No matter who you are or what walk of life you come from, deep down in your heart, you know that there is nothing quite as rewarding, as wholly engrossing, emotionally liberating, and viscerally satisfying as good Eggplant Parm.
Whether stolen from the fridge cold in the dead of night, or served aside a warm bed of linguine, or blanketed by two hard pieces of Italian hero bread (flawlessly greasy, no less), this simple but bold marriage of eggplant, , tomato sauce, and cheese has a lot going for it.
This is for you, Eggplant Parm. Go forth, be glorious! The world is watching.
One Man Struggles To Learn To Love
For much of my life I have detested eggplant in all forms. Until I was twelve, I was able to get away without eating the strange-looking food at all. However, it became more and more a part of family meals when my sister became a vegetarian, and soon, I had no choice but to try it myself.
The taste was not endearing. In fact, the mushy consistency was all that I had feared it would be. From that first tasting on, I did all that I could to keep eggplant away from me. I truly didn’t understand why the rest of my family enjoyed it so much. So for a while I was able to subsist on whatever else was accompanying the eggplant when the rest of my family was eating it. It was a sound strategy, and was largely effective until last year when I too became a vegetarian.
Once you stop eating meat it becomes much harder to find nutritional foods that will fill you up. I found some alternatives, but as the year went on it became clear that I could not subsist on falafel and rice and beans for half of my meals. I was cornered into turning to the dreaded eggplant as a potential meat stand-in. One night at a family event, I tentatively took a bite of the Eggplant Parmesan that occupied its domineering spot at the center of our table.
Shockingly, it was not as bad as I remembered it being. Perhaps it was due to lack of anything to compare it to, or maybe even because my tastes have evolved, but this incarnation of eggplant was something I could tolerate, and perhaps even come to like. Since that fateful night, I have continued to eat Eggplant Parmesan on various occasions, and I have found myself liking it more and more.
Though it will never be my favorite food, eggplant has come to be a culinary option that I enjoy. Long live the eggplant, and I hope my love for you only flourishes with time.
-Daniel Teehan (’13)
Thinly breaded flank
Made of nature’s fair plum child
One bite brings me joy
-Christine Lee, (’13)
The Eggplant Parmesan serves as something we can compare our own lives to. While we humans aspire to reach middle grounds and to not be extremists, the life of Eggplant Parm is simple: if it is good, it’s fantastic; yet if it’s bad, you will probably find yourself throwing up for days on end.
-Emma McIntosh (’15)
Backhanded Compliments and a Recipe
There’s no doubt that a little olive oil, melted cheese, and marinara sauce can turn pretty much anything into comfort food— even a bitter, bizarre fruit like eggplant. Of all the ways people have used these peculiarly purple plants around the world, the one that resonates the most here in United States is the ubiquitous Eggplant Parm. However, this commonality has detracted from its merit, slowly eroding its Italian identity and settling into the seat of mediocrity that dollar pizza has grown into.
Eggplant Rollatini, the dish’s slightly more superior brother, provides the novel twist needed when the Eggplant Parm from the hot bar at Whole Foods has lost its allure. Creating it might be a trickier business, but totally worth the time— and let’s be honest, a lot more fun to wrap our tongues around.
Makes 4-6 Servings
- 2 eggplants
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 20 slices prosciutto
- 1 jar of marinara sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- (served well with) angel hair pasta
- Peel and slice the eggplants into ¼ inch slices (the skin is very tough, so peeling with a knife is easier than with a peeler). Dip the eggplant slices in egg, then breadcrumbs. Heat half the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry half the eggplants, then use the rest of the oil to fry the other half. Turn over onto each side until golden brown, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Spread a layer of ricotta cheese onto each slice of eggplant, and then place a piece or two of prosciutto over it. Roll the slices up tightly and place in a baking dish. Pour marinara sauce over the rolls, and sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.
- Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven.
- To cook the pasta as a side dish, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the pasta for 2 to 3 minutes or until tender, stirring regularly. Drain.
-Claire Burghard (’15)
A Recipe For the Real Deal
- 2 1/2 lb medium eggplants (about 3), cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
- 3 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 5 lb plum tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- 3 1/2 cups bread crumbs
- 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 lb chilled fresh mozzarella (not unsalted), thinly slice
Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt in a colander set over a bowl, then let drain 30 minutes.
While eggplant drains, cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch tomatoes together in a 5-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.
Coarsely chop tomatoes, then coarsely purée in batches in a blender. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add garlic and sauté, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomato purée, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.
Stir together flour, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow bowl, then stir togetherand 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano in a third shallow bowl.
Working with 1 slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip off, and dredge in breadcrumbs until evenly coated. Transfer eggplant to sheets of wax paper, arranging slices in 1 layer.
Heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups oil in a deep 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry eggplant 4 slices at a time, turning over once, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.
Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in eggplant slices in 1 layer over sauce, overlapping slightly if necessary. Cover eggplant with about one third of remaining sauce (about 1 1/4 cups) and one third of mozzarella. Continue layering with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano.of a rectangular 3 1/2-quart (13- by 11- by 2-inch) baking dish. Arrange about one third of
Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling, for 35 to 40 minutes.
-Meg Palmer (’13)