new year old favorites

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Veggies and Sides, Sauces and Such, Dinner Party, Posted on January 20, 2012 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (2)

What’s better than having a bestie who shares your same culinary craving? One of my favs is equally obsessed with eggplant. The deep fried version can’t be beat. But with people like Paula falling from grace with her fat laden fryer it was time to try to lighten up this classic. On my recent stint in CA I experimented with modernizing this old family favorite and struck gold. Crisp golden rounds of eggplant with virtually no fat. What seemed like a California dream transported perfectly to a table of some of our nearest and dearest with a roaring fire and snow on the Ohio ground.

There are lots of parts to this recipe for eggplant parmesan but thankfully most of the pieces can be days and hours ahead of time, requiring only last minute assembly to ensure a light, crisp final presentation.

tomato sauce

First on the list is the basic tomato sauce. Once you make this you will never reach for a jar. It’s light fresh taste is a breeze to make. Simply made with San Marzano tomatoes, chopped onion and garlic and a big sprig of fresh basil.

San Marzano Tomatoes

Crush the canned tomatoes with your hand or if that makes you queasy use a potato masher, but be careful not to splash yourself.


Sauté the onion and garlic.

tomato sauce

Add the tomatoes and basil. Reduce until thick, stirring occasionally for about twenty minutes. Presto- homemade tomato sauce. Make it days in advance, double the recipe. It freezes wonderfully too.


Now for the baked eggplant, which surprisingly looks and tastes just like fried.

salted eggplant

Toss the eggplant rounds with kosher salt.

draining eggplant

This next step is a crucial. Stand the salted rounds up in a colander over a bowl and let “sweat” and drain for one half to one hour (they can actually stand like this for several hours). While the eggplant is draining heat up two large heavy rimmed baking sheets in a 425 degree oven, until nice and hot, about 30 minutes.

 blotting eggplant

With triple layers of paper towels blot the rounds and gently wipe off any excess salt.


In a large zip-loc bag combine flour with some pepper.


In a pie plate beat four large eggs.


In a second pie plate combine Panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.

coated eggplant

Once the eggplant is drained and blotted dry place 8-10 slices in the bag with the flour and shake to coat. Remove the slices, shaking off excess the flour, dip in the egg, letting excess drip off, then coat evenly in the prepared Panko crumbs. Place the coated rounds on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining rounds. Remove the preheated rimed baking sheets from the oven. Add three tablespoons vegetable oil to each, tilting to evenly coat.

baked eggplant

Place half of the eggplant slices on each sheet in a single layer. Bake until crisp and well browned for approximately 30 minutes, rotating pans and turning eggplant midway through. Place on a clean wire rack. Can be made to this point an hour or two in advance. Let sit at room temp on the wire racks.

eggplant parmesan ingredients

Now for the best and easiest part. Before your guests arrive have the tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and baked eggplant all ready to go.

eggplant parmesan

30 minutes before you want to sit down spread 1 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of a buttered 13x9 inch baking dish. Layer in half of the eggplant. Cover evenly with 1 more cup tomato sauce, sprinkle with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Layer remaining eggplant on top. Dot with 1 more cup tomato sauce (leaving most of the eggplant exposed so it will stay crisp). Sprinkle ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese and remaining 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.

eggplant parmesan

Bake until bubbly and the cheese is browned, about 15 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes, scatter about ten torn basil leaves on top, cut and serve with extra tomato sauce on the side.

Your meal is complete with a crusty Italian baguette and a romaine salad tossed with Italian dressing, sliced red onions and halved cherry tomatoes. Cheers to new beginnings with some old favorites.


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