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Eggplant Parmesan, Mmmmm

If you have access to fresh eggplants, I have the perfect recipe for you. I love eggplant parmesan, especially if you use your own marinara sauce. It doesn’t take long to make, and you can make many different variations. If vegetarian isn’t your thing you can add browned Italian sausage, or pump up the veggie option with sautéed squash, zucchini, onions and mushrooms.

Eggplant Parmesan

2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise, no more than 1 / 4 inch thick

5 eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and more for layering

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Flour, mixed with a little dried oregano, basil, thyme

2 cups of plain bread crumbs

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups marinara sauce

1 pound of fresh mozzarella, sliced

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay the slices of eggplant on a rack over a baking pan and sprinkle generously with salt. Cover with paper towels and lay another baking pan on the top and sit a heavy pot on it. Let sit for 45 minutes. Remove eggplant and shake off any excess salt. In a shallow dish combine your eggs, 1 / 2 cup of Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set this next to the plate of seasoned flour and a plate with the bread crumbs on it. Dust the eggplant slices with flour and shake off any excess. Then dip the slices in the egg and cheese mixture and then the bread crumbs. Place on a rack to set for a minute while your oil heats up in a large skillet. Over medium heat, pan fry the eggplant in batches, turning once when lightly browned. When done drain on paper towels.

When you are ready to assemble the dish, lightly spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray and spread about a 1/4 cup of sauce on the bottom. Then add a layer of eggplant, more sauce, sprinkle on Parmesan cheese, then slices of mozzarella. Follow this with another layer exactly the same.

Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese begins to brown. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

In the summer when my Roma tomatoes are ripening faster than I can eat them I use them to make this sauce and put it in my freezer. Nothing is faster than a bowl of angel hair with fresh Marinara Sauce.

Marinara Sauce

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

35 ounce can of Italian tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté the onion until it is soft and clear, then stir in the garlic and sauté just until lightly golden. Use your hands and crush the tomatoes before adding to the skillet and add the juice. Bring to a low boil and then turn down to a simmer, add the herbs and sugar and cook for about 45 minutes. Check your seasonings, add your salt and pepper and cook for a minute or two more.

Christina Hall writes a weekly column for The Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com.

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