Sometimes I toy with the idea of going vegetarian. I’d probably be giving my body, my wallet, and the environment a break. I’ve seen enough movies about how bad the meat industry is, and how averse consuming certain meat products can be for your health and the environment.
And when I say I’ve “seen” these movies, I mean I either heard people talking about them or briefly read the back of the DVD case, and promptly walked away because frankly, what I don’t know is better for my mental health.
Also, I love meat. So there’s that.
But, if for some reason my conscience finally caught up with me, and I did decide to go all green all the time, this would be one of the recipes I already embrace wholeheartedly. Not only does it taste great- but you still get to fry the vegetables! In oil! Om nom nom. No compromises here.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’d rather be fat and happy, than reasonably skinny and miserable. Girl’s gotta eat!
This is adapted from one of the first recipes I learned in college, from my trusty How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It’s deceptively simple, and all-around delicious. If you want to make the transition into eating more vegetables, this is a great way to start.
This is a two-fer recipe- for both the sauce and the full meal.
Cook time: about an hour
- 1-2 eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch disks (2-3 lbs total)
- Olive oil as needed
- Flour for dredging
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cups tomato sauce (store bought or homemade- recipe follows)
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- About 30 fresh basil leaves (I didn’t have these but wish I had!)
1) If your eggplant is particularly large or has a lot of seeds, like mine did, it’s a good idea to salt your eggplant before cooking to draw out excess moisture, remove any bitterness and season the eggplant. To do this, arrange the eggplant slices in a colander and liberally season with kosher salt, making sure to season all sides of the eggplant. Let sit in the colander for at least half an hour. Then rinse and squeeze dry the slices. If you’re making homemade sauce, now’s a good time to get that stewing before we start constructing the rest of the meal.
2) Once you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place about 3 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet, and turn the heat to medium. When a pinch of flour sizzles when added to the oil, you know it’s ready.
3) Dredge the eggplant slices one at a time in the flour, shaking off the excess. Place in the pan, but be sure not to crowd. Unless you have an extremely large pan, you’ll have to do this in batches. If you have such a pan, please let me know where you purchased it.
4) Cook the slices for 3-4 minutes on each side until nicely browned and crispy, then remove to a plate layered with paper towels while you work on the next batch. If you didn’t salt your eggplant before, you can add salt along with pepper to the eggplant as the slices are cooking. If you did salt, just add the pepper.
Honestly, I could eat these bad boys just like this.
5) Bu,this is where it gets fun… Lightly oil a baking dish, then spoon enough of the tomato sauce in and spread to cover the bottom. Add a layer of eggplant, then a thin layer of both the mozz and parmesan cheeses, and finish with a layer of basil if you have it. Keep layering stacks of sauce, eggplant, cheese, and basil until all the ingredients are used up. I finished mine with a big ol’ layer of cheese on top, that got real nice and bubbly as it baked.
6) Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the dish is bubbling hot. Garnish with additional basil, and serve that baby up!
Easiest Homemade Tomato Sauce
Makes ~2 cups sauce
Cook time: 10 min
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, chopped (make the pieces as big or small as you like- I like my sauce chunky)
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano are preferable)
- leaves of 2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper
1) Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the oil. Once oil is shimmering, add the garlic and onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, until onions get to be translucent, making sure not to let the garlic burn.
2) Add the crushed tomatoes and stir. Add the thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer on medium-low until ready for use. Easy peasy!!
That wasn’t so bad, right?
What’s your favorite vegetarian indulgence?