Monday, December 12, 2011

My Favourite Eggplant Dish

I know you’ve all been waiting on the edges of your seats to find out how I’ve been managing in my new kitchen. Well, all right, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I do think that my previous post requires some follow-up, so I will happily inform you that I’m faring well in my new workspace. It’s smaller than I’m used to, but I think the limited area is forcing me to be more organized. I’m only pulling out what I need when I need it, and then I put it away when I’m done with it, rather than steadily filling the counter with various jars, bottles, and boxes, along with the detritus of diced vegetables and trimmed meat. Someone suggested that I do away with my drying rack, and while I can’t get rid of it altogether, I’ve been moving it to the other edge of the sink while I’m cooking to give myself a little more space.
I thought that I’d share a favourite recipe of mine today. It’s from Gourmet, but I’ve made a few modifications to it. Inspired by eggplant parmigiana, this "inside-out" version makes for a tasty, healthy, and elegant vegetarian meal.
The main difference between this recipe and a more traditional eggplant parmigiana is that the eggplant is not breaded and fried, as it normally is. Instead, it is baked, and eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, and garlic are combined and pan fried to make patties. These patties are stacked with the eggplant, sliced fresh mozzarella, homemade tomato sauce, and sautéed arugula to create a delicious layered dish.
If you want it to look more impressive, even if you, like me, have no one to impress but yourself and perhaps a husband who will love you whether your food looks impressive or not, but you, like me, enjoy making your food look impressive, coat the bottom of each plate with some of the tomato sauce, centre an eggplant stack on it, and top with a little fresh arugula.
The resulting dish will be colourful and the taste won’t disappoint either. It offers a variety of flavours and textures, with spongy egg patties, creamy mozzarella, bitter arugula, delicate eggplant, and acidic tomato sauce.

The original recipe can be found here.

This one has my modifications:

Inside-Out Eggplant Parmigiana
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, January 2009

For tomato sauce:
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes in their juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp sugar
Salt, to taste
3 tbsp. finely chopped basil

For eggplant stacks:
2 (1 lb/450 g) eggplants
6 tbsp olive oil, divided, plus additional for drizzling
Salt and pepper
½ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves minced, divided
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup water
¼ tsp red-pepper flakes
10 oz/300 g baby arugula
1 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
½ lb/250 g cold fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch-thick slices

Make the tomato sauce: If you want a smooth tomato sauce, blend the tomatoes with their juices either in their can using an immersion blender, or in a blender. If you prefer a chunkier sauce, simply break up the tomatoes using a wooden spoon. Heat oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook shallot, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Add the blended or crushed tomatoes to the saucepan with the shallot and garlic, along with the sugar, and about a ¼ teaspoon of salt. Simmer, partially covered, over medium to medium-low heat until it thickens slightly, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the basil, taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Meanwhile, bake the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 450 F with the rack in the lowest position.

Wash the eggplant, but do not peel it. Cut the eggplant into 1/3-inch-thick rounds (don’t worry that the rounds have different diameters). Brush both sides of the slices with about 2 tbsp oil and season with salt. Bake on an oiled baking sheet, turning once, until golden and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Leave the oven on.

Make the egg patties and sauté the arugula: Stir together breadcrumbs parmesan, parsley, half the garlic, and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then stir in the eggs and water.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet (I like using cast-iron) over medium heat until it shimmers. Drop four 1/3 cups of egg mixture into the skillet and cook, turning once, until patties are golden brown and puffed, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain. If necessary, repeat with remaining batter.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet and cook remaining garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring, about 30 seconds. Add all but about one fifth (2 oz/55 g) of the arugula and all the basil to the pan, and stir until just wilted, 30 seconds or less. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

Assemble stacks: Arrange egg patties about 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Top each with 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, 1 slice mozzarella, 1 eggplant slice (use the ones with larger diameters for this layer), 2 more tablespoons tomato sauce, another eggplant slice (use the ones with smaller diameters), arugula mixture, remaining eggplant, and a final slice of mozzarella. Bake until cheese melts, 5 to 10 minutes.

Plate your dish: While the stacks bake, combine the remaining arugula with a little olive oil (a teaspoon or so), a pinch (1/4 teaspoon) of salt, and a little (1/8 teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper.

When the stacks are out of the oven, place approximately 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce in the centre of each plate. Pick up the plate and tilt it so that the sauce spreads out and covers the plate to the rim (try not to get sauce on the rim of the plate). Place one stack in the centre of each plate. Top each stack with a small handful of arugula, trying to keep all of it on top of the eggplant stacks. Serve right away.

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