Eggplant Parmegiana, Meet Mary

I LOVE Eggplant Parmegiana. No really. If I had to pick a last meal, that would be it. Complete with a side of lovely pasta and perhaps a brownie hot fudge sundae. But, I could stop at the main dish. I can’t remember the first time I had it. I wish I could. It’s the kind of dish you just know there was a first time. But since I can’t remember the first time, I’ll remember the second (or perhaps third). It was the Thanksgiving after the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco. We were all still a bit shaken to say the least. My dear friend Gregg and I were lucky enough to snag my friend Stephanie’s house in Mill Valley for Thanksgiving. She was out of town so we went for it. Gregg is Italian and Thanksgiving must be celebrated with the full Italian Monte. We had Turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and of course, Eggplant Parmegiana. It was the really fattening kind that you dredge in flour, fry up and then bake with cheese. I can still taste it. We were eating for days with all that food.

I’ve grown up now. Just the slightest bit of fried makes my waste a little pudgy so I look for ways to cut back. I’ve reworked the EPP (gotta have an acronym) to suit my metabolism and my new found foodie sophistication. It’s lighter, includes fresher ingredients, and it’s packed with the power of raw food. Have you heard about the raw food thing? Apparently you’ll live forever. Today I went to the Farmers Market and bought heirloom tomatoes, gorgeous large leaf basil, and buffalo mozzarella. So here it is. My EPP recipe, an impromptu work of art that will keep you going well past your sell-by date. Makes 2-3 servings if you’re lucky.

Here are the ingredients: 2 large heirloom tomatoes, 2 long Japanese Eggplants, 6 gloves of garlic, 1 bunch basil, 1/2 lb buffalo mozzarella, salt, crushed red pepper to taste, 1 cup of any type of pasta.

Slice thin long wise, 2 Japanese eggplant. Salt the fleshly parts liberally and set aside to rest for about 10 minutes.\
Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray (I prefer olive oil.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a cast iron skillet saute ever so lightly over medium heat (3-5 minutes)
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic chopped
2 large heirloom tomatoes chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil stems removed and chopped (I cannot believe the size of the leaves these days!)
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt to taste and remove from pan to rest a few minutes

After you’ve cooked the tomato and basil mixture, wipe the pan with a paper towel. Return it to the medium heat and add another tbsp. of oil. Heat until bubbly then add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and stir for about 1 minute. then add eggplant slices. Cook until lightly brown on each side (about 3 minutes/side). Remove immediately from pan including the cooked garlic and remaining juice.

Lay a single layer of eggplant in the loaf pan making sure to incorporate the garlic and olive oil. Add half the tomato mixture on top the layer slices of half the mozzarella to cover. Repeat.

Pop the entire mixture into the oven for 10 minutes and cook your pasta. After about 10 minutes, turn the oven to broil and leave the EPP in for another 10 minutes while you finish cooking and draining the pasta. I like to toss my pasta with more fresh garlic (it’s all about getting the raw antioxidants) and parmigiano cheese.

When the EPP looks bubbly and slightly browned on top remove it from the oven. If you haven’t been standing in front of the oven yelling “hurry,” then wait a few more minutes to let the flavors gel. Serve it nice and hot over the pasta with a big glass of red.

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