Eggplant Parmigiana Stacks
Writing an eggplant recipe is a tough one. The bulbous purple vegetable that's emoji is apparently a metaphor (or is it simile..... or a facsimile.....who cares) for a sensitive part of the male anatomy also is known by at least three different names that I'm aware of. So if you're in the US, we should be all good with Eggplant, but if you're in Europe, read Eggplant as Aubergine, and if you're in Africa like me you would know this as a Brinjal.
OK, with that out of the way, this recipe is a cheeky little number that doesn't take a great amount of effort and is pretty easy to prepare but has a certain kerb appeal that can make a pedestrian midweek bit of chicken into something decidedly more exciting.
It's a good go-to when you're having one of those "Stuck-In-A-Rut", can't think what to make, can't really be bothered with anything elaborate but want something tasty kind of moments. I tend to use it as side dish but it can scale up to a good vegetarian main. This is also great if you're making an Italian or Greek meal for guests like Lasagne or Moussaka and have a vegetarian in your group. I guess you could even use vegan cheese (2 words that should never be used together) if you happen to know one of those plant-based people ( I know some people who know some of those people).
This recipe also gets a tick in the box for stage one of my patented three-stage taste enhancement approach that makes even the most bland of food taste good:
Everything tastes better with cheese
If it's still not good, wrap it in bacon
If it's still needs work, batter it then deep fry it
Follow those rules and you'll never go hungry You might be very overweight and unhealthy, but not hungry.
So let's get on with the show.:
Ingredients (Makes 6 servings)
2 large Eggplants / Aubergine / Brinjals - I mean large so if you're not sure, get 3
200g Mozzarella Cheese
100g Parmesan Cheese - Parmigiano Reggiano is best but is also expensive, any italian hard cheese will do
1 400g can of chopped Plum Tomatoes - San Marzano if you can get them
2 cloves of chopped garlic
Basil - Dried is fine if you don't have fresh
Black Pepper - Use a grinder if you have one
Muffin Baking Tin - metal or silicone both fine
Metal Baking Tray
Pre-heat the oven to 180c / 350f
Slice your Eggplants into thinish slices the same thickness as if you were cutting tomatoes for a sandwich.
Lay your slices out on your baking tray, sprinkle with a little salt and leave to stand for 10 minutes so the water is drawn out from the Eggplant by the salt.
While that's happening, heat a good glug (3 tablespoons) of Olive oil in a small saucepan under medium-high heat
Once hot, fry the garlic for 1 minute and then pour in the tomatoes
Stir and leave to heat and boil vigorously for 5 minutes stirring until the tomatoes start to thicken, then turn the heat down to low.
Pat the aubergines with a paper towel to remove the excess water now coming out of them
Sprinkle a little oil on top of the Eggplant and put the baking tray in the oven for 10 minutes to dry the eggplant out a little whilst you finish your sauce.
Add a teaspoon of dried basil (a handful of chopped leaves if you're using fresh) and a teaspoon of sugar to the tomato sauce and stir in
Slice your mozzarella into slices similar to the thickness you cut your eggplant.
Grate your parmesan on the fine side of the grater if it has one
Remove the Eggplant from the oven
Being careful not to burn the work surface with the hot tomato sauce and Eggplant tray, set yourself up a workstation around your muffin tray. You need Eggplant, tomato sauce (with a ladle), sliced mozzarella, grated parmesan cheese, black pepper and olive oil.
In your muffin pan, spoon a small amount of sauce into the bottom of each cup
sprinkle a little parmesan cheese
add a slice of Eggplant
Add a slice of mozzarella
repeat this process until you run out on ingredients or your Muffin cups are full, it really doesn't matter what ingredient is the top layer
Drizzle a little olive oil on each one.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the mozzarella is oozy and starting to brown
Serve immediately whilst the cheese is still hot and melted
Tips & Tricks
If you don't have a muffin tin, you can use an egg ring or even the can from the tomatoes with the top and bottom removed with a can opener. You can do them free-standing in a foil cup but they nearly always fall over when the cheese melts.
If making as the main event, save yourself the hassle and makit in a lasagne pan and serve like you would lasagne.
if you don't mind your Eggplant a little more "Mushy" you can skip the salt and oven drying of the Eggplant, just add 5 minutes to the cooking time.
You can substitute the Mozzarella for Ricotta or even Goats cheese to switch things up a bit
Oregano will work as well as basil of you're going with a more Greek feel than an italian one
You do need to cook down the tomato sauce until it thickens or you will get soup!
If you're using a dried cheese or your Mozzarella is not the fresh kind (suspended in water) then you may want to put foil over the top to make sure the cheese melts or sit the muffin tray in a roasting tin with a little water in the bottom. If the cheese isn't melted and stringy, it's not going to be so great.
Remember the tomato sauce is going to get cooked twice so whilst you want it thickened, don't let it over cook or it will become unbearably rich
This won't reheat well so try to only make enough that you'll eat it all.
If you're making it as a main and don't have any vegetarians in your sights, consider frying off a pack of bacon and adding it to the tomato sauce to get to level 2 flavour enhancement!
You'll notice I don't season the sauce with salt, that is because the Eggplant will retain some of the salt from the drying and the parmesan is naturally salty.