Eggplant Parmesan

As one year rolls into the next, I think we’re all ready for some change. Especially the weather. So I found a dish that at least brings back the taste of summer.
gardenSummertime at my house begins when the kitchen counters start to overflow with green beans, squash, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes and eggplant from my dad’s garden. And, as the countertops fill up with goodies, we get creative with all the ways to put them on our plates. Raw, steamed, grilled, dipped, baked–you name it, we’ve probably done it. But eggplant is the real stumper. What can you do with it?

So, I knew I had to try the “Microwave Eggplant Parmesan” recipe from Modernist Cuisine at Home, that finally gives eggplant the spotlight it deserves. Layers of freshly steamed eggplant, combined with stringy mozzarella and velvety ricotta, topped with a homemade marinara that’s good enough to eat by itself (seriously).

Let’s start there, with the marinara.

veggies

pureeIn fact, the marinara might actually be the best part for it’s simplicity and versatility. All it takes is minced yellow onions, carrots, and garlic tossed into a pressure cooker with some canned tomatoes and olive oil. The pressure cooker locks in the rich flavors and cooks the sauce evenly without any fuss. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no worries. I tried simmering the sauce for twice as long and it worked beautifully as well. Every spoonful of this marinara packed with the sweetness of the carrots and onions and the earthiness of the tomatoes, reminding me of the taste of a summer garden–much better than its preservative laden canned counterpart. Save the leftovers in the fridge because it’s perfect atop pizza or whole wheat pasta the next day. Wins all around.

Now it’s just a matter of adding some layers of steamed eggplant, fresh cheese, and marinara, topping the whole thing off with some toasted breadcrumbs. The trick here is relying on the strengths of each kitchen apparatus separately. The heating element in the oven does a fantastic job browning breadcrumbs, while the microwave’s electromagnetic waves steam the polar water molecules that comprise eggplant.

eggplant

food

Besides a pressure cooker, which can be substituted by longer simmering time in a covered pot, this recipe is easily in reach of even the most basic kitchens. Yet, this recipe offers great insight into how to avoid common mistakes when cooking vegetables, while locking in rich flavor and nutrients. All the fresh vegetables in this recipe along with my new knowledge about cooking them get me excited for the garden to be back in commission next summer. I hope you enjoy and get creative with your own!

Marinara (adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home)

Mince yellow onions (260 g or 2 cups), carrots (160 g or 1 cup), and garlic (18 g or 5-6 cloves) in a food processor.

Put the minced vegetables into the base of a pressure cooker and saute in olive oil (20 g or 1.5 T) for approximately 4 minutes.

Add canned crushed tomatoes (1 large can) to the pressure cooker base and pressure cook at 15 psi for 45 minutes. {If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply let the sauce simmer for 2 hours.}

Makes 4 cups and keeps in the fridge for 5 days or the freezer for 6 months.

Microwave Eggplant Parmesan: The Modernist Cuisine at Home At Home Version  (adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home)

Spread and bake breadcrumbs (1 cup) and grated parmesan cheese (1/2 cup) on a baking sheet for 10 minutes at 375 degrees F to brown.

Spread paper towels on a microwave safe plate. Place sliced eggplant (12 slices for 1 large plant) on top and sprinkle with salt. Cover the slices with more paper towels and steam in the microwave for 5 minutes. Remove and transfer the slices to a microwaveable bag. Microwave again for about 6 minutes until tender.

In a microwave safe dish (I used 5 x 4 inch), alternate layers* of fresh marinara, eggplant slices, freshly sliced mozzarella, and ricotta, repeating three times. Sprinkle the top with the browned breadcrumbs and parmesan. Place the whole dish in the microwave for 5 minutes, until the center starts bubbling. Enjoy!

*For variation, you can also add layers of whole wheat noodles.

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