Tricked Out Eggplant Parmesan Towers!

Oh my GOODNESS, look at THIS!

Lately I have been trying to make friends with egg plant. Try as I may, I have never liked it. Conversely, my husband loves it and is often disappointed when he suggests it for dinner and I poo-poo the idea. A few days ago I decided to try my hand at making faux bacon using slices of eggplant. It was a hit and I actually loved it. I will make it again.

The recipe was so simple, it’s almost ridiculous. I posted it the other day.  Click here. Also did you notice flat “Groot” in the last piece? Yeah, that wasn’t planned.

Because I liked this so much, I decided to buy some more eggplant and see what else I could possibly love about it. Enter, “Tricked Out Eggplant Parmesan”. I like just about anything fried, so why not! I have to give credit to Trisha Yearwood because I saw her show on the Food Network and she made Eggplant Parmesan stacks. I thought they looked really pretty, so this was the inspiration for my dish.

This recipe starts by slicing the eggplant into rounds. I salted them on both sides and set them up on a wire rack for thirty minutes. Then they get towel dried and dredged in the traditional, seasoned flour, egg and Italian breadcrumb mixture.

I made a quick, cheater version of marinara sauce (and I do mean quick AND cheater cheater pumpkin eater!) I cut up an onion into a medium large dice and sautéed it in some olive oil and fresh garlic; then I added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, Italian seasoning, one large can of Italian seasoned diced tomatoes and shhhhh!…a jar of prepared Marinara. (My favorite brand is by Chef Emeril Lagasse. I love his tomato basil sauce!) I threw in the rind of my last Parmesan wedge and also two basil stems with the leaves and all-then it simmered for about half an hour. I was shocked at how good it was. I was even more shocked that Charlie raved over it. (He is an Italian gravy snob from Chicago.)

Then comes the frying of the eggplant. I heated the oil in my cast iron skillet to 350 degrees, which is the optimal temperature for deep frying. (I never deep fry without a thermometer.) The eggplant cooks very quickly; about a minute on each side. After this, it’s just a matter of salting them while they are still hot and dabbing them with paper towels to get rid of the excess oil.

Now comes the really fun part: stacking them! First a slice of eggplant, then sauce, then grated cheese (I used a combination of Mozzarella, Fontina and fresh Parmesan), then a big fat basil leaf! Repeat twice but leave off the basil leaf from the top or it will burn. Then bake these beautiful creatures!

I made a side dish of fettuccine, but it was too much. One of these stacks is a meal in itself, so next time we’ll just have a nice salad and call it a day.

Well, did I like it or not? Resoundingly I say, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This recipe is a keeper and I really loved my cheater sauce. It was yummy and so easy.

It looks like a lot of work but truly, it’s all easy stuff. Give it a try!


Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning.
1 small Parmesan rind
1 15-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 jar prepared marinara (your favorite)
1 bunch fresh basil
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 large eggs
4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
One 1-pound eggplant, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 24 slices)
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese. 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese.
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan

 

 

Directions:

To make a “cheater cheater pumpkin eater” marinara sauce, place a sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened , about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the diced tomatoes, including their juice, to the pot. Stir to combine. Add 1 whole stem of fresh basil leaves, plus the Italian Seasonings. Throw in the Parmesan rind. (If you don’t have one, you can sprinkle in some grated Parmesan cheese.) Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium low. Allow the sauce to cook and reduce while you work on everything else.

Pour the vegetable oil into a Dutch oven  and attach a deep-frying thermometer. Heat the oil over medium heat to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and top with a cooling rack.

Assemble a three dish dredging station: To the first dish, add the flour, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. In the second dish, beat the eggs. To the third dish, add the breadcrumbs (I add extra seasoning here. You can even add some grated Parmesan here and it would be delicious.)

Dredge both sides of the eggplant slices in the seasoned flour. Then, dip the eggplant slices into the egg. Then, coat the eggplant in the breadcrumbs evenly on both sides.

Working in batches, carefully place the breaded eggplant into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and crispy, about 40-50 seconds per side. Transfer to the cooling rack on the baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice generously with salt. Continue until all the eggplant has been fried.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the basil stem from the marinara sauce.

