I had eggplant on hand and decided I wanted to make it into stacks, sort of like eggplant parmesan. I also wanted to make a good marinara sauce to put over it. I had fresh spinach and also fresh basil from pots on my windowsill that would be amazing in a good sauce. It would be a “fussy cooking” day. Lots of steps and simmering and stuff!
I had a slow day so I made the marinara sauce early in the day, chopping then sautéing the onion and sweet bell pepper. I like to make the house smell like an Italian restaurant with the scent of tomatoes, basil and onions.
I added the minced basil and garlic and stirred it a minute or two to open up the flavors of the seasonings as well.
I added two cans of tomatoes. One was regular diced tomatoes, the smaller one was roasted diced tomatoes. I don’t much care for that last one as they often have lots of tomato skins in them. But I needed to use them up and so I did. I let the sauce bubble and cook at medium about 30 minutes. The liquid had cooked down so I added a cup of water to rehydrate it. It had more simmering to do.
The spinach went in next, stirred into the fragrant sauce to coat it. I let it simmer at medium low for about 10 minutes before turning off the heat and letting it sit until the eggplant was ready.
I’d sliced and salted the eggplant slices and laid them out to ‘weep’ moisture out of them. After an hour of weeping and wailing (just kidding) I laid them on paper towelling with another layer on top and pressed the moisture out.
I’d prepared the bowls of flour, beaten eggs and panko crumbs for dipping. I dipped each eggplant slice in flour, then egg, then crumbs and placed it on a plate.
When they were all coated I put them into another preheated skillet with 1/4″ of oil and browned them on both sides. I did them in two batches.
As I had 5 eggplant slices done I laid them in a ovenproof dish on a thin layer of marinara sauce. I sprinkled 1/2 cup of Parmesan on each slice, then a cup of mozzarella over them.
I spooned marinara over them and waited for the next layer to be done frying. I repeated the layer, saving the mozzarella for last, over the marinara this time.
I slid the baking dish into the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. When the timer buzzed I turned the oven to 450°F and set the timer for 10 minutes.
The cheese was a beautiful golden brown when the timer buzzed again. I removed it from the oven to let it set for about 5 minutes. The food smelled heavenly!
Dinner was excellent! The skins of the eggplant weren’t a rubbery problem as the can be at times. My fork cut into the stack for each bite easily. The texture of the eggplant itself was perfect as well, not slimy or squishy. The panko kept it firm and a little crispy beneath the marinara sauce.
I loved the flavor of Monterey jack in this dish instead of mozzarella, and as my P.S. commented, it was nice that it wasn’t as stringy as mozzarella tends to be. I was pleased with my eggplant experiment day. The only change I might consider is to add sliced black olives to the marinara sauce. That little pop of saltiness might make this dish even better!
1 medium onion; diced
1 sweet bell pepper; diced (I used 6 mini ones)
drizzle of oil
4 basil leaves; minced or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon garlic; minced
2 cups fresh spinach; chopped
28 ounces diced tomatoes
15 ounces diced tomatoes
10 slices eggplant (1 medium) (I didn’t peel the eggplant, that’s your choice)
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup panko
2 cups shredded parmesan; divided
2 cups Monterey jack; shredded
Sauté onion and bell pepper in oil over medium high heat until onion is translucent. Add basil and garlic and sauté another minute or two, stirring often to prevent burning.
Add tomatoes and bring to a bubbling boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20-30 minutes or until reduced and thickened. It should still be fairly liquid, if not add a cup or so of water.
Add spinach and stir well. Let cook for 10 minutes on medium low and set aside. This could be made ahead of time. Not all the sauce will be used. Store or freezer for later use.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Peel (if desired) and slice eggplant 1/2″ thick. Lay out and sprinkle with salt. Turn and sprinkle second side with salt. Lightly salting is best. Arrange in a colander in the sink or over a bowl and let the eggplant weep for about an hour.
Place eggplant slices on towelling and cover with more towelling. Press gently to blot off moisture and salt.
Prepare 3 bowls for dipping: about a cup of flour with a slight sprinkling of salt and pepper; 2 beaten eggs in a second bowl; the panko and shredded parmesan in a third bowl.
Dip each eggplant slice in the flour, the egg mixture, and the panko mixture and lay on a plate. When all slices are dipped preheat another large skillet with a 1/4″ layer of oil. Lay as many slices as you can in the skillet and fry one each side until golden browned.
In a ovenproof dish put a layer of marinara sauce on the bottom. Layer half of the eggplant slices on the sauce. Sprinkle with half cup of parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella and a layer of marinara sauce.
When the second layer of eggplant is browned in the skillet, place it in another layer in the ovenproof dish on top of the previous slices of eggplant so you have a stack of 2. Repeat layers of parmesan and marinara, then top with a mound of cheese over each eggplant stack.
Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.