I've been craving eggplant parmesan for a few weeks, but it's been too hot to turn on the oven, so I've resisted... until I picked up the most gorgeous eggplant at the market on Saturday. Weighing in at about 2.5 lbs, it was short and fat, green and striped, looking more like an heirloom tomato than anything else. Parmesan (sans-parmesan) it would be.
Still not wanting to use the oven, I opted for a deconstructed version of this dish. Each of the elements is prepared individually, then stacked on a plate and drizzled with a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction. Frankly, I think this is better than the traditional casserole style. This preparation and presentation allows each ingredient to stand on its own and coordinate with all the others, rather than absorbing a generalized flavor.
Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan (sans parmesan)
1 medium/large eggplant (traditional, globe... anything except the long, thin japanese ones)
1 1/2 c bread crumbs
2 tbs fresh/dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 c warm water
3 tsp potato starch (corn starch would work, too)
3 c tomato sauce (recipe to follow)
1/2 c balsamic vinegar
handful fresh basil
handful cherry tomatoes, quartered (I used sunsugars)
2 - 4 sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed, coarsely chopped
Slice eggplant into 1/2" rounds. (I'm not an eggplant salter, but if you are, by all means...) Combine warm water with potato starch (I actually used EnerG Egg Replacer, so if you have it, it works). Stir very well, until it becomes frothy. The solution should be slightly more viscous than water. Combine bread crumbs with parsley, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Dip eggplant in the water/starch solution, then press it firmly into the breadcrumbs. Repeat for all slices.
Heat a fair amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Fry eggplant slices until golden and crispy on each side (about four minutes). Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil, especially when it's breaded. Be prepared to use generously, or, if you prefer, you can bake the slices, drizzled with oil, on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Heat tomato sauce in a small sauce pan.
Time for a balsamic reduction. Pour the balsamic into a small sauce pan and place it over low heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir slowly as the vinegar begins to boil. It will boil fiercely for a few minutes --- keep stirring!! --- while the water cooks off. Continue to stir (if you don't, it will stick and burn), with very low heat, until the vinegar reduces to a very thick, syrupy consistency. It should look a little like chocolate syrup and smell very sweet. Remove from heat.
Place one eggplant slice on a plate, top with a few basil leaves and a spoonful of tomato sauce. Repeat with a second layer. Top with the chopped cherry and sundried tomatoes, drizzle the balsamic glaze along the edge of the plate, and serve.