By: Deanna Linder
I have a theory on couples. This theory works on about 50% of the population of couples and it states that many couples, despite their appearance at the beginning of the relationship will eventually end up looking alike, physically. My brother and sister-in-law look more like brother and sister than do I and my brother. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law look so much alike that I think they should even do a DNA test before having children (too far, I know). I even know an inter-racial couple, who now, after 8 years of being together, look more alike every day.
Me and my other half are on the other end of that 50%. No matter how much time has passed (12 years, but who’s counting), we still don’t resemble each other in the slightest. What has happened though, is a sort of molding, or gravitation to each other’s culinary habits. He’ll eat anchovies now (most of the time he doesn’t know it), and I’ll even eat breakfast for dinner, which goes almost against my American-dinner is the biggest meal- upbringing. On the down side, I have also been influenced by his gastronomic nuisances and have nearly cut out eggplants completely from my diet, because the guy won’t go near them in any form other than Sabich (Israeli street food sandwich).
It’s quite a shame that I don’t cook or eat eggplants, because it is such an interesting vegetable which takes on a new form in each different way it is cooked. This is a popular American/Italian dish which I’m surprised hasn’t made it into the repertoire of more eggplant loving Israeli kitchens.
Some tips before getting started:
- This is a slightly healthier version which calls for baking the eggplants instead of frying them, which makes it a lot less greasy. But it does take some extra time, so if you’re in a pinch and could use a little something fried, go ahead and fry them.
- The sauce I used here was a basic, really easy to make tomato sauce-see the recipe below. You can substitute with store-bought tomato sauce or replace with the same amount of your favorite recipe. If you are making your own sauce, then do it while the eggplants are baking and you’ll have both ready at the same time.
- I found that this was best eaten right after baking, so make it when you know there are hungry people waiting to eat.
Adapted from Martha Stewart:
Ingredients for a 9-by-13-inch (25x30 cm.)baking dish:
2 large eggs
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup + 2 tablespoons parmesan, finely grated
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 large eggplants, sliced into ¼-inch (1 cm.) rounds
6 cups (48 ounces, 1400 grams) basic tomato sauce (see recipe below)
1½ cups mozzarella, shredded
- Preheat oven to 375º/190ºC. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. Set aside.
- In a large bowl mix together the eggs and two tablespoons of water. In a separate bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, 1 cup of parmesan, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
- Dip the eggplant slices, one by one, into the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off, and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, making sure to coat the entire eggplant. Place on baking sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom, and then remove from oven, turn eggplants over and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and raise heat to 400ºF/200ºC.
- Prepare the dish: Place two cups of tomato sauce in the baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplants, in an orderly fashion, onto the tomato sauce. Cover with two cups of sauce and then sprinkle on ½ cup of mozzarella. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Basic Tomato Sauce
This sauce is from Mario Batali’s book Molto Italiano and it works for me every time. This quantity will give you a little more than you need for this dish, but you can freeze the rest (for 6 months) or store it in the fridge for up to one week.
Ingredients for 8 cups:
½ cup olive oil
2 Spanish onions, cut into ¼-inch dice
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 carrot, finely shredded
4 cans (28 oz./800 grams each) whole tomatoes
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until soft and light golden brown. Add the thyme and carrot and cook for about 5 minutes, until the carrot is soft.
- Add the tomatoes (with their juice) and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened, for about 30 minutes. Season with salt.