Today is a beautiful Sunday in the middle of winter and although an unlikely time to be contemplating what I would normally think of as summer food, today I am going to tell you that this also makes wonderful winter comfort food. This recipe is definitely given as a cheats version of a traditional Eggplant Parmigiana, a meal which is beloved by many, myself included. It is a really delicious achievable alternative though, and can be made quickly at the end of a a work day. I hope you will enjoy it and maybe it will remind you of all the joys of the long slow cooked version that you can make on a leisurely weekend. One of those weekends I imagine, with days which stretch out in long languorous hours allowing you to do all the things you think you can in one day. What a day that would be!
Several years ago I was lucky enough to have one of my very first amazing “Cultural Exchange” guests, Katie, make this for me. She made it in the traditional manner with every element made from scratch, I will never forget her making her authentic version of this dish or the stories she told of learning to make this with her very traditional grandparents. These experiences and memories are some of lifes amazing treasures, the love and kindness and the time spent are the gifts that make me keep cooking and sharing the experiences of the kitchen and the table, making my life so much richer and more meaningful.
This eggplant parmigiana is great for the hero part of a vegetarian meal with a delicious salad on the side, or as a substantial side to a meatier meal it can be prepared in advance and even eaten cold. Despite the fact that it has given us comfort food in winter this time I will be making this year round when eggplants are affordable.
The ingredients are those that can be found in most supermarkets and are as expensive or affordable as you choose them to be – this can be a great budget meal. The only price advice I would add is that you will need to check the price of the eggplants as they can definitely go up and down in what appears to be a random manner – I am not suggesting making this when they are crazy expensive! Don’t forget to make those leftover bits of bread into crumbs as they will keep for ages and can make any number of meals better.
You can substitute your breadcrumbs for G/F bread crumbs, and you could also use vegan cheeses making it work as a gluten free, lactose intolerant or vegan meal. I haven’t used these alternatives today but they are definitely available and of good quality and flavour, and so make cooking for special dietary requirements much easier.
DECONSTRUCTED WEEKNIGHT PARMIGIANA
Enough for two people and very easy doubled or tripled…. or more.
Preheat oven to 180′ C
- 1 large eggplant
- 125 gram tug of cottage cheese – or ricotta if you are so lucky or thats what you have. (Substitute vegan cheese if you like)
- Spicy tomato sauce such a Arrabbiata or your favourite pre seasoned tomato based sauce.
- 1 cup of dry breadcrumbs (gluten free if necessary)
- Small handful of chopped herbs – such as parsley and spring onion – basil would be best but it does not grow not in my winter garden. You could also use thyme, origanum or rosemary but you will only need a tablespoon or so as these are much stronger herbs and use even less if they are dry herbs.
- Approximately 1 cup of grated tasty cheese (or Parmesan, pizza mozzarella, your preferred cheese, or the cheese you have and need to use). This is where you could also substitute a vegan cheese.
- Extra virgin olive oil.
- Salt and pepper
Slice the eggplant in half length wise, score to about half a cm and season with salt, brush over a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil.
Place scored side down on a baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
Roughly chop your herbs and add to grated cheese and breadcrumbs.
Once the eggplant has cooked turn it over and assemble with your ingredients on top.
First tomato sauce, then cottage cheese or ricotta, then top with your bread crumbs.
Put this back in the oven for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown and delicious.
Eat now or later and enjoy simply with a green salad or as a side to your meaty choice. Either way I hope you will give this a try and that you enjoy it as much as we do.