On Saturday a trip to a local farmer’s market yielded a beautiful assortment of eggplant: pink, striped and deep, deep purple. Eggplant can be versatile but nothing tastes so good as when it’s fried with a little mozzarella and tomato sauce on top. If you’ve ever made Eggplant Parmesan, you know it is a labor of love. Not only do you have to bread and then fry up all the eggplant, but you also need to heat up your kitchen baking it in the oven for an hour or so. This New York Times recipe for Eggplant Deconstructed is my favorite late summer alternative to that Italian American classic. You still need to spend some time preparing, but assembled just before serving at room temperature, it has a casualness worthy of an outdoor meal. Be sure to allow time to let the eggplant drain in colander before cooking. Removing its excess water is crucial to keeping the dish on the light side. Here’s my take…
Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan
What You Need
1 large eggplant sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds — I actually used three small ones with the intention of creating leftovers
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil + more for drizzling
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 to 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
4 sprigs fresh oregano
3 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for serving
5 tbs Parmesan
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup ricotta
2 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small slices
How To Make
1. Place the eggplant slices in a colander over a bowl. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand about 20 minutes. Drain and pat slices dry with a paper towel. Season with pepper.
2. Working in batches, heat some of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add as much eggplant as you can fit in a single layer in the skillet. Cook about 4 minutes until bottom is dark golden, then lip and cook 3 to 4 minutes more. Move to paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining oil and eggplant. You’ll need to keep adding oil with each batch of eggplant. It took me four batches.
3. Let the skillet cool a bit. Heat 3 tbs oil. Add 4 garlic cloves. Cook about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and oregano. Cook, smashing the tomatoes with a spoon as you can, until tomatoes start to form a sauce, about 15 minutes. Add the basil sprigs and 4 tbs Parmesan; simmer 5 more minutes.
4. While the sauce simmers, warm 1 tbs olive oil in a small skillet to medium heat. Mince 1 remaining garlic clove and add to the skillet with the bread crumbs. Toast until bread crumbs are just turning golden. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon Parmesan.
5. Arrange eggplant on a serving platter. Spoon drops of ricotta over the eggplant and top with sauce. Scatter bread crumbs over sauce. Top with mozzarella and sprinkle on torn basil leaves. Drizzle with oil and serve.