I started writing this months ago but this is a great wintertime meal as well.  See the notes for appropriate substitutions. Enjoy!

I’m enjoying the last night before students return out on the terrace. Tomorrow the chaos begins but in this moment the breeze is cool, the wine is cold, and my table is laden with the best my farmer’s market has to offer. Fruit and veg have had all summer to come to their most perfect peak and the payoff is happening right now.  My latest jaunt yielded 2 huuuuge eggplants for $.50 /each and a floral bouquet sized bunch of basil for $1.99.

Eggplant Pesto Ingredients

Eggplant x3 Under the cut…

I adore eggplant but I have two issues: when frying, it soaks up sooo much oil, and eggplant parmigiana gets old really fast. So here we go!

Prepping the casserole can be a bit labor intensive so I made myself a little snack

Grilled Eggplant, roma tomatoes, fresh basil, buffalo mozzarella. Finish with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Grilled Eggplant, roma tomatoes, fresh basil, buffalo mozzarella. Finish with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

 

If you appreciate a bit of crunch to contrast with the creaminess of cooked eggplant, oven frying is a great alternative to pan or deep frying.

Eggplant Pesto Casserole

  • Oven Fried Eggplant
  • Basil Pesto
  • Ricotta
  • Onions, sliced
  • Red peppers
  • Fresh mozzerella

 

Oven Fried Eggplant

  • 2 large eggplant
  • 1 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c grated parmagianno reggiano
  • 2 tbsp dried or fresh minced onion
  • 1 tbsp finely minced garlic
  • Cayanne pepper to taste
  • Panko breadcrubs
  • Kosher salt

Slice the eggplant in 1/2 inch slices. Liberally salt both sides and place between layers of kitchen towels or paper towels. Don’t skip this step! You’re not seasoning the eggplant, you’re drawing out the water. Doing this will intensify the flavor while making sure your breading doesn’t get soggy and slide off. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Mix the mayonnaise with the garlic,  pepper, and onion. I’ve used dried and fresh onion and don’t have a preference.   Carefully spread the mayo mixture on each side of a slice of eggplant and carefully press into the panko. Place on a baking rack  or parchment paper on  a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then flip for another 5-10 minutes.

Mayonnaise!

Mayonnaise!

GBD: Golden Brown & Delicious

GBD: Golden Brown & Delicious

 

Basil Pesto (yes you can buy it but why? it’s so easy!):

Fresh basil, washed. Kosher salt. Grated  Parmesan cheese. Olive Oil. Pine Nuts

Pulse the pine nuts and garlic in a food processor or blender on low speed. Add cheese and basil, and a sprinkle of salt and rough chop the whole lot. With the processor running, add a thin stream of olive oil until the pesto reaches a medium thickness paste. If you’re storing or not using right away, gently pour a thin layer on top of the sauce to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown.

Hint: Basil is expensive in the winter! Substitute fresh baby spinach for that gorgeous green on your fork and in your pocket. 

 

Saute 1 small or 1/2 of 1 large onion and 1/2 of one red bell pepper until tender and gently caramelized  Mix with 1 c ricotta cheese. This is the sweet to counteract all that salty. Lets assemble!

Layer it up!

Layer it up!

Eggplant Pesto Baked

Spread a light layer or pesto on the bottom of your baking dish, then layer one at a time: eggplant, ricotta, mozz, eggplant, pesto, mozz, eggplant, ricotta, etc. Until we reach the highest ground  the top of the dish.  Finish with a final schmear of pesto and a few slices of that gorgeous creamy mozzarella.

Bake at 350 degrees for ~ 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is gently bubbling.

Notes: Always use the freshest in-season ingredients. In the winter this means subbing out basil for spinach.  Or try a roasted red pepper & garlic pesto for nice twist on a traditional parm. 

BONUS RECIPE!   Got leftover ingredients? Make a sammich!

""

Eggplant, fresh mozz, and roma tomato sub

Advertisements