It’s been a long winter, guys.

People keep saying, “No, Marshall, it hasn’t. It didn’t even really snow.”

Fair point. But.

That doesn’t mean that the not-snowing, not-super-cold winter doesn’t drag on. I’m getting sick of the darkness, for one, and getting sick of wearing hose to work every day, and I’m sick of the grocery store.

In an attempt to consume as many seasonal fruits and vegetables as possible, I have citrus coming out my eye balls. Clementines, which were once a tasty treat,  are now my only source of fruit. Out-of-season apples, peaches, and watermelon just depress me too much to even consider. I’ve eaten through seas of pineapples, a few winter melons, and some ill-advised California strawberries (once you’ve had your fingers stained red by a local, late-spring strawberry there’s just no going back).

I’m ready for spring. I’m ready for the farmer’s markets to fill up with color again, and for local fruit and vegetables to not come pickled or canned. So when I saw a beautiful purple eggplant at the grocery store, I couldn’t resist.

Even though it was grown in a greenhouse, I still had to have it- it was a reminder of things to come, of eating watermelon until your stomach hurts, of fresh salsas from a bumper crop of tomatoes, of fresh basil in pesto…  oh god I hate winter.

But once I had my little harbinger of summer, what was I to do with it? I have never actually cooked with eggplant before. What I really wanted to do was fire up the grill I don’t own and cook it with some nice steaks I can’t afford, and finish it off with some peaches that aren’t finished growing yet.

So I settled for something I could whip up indoors: Eggplant Parmesan. This recipe was not only relatively easy, but it contained basics that I generally keep in my fridge or pantry: eggs, bread crumbs, a hunk of good Parmesan (it lasts forever!). I also happened to have leftover mozzarella from making pizza (recipe forthcoming). It was ready pretty quickly, and smelled absurdly delicious. I had to stop myself from eating the whole eggplant. This could also be whipped up for a crowd since the final step is baking the eggplant and completely hands-off, which also gives you a great head start on cleaning.

Eggplant Parmesan
my recipe! 

Ingredients

– 1 eggplant, sliced into rounds 1/4 in to 1/2 in thick (the thinner they are the crispier it will turn out!)
– 2 tbs kosher or table salt
– 2 eggs, lightly beaten
– 1 c flour
– 1 c plain breadcrumbs, boxed or freshly made
– 1/2 c fresh shredded parmigiana
– 4-5 tbs olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic
–  1 can diced tomatoes
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1 tsp dried organo
– 1 tsp dried basil
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 c shredded mozzarella cheese, part-skim or whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 425. Begin by salting the eggplant to draw out the water. Place the sliced rounds into a colander and toss with the kosher salt, or table salt if you only have that. Let sit for about 20 minutes while you prep the rest of the supplies.

2. While the eggplant is salting, place 1 c flower in a shallow pie pan or dish and mix in a dash of pepper. Place the beaten egg into another shallow dish. Combine the bread crumbs with the shredded Parmesan and add a generous amount of salt and pepper and set into a third shallow dish. (If you have a gallon-sized ziploc bag, you can also place the flour in that and shake the eggplant in it to coat. We didn’t have one so I did without).

3. Heat up 1 tbs of olive oil until shimmering over medium high heat in a pan, add 2 cloves crushed or minced garlic and let simmer until fragrant but not burnt, around 30 sec-1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Mash up the diced tomatoes with a wooden spoon as they soften to make them less chunky but still retain texture. You can allow the tomato sauce to simmer as you fry the eggplant, but once it is properly thickened (you should be able to push a rubber spatula through it and have a small path form across the bottom of the pan), remove from the heat and add the dried basil and oregano (add more to taste if desired) and salt and pepper to taste.

4. While the tomato sauce thickens and simmers, use paper towels to press out remaining water from the eggplant (about 3 layers of paper towels on each side). Wipe off the excess salt. Set aside a cookie sheet or cooling rack to place the breaded eggplant on, and, going slice by slice, roll the eggplant rounds in the four, shaking off the excess, then egg, then breadcrumbs, flipping the rounds to cover both sides. Place on the baking sheet or wire rack while you repeat with remaining rounds.

5. Heat 3-4 tbs of olive oil in a pan (depending on the size of the pan you will have to add more or less, but you will want about a quarter of an inch of oil evenly distributed across the bottom of the pan. Once it starts shimmering, add one breaded eggplant round to test- it should immediately start sizzling. Transfer to a large plate or baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Cooking in batches, repeat with the remaining slices, making sure each side is golden brown but not burned. Add more olive oil if needed

6. Place the fried eggplant rounds in a baking dish (I used a 9 in by 13 in casserole dish), placing the eggplants with slight overlap . Cover in the tomato sauce, then 1 cup shredded mozzerella. Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown slightly, around 10-15 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Yields approx 4 servings

Note: If you want to serve this on a bed of pasta, double the ingredients for the easy pasta sauce and reserve 1/2 to put on the pasta. This would also be delicious alone with a side salad or vegetable, or, you could be like me and just eat it by itself alone, then retire exhausted to your bedroom to watch Hulu.