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!
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!
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!