Eggplant Parmesan

Way back in May, I wrote about Old Favorites – one of them being Eggplant Parmesan. I prepared it again last week (sorry for the delay/work sometimes gets in the way of all this fun cooking!).  I talked about the ease of making it and popping one tray in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal, but I never told you how to make it.  If you think you don’t like eggplant – or don’t have any idea how to work with those purple veggies in the store – this one’s for you.  It’s tasty and delicious – and you won’t be disappointed.

Buying two medium/large size eggplants will make you about two round pie plates – one for now and one for the freezer to enjoy later!

Start cutting off the ends of each eggplant.  Peel away the purple skin (optional) and cut into ¼-inch thick slices.  Lay slices out on a large baking sheet (they can overlap a bit).  Sprinkle with kosher salt and let stand for about 30 minutes.  The salt draws out some of the bitter flavor sometimes found in eggplant, and it also helps to close the pores of the eggplant so not to absorb a lot of oil during frying.  (You can skip this step without noticing too much difference, but because of the oil absorption, I do it.)  If you do the same, use paper towel to soak up the drops of water/moisture before continuing.  If not – proceed as follows:

Using a large bowl, whisk together the 4 eggs beaten a handful (1/4 cup) of grated Parmesan cheese.  Heat olive oil (enough to cover bottom – plus a little more) in a large skillet.  When oil is hot, dip eggplant slices into egg/cheese mixture and gently fry – they cook quickly.  Fill the pan with as many as will lay flat.  Watch them carefully and turn when golden brown.  Once golden on both sides, remove to rest on paper towel lined sheet pan or dish.  Continue cooking all the eggplant slices as described.  As the pan/dish fills up, place more paper towel between slices to soak up more of the excess oil.

After you’re done with the cooking – it’s time to assemble the trays of eggplant. (I use tin pie plates as they are quick, easy, go from freezer to oven, and can be discarded after baking/eating.)  Use your favorite Marinara sauce (3 cups) or make your own.  Spoon enough sauce to coat the bottom of the pie plate.  Doesn’t have to be thick – just spread it around to coat the bottom.  Line the pan with the first layer of eggplant slices.  They shouldn’t overlap too much, but a little is okay.  Spread more sauce on top of the eggplant slices.  Sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan cheese (3/4 cups total) and as much ground black pepper as you like.  (You can also use red pepper flakes, if you’re so inclined.)  Repeat layering until the goodness reaches the top of the baking dish.  Top with a final layer of sauce and grated cheese/black pepper – and you’re ready to bake or freeze.

To bake right away, place pie plate on a baking sheet (in case it bubbles over) and bake for 25-30 minutes at 400F until it’s brown and bubbly – delicious looking!  Be sure to watch it as it gets to 20 minutes and remove it when it’s hot, bubbly, and golden to your liking.  Let it rest for 10-15 minutes – slice into wedges – and enjoy with some garlic bread, salad, and the beverage of your choice!

If you’re freezing a tray, cover with aluminum foil before baking.  When ready to use, place covered dish (frozen) in 350F oven for about 30 minutes.  Then remove the aluminum foil and bake as described above.  Let me know how you like it!

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Ready for the week ahead – and beyond!

Another fun day in the kitchen getting ready for the week ahead, putting a twist on an old favorite and sharing a nutritious breakfast cookie that’s perfect for those days you’re running out the door!

You know I’m a big fan of the versatile breaded chicken tender, so today I thought about preparing eggplant in the same way to make Eggplant Parmesan.  The original recipe shared back in 2011 starts by lightly frying the eggplant slices on the stovetop before assembling.  Today I decided to start with breaded eggplant slices that I baked in the oven before putting the layers together.  I even made some more of my favorite chicken tenders while I was at it!

Picture of breaded eggplant slices

Breaded Eggplant Slices

Picture of breaded baked chicken tenders

Breaded Chicken Tenders

 

 

 

 

As I was in and out of the refrigerator, I remembered I had some fresh basil that I bought last week to make the Basil & Goat Cheese Chicken Breasts, so in staying true to form with ‘never throwing anything away,’ in the food processor went the basil leaves and PRESTO, out come a few small containers of PESTO!

