I'm back! Sorry for my blogging hiatus - between traveling, finals, and starting a new job it's been a rough couple of weeks!
Lewis has been craving this classic Italian dish for weeks now and last night we randomly decided to pick up the ingredients to do so! When you think about it, eggplant is a pretty freaky food, never mind the name, it's texture and flavor are unlike any other in the vegetable world. What many people fail to do when working with this interesting ingredient is that you must sweat the eggplant to tenderize the the texture and reduce the naturally bitter taste. You can do this by salting each piece, then rinsing with cold water, this process also reduces the amount of oil absorption when frying. As for whether to peel or not to peel, I find that even though the skin contains valuable antioxidants, I find the texture a little to chewy for my liking, especially on the larger eggplants, but I will leave this up to you.
If you plan to make this please resist the urge to buy store bought tomato sauce, trust me. Making your own tastes soooo much better, plus you'll get the chance to dance around the kitchen drinking wine and singing along to "Mambo Italiano."
Eggplant Parmesan Stack with Pecan Basil Pesto and Classic Tomato Sauce
For the Tomato Sause...
1 TBS garlic infused oil
1/2 of a large onion, diced small
1/2 cup red wine, such as lambrusco
1 (26oz) can of crushed tomatoes, I prefer THIS brand but you can't always find it so canned tomatoes will do.
1 leveled TBS of dried basil
3-4 chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese OR cream to finish
1.In a sauce pan, add garlic oil (or olive oil with 2 tsps chopped garlic) and heat over medium low. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add red wine, simmer, and reduce by half.
2.Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, and dried basil and cook on low heat, stirring periodically for about an hour (if you're using canned tomatoes you might have to cook sauce for longer since heat destroys that metallic taste).
3.Lastly, add cheese (or cream) and fresh basil )I even added some pesto to the sauce) and serve over each eggplant slice.
For the Pecan Basil Pesto...
1/4 cup pecans
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 olive oil (could be more or less)
1 tsp garlic
3 TBS Parmesan cheese (could be more)
salt and pepper
1.In a food processor, blend basil, pecans, garlic, salt and pepper, and 2 TBS olive oil. While mixing add more oil until you achieve the desired texture. Add cheese and mix.
For the eggplant...
1 large eggplant, peeled (optional) and sliced about 1/2 inch thin
2 eggs, beaten with a splash of milk - in bowl
1 cup flour (with salt and pepper) - in bowl
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs - in bowl
enough oil to cover the bottom of a saute pan
1.Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle generously all over with kosher salt. Set aside to let the bitter juices weep from the eggplant for about an hour. Transfer the eggplant to a colander in the sink, and rinse well under cold running water. Transfer eggplant to a work surface and blot very dry with paper towels.
2.Using the standard breading procedure, dust each eggplant slice with flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. When the oil in the pan reaches 400 degrees F. Working in small batches, fry the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season with salt to taste. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
To assemble, take eggplant slice and top with sauce and cheese. Repeat. Add pesto on the side.