Family Classics

My family doesn’t really have any recipes that were passed from one generation to the next, to the next, and so on.  In no vault will we find an age-old, hand-written binder with my great-great-great-great grandmother’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  But we have some favorites we’ve amassed over the years.  There’s Pepperoni Gravy, the recipe for which was gifted to us by a neighbor.  There are Grandma Glass of Milk’s crunchy crackers.  And of course, a list of family classics would not be complete without my mom’s macaroni and cheese, which I am incapable of living without (or altering in any way — Hi Mom!).  Although the history behind our family favorites is not as long and storied as you might find in other families, we have some memories cooked into a lot of what we make.

Take this eggplant parmesan.  What started off as any other dish in my mom’s repertoire turned into a little tale.  Starring my husband, who began by asking,

“What is this?”

“Eggplant,” mom told him.

“It’s not chicken?” he replied.

“No, it’s eggplant parmesan.”

“Oh.  I usually don’t like eggplant.  But this is great.”

And that’s when you know you’ve found a winner.  Anytime you hear something to the tune of, “I usually don’t like ______, but this is great.”  And a bonus:  tastes like chicken.

Honestly though, I’m not sure about that last part.  What it does taste like is a hearty meal that will fill you up without being filled with meat.  For those of you who are wary of eggplant, give this purple fruit (It’s a fruit, right?  It has seeds.) a try.  In this dish, the eggplant is roasted first, getting rid of the bitter taste that plagues eggplants big and small.  By the time it’s bathed in tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese, you won’t even know you’re eating a fruit you thought you despised.  Whole foods garlic and pistachio panko doesn’t hurt either.

The original recipe comes from Janet and Greta Podleski, Canadian sisters who have written three fabulous cookbooks, two of which are no longer in print (if you want the third, try here).  I don’t remember how my mom stumbled on this series, but we each have the set now.  We’ve never been disappointed with anything Janet and Greta, collectively known as Granet, have led us to.  Too bad we don’t live in Canada, because then we’d be able to watch these ladies on The Food Network each week.  Instead, we’ll make do with a classic Italian American favorite, adapted to suit our needs.

*p.s.* This dish marks the official entry of a new category here at a glass of milk–vegetarian.  I’ll be going back through the archives to tag my meatless main dishes, but in the meantime, enjoy this debut in casserole form.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 C breadcrumbs, seasoned however you enjoy them (or 1 C plain bread crumbs mixed with 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tsp. dried basil)
  • 4 egg whites, if you’re feeling healthy (2 eggs if you’re not)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced about 1/2 inch thick (no need to peel, fiber’s good for you)
  • cooking spray
  • 1 large jar of your favorite tomato based pasta sauce (you don’t have to ask, it’s always Rao’s around here)
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced thin (or shredded if that’s what you have–anything goes)
A word–this dish takes some prep work, so if you’re busy on the weeknights, get the eggplant roasted the evening before you plan to make this dish.  The next night, it’s all about assembly.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line two baking sheets with foil (your chief dish-washer will thank me later), and lightly spray them with cooking spray.  Then get to work on your breading station.  Pour the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl.  Crack the eggs in another.  Working one at a time, dip eggplant slices into egg whites (or eggs), then into crumbs.  Turn to coat both sides with crumbs.  Place the slices on the baking sheets and lightly spray the tops of the slices with cooking spray.  Roast the eggplant for 15 minutes.  Remove the eggplant from the oven, turn each slice over with tongs, and finish roasting for 15 more minutes.  Hopefully your eggplant slices have taken on a nice golden-brown color.  If you are making the eggplant ahead, turn off the oven and stop here.  If you’re making the whole kit ‘n caboodle tonight, don’t turn that oven off just yet.
Now you’re made in the shade.  Get out your favorite casserole dish (mine is yellow with ruffled edges) and spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce over the bottom.  Place one layer of eggplant slices on top of that, and spoon some more sauce over that.  Add a layer of mozzarella, and repeat: eggplant, sauce, cheese.  If you haven’t used up all of your ingredients, by all means, keep going until you do.
Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until cheese is completely melted and sauce is bubbly.  Serve immediately.

6 thoughts on “Family Classics

  1. Wooden Nickels is deeply honored! Also, she has revised this a bit over time. She now adds milk to the two eggs (as if you were making scrambled eggs) and stirs it all around before dipping the eggplant slices into the mixture. There is no spraying with cooking spray either. The eggplant slices, once they are coated with milk/eggs, then (Italian) breadcrumbs with parmesan, do not stick to the pan. Also, she bakes the slices about 17-20 minutes PER SIDE as undercooked eggplant parmesan is nasty business. 🙂

  2. how can eggplant be a fruit? I love fruit. It must be like a tomato (which is often questioned) and also… peppers have seeds, sooo?

  3. Pingback: Meal Planning – For a Week | a glass of milk

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