1 Large Japanese eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick and drained of excess moisture
1 Egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
1 Cup panko bread crumbs
1 TSP Italian seasoning
1 Cup marinara sauce
Fresh-grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves, torn
While it's depressing that summer is almost over, I am looking forward to fall, which is my favorite season. While I'm waiting for chilly days and pumpkins, I can still enjoy what's left of summer's produce, including eggplant. I've eaten and cooked eggplant many different ways, but my favorite will always be the classic eggplant parm. Really good eggplant parmesan should be all about the eggplant, which is why I'm using fresh-picked Japanese eggplant straight from the garden. No need to smother with cheese or sauce, just let the main ingredient shine.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the egg with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix the Italian seasoning into the panko. Coat eggplant slices with egg, then dredge in bread crumbs. Heat 2 TBS of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry in batches until brown and crisp, adding more oil if needed.
Layer eggplant with a spoonful of sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a few basil leaves to form towers (1 large eggplant will make 4-5 towers). Bake for 20 minutes. Top with more basil and cheese.
Have some eggplant leftover? A quick sauté of diced eggplant in olive oil with garlic, crushed red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts is the perfect combination. Lemon zest and lemon juice add brightness. Serve with your favorite pasta, polenta or couscous with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
After devouring both dishes, Rich confessed to me that he never really liked eggplant until now!