By Michael Russell, recent Arizona State University Nutrition Communication Student
Today I’d like to celebrate a childhood favorite of mine, eggplant parmesan. Growing up in Northern New Jersey Italian food is a staple and at home, it was made on the regular. As I’ve mentioned previously some of my earliest memories are of my mom or aunt making big meals for the family to sit and eat, well eggplant parmesan was one of them.
Now to explain the “sort of” portion of my title. Typically, eggplant parmesan is cooked with eggplant cutlets that are dredged in egg and coated with either seasoned bread crumbs or flour and fried, and I am not saying you can’t do this, but I am trying to eat healthier these days so I skipped that part. I, in turn, have grilled my eggplant cutlets.
A key to this dish is picking out your eggplant. In my experience when you buy a smaller, squatter eggplant you are less likely to get a lot of seeds. This is important because it gives you a meatier cutlet which allows it to handle the grill better than a cutlet that is full of seeds.
What you will need to make my “Sort of” Eggplant Parmesan:
1 Cup of homemade or store-bought tomato sauce
4 Slices of fresh mozzarella
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
4 leaves of basil
1 Tbsp of balsamic reduction
So now that you have your eggplant picked out it is time to assemble your team. The star of the show is the eggplant but his partners in crime are the tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Now in my house, I almost always have a container of homemade pasta sauce but you can buy it out of a jar, I mean I die a little inside when this happens, but it’s okay.
Next step, execution. I keep the skin on my eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch cutlets, I then coat with olive oil and sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder over top. Now, it’s grill time. Get your grill or grill pan up to a medium to high heat, spray with a nonstick spray and start to grill the eggplant. I like to cook them for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until the edges of the eggplant start to brown.
Once your eggplant is grilled you only need to top it with your tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and put under a broiler until the cheese starts to bubble and ooze over the sides. You want to add a leaf or two of basil for presentation. I then drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction for added flavor.