With Fall in full swing, the chill in the air (ok not so much in Central Florida) calls for warm, hearty comfort food that brings family and friends together. It’s also the time here in Central Florida when we begin harvesting eggplants, herbs, greens, and other veggies, so when our first eggplants are available eggplant parmesan immediately comes to mind.
This dish will require some prep work but it’s well worth it.
- 3 medium globe eggplants (about 3 lbs)
- 4-6 cups marinara
- 1 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 10-12 leaves Italian basil, washed and spun dry
- Plus extra leaves for garnish if desired
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves (1 Tbsp if using dried)
- Kosher salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Breaded and fried eggplant:
- 2 cup extra virgin olive oil (you may need more so have extra on hand just in case)
- 3/4 cup organic all purpose flour
- 6 large eggs, beaten
- 4 cups plain panko breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Wash and spin dry basil leaves and sprigs of oregano.
- Tear or slice basil; set aside.
- Strip oregano leaves off of the stems; set aside.
- Grate 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano; set aside.
- Mince garlic; set aside.
- Wash and dry eggplant (if using organic produce that was picked within 2 days of using you may leave the skin on as it hasn’t had time to dry and toughen); set aside.
- Spread the flour, and panko breadcrumbs into two separate 11 in. x 7 in. x 2 in. rectangular baking pans.
- Season the flour with 1 Tbsp kosher salt and 1 tsp black pepper, mix well.
- Beat the eggs well and pour into a third 11 in. x 7 in. x 2 in. rectangular baking pan.
Breaded and fried eggplant:
- Pour oil into large frying pan and heat on medium-high to 350 F.
- Cut tops off eggplant then slice lengthwise into 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices (crosswise o.k. as well but this will add more to your total preparation and cooking time as you will have more slices to prep and fry).
- Dredge a slice of eggplant in the flour, ensuring all sides covered in flour, shake off excess then place in the egg wash again ensuring all sides are covered, drain off excess. Finally dredge in the panko breadcrumbs, ensuring the entire slice of eggplant is covered in crumbs.
- Carefully place the breaded slice of eggplant in the hot oil. Fry until the bottom of the eggplant has turned golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). Carefully flip the eggplant over and fry until the other side has turned golden brown as well (about 2-3 minutes).
- Place the fried eggplant on a paper-towel lined baking tray.
- Continue until all the slices are breaded and fried.
- Pour and spread 1 cup of marinara into 13 in. x 9 in. x 2 in. rectangular glass baking pan.
- Lay enough slices of breaded and fried eggplant onto marinara to cover the bottom.
- Pour and spread 1 cup of marinara onto eggplant layer.
- Sprinkle 1/3 of basil, oregano, garlic, mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and red pepper flakes (optional) onto marinara.
- Repeat steps 2-4 until all the eggplant has been used or you reach the top of the pan. (DO NOT OVERFILL or you will have a mess in your oven!)
- You should have enough of everything for four layers of sauce and three layers of eggplant, herbs, and cheeses.
- Place uncovered into preheated (400 F) oven for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sides are bubbling.