crispy baked eggplant

I’ve learned a lot about myself this summer. Some lessons were really just reminders of the “me” that fell into a deep slumber last August 7th, and about embracing my own fearlessness. I’ve never been afraid to take chances, yet when faced with the responsibility of raising my girls all alone, being the sole decision maker—well, that is simultaneously overwhelming and terrifying.

One of the early conversations Mikey and I had when we met was about parenting. We talked about the immense responsibility that comes with rearing little human beings that will contribute positively to the world as a whole. How to best love them and let them know they’re the center of your world, but not the world. Back then he said a test should be required to have children, and I still agree with that sentiment. One glance at a newspaper headline is all you need to understand what he meant.

I thought about this the other night as I watched Away We Go. The next morning I awoke, and the movie still fresh on my mind, comforted and reminded me that the sadness of our past needn’t be a hindrance—we are the sum of our experiences. The painful parts have the ability to inspire us to dig deep within ourselves.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can unravel my sense of being and purpose, like dealing with fussy eaters. That’s especially tough on my ego these days. It’s like a game of chicken, me sitting at the dinner table looking at all the plates before us, as my daughters systematically wrinkle their noses at each one. I stand firm, take a deep breath, and calmly remind them that it is the last meal before breakfast. Okay, maybe I say it with a little edge in my voice, and a vein bulging in my foreheard. I never claimed to be Mother Teresa. “You don’t have to eat, but it’s twelve hours before the kitchen opens again” is often my other line of defense against their stares.

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A year ago this didn’t bother me. Mikey would come home, see the array of homemade food and exclaim he was the luckiest guy alive. Now my culinary confidence lies in the tastebuds of a four year old and nine year old. What I constantly remind myself these days is that I was a picky eater 30 years ago too. Bear was never on my bucket list of things to eat, but it is something I’ve tried. I’m pretty sure my 8 year old self would’ve passed out if she’d been told that would happen one day.

My girls generally cobble enough together to go to bed with a full tummy—this is why my dinner tables always have lots of little plates of vegetables, fruit and often pasta. Every now and then I hit a homerun, like with the meal you see here. It went over so well the first day that not one whine was let out when I heated the leftovers for lunch the following day. Isabella actually squealed with delight at getting to eat the eggplant again—eggplant people! The eggplant caused quite a fuss on instagram too, with pleas for the recipe. I’d never actually written it down. The outside is as crunchy as it appears to be, and the inside gives way to a creamy eggplant center. It’s also baked, not fried, the key to its crunchiness being a blast of high heat.

The flour amount is an approximation, since the thought to record the recipe came after I had already started breading them. The panko measurement is spot on because luckily I thought to weigh the amount left in the bag after the eggplant was all coated—talk about quick thinking. Still I decided to keep the ingredients “loose” here—baking needs to be exact, a recipe as simple as this eggplant is worthy of winging it when you don’t feel like measuring things out.

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As for the rest of our meal, I packed some provisions from home for my vacation pantry. That there is fusili a mano from Caputo’s, a local Italian shop near my house in Carroll Gardens. And the sauce—oh my god, you must try Marcella Hazan’s recipe for tomato sauce with butter and onions. I know, I am very late to this game. For years I resisted making it because growing up sauce always meant using basil and garlic, and butter never ever made the cut. In recent years, I started adding a knob of butter to my marinara sauce, so I did have an idea of how this would add a creamy texture and flavor. The sauce, unless made in batches and frozen, doesn’t work for my everyday busy schedule since it takes 45 minutes to cook. On a lazy summer afternoon overlooking Cape Cod Bay, 45 minutes didn’t matter, and the scent of simmering tomatoes bathing in a mound of butter didn’t even make me blink at the thought of donning a swimsuit later that day.

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Crispy Baked Eggplant

Serves 6

Music Pairing: Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch with Pete Townshend & Rachel Fuller

2 black beauty eggplants, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds

Sea salt, enough to “salt” the eggplant and to season the egg

Extra virgin olive oil, for coating the pan & drizzling

All purpose flour, about 1 cup (145 grams)

Panko breadcrumbs, about 2 1/2 cups (140 grams)

3 large eggs

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Thirty minutes before you’re ready to coat and bake the eggplant, you’ll need to “salt” them. This helps draw out excess water, as well as any bitterness from it. Using a regular dinner plate, create layers of the eggplant, liberally salting each layer before adding the next one. Cover the layered slices with another dinner plate or baking sheet, and rest a heavy object on top (a cast iron skillet is perfect, but I can also vouch for using a mega-dictionary).

