Eggplant was first cultivated in Asia thousands of years ago, and moved westward through Persia, Mediterranean lands, and Europe, to America (via Thomas Jefferson). As evidence of its westward migration, the Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, French and Spanish names are nearly identical.
Our American term “eggplant” is out of step with the rest of the world. Even the British and Germans use the French “aubergine.”
I am fond of eggplant parmesan, but making it can be challenging. Recipes are elaborate and time-consuming, and I the result often unpleasantly heavy and oily.
This year, as eggplants, tomatoes, and other local ingredients have become available locally at the Oxford Farmers Market and MOON Co-op Grocery, I set out to make eggplant parmesan my way. The result was still time-consuming, but lighter than cookbook and online recipes. Every ingredient in my eggplant parmesan came from local growers, except the flour and breadcrumbs.
Start by making the tomato sauce. Mince 3 cloves garlic and 1 shallot or small onion, and cook in olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-low temperature.
Chop 1 pound mushrooms and 1 pound tomatoes and add to the pan. Cook at low temperature until it thickens, at least 15 minutes.
I further thickened the sauce by adding Oyster Mushroom powder. The mushrooms and powder are grown and made in Dayton by Guided By Mushrooms and are available at MOON Co-op. I also added a lot of Italian mixed herbs sold in bulk at MOON Co-op and supplied by Frontier Co-op.
I used 3 small eggplants, a total of 1 pound: a zebra (or Silician) eggplant with purple and white stripes, an Italian globe, and a white elongated Japanese.
Last week, I described how to make crispy eggplant slices without resorting to hot oil on the stovetop. Slice a 1-pound eggplant into disks and salt the pieces for 1/2 hour.
Meanwhile, coat with olive oil an oven-proof pan (I used an inherited square 9 3/4 inch Corning Ware dish), tear up something green (most recently, I used chard), and cook it at 425 for 10 minutes and remove it from the pan.
Place 1/4 cup flour in one bowl, break an egg in a second bowl. In a third bowl, combine 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
Dry each salted eggplant piece, coat them in flour, then in egg, then in the breadcrumb mix. Preheat an oven-proof pan, coat with olive oil, place the pieces in the pan, and bake for 30 minutes at 425, turning over the pieces after 20 minutes.
Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce along the bottom of the baking dish. Tightly pack the cooked eggplant slices, cover with the green, and cover all with the rest of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and bake at 450 for 15 minutes.
Let the dish cool after removing from the oven.
MOON Co-op is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. Visit it online at www.mooncoop.coop.
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