As you probably know, Fellow FoodBeest, FoodBeests may love food, but they hate eating the same darn thing too often – no matter how good it is. This FoodBeest was stuck for what to make for dinner. Recent fish, chicken dinners. And then a burger for lunch. Now what?
I tend to go for seasonal, but here we are in very early spring in “USDA Planting Zone 5″ where nothing much will be growing and harvested for at least a few weeks and there’s just not that much calling to me. Everything failed to inspire me. Time to try something new. An experiment!
I love this cookbook. The photographs are real and make me want to taste the food. I love how he writes his recipes and thinks about food (“throw in a big handful of basil leaves” which makes me wonder how big his hands are, which makes me wonder … well, never mind).
And I came across his recipe for Eggplant Parmesan, one of my personal favorite Italian dishes. It wasn’t beef, chicken or fish and the photo was totally tempting. And even better, the eggplant wasn’t fried so it might fit right into The Plan during this Season of Losing Weight.
Eggplant parm it was.
I already had a nice can of Marzano tomatoes in the pantry and some frozen grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I hoped there would be enough!). I picked up a couple of eggplants and some fresh mozzarella at the local supermarket. Said local supermarket doesn’t carry the buffalo mozzarella my buddy Jamie called for, but I wasn’t going to spend that much for something to melt on top anyway so we were ready to rock & roll.
Here’s Jamie’s recipe:
Serves 4 or 5 as a main-course or 2, plus nice leftovers
What you need to make Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan
3 medium-large eggplants, cut crosswise into ½-inch slices
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 28-ounce can no-salt plum tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup (packed) fresh basil leaves (or not)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or as needed
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, optional
How to Make Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with oil, and place in a single layer on two or more baking sheets. Bake until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes, then turn and bake until other sides are lightly browned. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add onion. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and dried oregano and sauté
3. Add vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Into a 9-by-9-inch, 10-by-5-inch or 10-by-6-inch baking pan, spoon a small amount of tomato sauce, then add a thin scattering of Parmigiano, then a single layer of eggplant. Repeat until all ingredients are used, ending with a little sauce and a sprinkling of Parmigiano. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and oregano, if using, with just enough olive oil to moisten. Sprinkle on top. If desired, recipe can be made to this point and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.
4. Bake until eggplant mixture is bubbly and center is hot, 30 to 45 minutes depending on size of pan and thickness of layers. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Recipe can also be reheated.
The results were … mixed. Not a failure, but not fabulous. It didn't even look that great (you may have noticed: no delicious photo). Not everything even a FoodBeest cooks is good enough to get put in a (figurative) silver box to take out from time-to-time and remember with mouth watering.
This one definitely didn’t meet my standards and Ideals ("You could have done better than that. It was nothing like Italy.") but it was worth trying. I made some changes to the original recipe, and I would make more for future efforts.
The breadcrumbs (I used panko) on top were a nice touch, especially since the eggplant wasn’t breaded.
Learn from my failures, Fellow FoodBeest. Here’s what I would change for Next Time:
1) I “grilled” the eggplant on a stovetop griddle. Next Time I would cook them outdoors on the gas grill – charcoal would have made an even bigger difference.
2) Next Time I would use a LOT MORE grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. I probably didn’t have a full half-cup to start and the end result would have been much better and cheesier if I had.
3) Next Time I would serve it over pasta. In fact, my plan was to take the leftovers, cut up the eggplant and remix it and use it as a pasta sauce. That is until Mr. FB just finished off the leftovers before I got to them.
4) Would I use mozzarella di bufala Next Time? Probably not. But if you try this and do use it, let us know what you think.
Oh, well. Next time.
The FoodBeest welcomes your questions, your concerns, your thoughts, your so-whats and your what’s so’s. Use the comment space below to provide any of those.