Here's a meal that ended up being an impromptu spin-off of a major dish. Our original plans for the day after Christmas were to have my Mom over for dinner. I was going to make Nick Stellino's Baked Pasta with Eggplant Sauce (note: if you are ever planning a dinner for 4-6 people, this is a MUST GO TO dish!). Well, the weather outside was frightful and Mom was not able to make it through the impending snowstorm.
Instead of putting in the time and effort to make this glorious, yet very filling dish for just my wife and I (sadly, my kids haven't developed the appreciation yet for such a fine meal), I decided to put the eggplant to simpler use. Not wanting to just make my standard eggplant parm casserole, I came up with a way to incorporate the flavors of a Caprese salad - fresh basil, tomatoes and chunky slices of fresh mozzarella. While I did not have fresh tomatoes on hand, I did have a can of stewed tomatoes. Using the chunky portions of the tomatoes in the eggplant and reserving the juice to lightly pour on top made for the perfect substitution. The end result was just as tasty and flavorful as a traditional parmesan casserole, but with more of a fresh, crispy spin and less of a gooey, bread crumb encased texture. I can honestly say that I will probably make this version more often than a standard eggplant parm casserole!
1 large eggplant, skin removed
1/2lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Fresh basil, chopped
1 14.5oz can stewed tomatoes
flour, seasoned with salt & pepper and garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350º. Slice eggplants into thin, long slices from top to bottom (instead of traditional round slices). Dredge eggplant slices into flour so each slice is well coated.
Cover the bottom of a large frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil, heat. WHen oil is hot, place eggplant cutlets into pan, no more than three at a time. Fry 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Add more olive oil as necessary. Set fried cutlets aside to slightly cool.
In a 9x13 baking dish, place one layer of cutlets. Top each cutlet with some fresh mozzarella cheese the tomatoes from the stewed tomatoes (reserve the juice for later) and the fresh basil. Place a second row of eggplant cutles on top. Gently pour the juice from the stewed tomatoes over the cutlets. Cover with foil.
Place tray into oven, bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve with a side of pasta or rice.