Let the eggplant sit, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Remove the weight, and don’t worry about the brownish liquid that has collected on the slices—that was the goal. Transfer the eggplant to a colander in the sink. Run cold water over the slices, making sure to rinse off all of the salt. Lay the slices single-layer in a cloth towel. Roll the towel up, and set the eggplant aside to dry off for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475F (245C). Lightly drizzle two rimmed baking sheets with some of the olive oil. Place the flour and breadcrumbs each in separate shallow dishes (pie plates work very well).

Add the eggs, salt and pepper to a deep bowl, and beat with a fork to combine.

Coat each slice of eggplant as follows: gently press into the flour, flip and gently press again to coat both sides. Use a fork to dip the slice in the egg and lightly coat both sides, shaking off any excess egg. Dip the slice into the panko, using your fingers to brush some crumbs on top, and gently press the eggplant so the crumbs stick. Place the fully-coated slice on the prepared baking sheet.

About halfway through coating the slices, one tray will be full. Drizzle the slices lightly with some oil. Go ahead and bake those slices for 20 to 25 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden on both sides. You can coat the remaining slices, set them on the second tray and then pop them in the oven once the first tray comes out.**

Transfer the slices to a paper-towel lined plate for 1 to 2 minutes to absorb any excess oil. Serve hot, warm or even at room temperature. Leftovers may be stored in a covered container and heated in a 350F oven for 10 minutes.

**Really, I do it this way for efficiency, plus it allows the first tray to cool a bit, so the kids can dig in without burning their mouths once I bring them to the table. You can certainly coat them all at once, and bake both trays, just keep an eye on them, as you may need to alternate the pans in addition to turning each slice halfway through the baking time.

Comments

  • Peggy: All I can say is yum… :) Thank you for sharing!!

  • Kristin: Yum yum yum! I have never made eggplant this way and I can’t wait to try! I have a 7 month old, so I haven’t gotten to picky eating yet, we’re just working on learning to swallow anything at this point. But I sympathize with trying to get little ones to be adventurous eaters.

  • Selfish Mom: Thanks for writing that one down! I’ve never been happy with how little panko I can get to stay on veggies, I’m totally going to try your method.

  • kim/hormone-colored days: I clicked over from Facebook in record time. Those look so delicious. I think I know what were having to dinner tomorrow night. And don’t let those girls mess with you. I know people who would line up to get a spot at your table any night.

  • Laurie: Hi Jennie,
    Hope you and your girls are well!
    Beautiful recipe and sentiment, as always!

  • Amanda K: “. . . the sadness of our past needn’t be a hindrance—we are the sum of our experiences. The painful parts have the ability to inspire us to dig deep within ourselves.”
    Thank you.

  • Coach Laura: The eggplant looks yummy. I grew up eating eggplant fried or as eggplant parmagiana, as I too had an Italian grandma.
    I wonder how this will be gluten-free? I have celiac, so it’s a necessity not an option. I’m going to try it with corn flour to replace the flour dredge and cornmeal to replace panko. Or garbanzo bean flour and gluten-free breadcrumbs.

  • Lauren: Hoorah! I am so excited about this recipe! One day your picky eaters will be away at college and think to themselves “what was wrong with me”. And it’s then, when you are listening to teary voices on the phone exclaiming the travesties that occur in the dining hall, that you’ll be certain you did it all right :]

  • Tracey Alvernaz: Good Morning Jennie,
    Damn I am SOOOOO PROUD OF YOU! I don’t think I need to say anymore than that. Wishing you oodles of sunshine, rainbows and happy days.
    Tracey

  • lori: These look delish and since eggplant parm is on the menu for tonight, I’ll try this method for prepping the eggplant. Happy vacation!

  • Maria in NJ: Jennie I always do my eggplant in the oven even for my parmigiana. I love eggplant, could eat it every day.

  • Lisa: LOVE the idea of a music pairing! Perfect.

