A dish that originated in Southern Italy, the Parmigiana (“in the style of Parma” not to be confused with the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese) dishes were meat or veggies, shallow fried and served with a sauce and cheese. Of all the Parmigiana perhaps the Eggplant Parmesan (Parmigiana) is the most popular. Because the eggplant is traditionally associated with Southern Italy and Parma is in Northern Italy there is some disagreement as to the origin of the dish. While the dish is currently not common in Italian cooking, it is, in all its cheesy and deep fried glory, well and truly an American classic.
It is a favorite of mine. I order it often and devour it ravenously. However, the onset of middle age and the awareness of one’s mortality has started me on the path of finding a more healthy alternative to deep frying. I have to thank my sister-in-law for putting me on the track of baking the eggplant instead of deep frying. That, and reducing the sauce and cheese, make this dish not only extremely tasty but heart healthy. So, experiment and enjoy, and as Mr. Spock famously said “Dif-tor heh smusma” (Live Long and Prosper).
INGREDIENTS (for 4 adults)
Fresh torn basil leaves
1. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch thick circles. Season with salt, pepper and some Italian seasoning and set aside for 15 minutes.
2. Beat an egg.
3. Put Panko breadcrumbs in a pie dish. NOTE: I love Panko! Way better than regular breadcrumbs.
4. Dip the eggplant circles in egg and generously coat with Panko. Place on a greased cookie pan.
5. In a preheated oven at 450F, place the cookie pan and bake eggplant till the Panko browns.
6. In a greased baking dish, place a layer of the baked eggplant, followed by a layer of tomato-basil sauce and a thin layer of shredded mozzarella.
7. Continue 6 till you reach the top layer, where, if possible, use fresh mozzarella slices topped off with fresh torn basil leaves.
8. Bake in a preheated 400F oven till the cheese bubbles.