Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan a la Melissa

I haven't posted anything in awhile. That's because I recently purchased two new cookbooks, and I've really been enjoying these recipes. The books are The Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance, both by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. These books rock my world (as well as ej's since he directly benefits with all this awesome food).

Eggplant Parmesan a la Melissa is a classic. If I could pick a recipe that I was known for, it would probably be this one. When I became a vegetarian, eggplant parm was one of the first dishes I fell in love with (because, before I was a vegetarian, I didn't really have a taste for vegetables. Ask my dad. He'll tell you "When Mimi was young, if there was even a speck of green on her food, she wouldn't eat it." And this is very true). My dad would make this dish for family parties and gatherings, and now that I am a little older and wiser, I can now make it whenever I please.

Which brings me to a very important point. Its the New Year, and, just like ej and me, most people are trying to eat better. Though this dish may not be the most healthy meal, it can be impressive, and I bust it out when I want to make an impression (like when I made it on New Year's Eve for ej's family). The finished product is very satisfying because it can be time consuming, but it also looks so beautiful and delicious. I am always so proud when an Eggplant Parmesan a la Melissa comes out of the oven.


1 eggplant
about 1 dozen eggs
1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp pesto
1 container italian style bread crumbs
vegetable oil, for frying

28 oz crushed tomato
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a white onion, diced
salt, pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
t tsp basil
1 tsp oregano

2 blocks frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 handful Parmesan cheese

For the tomato sauce:
Of course, you can cheat and use canned tomato sauce. Some of it is quite good.

1) Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan. When oil is hot, add garlic. Saute for 30 seconds to a minute - be careful not to burn it.

2) Add onion and saute until translucent (a minute or two)

3) Add tomatoes and stir well.

4) Add all spices. Stir. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Set aside.

For the eggplant:

1) Peel it, then slice it. The slices should be no more than 1/2" thick - less is better.

2) I like to create an assembly line for this step. On my left, I have a plate with the sliced eggplant. Then I crack the eggs in a bowl, add the milk and pesto, and stir very well. Its hard to break up all the pesto, but do your best. Some chunks are ok (a hand mixer or blender works well for this step). Then I put my bread crumbs on a plate, and keep an empty plate to my right. So the order is: naked eggplant on left, then egg mixture, bread crumbs, and plate.

From Food pics

3) Dip the eggplant in the eggs, transfer the eggplant to the bread crumbs and coat. Leave them on the right side plate when you're done with them. I usually double batter (dip in eggs and bread crumbs a second time) about half of the eggplant slices - especially the thicker ones.

4) Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Place the eggplant slices in the oil for 2-3 minutes and flip. I cook them until they are golden brown on each side. Place cooked slices on several layers of paper towels to soak up extra oil.
* Oil tends to go flying in this step, and I have stained many a shirt. Wear an apron or a shirt you don't care about.

Putting the dish together:

1) Preheat the oven to 350.

2) In a large casserole dish, spread some of the tomato sauce over the bottom. Place several eggplant slices in a single layer over the sauce. Dribble more sauce over the eggplant. You don't want to add too much sauce, it will make the dish mushy. I usually use no more than a cup of sauce per layer.

3) Take a handful of the thawed and drained spinach, and squeeze to drain any excess liquid. Spread it over the eggplant/sauce layer. I usually use about two handfuls of spinach per layer. Over the spinach, spread a handful or two of mozzarella cheese. Over that, dribble some more tomato sauce.

4) Repeat these steps until the topmost layer. The topmost layer should end with the mozzarella cheese, and over that I sprinkle a handful of Parmesan cheese.

From Food pics

From Food pics

5) Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove tin foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until the top layer of cheese is melted and slightly brown.

From Food pics

From Food pics