Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

I was all set to make actual Eggplant Parmesan (albeit a healthy version).  But then my eggplant rounds came out of the oven looking all crispy and delicious and I couldn't bear the risk of them becoming too soggy as part of the casserole.

And besides, why knife and fork a dinner when you dip it or pick it up like pizza?

I can see this going in a lot of different directions in the future... laying out an array of different dipping sauces as a fun party/game food, trying out an Asian-inspired version, or simply enhancing the Italian dip I made this time.

What you need:

For the Eggplant:
2 medium Eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2 rounds (or try making stick shapes, which is what I would have done if I wasn't still planning on a casserole at this point)
Olive oil spray
1/2 cup Egg beaters (or egg whites, or a few beaten eggs)
1-2 cups Bread crumbs (I used a mixture of regular and panko- would've tried whole wheat if they were easily available here)
1-2 teaspoons Garlic powder
1 teaspoon Black pepper
2-3 teaspoons Season-all (or just a bit of salt)

For the Dipping Sauce: (Also see other suggestions below)
1 24 ounce jar of your favorite Marinara/ Pasta Sauce (or use 3 cups homemade, that'd be tastier, but I was lazy)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
Chopped fresh Thyme, Basil, Oregano

Start by heating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place egg beaters in one bowl.  Mix both bread crumbs, the garlic powder, black pepper, and Season-all on a plate.  Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil.  One by one, dip the eggplant pieces into first the egg beaters and then the bread crumbs, coating all sides.  Place pieces, just barely touching, on the baking sheet.  Continue until you have used all of the eggplant (you may need additional eggs/ bread crumbs- I didn't actually measure mine, and I added a bit at some point, but then didn't finish it all).

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, flipping once (this is for rounds, reduce time if you cut into sticks).  The pieces should be browned and completely cooked through.  You can slice into one to check- it should be all soft inside.

About 20 minutes before the eggplant is supposed to finish cooking, make the dipping sauce:  Pour the sauce into small-medium casserole dish and top with cheeses and herbs (and any additional seasonings you like- maybe some garlic, black pepper, or red pepper flakes).  Place in the with the eggplant and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until nice and bubbly.

Serve with a spoon in the dipping sauce for slopping over the rounds (and then eat like pizza).  Or cut rounds into slices and dip.  Enjoy!

And some ideas for future dipping:

  • Amped Up Italian Dipping Sauce: Same idea as above, but better.  Roast some garlic cloves and mix the roasted cloves into some ricotta cheese.  Spoon ricotta cheese in the bottom of the pan.  Cover with a homemade meat and veggie pasta sauce.  Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake. 
  • Put out an Italian-themed dipping assortment:  A tomato-based sauce, such as above, some pesto,  some dipping oil 
  • Try something a little Asian: a spicy mayo (wasabi or sriracha mixed with light mayonnaise, or light mayonnaise and greek yogurt, to make it healthier), a soy sauce based dip: maybe some soy sauce, rice vinegar, minced garlic and ginger, and honey.
  • Or a White Pizza Dip, like this one on How Sweet It Is.  I haven't actually tried it yet, but have eyed it before and it came to mind when I was thinking of other ideas for this eggplant.
Happy Creating!

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