Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

Published in Cooking Light – September 2010

This was a recipe makeover, which surprised me because, it’s eggplant.  Of course, fry it and even vegetables become fattening.  This recipe eliminates the frying, uses Japanese panko instead of bread crumbs and uses significantly less cheese.  Of course, I made a goof while making this recipe, but I’ll get into that later… Let’s start with what this luscious dish is supposed to look like & the dishes stats:

© Cooking Light
318 calories per serving
8.2 grams saturated fat
655 milligrams sodium

Looks good, doesn’t it?  And the calories & fat content make me smile too.  I’ve been trying to eat more vegetarian and this is right up my alley!  Also, I remember eating it fondly as a child, but now when I see recipes with eggplant I make the crinkle face.  You know the one.  I decided that it was worth a try after all this time has passed.

Here’s what you need according to Cooking Light:

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
2 cups whole-wheat panko
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 (1-pound) eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Cooking spray

1/2 cup torn fresh basil
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (16-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Remaining ingredients:
1 (24-ounce) jar premium pasta sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) finely grated fontina cheese

You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking… Holy Schiznit!  That’s a lot of ingredients and where do I find some of this crap?  Let’s start with my changes and notes:

2 cups whole-wheat panko
You can find panko in a couple places in your grocery store: the ethnic aisle in the Japanese section and with the bread crumbs.  I went to a grocery store that usually has anything and everything.  I had two stockers help me search and we could only find regular Panko.  If you read the magazine, they explain why you should use wheat – because it gives a crispier “oven-fried” effect.  Not willing to give up, I read all of the boxes of Panko & decided on Emeril’s All Natural Panko Bread Crumbs.  A quick web search revealed they have them at Whole Foods (the nearest is 21 miles away & in the city… I’ll take my chances with Emeril’s panko).   If your store isn’t as adventurous or you don’t have a Whole Foods, a quick search on Amazon showed it for purchase.

2 (1-pound) eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Obviously, eggplants need to be in season.  Luckily for me, they still are.  (I’m a little behind on the magazine reading department)  One eggplant was roughly 1 pound, so I bought two and went on my way.  That still didn’t stop me from making a mistake with the eggplant, but that is still to come.

1/2 cup torn fresh basil
Ooooh… fresh herbs.  First I’d like to say I do not have a green thumb and although I would LOVE to grow my own herbs, I can say that:
  1. I would probably kill them, or
  2. My dogs would probably trample them, eat them and/or pee on them
As much as I enjoy using fresh herbs, I find that I always waste a crap-load of them, which wastes money, which I don’t have a lot of at the moment. They just don’t have a long life and I never can use them fast enough.   Thus, I stuck with my dried basil, which I already have and reduced the amount to 1 tablespoon.  I definitely encourage using fresh if you have it though.

1 (16-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
There really is no “change” or “disaster” here except that they only had a HUGE tub of it in stock.  Grocery buttholes.

1 (24-ounce) jar premium pasta sauce
I usually enjoy Newman’s own, but for the sake of saving a couple dimes, I opted for the store brand.  I made sure I used a basic marinara because I didn’t want to muddle any additional ingredients with the eggplant.

8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) finely grated fontina cheese
I’m all for saving money, but when it comes to cheese – and this really is the crux of the dish along with the breading – I splurged & bought from the specialty cheese area in the grocery store.  I’m pretty sure that’s the only place you can get fontina.  I didn’t see it in the regular refrigerated dairy section.

Okay, got all that?  Good, now let’s talk about your equipment.

2 shallow dishes
2 baking sheets
Flexible spatula – I find that the stiff ones are a pain when dealing with breading
Medium mixing bowl
13x9” glass baking dish
Aluminum foil

Nothing earth-shattering here, so we can move on to how you do it:

I usually believe in prepping all of my ingredients first, but since we have to make the eggplant first, and then use the filling and other ingredients, I decided to prep only the eggplant ingredients to start.  Prep meaning making sure all of my ingredients are washed, chopped, drained, beaten, etc.  By the way, do you know how hard it is to peel an eggplant?  Yeah, neither did I.  Here’s how I did it:
  1. I started by cutting off the ends
  2. I made a small peel section with my very sharp knife, almost cutting off a finger.  Don’t do that.
  3. I used a potato peeler to finish the job.

I had to switch positions a couple of times, but it worked.  Any suggestions on how to do it better?  Please leave it in the comments. 