  • Jacki: It was only after watching “Away We Go” and repeatedly using my Shazam app that I discovered Alexi Murdoch…good stuff! Thank you for sharing this simple, yet beautiful recipe. Do you think that you could freeze them after cooking/cooling and have them on hand to reheat for quick weeknight meals?

  • April: I’ve been eating a lot of panko-breaded eggplant slices – made in our super duper Camp Chef oven – with a little asiago sprinkled on top. Dipped in marinara sauce, it tastes so much like pizza. Didn’t have the dip in flour first tip, though, so I am going to try that.

  • Diane: Yum Yum Yum !!!!

  • Hilary: These look good, and you are right, that Marcella Hazan sauce is delicious.
    I sympathise with you over your fussy eaters and thought I’d share a possible solution. A friend of mine has a rule in her house that children are allowed to nominate one food item that they won’t eat – but have to eat everything else. (They don’t get to change this choice every meal either, but can change over time with negotiation). I think it gives them a sense of control and weeds out the genuine dislikes from the just-being-fussy – by all accounts it is very effective!

  • Mary Kay: I made something very similar a week or two ago that we had as an appetizer and I was shocked and please that my kids downed them and asked for more! I think I will try your healthier version and bake them.

  • tara: Oh, I’m SO glad you mentioned your girls wrinkling their noses at their dinner offerings! Nothing brings me to irritation and wanting to strangle ‘someone’ quicker than a family member refusing a food I make. I have to take a deep breath and remember it’s not the end of civilization. I’m a normally calm and rational person, but when I made something (which is nearly everyday) – I want them to eat it and love it. Ha! ;) My oldest is 19 and living in another state now. Recently he told me that the thing he misses most and used to take for granted where the big plates of homemade food I would put in front of him – so yep, eventually it DOES sink in. Sometimes that’s enough to get me thru when my 12 and 14 yo’s wrinkle their noses. sometimes.

  • Rocky Mountain Woman: Hah! I have the same problem with my boyfriend. I put the creative fun food on the table and he nukes himself a hot dog…
    arghhhh…

  • Joan: Made these tonight. I don’t like eggplant I had to try. They were delicious.

  • Lauren: I made these yesterday. They were amazing. I also made that sauce. It was to die for. Best meal ever,and to think I was going to just throw a frozen pizza in before I read this!! and it wasn’t that much work! Thanks so much for this Jennie!

  • Marge @ A Sweet and Savory Life: I was a single mother when my kids were about the age of yours, and for about a year after I’d been on my own they interfered with my culinary chops. Zak wanted to eat only beige and brown, and Rachel chose pasta, sweets and vegetables. My palate and repertoire regressed. But it came back along with my general confidence– and then the kids had to eat what I put on the table for dinner or they didn’t eat at all. (Sometimes they chose the latter. It did me in at the time, but I stood my ground they way my mother did with us.)
    I made concessions: I did not prepare veal or eggplant for dinner, the two foods they both despised. When they moved out, I went on an eggplant binge, which diminished over time. This post, and your photo, may cause another.
    Thank you for the inspiration!
    PS Zak grew into a healthy young man who now loves food of color, and Rachel cooks and eats savory and spicy food along with her pasta and sweets.

  • tea: I made these the day after you posted the recipe… They were perfect and everybody loved them, thank you!

  • minnie@thelady8home: I face the wrinkly nose everyday. And my hubs wrinkles his nose even harder, haha! I make a lot of eggplant, and I have made them this way before, but not with panko crumbs. Thanks for the recipe, love it.

  • Christina: These reminded me so much of the fried zucchini my dad used to make for me and my sisters growing up, I had to make them and they were so good I had to write a post about them (with credit to you, of course!): http://myhomespunhome.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/tastes-of-home/
    Since I can never leave well enough alone, I added a little grating of romano cheese over them before they baked, and a little more when I flipped them. So, so good, thanks!

  • Joanna Hyatt: It’s 11 pm and I just finished making this and can I say, it was so worth staying up for. Delicious!!

  • Nomadic Samuel: These look absolutely delicious! I wasn’t a big fan of eggplant until I based myself in Asia. Now I can’t get enough of it :)

  • krissy: I just flipped the first pan of these crispy eggplants-they look so good I almost plucked one off the pan! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Angie: There isn’t a week that goes by, that I either don’t have, or think about having eggplant in some way. I love…. this. crispy eggplant slices, all the freshness of the eggplant in a crispy casing? come one. A side salad, and some pasta. I’m soooo there. Thank you for reminding me how this simple preparation, is always one of the best one’s too.

