Classed up eggplant parm… because I am fancy like that.

It has lovingly been brought to my attention recently that I am “fancy.”  They followed up by saying that once you get to know me, i’m also kind of a dork?  I don’t remember the exact words of their back-handed compliment.  I would be offended, but the truth is… I am a little fancy.  I like wearing pearls and I would much prefer to fly in first class.  I don’t really do prepared meals, as I much prefer to make everything from scratch and packed with organic vegetables.  But, I also prefer fake maple syrup to the real stuff (gasp!  Isn’t she from New England?!), love barbeque sauce (not the good stuff, either), and have been doing this weird snorting thing when I laugh sometimes lately.  Oh, and I also fell (by fell, I mean wiped out in the middle of a busy intersection) and skinned my knee recently.  Who does that?!  I’m sure those close to me could add lots of qualities to both of those lists.  In the end, I think it makes me a pretty interesting person (and this was actually confirmed by an anonymous survey recently).  But, a little dollop of fancy here and there really isn’t that much work.  And this recipe is a testament to the fact that being a little fancy doesn’t really take that much more effort.  

These eggplant stackers come together quickly, and the recipe allows for multiplexing (spoken like a true scientist) so you can prepare, assemble, and bake all at the same time!  Just like I introduced you to chili’s more sophisticated older sister, this is eggplant parmigiano’s fancy cousin.  The textures coordinate nicely (like a strand of pearls and some black stilettos) and there is a palate pleasing balance of baked gooey goodness and fresh bite.  The fried eggplant slices are surrounded by a lush pillow of cheese and it is all accessorized by a fresh and zesty tomato sauce.  I served mine with garlic sautéed swiss chard.  And most importantly, start to finish I walked into the kitchen to start dinner and then out of the dining room satiated in about 1 hour.  Ironically enough, I had to rush out the door so I could go and take that tumble I was just talking about… So while I recommend you make this, I don’t recommend taking a fall for dessert!  

Eggplant Stackers
Recipe adapted from Meatless Monday at Recipe.com 
Materials:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/2 cup all-purpous flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 vegetable oil
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
Methods:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice the eggplant into pieces about 1/4″ thick.
  3. Lay out the slices, sprinkle on some salt, and set aside for about 10 minutes.
  4. Rinse the eggplant slices and thoroughly pat dry.
  5. Mix together the flour, salt, and pepper and dredge the eggplant in this mix.
  6. Heat up the oil in a medium non-stick skillet over high heat.
  7. Fry the eggplant in batches of 3-4 for about 2 minutes per side. 
  8. Drain on paper towel.
  9. While the eggplant is frying, mix together the ricotta with the italian seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. 
  10. To assemble the stackers, start with an eggplant slice and smooth on about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta.  Continue with this alternating until you have 4 eggplant slices, with 3 layers of cheese in between. 
    • I was assembling the stackers as the eggplant was coming out of the oil.
    • This will make about 3 stacks.
  11. Sprinkle each stack with bread crumbs and place in the oven for 10 minutes.  
  12. While the stacks are in the oven, mix together the remainder of the ingredients for the tomato sauce. 
  13. Transfer eggplant stackers to plates, cover with tomato sauce, and enjoy!
The originally recipe called for adding cheddar cheese to the ricotta, which I didn’t do because I didn’t want it to get too greasy.  In retrospect, the cheddar cheese would have been a delicious and welcomed addition.  The other change I would make would be to coat the eggplant slices in bread crumbs before frying as opposed to sprinkling them on top at the end.  I hope this recipe has shown that you can put forward seemingly gourmet meals in only minutes without having to sacrifice on quality!  
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