-A A +A

Memories made with veggies

As a vegetarian for over 20 years, I have experimented with many dishes combining different vegetables and spices. For me, nothing compares to my favorite: mom’s eggplant parmigiana.

Growing up, I loved helping my parents with our vegetable garden. Each year, dad and I would turn the soil and plant seeds for tomatoes, peppers, green beans and eggplant. I looked forward to watering and weeding the garden every day after school. It was so exciting for me when the vegetables were ripe because I knew mom would be making my favorite dish!

I was tasked with picking the perfect eggplant from the garden to cook. My mom would always cook extra because she and I would eat a few slices of the eggplant as soon as they were fried. Hot breaded fried eggplant with salt is delicious!  Those were some of the best memories of my childhood. My mom passed many years ago, but I think of her every time I make this dish.    

Recipe for Eggplant

3-4 small/medium sized eggplant, (choose eggplant that has a smooth shiny coat and is firm to the touch)
2 eggs
¼ cup of milk
2-3 cups of bread crumbs (I prefer Italian spiced)
vegetable oil

Recipe for Sauce

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, whole
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano and basil mix

For Assembly

1 pound of shredded mozzarella cheese
4-quart baking dish

1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan add the olive oil to heat; then, gently sweat the onion for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic to sweat for another 5 until the onions appear translucent.

2. Add the herb mix and the tomatoes and cook ever so gently for about 20-30 minutes to evaporate the moisture. Season with salt to taste.

3. Peel the skin of the eggplant and cut into ½ inch slices. Place the slices onto a paper towel to remove some of the moisture, about 20 minutes.

2. With a fork, mix the eggs and milk together. Dip the slices of eggplant into the egg and milk mixture, then coat on both sides with breadcrumbs. Set aside in a refrigerator. This will give the breadcrumbs time to adhere to the eggplant.

3. Heat oil to 350 degrees and fry the eggplant slices until golden brown on each side. Remove from the oil and place onto a plate covered with paper towels to soak up some of the residual oil and set aside.

 4. Pour a thin layer of tomato sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange the eggplant slices along the baking sheet until the first layer is full. Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Add another layer of eggplant, sauce and cheese. Repeat until the baking dish is filled with 2-3 layers with the top layer being the cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. Remove the foil, bake another 10 minutes or until the top layer of cheese is completely melted. Serve and enjoy! 

Jennifer Diaz Pellot is a student in the Culinary Arts program (rcbc.edu/culinary).