Remove the paper towels from the baking sheet. Build towers on the cooling rack: Top a slice of eggplant with 1 tablespoon of marinara sauce, 1 tablespoon mozzarella, 1 tablespoon Parmesan and 1 basil leaf. Place a second piece of eggplant on top and repeat this process. Top the tower with a third piece of eggplant and repeat only with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan (no basil). Repeat this process to create 8 towers on the cooling rack.

Bake until the cheese is melted and slightly browned on top, about 20 minutes. Transfer the towers to a serving platter. Garnish each eggplant tower with a fresh basil leaf and serve immediately.

I made four of these towers. We ate two of them and refrigerated the others for the next day’s lunch. They were just as delicious re-heated.

 

Cauliflower Fried Rice

I didn’t believe anything could taste as great as fried rice. Trust me, you won’t know this is cauliflower!

When the whole “substitute everything with cauliflower” craze began, I sat there shaking my head, no, no, no. My thoughts? “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like mashed potatoes”; “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like rice”, etc. I have tried to like mashed cauliflower, but I don’t. Occasionally, I really like roasted cauliflower, but it’s not something I ever crave, and I mean, EVER. Cauliflower fried rice, however, always leaves me happily satisfied and it’s a dish I make regularly.

(Surprise, it actually does taste like rice!)

This recipe is one that easily lends itself to substitution. I usually just add in whatever vegetables I have on hand; or whatever I think looks pretty; or whatever I have a taste for. Get it? You can use WHATEVER you want. The only rule is that you use the cauliflower in place of rice!

So here I have scrambled four eggs to begin with:

Once they were finished, I removed them to a plate, added in a little more olive oil and then sautéed some chopped onions. (Why? Because I love them.)

Once the onions were translucent, I added in my riced cauliflower. (I always buy this raw, prepared in a bag, but you can use a food processor to get the same result.) I don’t know why I did not get a photo of just the cauliflower, but I didn’t. Just imagine onions and riced cauliflower in a pan.

When the cauliflower and onions are in, I added a few splashes of toasted sesame oil and some minced ginger. Stir, stir, stir and when you are tired of stirring, stir some more. The object is to get the cauliflower cooked through, but you also want to get a little bit of caramelization going. When the cauliflower has softened, knock yourself out adding in whatever vegetables you love. Here I added some frozen peas and carrots and some left over sautéed onions and peppers.

Once your veggies are all in and warmed through, salt and pepper again, add in some more sesame oil and soy sauce, and continue stirring.

Finally, fold back in those yummy scrambled eggs. See that word I used? Fold. That’s fancy. It means to be very gentle so as not to kill the pretty scrambled curds. Dump in the eggs, then using your spatula, scrap the bottom of the pan, folding the contents on top of the eggs until they are incorporated but still in tact.

See how you can still see the pretty eggs?

The entire reason I made this dish was because whenever I make Ahi Tuna, I think it needs to have an Asian flavor to it. I have no idea where this comes from, but oh well. So here you have the finished dish with the tuna (and too much hot sauce on top!) I garnished with fresh cilantro because this lives and thrives in our kitchen 100% of the year.


Ingredients:

1 bag riced cauliflower

4 eggs, scrambled

Half a bag of frozen peas and carrots

1 onion chopped

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 c. Soy sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/8 c. Chopped fresh ginger

NOTE: Vegetables are literally ANYTHING else you like. The only thing to remember is that if it’s raw, cook it before you add it in. Every time I make this, it’s a little different based on what I have in the fridge. (See below for photos of the last time I made this, which was last night!)

Directions:

Scramble eggs over medium high heat in 1 Tbsp Olive oil & 1 Tbsp butter. Remove to a separate dish.

Sauté onion to translucent in same pan. Add in 1 Tbsp Olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter, Salt and pepper.

Add in raw cauliflower, 1/2 the soy sauce, 1/2 the sesame oil, 1/2 the ginger. Stir continually to ensure everything is coated in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the cauliflower is softened and browned a little bit, add in frozen peas and carrots, the rest of the ginger and whatever else you want to add. Salt and pepper. Stir and then add in the second part of the soy sauce and sesame oil.

Don’t forget to savor the aroma. It seriously smells so good!