Week 13 – Baked Eggplant Parm

Another week…In three weeks I’ll have more exciting things to write about but until then it’s work, work, work, a little sleep, and these highlights:

  1. Friday night – Matt and I have been good at making me not work too late on Fridays and spending some time together. This week that meant fajita ‘rita night and watching Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Modern Family.
  2. Saturday afternoon we went to the DC United (soccer game). Someone from church was selling tickets for a fundraiser to benefit engineers without borders so we figured ‘why not!’  James came too and it was a solid afternoon out and about.  A nice break in the middle of me working in the morning and at night.
  3. Sunday Brunch! Two of our friends from church, and their precious baby boy, are moving away for 7 weeks (work assignment).  So we had our small group over for brunch on Sunday after church.  I don’t care what time of year it is, I love having our place full of people and good food.  It was also a great excuse to use some of our lovely wedding gifts that are perfect for entertaining.  Good people, good food, good conversation.  My heart is full and life is good.

The recipe for this week has good things and bad things.  It’s eggplant parm.  The bad thing for me is that I don’t think I’m a huge fan of eggplant.  Matt liked it, but also launched into a discussion about how eggplant parm isn’t really a main dish (in his opinion).  I made a half recipe and it easily had 4 servings, probably closer to 6 (confession – due to my newfound non-preference for eggplant we didn’t finish it all, but Matt did have leftovers twice!).  It also walks you through making your own sauce, it was good but I need to get my mom’s sauce recipe and just make that next time.  The great thing is that you can make this meal ahead of time and during busy season, that is HUGE.  And it really is any other week night when it’s not busy season.  Saving time on a weeknight is big any time of the year.  America’s Test Kitchen actually just came out with a cookbook that’s just make ahead recipes.  After busy season I’m going to see if I can find that at a library and get some good recipes from it.   Side note on that – why is this month the first time I ever thought to get cookbooks from a library?!  Don’t get me wrong, I love our mini cookbook collection, but typically you just pick and choose the recipes and the rest is wasted.  Thus, the library being perfect!  Getting a library card is on the top of my ‘after busy season’ checklist.  Anyway…the original recipe is from here.  Big thanks to my friend Katie who made her version of it for one of our small group dinners and gave me the idea to make it this week when we had eggplant in our fresh stop share.

Baked Eggplant Parm

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 lbs eggplant (about 4 Japanese eggplants, you could use Italian eggplant too)
  • (2) 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 5 teaspoons minced garlic (about 5 cloves), reserve 2 for topping
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup grated parmigiano
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and brush the parchment with olive oil.
  2. Cut the eggplant into ¼-inch slices and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip the slices over and repeat, so now both sides of the eggplant are oiled and salted. Roast until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes, flipping the eggplant halfway through. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.
  3. In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 3 teaspoons of the garlic over medium heat. Let cook until the garlic is fragrant and starting to toast. Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the sugar. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, then add the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1 cup of parmesan, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Assemble the Eggplant Parm: spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, followed by half of the roasted eggplant, 1 cup more tomato sauce, half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella. Repeat: eggplant, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella.
  6. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/4 cup parmesan and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the filling is bubbling, take the casserole out of the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the panko mixture evenly over the top. Continue baking, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 20-25 more minutes. If the topping is not browning, drizzle a little olive oil over the top and place under the broiler (keep an eye on it, it’ll brown quickly under there). Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead: Make everything through Step 5. Cover the assembled Eggplant Parm with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator up to two days before serving. I prepped the panko topping as well and keep this in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake the dish, bring it to room temperature and continue with Steps 6 and 7.

photo (4)(See those adorable S&P shakers on the table – giant thanks to my mom for fall package 2.0 that included those!)

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