eggplant parm

Woah. I had no idea that these little bitty eggplants could be so delicious. I think I have always turned away from eggplant parmesan because of the eggplant. In hindsight that is truly ridiculous because nothing can be terrible when you cover it in cheese.

When I was planning my garden this year, I really wanted to include a patio baby eggplant. The patio baby produces plants that are much smaller than traditional plants. They are ideal for growing on patios (obviously) and for people who don't need a ton of large produce (single people). I did try to grow this same variety last year but it was largely unproductive.

The plant has been bursting with little eggplants for much of the summer but I didn't get around to really using them until this week. Until now I've been forcing them on people who come for tomatoes. You want some fresh tomatoes? Take an eggplant as a bonus item.

Making eggplant parm doesn't take a lifetime but it does have more steps than I'd otherwise subscribe to on a weeknight. You have to prepare each eggplant slice, fry it, and then bake the whole thing. It's just one step too many for me but I'm glad I made it happen. This was delicious. There are probably a million eggplant parm recipes out there but this is the one I started with. Like all of my recipes, I never really follow the instructions to a T.

A few notes:
Eggplant slices // Really stick with 1/2 inch slices. Anything less than this and I think they are too floppy and won't hold the breadcrumbs that well.
Double Dip // I double breaded the eggplant slices. It was worth it. In other words, egg --> breadcrumbs --> egg --> breadcrumbs --> fry it up.
Eggplant size // Since I was using a smaller variety of eggplant, I think mine also retained less moisture. As a result, I didn't need the full hour to pull moisture out (see below for more context). I do think this step is a game changer. I can't imagine making eggplant parm and it being soggy. No thanks.
Pasta // I served this over some linguine with more tomato sauce but you can do many other things. I might eat some of the leftovers in a sandwich or perhaps over some pesto pasta. Seems a bit wild, but I feel like it would be good.

Some bonus points for this recipe? Nearly all of the ingredients came from my garden or my neighbor's. I grew the eggplant and basil. The tomato sauce was made from my tomatoes over the prior weekend. It is literally just tomatoes, no onion, garlic, etc. So pure tomato goodness. The eggs for the breading came from my Aunt's chickens next door. Only ingredients that were bought? Breadcrumbs and cheese. So incredibly satisfying - and delicious.
  1. Salt both sides of your eggplant slices and place them in a large colander in the sink. Let the liquid drain for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Brush off the excess salt when you are done so they aren't too salty!
  2. In 2 shallow dishes, add breadcrumbs to one and whisk eggs and milk in the other. Dip both sides of eggplant slice into milk/egg mixture then cover with breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess. Repeat. Place on large baking sheet and repeat until all eggplant slices have been coated.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil into the skillet. Once the skillet is hot, add eggplant slices at a time to the skillet and cook on both sides until golden brown, remove and set back on baking sheet. Repeat until you've pan-fried them all.
  5. In a large casserole dish, add 1 cup of tomato sauce to the bottom of the casserole dish. Add a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle cheese. Repeat sauce, slices, cheese layers until you don't have any left. For the very top be more generous with the shredded mozzarella and sprinkle on some bonus parmesan cheese. 
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly crisp on top. If needed, you can pop it under the broiler to get cheese crispy.
  7. Serve hot and top with torn basil.
Shopping List
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2" thick slices
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp vegetable oil, for lightly pan-frying
3 cups tomato sauce
2 cups mozzarella shredded
1 cup parmesan cheese
Handful of fresh basil leaves chopped

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