From “A Nomad Homecook’s Perpetual Almanac Cookbook (The PAC)” (C) 2020 OTBI
Reduce your carbon footprint by eating less meat. It’s that simple. Start today by committing to learn how to prepare, play with, and love the nutrient-dense eggplant.
If you grow eggplant, keep it staked up and provide at least 8 hours of daily sunlight. Be aware that as a plant in the nightshade family – which includes eggplants, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos – everything but the fruit contains an alkaloid called solanine, which in very large doses can be poisonous. Never eat the leaves or flowers of a nightshade plant.
Also known as aubergine, the eggplant’s unique meat-like texture and mellow flavor can bring a versatility to your table that are hard to match. Although often considered a vegetable, it is actually a fruit (i.e., it grows from a flowering plant and contains seeds). Eggplants are a nutrient-dense food that are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. The skin of purple eggplants contains its most valuable nutrient, a powerful antioxidant called “nasunin” that protects against cellular damage. The eggplant is also known to keep your blood sugar in check, is beneficial for your eye health, and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Eggplant Parmesan (parmigiana di melanzane) is a dense, meat-free casserole quite like lasagne (see September 29: Roasted Dishes) that is one of the classic preparations of southern Italy. The eggplant arrived in Italy during the 15th century, when the Arabs brought it from India. (Many Mediterranean and Asian countries and enjoy a variation of roasted eggplant that feature their local cheeses, herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables, notably Moussaka, and Baba Ghanoush – See June 22: Global Dishes). Choose young eggplant as the skin is more tender and the slices are the perfect size for layering.
If you are unfamiliar with eggplant then eggplant parmesan may be a complicated first step because it involves stages of frying cutlets and roasting the casserole. Rest assured, if you take it through to completion you will have familiarized yourself thoroughly with how eggplant flesh absorbs flavors and oils and adds tender texture. Once you learn this you may soon find yourself experimenting with eggplant in your stir frys and roasted dishes. We like to bread and fry cutlets then and keep them in the fridge. Put a few cutlets in the pocket of a crusty bollo roll with some fresh mozzarella, a smear of pizza sauce and some fresh-chopped basil and you have a nice picnic or day-hike sandwich.
Layer in a collander in the sink or over a bowl, sprinkling salt between each layer. Apply weight to the top with a heavy plate and rest for 45 minutes. Rinse and dry off cutlets by layering in a dish towel. Dip the cutlets in flour and rest for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
2 eggplants, 1/4″ cutlets
2 cups flour
Beat together in a large bowl.
1 cup shredded Parmesan (2 cups total)
1 teaspoon Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Dip the cutlets in the egg mixture then deep fry in a high-sided pan of medium-high heat until golden brown and tender. Remove from heat and return to the wire rack.
2-3 cups olive oil
Spread 1 cup sauce in a 9×13 casserole. Alternate sauce with layers of eggplant, mozzarella and Parmesan. ending with eggplant, sauce and Parmesan.
1 cup marinara sauce (2 cups total)
3 cups shredded mozzarella
3 cups shredded Parmesan
Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Allow to sit for 45 minutes before cutting and serving.