Picture of 3 small containers of basil pesto

Basil Pesto

 

 

 

 

Finally, I made another double batch of these delicious and nutritious Peanut Butter Power Cookies.  I found this recipe last August when I was looking for an ‘on the go’ breakfast treat to share as we headed out on a small group trip, and these have been a staple in our house from then on.  A double batch makes about 30 cookies, so I store them in the freezer and they are ready anytime.  I grab a couple to eat in the early morning hours on my way to the gym – feeling good about it all the way there!

Picture of Peanut Butter Power Cookies

Peanut Butter Power Cookies

 

Ready for the week ahead – and I hope you are, too!  Buon Appetito!


Sunday Prep Kitchen (and an Easter menu idea!)

Sunday was one of my typical days of prepping all that I brought home from shopping on Saturday, in less than 2 hours!   I didn’t set out for anything in particular as I went shopping, but found many great buys that will make their way to our dinner plates throughout the week ahead.

Sunday Prep

Sunday Prep

I couldn’t walk past 98 cent eggplant or asparagus at 98 cents per pound.  Whenever I find eggplant on sale, I typically make Eggplant Parmesan, but having a tray already in the freezer, I thought about a grilled vegetable pizza and knew I’d be stopping off at the Italian import store for some peppery panceetta and pizza dough.  As I continued my way around the store, the fennel flashed me back to a delicious Italian sausage and fennel sandwich I had a couple of weeks ago on crusty Italian bread.  My mouth literally started watering, so in the cart went the fennel as I headed for the sausage aisle.  Some of the best meals happen when you have no set plan in place!

As I was in the midst of prepping, cooking, and storing, I came across the leftover mashed potatoes from a few nights ago – and they quickly became my go-to potato pancakes.  That was Sunday – and we’ll be sinking our teeth into delicious meals all week long!

What are you having for Easter dinner?  I’ve made a ham for every Easter I can remember, and I just don’t feel like a ham this year.  I started thinking about what to have, and although I’m still thinking, I might use that grilled eggplant in a vegetable lasagna (grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, and spinach, topped with goat cheese, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella.)  I’m thinking of grilling some chicken basil sausage on the side (for a little Easter je ne sais quoi,) make some garlic bread, a salad – and we’ve got Easter dinner.

Whatever you’re having, you’ll want to make the most delicious Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake for dessert!

Lemon Blueberry CakeI made this for our friend Christine’s birthday on Friday night – and it’s the perfect spring/Easter dessert.  You won’t be disappointed.  Mike came across this recipe a week or so ago (Sally’s Baking Addiction website,) and I’ll be making it again real soon.

Here’s wishing you a week filled with good food and happiness!  Buon appetito!


Old Favorites

Remember the great sale on eggplant I told you about in a previous post?  I made up a couple of dishes of eggplant parmesan and popped them in the freezer.  Here’s a picture of a dinner we enjoyed this past week straight from the freezer to the oven to the table.  A little time to make a salad and pour some wine – and voila – it’s dinner time!  (The garlic bread pictured was also made ahead and frozen from the last time I made it for dinner.)  Here’s a tip – if you’re taking the time to make anything that can be easily frozen and enjoyed again within a reasonable amount of time – make two – one to enjoy right then, and one to enjoy sometime soon again – like the garlic bread.  After dinner that night, I’ve enjoyed the eggplant on a sandwich for lunch two days in a row!  Talk about a treat in the middle of a hectic work day!

Eggplant Parmesan

Another one of my make-ahead old favorites is home-made pizza.  Okay, I often buy the dough, but the rest is all me!  We have a great Italian deli close by that has the dough fresh made on a daily basis.  I save myself a step and pick up a couple on my way home from work.  I usually make two pizzas that we have part of each for dinner – then I freeze the rest for slice-by-slice delight anytime the mood strikes!  Toppings range from as much or as little as you like.  I often choose from such toppings as artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, pancetta, pepperoni, pesto, fresh-sliced tomatoes, and lots of mozzarella and parmesan cheese!  Mike’s favorite pizza is canadian bacon or ham and pineapple!

Pizza! Fresh from the oven!