  • tabitha W: I tried these on the weekend and I just couldn’t stop eating them! They were perfect, crispy and not soggy at all. This is one of my new faves. And an excellent snack. Thanks so much!!

  • stifflersmom: i just made these lets see how they come out!

  • Crispy Baked Eggplant with Meat Sauce | Halite and Pepper: [...] Crispy Eggplants From InJenniesKitchen 2 large eggplants, sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch thich rounds Salt 1 cup all purpose flour 3 cups panko [...]

  • Doug: Just wondering if the oil is necessary or would they be too dry without? Also, has anyone used parchment vs foil or directly on a pan and how that worked out? Thanks in advance!

  • Bruce: If any of the above eggplant lovers have followed Jennie’s recipe, I am available to visit and join you for a taste test (if you’re within commuting distance of Reading PA).

  • Surviving Mealtime: Healthy, Mostly-from-Scratch, with No Time to Spare | domesticfringe: [...] and modify it to suit your needs and preferences. My favorite food blogger posted a recipe for crispy baked eggplant which inspired my chicken nugget recipe. I start with organic chicken tenderloins cut into a little [...]

  • urban pacifier – surviving mealtime | urban pacifier: [...] and modify it to suit your needs and preferences. My favorite food blogger posted a recipe for crispy baked eggplant which inspired my chicken nugget recipe. I start with organic chicken tenderloins cut into a little [...]

  • linda: i followed the recipe except for getting out the liquid with the salt. my eggplant was tough and not edible! Help please. i used the other half of the same eggplant and sauteed it on top of stove and it was delicious. i was trying to cut calories.

  • Jennifer Perillo: Salting the eggplant is a very important step, and noted in the recipe for a reason. It both tempers the bitterness, and also tenderizes the eggplant a little.
    -JP

  • Maxaldojo: Wow! I made the baked eggplant with some BBQ pork loin, summer squash & zucchini ratatouille & corn bread.
    A near prefect meal!
    Thank you!
    M-

  • Jill: I made these tonight and they were delicious!!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jeannine Lawall: AWESOME! Just made them tonight – I plan to use them for pizza toppings, added to spaghetti, etc…. IF they can make it to the freezer before I nibble them all up!

    Panko is to rich for my budget, so I used crushed Trisket crumbs instead – I just left the salt out of the egg batter.

    Thank you for sharing your imaginative (and yummy!) recipes with the world!

  • Lorelei: Jeannine, I have found panko crumbs at my 99 cent store, you might try there or a dollar store if you have one nearby.

  • Elva: I made this and for the first time the panko stayed on! The dish was pretty and tasty too! Thanks for sharing. i feel like a Chef!

  • DJ: Awesome recipe. Followed it exactly and it was delicious. Rave reviews from family at Xmas party. Healthier than frying. Leftovers made for great EP Parmagiana next day.

  • Theresa Lepiane: Just keep cooking. My girls are 26, 19, and 18 and so adventuresome in their eating choices! I never would have thought it when they were little, but those interesting choices as youngsters paid off.

  • My Blog | Monday Recipe: […] Posted in baked eggplant, foodie, iPad, light and healthy recipes, panko, Pinterest . Crispy Baked Eggplant I do the majority of cooking at home and we rarely eat packaged/processed foods, so everything is […]

  • Yuneeda: Coming from a traditional indian home, usually snacks like these would be deep fried and obviously extrememly unhealthy.. But this variation was absolutely stunning! Thank you so much for sharing…

  • Ellen: YUMMM!!!! Thank you for sharing this! I made it for my girls – the youngest of whom had chosen an eggplant (doubtless for its color) at the store. Being 3, I was happy she even put it in her mouth to try! Sadly she didn’t like it, but I may have made a mistake on the breading in using seasoned panko crumbs? Do you use seasoned or unseasoned crumbs? They were delish but extremely salty. I was pretty sure I’d rinsed the eggplant properly. Also, have you ever tried adding grated parmesan to to breadcrumbs? Hubby LOVED THEM! Ate a whole plate for his dinner. ;) I know I’ll be making a ton when our CSA pops out all that eggplant later this summer. :) Thanks again!

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