You all know by now that I love eggplant. There are few ways as delicious as fried eggplant – honestly, fried cardboard is probably pretty good! And over the years, I’ve grown to those love these stackers more than traditional baked parmesan. And the good news – you can use the sauce with grilled or baked eggplant slices for a healthier option. But today was a wet and dreary day and I just needed to fry these bad boys.
Because eggplants need a salt bath to take away the bitterness, let’s get them going first. Then you will make the tomato sauce and then go back to the eggplants to bread and fry them. Phew!! If you’ve ever wondered why eggplant parmesan is almost as much as chicken parmesan on menus, I think it must be because of the prep work to get the bitterness out of the eggplants.
Wash your eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch wide slices. Pour about 3 TB of salt into your hands and rub each slice of eggplant with the salt. Line a large nested bowl with the eggplants. Place a smaller bowl in it and then add something heavy (like a big can of tomatoes or a large canister). Give it a good push down to start squeezing the bitterness out.
Let these weighed slices sit while you make the tomato sauce – maybe pushing down for 5 seconds every 5 minutes or so.
I personally love chunky tomato sauce but feel free to experiment with crushed tomatoes for a smoother sauce. For these stackers, a smoother sauce will also be much more runny, so just be aware that your dish might not look like mine.
Quick and Easy Chunky Tomato Sauce
Yields about 1 pint
2 TB EVOO
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1 35 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp each of dried parsley and basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
In a medium sauce pan, heat EVOO on medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook until golden.
When onions and garlic are golden, add can of tomatoes and spices. Stir and bring to bubble, but not hard boil. Add wine is you have it ;o)
Let everything simmer on very low heat while you bread and fry the eggplants.
Fried Eggplant Slices
1 large eggplant, cleaned and salted as directed above
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup soy milk
1 cup flour
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs*
1-2 cups of vegetable oil, for frying
Ok, let’s get the eggplant cleaned, battered and fried!! By this point you’ll probably be tired and cursing me out for all the work but trust me, you are on your way to something delicious and then you will know what all the fuss was about.
Take your bowl and give one more push on your weighed eggplant slices. Rinse each one throughly to get all the salt off them.
Next get a little assembly line going: flour in the first dish, eggs and soy milk beaten together in the second and seasoned bread crumbs in the third. *Seasoned breadcrumbs can either be bought that way or you can make them yourself with a pinch of garlic powder, dried parsley and parmesan cheese. And kids, I have to be honest here, I haven’t found a way to do a wash without using eggs. Water doesn’t seem to work and I haven’t experimented enough with vegan egg substitutes…homework, I know.
Take each slice and go from flour, to eggs, to bread crumbs. Make sure that during each step, all of the surface of the slice is covered. And if you want to be a nay-sayer, skip the flour part, and watch in horror as your bread crumbs come sliding off your eggplant. IT ISN”T WORTH IT!! LOL, flour, egg, bread crumbs, repeat. This is your mantra.
Next, take a large frying pan and add your vegetable oil. Warm on medium heat until oil sizzles. How do you know when it is sizzling? Take your presumably bread crumb covered fingers and shake over the oil. If it starts to fizz and jump with the bread crumbs, you are ready to go.
Keeping the heat on medium, fry the eggplant slices until they are a beautiful crispy brown. Drain on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
Congratulations!!! You’ve made the sauce and fried the eggplants. All that’s left is assembly – piece of cake!! Take one slice of fried eggplant and scoop some of your chunky tomato sauce on it. Add another slice of eggplant on top of that, and then a bit more sauce on top of that and finishwith a big pinch of mozzarella cheese.