Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Singularly Delicious Eggplant Parmigiana


I have fond memories of standing by my mother's kitchen counter, barely tall enough to see over it, but just tall enough to be eye to eye with a plate stacked high with freshly breaded and fried eggplant slices. As they lay stacked up between grease-soaked layers of paper towels, I would swipe 2 or 3, before they made it to the 9 x 13 Pyrex to become encased in layers of sauce and thickly cut mozzarella cheese. I loved my mother's eggplant parmigiana and have not found one I like as much in any restaurant. 

I've found the ones in restaurants are often deep fried (likely), resulting in overly greasy eggplant. Combined with too much cheese this leads to pools of orangey oil surrounding the dish. When making at home, the simple dish can is often considered too much work for people, first slicing, salting and draining eggplant, breading, frying, draining, cooling and then the layering before you get to baking. People tend to like simple when it comes to casseroles. But the taste is sooo worth it! Given my love of oven frying to achieve a clean, crisp crust without the grease--most importantly, without the fuss of frying---I've developed an easy oven fried eggplant. I also have found that it works, and is attractive, well as a single layer, instead of the usual stack of 3 or 4 eggplant rounds.  As such, calorie counts are reduced since people tend to take just a couple of the rounds. Additionally, I like some cheese, but not drowning the dish.

This version is vegan as I skip the eggs, dairy milk and dairy cheese. Of course, it is gluten free! So, it's a satisfying version that meets the allergy and calorie counting needs of our family.

This is a great dish to make ahead and freeze for's right around the corner!  If you wish to sub dairy milk or mozzarella for the vegan milk and cheese...please do. It is an exact measure substitution, and the cooking time and temperature remains the same.

Single Stack Eggplant Parmigiana

1 medium eggplant

Sea salt

1 3/4 cups gluten free panko (or favorite) breadcrumbs

1/4 cup potato, tapioca or cornstarch

1 teaspoon ground onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground garlic powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup non-dairy milk (e.g., rice, soy, oat)

1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce

1 cup non-dairy cheese, such as Daiya Mozzarella Shreds (more to taste)

Slice eggplant into 1/4-inch slices.  Place in a colander and sprinkle with sea salt.  Allow to rest 15 minutes to 1 hour. 

Pre-heat oven to 400F degrees (Convection bake 375F), or pre-heat air fryer to 375F degrees. Spray a non-stick baking pan with non-stick cooking spray (for an air fryer you will spray basket once preheated), set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, toss together panko, starch and spices. Pour milk into another mixing bowl. 

Wipe off eggplant with a dry paper towel. Dip in milk then panko mixture, pressing to coat well with crumbs. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheet, or in air fryer basket. 

Liberally spray coated eggplant with non-stick cooking spray, or brush with olive oil. Bake in prepared oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and crunchy. If using air fryer bake for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once.

Remove from oven and top each eggplant round with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. If using air fryer, first transfer eggplant to a baking pan, suitable for your air fryer, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Lower heat in oven to 375F degrees (350 for air fryer) and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese melts. For air fryer, cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

 Dairy Cheese Version