Eggplant Parmigiana + Marinara Sauce & eggplant advice

     Thanks to Ardith Hinkle who made this recipe years ago. She shared the recipe and I’ve been making it ever since. Although you could use any marinara sauce, the recipe that accompanies the parmigiana recipe, is the BEST.
    Eggplant can be a little tricky to cook, so I’ve also included some research-based advice from an edition of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

Eggplant Parmigiana     Serves 6
Source: Leone’s Italian Cookbook
2 medium size eggplants
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 cups Marinara Sauce, warmed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Thin slices of mozzarella (or use grated)

1.  Wash and dry eggplants but do not peel. Cut into ½” slices. Sprinkle slices lightly with salt, place on brown paper (I use paper towels) and let drain for 30 minutes. (Following the advice of an article in the July/August 1993 issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I actually salted and pressed the eggplant as described below.)
2.  Pat dry and sprinkle lightly with flour. Dip into beaten eggs. Mix bread crumbs with oregano, then dip eggplant slices into bread crumbs.
I set up a 3-dish station and actually dipped both sides of the eggplant  first in flour, then is eggs and finally in breadcrumbs. 
3.  Combine olive oil and butter in a skillet and heat.
4.  Add eggplant and sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper. Sauté to medium brown, about 5 minutes per side.
Eggplant slices have just been turned.
5.  Preheat oven to 325°.
6.  Oil a baking pan and cover bottom with a thin layer of sauce. Arrange browned eggplant slices on top of the sauce and sprinkle them lightly with Parmesan. Place a small slice of mozzarella on each slice. Spoon another thin layer of sauce over all.
Eggplant is ready to go into the oven. I just added dollops of tomatoes from the marinara,
rather than covering the casserole with a top layer of sauce. 
7.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Advice from July/August 1993 issue of Cook’s Illustrated on Salting & Presssing Eggplant
According to Stephen Schmidt, author of the Cook’s Illustrated article, “Eggplant can (and should) be firm and meaty, with a rich, sweet, nutlike flavor.” To achieve this, follow these two steps:
1.  Salt the eggplant and let is set for at least 1 ½ hours, preferably 2 to 3. It will not be harmed by “mascerating” as long as 24 hours. (This draws water out of excess water that can make it turn mushy when cooked.)
Eggplant slices shortly after being salted.
2.  After at least 1½ hours of macerating Using paper towels, press the flesh of mascerated eggplant until the flesh in shrunk in weight and volume by roughly half and roughly half and has become a translucent brownish-green.
Water has been partially drawn from the eggplant slices and they are  ready to press.

Stephen also noted that even the skin of the eggplant is tender and edible using this method. But added, "eggplant that has not gone through this process is likely to be either tough, pithy, and astringently bitter, or oil-soaked, slimy, and tasteless."
Marinara Sauce from Leone's Italian Cookbook      Makes about 5 cups
Serve over Eggplant Parmigiana, macaroni, spaghetti, green beans, hard-cooked or scrambled eggs.
6 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup butter
3 large garlic cloves, mashed
16 fresh parsley sprigs, leaves only
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups (three 1-pound cans) peeled plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
8 anchovy fillets, chopped (I usually omit)
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste

1.  Combine olive oil and butter in a saucepan and heat. 
2.  Chop garlic and parsley together and add to the pan.  Cook slowly for 5 minutes, then add salt and pepper. 
3.  Drain the tomatoes and chop the solids.  Add the chopped tomatoes and oregano to the sauce and cook slowly for 30 minutes. 
Tomatoes and herbs simmer on the stovetop.
4.  Add anchovies and tomato paste, stir well, and remove from the heat. 
5.  At the end of cooking, taste for salt and add some if necessary, but remember, the anchovies will make the sauce salty.

In my quest for new eggplant recipes I discovered this Eggplant Site that contains links to lots of good sounding recipes.

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