You know, I really do love to cook for friends.
I like slaving away in the kitchen while entertaining people with my storytelling and by almost burning myself on the arm with a hot sheet pan four or five times.
I REALLY like cooking for friends when the friends bring the ingredients.
This week I had Amy and Bailey over. They found themselves with more fresh produce than they knew what to do with, so Amy asked if she could bring some over to my place to cook.
Don’t threaten me with a good time.
Bailey had about 4 or 5 small eggplants to use up and while I thought about grilling them or making some sort of caponata type dish, I ultimately decided that breaded eggplant is always a crowd pleaser.
Plus, I hadn’t had it in a long time. When I was a kid, we used to throw the breaded circles in the deep fryer and call it good. But that was before we paid any mind to healthy cooking methods.
These days my food prep involves strength training.
The reason for the dumbbells is that once I sliced the eggplant and lightly salted it, I needed some weight to help along the sweating process. When you do this, you pull out some of the moisture from the eggplant so that it doesn’t get soggy when it’s cooked.
Breaded Baked Eggplant
4 small eggplant, cut width-wise into 1/2″ slices
1 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (I used regular but you could also use panko)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 t Italian spice seasoning
salt and pepper
1/2 cup cornstarch (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Place eggplant on paper towel lined sheet pans in a single layer, sprinkle lightly with salt and place either a heavy skillet or plates with a weight on them on top. Let the eggplant sweat for about 20 minutes and then pat slices dry with paper towel.
3. Set up a breading station: one plate with cornstarch (if using), the next with the eggs (cracked and beaten) and the last with the breadcrumbs, cheese, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
4. One at a time, lightly coat slices in cornstarch first (tap to remove excess), then eggs, then the breadcrumb mixture, trying to keep the coating of each layer fairly thin.
5. Grease a few sheet pans with olive oil and then place eggplant in a single layer on them.
6. Bake until lightly brown and crispy, about 30 minutes.
Served with boiled corn on the cob and a light broccoli mac ‘n cheese (which I made with sharp cheddar and whole wheat penne)- Amy says that I’ll use any excuse to make a cheese sauce.
When she’s right, she’s right.
The cornstarch makes the eggplant extra crispy, but it’s totally optional. I used it on half of the eggplant and left it off the other half and they were both good.
You could easily make this into eggplant parmesan by placing the cooked slices in a casserole, covering with marinara and then slices of mozzarella and additional parmesan cheese and then placing it under a broiler. It would also be awesome as a base for a vegetarian sandwich.
I’m just here to provide the basics. And then tell you to serve this basic recipe with ranch and/or ketchup.
Because what isn’t better with ranch and/or ketchup? I never pretended to be fancy.
I’m just here to keep the people fed and happy.