegar maybe. We had to take a chunk out at a time and crumble it; the smell was horrid. Another was breaded eggplant, it just looked and felt wrong on all levels and then there was the dreaded anchovy the smell and look was just plain rancid; we used to flip to see who had to make the anchovy pizza when someone ordered it.
Now as an adult I love feta cheese, it adds so much tart briny flavor to anything you put it on. I love adding it to pasta salad it makes it pop. I still would not order an anchovy pizza but I do appreciate a true Caesar salad made with them and I understand why and when they are needed; I even have a can of them in my pantry as I write this. The recipe I am going to share now for Eggplant Parmesan has completely changed my mind about the veggie and I am now open to and have used eggplant so much so, that I am thinking of planting it in next year’s garden. With age comes wisdom – or as I explain it; you have to try new food as you get older your taste buds change.
I have also used the sauce for a quick pasta sauce during the week; it has a great taste and a little kick. My mother and a friend were here visiting the last few weeks and I made this; they both loved it and wanted the recipe. My mom even said and I quote “I thought mine was really good but this one I want the recipe” I hope she is reading this and smiling…
2 tbs. good olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp sugar
2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano plum tomatoes
2 medium eggplants sliced ½ inch thick rounds
½ cup flour
Fresh cracked black pepper
3 large eggs
1½ tbs milk
2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs
1½ tsp dried oregano
1½ tsp thyme
Vegetable oil for frying – about 1 inch in the pan you are using
12-16 ounces fresh mozzarella thinly sliced
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups sliced provolone
Slice the eggplant and sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and let sit while you make the sauce. Place on paper towels on a sheet pan.
In a large skillet add the olive oil heat over medium. Add the onions saute for 1-2 minutes; add the garlic and season with salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes. Saute till the onion are translucent about 6-7 minutes. Add the sugar and tomatoes, while you are pouring them out of the can squeeze to break them up a bit. Reduce heat to medium low and cook stirring occasionally about 15-20 minutes.
Rinse the eggplant under water and dry off thoroughly with some paper towels. The reason we do this step draws out some of the liquid and removes some of the bitterness.
Get out 3 pie plates or whatever you use when you batter and fry. Flour goes in one, eggs and milk in another and the third combine the breadcrumbs, oregano and thyme. Make sure to salt and pepper each pie plate. Dredge each eggplant round in the flour, shake off excess. Dip in the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Lay each round on a baking sheet in a single layer.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly (between 380’ and 400’) Use tongs to add and flip the eggplant, making sure to each piece is golden brown, I like them a little extra crispy so they are not mushy. Transfer to a sheet pan covered with paper towels. Repeat until all pieces are fried.
Preheat oven to 350’ using an 11 x 13 baking dish
Spoon some sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer eggplant over sauce slightly overlapping, top with some mozzarella and the some provolone; repeat with remaining sauce, eggplant and cheeses. Press the layers firmly into the dish. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly. About 35-40 minutes.