Monday, September 8, 2014

Meatless Monday--Skillet Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant might just be the most underappreciated vegetable.  I'm convinced pretty much everyone who says they dislike it just hasn't had it prepared well.  I'll admit, when it's wrong, it's so very wrong--slimy and weird and not at all appetizing.  But cooked correctly, it's tender, rich, and soft without losing its bite.

If you think you don't like eggplant or you're on the fence, I implore you to try this recipe.  Not only is it about as simple as it could be, it yields the most perfect late summer meal, as well.  It's got tomato sauce and gooey, melted, browned cheese, which automatically puts it in the comfort food category.  It also has fresh basil, which is one of my most favorite ingredients ever.  If you so chose to serve it over pasta, it's got that going for it, as well.  It doesn't call for breading and frying the eggplant, so it's considerably less messy and leaves you feeling a lot less guilty about all that wonderful cheese.  On top of all of that, I experimented a little from the original and roasted the eggplant the night before.  It worked out great, making this an ideal weeknight meal.  Really, there isn't anything about this recipe I don't love.  I hope you'll feel the same way.

Tender eggplant is smothered in gooey, melted cheese and flavorful tomato sauce to create a perfect late summer comfort meal.

Skillet Eggplant Parmesan
slightly adapted from Annie's Eats

2 large eggplants (about 3 lbs. total), sliced into 1/2-in. rounds
olive oil, for brushing
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 1/4 c. tomato sauce
up to 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
3/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked al dente (I like whole grain here)
fresh basil, for garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 375° F.  Place eggplant slices on baking sheets in a single layer, brush lightly with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Turn slices over and repeat on the other side.  Roast about 35 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden brown and slightly softened.  If roasting ahead of time, let the eggplant cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container up to 24 hours.  If cooking the recipe all the way through, increase oven temperature to 400° F.    

2.  Mix tomato sauce and garlic together.  Spoon 1 1/4 c. sauce into a large deep sauté pan or casserole dish.  Layer half the eggplant slices into the pan and sprinkle with one third of the Parmesan and half the mozzarella.  Spread the remaining cup of tomato sauce over the cheese, the layer on the remaining eggplant, another third of the Parmesan, and rest of the mozzarella.  Top with remaining Parmesan.

3.  Bake 30-35 minutes, until the cheese is browned and bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes.  

4.  To serve, divide pasta among six plates, then top with equal portions of the eggplant and sauce.  Garnish with fresh basil. 

Yield: 6 servings