Let’s also talk about my first mistake of the recipe.  When I made my grocery list, I did indeed write down 2 eggplants at 1 pound each, and I purchased 2 eggplants that were approximately 1 pound each.  For some bizarre reason, when I was actually making the dish, I read it as 1 pound eggplant total which should be around 2 eggplants.  Of course when I weighed one eggplant and it was a pound, I said, “crap, I bought too much eggplant,” and left my other sad eggplant in the vegetable bowl.  Now this isn’t too much a disaster since there are only two of us to be fed.  Also, 1 pound was a lot of eggplant, but yeah, it’s two pounds worth of eggplant.

Now that the boo-boo is out of the way, on to the cooking!

(1)   Preheat oven to 375°.

(2)   Mix the eggs and water in the shallow dish.

(3)   Mix the panko & cheese (for the eggplant only) in the other dish.  It was at this point that Emeril’s panko was the same color as the panko I already had.  Oh well, I tried.

(4)   Spray the baking sheets with cooking spray.

(5)   Dip the eggplant in the egg then dredge it in the panko mixture.  This is quite messy, so keep the bowls and baking sheets touching if possible, or be prepared to clean up egg yolk & copious amounts of bread crumbs.

Technical term defined – dredge:  plop the eggplant into the middle of the dish & gently press it into the bread crumbs.  Then bury it like you would your husband on the beach (but don’t give it sand boobs).  Gently pack around the eggplant, then pull it out & kind of shake it to get all the loose stuff off.  Don’t worry if there isn’t a bread crumb on every square inch of the eggplant.

(6)   Place eggplant 1” apart on baking sheets (about the width of your thumb) and cook for about 15 minutes in the preheated oven, flip them over, and cook about 15 minutes more.

(7)   While the eggplant is cooking, prep all of the remaining ingredients.  Then, mix all of filling ingredients together.  Don’t drop the egg shell into the mixture either.  If my husband bites into anything too crunchy, I’ll tell him it is his imagination.

(8)   Now here is the difficult part, assembly.  I swear to you I read this paragraph about a million times and still mixed up the steps.  Hopefully this will break it down nicely for you.
a.      Coat the glass baking dish with cooking spray and spoon in ½ cup of pasta sauce.
b.      Layer half of eggplant over sauce & sprinkle with half of the salt.
c.       Put ¾ cup sauce over the eggplant.
d.      Spread half of the filling over the sauce.
e.      Put 1/3 of the mozzarella and ¼ cup of the fontina over the filling.
f.        Layer the rest of the eggplant & sprinkle with the rest of the salt
g.      Put ¾ sauce over the eggplant
h.      Spread the rest of the filling over the sauce
i.        Put 1/3 of the mozzarella and ¼ cup of the fontina over the filling.
j.        Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.

(9)   Spray the sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover the baking dish tightly.

(10)  Bake for 35 minutes.  Then remove the foil, top with the remaining cheeses and bake for another 10 minutes.  The sauce should be bubbly and the cheese should be melted

Remember what that delicious eggplant looked like in Cooking Light’s picture?  Here’s what mine looked like.

It’s hard to believe that this pile of goo is healthy and tasty, but it is.  Here’s my final thoughts:


Mess:  Not too many dishes to clean up and no messy products to chop.  Most of the dishes were washed or loaded in the dishwasher by the time it was in the oven.  Of course, the egg wash followed by the panko dredging has the potential to make a HUGE mess.  It was minimal this time, meaning no egg hit the floor, but my Pug and Chihuahua had a blast licking up stray panko crumbs off the floor.

Time:  I feared this was going to be one of those exhausting recipes, but it really was easy.  The ingredients only took about 5 minutes in total to prep and the mixing was quick.  Yes, the dredging process is tedious, but it went fast.

Assessment:  Not very pretty to look at, but quite yummy.  I think if I make this again, I will make the effort to get the wheat panko.  Cooking Light wasn’t kidding that the regular panko could get soggy.  Of course, with the delicious sauce and cheese, it really didn’t make a difference to me.


  1. That looks SO yummy! Of course, if it takes more than 2 steps to make then my head starts spinning. :p

  2. I know what you're saying. Especially when you've got little ones running around - hungry too - you need to get something whipped up.

    Seriously, the layering is the most tedious part... the rest was very quickly done. I bet your kids won't even know it's veggies.