Friday was another day for the files. I was booked in the morning to help get ready for the annual rummage sale to benefit the youth programs at our church. Rich and I were planning on a date night that evening, while Calvin attended a lock-in at church to get ready for the sale. I had it all planned out in my head – volunteer at church in the morning, clean house and cook in the afternoon. By the end of the day I would be ready for a relaxing evening at home with Rich – eating eggplant Parmesan and homemade bread.
Plans so quickly went awry. The morning started later than I expected, and with one thing and another I didn’t get home until 3:30. And I was exhausted from sorting rummage sale items all day. All plans for cleaning house flew out the window without much protest from me.
After a short break to chill with Calvin and hear about his day at school, I started on the dough for Middle Eastern flatbread. It was 4:30 by now, and Calvin had to be at church by 6:00 (yes the bread comes together that quickly, it is a marvelous recipe). While the bread was rising I prepped the eggplant for the oven. I bake my eggplant instead of frying it, both to make the dish a little healthier and to streamline preparation. The eggplant went in the oven and I shaped the bread into loaves. The eggplant came out of the oven and the bread went in. A quick minute to assemble the casserole and dinner was virtually ready. The bread came out of the oven, the eggplant went in and I was ready to run Calvin to church for his lock-in.
The drop off portion of the day took just about 30 minutes and I was back in time to whip the eggplant out of the oven before it got too brown. If Rich and I had a different kind of marriage (that no one has had since “I Love Lucy” days, if even then), I would have pretended to be cool, calm and collected as I put dinner on the table, in my heels and pretty dress. Those of you who know me personally can stop laughing now. In the real world that we all live in, I sat down in my old jeans and shared a laugh with my husband about my crazy day. He said all the right things about my herculean efforts to get it all done and never once asked why I didn’t buy a loaf of bread or order take-out for dinner. He is a smart man, as I often say.
If you are smarter than me, you will plan eggplant Parmesan for a slightly less hectic day, but know that it is a dish that you can easily make, even when you are short on time. Trust me.
From The Cook’s Life
I don’t like to use the seediest middle portion of the eggplant. This is wasteful, I know, but I really don’t like all those seeds. If you don’t mind them, use all of the eggplant. You may only need one large eggplant if you use the whole thing.
2 cups tomato sauce (use your favorite pasta sauce, homemade or purchased)
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko, but you can use any breadcrumbs)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 large eggplants (see head note)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ pound mozzarella cheese, grated
additional Parmesan cheese for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease one or two large baking sheets. Set aside. Lightly grease a large (9 by 13) casserole dish. Add tomato sauce to dish and set aside.
Place breadcrumbs on a plate or large shallow bowl and add spices to taste. Mix in Parmesan cheese and set aside. In a large shallow bowl or plate, beat eggs until well combined. Set aside.
Peel eggplant, if desired (it’s not necessary, unless the skins are extremely thick or tough) and slice crosswise into ¼-inch slices.
Dip each eggplant slice into egg and then into breadcrumbs, pressing crumbs into eggplant with your fingers. Arrange coated eggplant in a single layer on greased baking sheets. Drizzle eggplant with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and tender when pierced with a fork. If you are using two baking sheets, switch them top to bottom halfway through the baking time.
Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. Layer baked eggplant in the casserole dish on top of the tomato sauce, overlapping edges slightly. Sprinkle top with grated mozzarella.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is golden brown. If cheese browns too fast, lay a piece of foil loosely over the top of the casserole dish.
Serve eggplant with extra Parmesan cheese. Leftovers reheat well in the microwave.