. . . Everything.
You could say I’ve rediscovered my love of cooking this past week, so I haven’t had much in the way of new restaurant experiences. As much as I love dining out, it is so rewarding to sit down to a satisfying and delicious meal I made myself.
I wanted to post specifically about my awesome eggplant experience because I’ve never actually cooked eggplant before – no, not even eggplant parmesan. If you couldn’t tell by that blurry camera phone image, I successfully tackled the eggplant parm.
Although I’m not a fan of recipes, I do browse them to see that I’m doing everything right, and I was surprised to find that most eggplant parm recipes are fried. Frying eggplant just seems so . . . harsh. Why wouldn’t you bake this deliciously delicate vegetable?!
Of course I baked it.
If you wanna try baking it, here’s a few tips from my own personal experience:
A lot of fried eggplant recipes seem to call for thin slices of eggplant, but if you’re baking it, you can be a bit more generous with thickness. It’s going to be slow-cooking in there, so the whole piece will get nice and tender.
Use enough egg! I tried to make two eggplant “patties” with one egg yolk alone, and it didn’t quite cover the eggplant; as a result, it was really tough getting the crumbs to stick. Make sure you’ve got enough stick for your stuff. And add a bit of white while you’re add it – it definitely didn’t hurt mine!
Flip it often. Why? You want to get both sides toasted, of course, but it also gives you a chance to reapply some bread crumbs (and maybe even some extra egg if necessary!) to thicken up your coating. Or, if you like it thin, flip it anyway so it cooks evenly.
I personally baked this particular eggplant similar to how I prepare baked ziti. I cooked the breadcrumb-coated eggplant for several minutes on each side all by itself to get the coating stuck on their good. Then I topped it with some sauce, basil leaves (optional of course, but I love basil) and big slices of fresh mozzarella cheese.
Fresh mozzarella is definitely the way to go. You get a wonderful indicator of when the meal is ready as the cheese melts down and around your food. It also pairs so well with the basil – combined with the tomato sauce, it’s like a Caprese salad in your mouth. If you buy the mozzarella balls in water, they’ll last for a while, too!
I’m sure you can find the cooking temp and time somewhere on the internet, but if you’re curious, I cooked this (with the sauce and cheese) for about 45 minutes at 325. It was perfectly tender and all the flavors had smushed into something delicious. The green bean salad (cold, blanched green beans in an orange juice/balsamic/mint dressing) was so starkly different from the warm, gooey eggplant parmesan, adding crunchy texture and citrusy flavors – I highly recommend throwing a cold salad of sorts to get that delicious combination.
Enough about my eggplant. Time to cook.