On the cheap, again . . .Here I go with another bargain meal. Couldn't help myself. I had this lonely little eggplant in the vegetable bin. When I bought it the other day, my intention was to make a small batch of caponata. I love the sweet and sour flavor of this wonderful relish to eat on rustic bread or toss into a mixed greens salad. But it didn't come to pass. Instead, I made a petite portion of eggplant Parmesan on the fly.
With no tomato sauce made up, and only a couple of fresh tomatoes on the sill that were still a bit on the hard side, I really had to improvise. I tossed a 15 oz can of organic diced tomatoes into the food processor with two cloves of garlic, whirled that around until it was fairly smooth and then poured it into a saucepan with four of my stash of frozen veggie broth cubes (1/2 cup) and a generous sprinkling of a Penzey's blend of Italian herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Then let it all simmer very gently. I didn't want it to cook down too much, but wanted it to have enough time to develop a little depth of flavor while I prepared the sliced eggplant.
I used the standard breading technique. Dip in flour, then egg wash, then panko (gives a much crustier finish than standard dry bread crumbs). Now here's a little trick I learned from the good folks at Cooks Illustrated. Instead of frying the eggplant slices, while I was slicing and breading them, I preheated the oven to 425° and placed a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. As the eggplant slices were breaded, I set them out on a wire rack. Once the oven had reached temperature, I removed the hot baking sheet (carefully) and swirled on a tablespoon of olive oil, then placed the breaded eggplant slices on the sheet and into the oven. The slices will brown nicely in about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them and turn them over after about 20 minutes. If you are doing a larger batch, use two sheets, switch and rotate them about halfway through the cooking time.
To assemble, spread a generous layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom a baking dish. Layer on the eggplant slices, dollop each with a little tomato sauce and then sprinkle with a combination of grated mozzarella and Parmesan. Return to the hot oven and bake until bubbly and the cheese has browned. About 15 minutes of so.
While the eggplant was in the oven for its final bake, I sliced up some of the ciabatta I baked the other day and toasted it over medium heat in a little garlic infused olive oil and a sprinkling of those same Italian herbs.
This meal did take a little more than 30 minutes, but not more than an hour and most of that time was baking time,waiting for the eggplant to brown, and then for it to heat through with the cheese.
It was a dandy supper, concocted on the fly with a .99 can of tomatoes, a 79 cent eggplant, about a 3 oz piece of store brand mozzarella and a perhaps a quarter cup of grated Parmesan, and let's not forget the leftover bread. Granted this was dinner for one or two, but it wouldn't take much more to make it dinner for three or four. Just buy a bigger eggplant.
Till next time . . . keep on cooking.