Mark Bittman’s Eggplant Un-Parmesan

Since I read his book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating for the book club I launched and used to run for my former Food Co-op in Jersey City, Mark Bittman has been one of my favorite authors/journalists to go to for great articles on food issues and food in general.  This is a great recipe from his website and book VB6and although I’m not vegan, its a nice (dare I say even better!?!) alternative to actual eggplant parmesan. With delicious, local eggplants as well as cherry tomatoes just starting to become available here in Brussels, it’s a wonderful way to start off the season.

  • 1 1/4 pounds of eggplant
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juice (or 1 1/4 lbs of fresh cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I’ve substituted dried rosemary, as well)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, preferably coarse-ground
Heat the oven to 450°F and position two racks so that they’ve got at least 4 inches between them. Cut the eggplant crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices and arrange them on two rimmed baking sheets.

Use 2 tablespoons of the oil to brush the top of each eggplant slice and sprinkle them with ½ teaspoon salt and some pepper. Roast the eggplant until the slices brown on the bottom and sides, 10 to 15 minutes; turn and cook the other side until they’re crisp in places and golden, another 5 to 10 minutes. When they finish cooking, remove them from the oven and lower the heat to 400ºF.

Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion, sprinkle with another ½ teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture comes together and thickens, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Cover the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with about ½ inch of the tomato sauce. Nestle a layer of eggplant into the sauce and top with some of the basil. Cover with a thin layer of tomato sauce and repeat until all the eggplant is used up; reserve some of the basil for serving. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, the remaining ½ teaspoonsalt, and lots of pepper, and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Simmer the remaining sauce (you should have about 2 cups) over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, while the eggplant bakes.5 Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes; let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, garnished with the remaining basil; pass the remaining sauce at the table (or refrigerate or freeze it for another use).

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