I just adore Jamie Oliver, don't you? He is a terrific chef, champion of slow food, father and educator. Someday I would just love to sit down and have a chat with him over a cup of tea and a warm crumbly scone. Reading his books and website always give me such a lift. Thank goodness there is someone in this world reminding us to eat well, pay attention to our food sources and have fun!! I found this dish while leafing through Jamie's Italy, one my all-time favorites. Every time I read a few pages I feel totally transported to the Italian countryside. However, alarmingly, it also leaves me craving a glass of wine no matter what time of day(?!!) (But don't worry, fellow parents, I don't hit the vino during the day... that often, at least.)
During my reading on Saturday this particular recipe stood out as perfection in the category of winter comfort food. Warm and crusty, salty and sweet, this dish has all the hallmarks of the perfect casserole. Personally, the mix of tomato, eggplant and cheese is one of my most favorite flavor combinations of all time. When orchestrated properly all of these elements yield total flavor satisfaction in every single bite. Ultimately this dish is the perfect anecdote to winter weather and will fill you with feelings of warm goodness from head to toe. I recommend serving it with a big slice of garlic bread and, if you are a carb-o-holic like me, some fresh pasta on the side. Enjoy!
Eggplant Parmigiana, adapted from Jamie's Italy
3 large firm eggplants
1 onion, chopped
1 clove regular garlic
1 t. dried oregano
1 28oz. can of peeled plum tomatoes
3 cups (or more) of freshly grated Parmesan
2 cups dried breadcrumbs
1 5 oz. ball mozzarella
Dash of White Wine Vinegar
1. Cut Eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices and put on a griddle until grill marks appear on both side and eggplant is softened. If you have to do this is batches place the finished eggplant on a plate or pan lined with a paper towel.
2. In large sauce pan or Dutch oven, put a two tablespoons of olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and dried oregano. Cook for about 10 minutes until onion is soft and garlic starts to turn golden and fragrant.
3. Add tomatoes to onion, garlic and oregano. Break tomatoes up with a wooden spoon until mixture is fully incorporated. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
4. When sauce is reduced and getting sweet add salt and pepper to taste. Then add a swig of white vinegar and fresh basil. Some people choose to whiz the sauce in the blender at this point, but I preferred it chunky, so I did not.
5. Line a baking dish (9x13) with a thin layer of tomato sauce and olive oil. Then add a thin layer of Parmesan, followed by a layer of eggplant. Repeat layers of tomato sauce, Parmesan and eggplant until ingredients are used up. Finish with a little sauce and a final sprinkling of Parmesan.
6. Toss the breadcrumbs with olive oil and oregano and scatter them on top. I also added sliced fresh mozzarella at this point as well.
7. Bake casserole at 375F for 30 minutes or until bubbly, golden and fragrant.
*Recipe Props: In addition to being flavorful this dish meets all of my preparation requirements - the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to shop for, it can be prepared ahead of time and is toddler friendly. As a bonus, it is so big that we can eat it for at least two days!
*Naptime Stopwatch: I was able to prepare the dish in about 35 minutes from start to finish, then I covered it with plastic and stuck in the fridge until dinner time. The baking time was true to the book, about 30 minutes in a regular oven at 375F.
*Husband Says...: "Jamie's Egg-Parm is molto eccellente!" My trusty taster gave this two thumbs up. He particularly liked the touch of the melted mozzarella on top. He also enjoyed the homemade tomato sauce deeming it much more flavorful then the jarred stuff.
*Toddler Says...: "Deeee-lish, Mom! The soft eggplant and warm cheese made this easy to chew and swallow with only four teeth. The sweet and salty flavors were not too overpowering for my developing toddler palate." Mom Note: Instead of serving it with garlic bread I served it with a side of soft carrots and a pile of Veggie Booty - yummy.