Courtney, whose husband is allergic to all purple foods, came to Takamatsu bearing NINE gorgeous eggplants from a student's garden - a veritable treasure bag of juicy, purpley antioxidants begging for Italian cooking. Lacy (another teacher) took three of these beastly fruits, leaving Janelle and me with the remaining SIX to deal with. And deal with them we did . . .
Let me just say that Janelle in a shirt that says "Garlic Beams" plus six juicy eggplants, tomatoes and an entire bulb of garlic equal the most fun I've had cooking in a long time. I can't believe we still had two left after all of this (they went into this week's fajitas). These recipes are completely flexible, and I highly recommend you be creative with them. Janelle is learning quickly that I'm not very good at following the recipe, even the first time we try it (sorry, Janelle). I can't help it. When you buy a kilogram of garlic for three bucks, you inevitably want to add as much as possible to your cooking! Also, if you have the time, homemade tomato sauce would make a WORLD of difference - a corner we were willing to cut given our hunger and time constraint. This eggplant Parmesan is adapted from a recipe I found on allrecipes.com (I wanted one that didn't involve frying), and the stuffed mushrooms were our own creation. Feast your eyes . . .
3 eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/4 inch)
2 eggs, beaten (more if you run out - use just the whites to lower the fat)
4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs*
1 cup flour
6 cups spaghetti sauce, divided
1 (16 oz) package mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
*We used paprika, dried oregano, garlic powder and a pinch of salt to season our bread crumbs
1. Salt the eggplant slices in a colander and let them "sweat" for 30 min. to an hour. Rinse them well with cold water and pat dry with a clean dish cloth or paper towel.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175-180 degrees C).
3. Dip eggplant slices in flour, egg, then in bread crumbs. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes on each side*.
4. In a 9x13 inch baking dish spread spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom. Place a layer of baked eggplant slices in the sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with the cheeses. Sprinkle basil on top.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.
*We ended up with quite a bit of eggplant slices left over. If this happens, dip them and bake them, then store them in a freezer bag in your freezer for an easy meal another day!
1 teaspoon olive oil
24 Shiitake mushrooms, stems cut off (other types will work too, but the bigger the cap the better!)
1 eggplant, finely diced
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/4 cup pine nuts
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (more if you can handle it!)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high. Add diced eggplant, garlic, oregano and salt. Sautee until eggplant becomes soft. You may need to cover your skillet for a minute or two to let the juices cook out of the eggplant. Add the tomatoes and pine nuts and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes or until most of the juice cooks off (this is important for flavor). Add fresh basil in the last 3 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
3. Spread a little olive oil on a baking pan (make sure it has a lip to catch juices - and oh, will there be juices!) and arrange mushroom caps on the pan.
3. Spoon a small heap of eggplant mixture on each mushroom cap and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.