When Eggplant Parmesan is made well, it’s fantastic. Sadly, the good ones are few and far between. Even reputable restaurants serve soggy or mushy eggplant dishes.
Why bother with eggplant?
Eggplant is a wonderful source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1). It is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and niacin. Eggplant also contains phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid. It’s great in protecting against free radicals and helps boost brain power and lower cholesterol.
Now that you know why you want to eat eggplant, here’s how you make it taste great without being mushy.
Non-mushy Eggplant Parmesan reqires the following three items:
1. Right Thickness
2. Sweating Step
3. Baking and Not Frying
What you need:
- An eggplant free from blemishes and cuts.
- 1/2 cup of unbleached white flour
- 1-2 eggs
- 1 cup of GF breadcrumbs (with Italian seasonings)
- 16 oz of your favorite tomato sauce. (About one jar.)
- Shredded Italian Cheese or cheese alternative
- 2-3 handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
- Cookie sheet and wire cooking rack.
- Casserole dish.
First, cut the eggplant into thin slices no more than 1/4 inch thick. The thicker the slice, the more likely your dinner will have the consistency of slop. Of course, cutting slices too thin can cause it’s own problems, so don’t go crazy.
Next you need to “sweat” the slices. Lay the slices flat onto paper towels and sprinkle each slice with salt. Cover the slices with another paper towel. Let the slices sit for about an hour. This will help draw out much of the immediate moisture in the vegetable, which is culprit in soggy dishes.
NOTE: If you can’t wait an hour to sweat the eggplant, you can put the slices into the oven at 275 degrees for about 7-8 minutes. The challenge with this method is that is depletes the eggplant of much of its amazing nutrients.
BAKING (NOT FRYING):
Frying the eggplant sounds like a great idea, but it generally just makes the eggplant greasy, which will make the eggplant soggy once it sits for a few minutes. Plus, there’s no reason for the added fat.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Pat the slices dry and pat off excess salt.
- Coat slice with flour, tapping off excess flour.
- Dip the floured slice into an egg wash (egg whisked with a tablespoon of water) coating both sides.
- Coat slice with breadcrumbs on both sides. (Use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, or add Italian seasonings to plain breadcrumbs.)
- Place slice onto a cooking rack that sits on a cookie sheet. (The rack is crucial to baking the slices evenly on both sides and further eliminating the sogginess problem. If you put the slices directly on a cookie sheet, moisture seeps out making the bottom of the slice wet.)
- Bake breaded slices for about 10 minutes. To crisp slices, put slices under broiler for about one minute to brown. Do not over do-it here. You don’t want your whole dish to taste burned.
- Layer slices in rows in a casserole dish overlapping each slice about 1/2 – 3/4 of the slice with the next, but without covering each slice completely.
- Cover with chopped spinach.
- Spoon a thick stream of tomato sauce over center of each eggplant row without covering the slices completely with sauce. Sprinkle a mixture of shredded Italian cheeses (mozzarella, Romano, parmesan, provolone) over dish.
- Pop dish into oven and bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.
Serve with a side of additional tomato sauce, a fresh salad, whole wheat pasta, and/or garlic bread.
NOTE: If you want crunchy eggplant, bake the breaded slices for 15-20 minutes and omit casserole dish step. Place several eggplant slices on each plate and top with heated tomato sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.