Eggplant Parmesan

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A recipe that is easy to lighten without sacrificing flavor, eggplant parmesan is a favorite of ours. Tender slices of eggplant are lightly coated in a crisp panko breadcrumb crust, just barely fried in an olive oil cooking spray-coated pan, and then baked amongst layers of marinara sauce and melty reduced-fat mozzarella cheese. The crowning glory is a sprinkling of – what else? – freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Using reduced fat cheese is one simple way to lighten this typically heavy dish, but the real clincher is substituting a touch of cooking spray for pools of oil. A few-seconds-long-spray coats the pan enough to create a lovely golden-brown and crisp panko breadcrumb coating.

I’m willing to bet that this healthier version of eggplant parmesan will become a quick favorite with your family as well!

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Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • 1 small-to-medium sized eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices (a mandoline works beautifully, but a sharp knife will suffice)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs, whole wheat or regular
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar marinara sauce of your choice
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 cups shredded 2% mozzarella cheese, or more if you’d like
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, or more if you’d like
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil, optional

Directions:

*The first step is optional. If you are in a time crunch, skip ahead to the second step. If, however, you have some time to spare, I think this step does make a difference in the final product.

  1. Place eggplant slices on a wire rack. Sprinkle both sides of eggplant liberally with Kosher salt. Let sit for about 45 minutes, or until a brownish liquid dots the surface of the eggplant. [This liquid is where the bitterness of the vegetable lives.  Salting the eggplant slices draws out this bitterness, while simultaneously rendering the slices more pliable and tender].  Gently rinse the eggplant slices to remove the salt – any salt that remains will help to season the eggplant. Blot dry with paper towels.
  2. Lay out 3 large plates: one with the flour, one with the eggs, and one with the breadcrumbs mixed with the Italian seasoning.  Working in batches, run the eggplant slices through the flour, coat with egg (let excess drip off), and dredge in breadcrumbs (press lightly to adhere).
  3. Preheat oven to 350*F. Heat a large cooking spray-coated skillet or griddle pan over medium-high heat. Again working in batches, cook the breaded eggplant slices until golden brown on both sides, adding more spray as needed, about 1-2 minutes per side.
  4. Coat an 8×8 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon a bit of marinara sauce into bottom of dish. Lay about half of the eggplant slices over sauce, slightly overlapping. Top with about half of the sauce, then with half of the mozzarella cheese. Layer on the rest of the eggplant slices, sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
  5. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Top with basil and serve.

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