Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Eggplant Parmesan

top view photo of vegetables
Photo by John Lambeth on Pexels.com

The perfect Eggplant Parmesan boasts of perfectly cooked eggplant slices perfectly layered with the perfect amounts of mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, and tomato sauce….the ultimate comfort food of Italian cuisine…wonderfully cheesy and tomato-y without weighing you down with too much water or oil.

 

 

***********

Ingredients

2 large eggplants

1tsp salt

1/4C olive oil

1tsp minced garlic

28oz diced tomatoes

1-1/4C grated Parmesan cheese

1½C flour

4 eggs

1-1/2# mozzarella

1 large red onion, chopped

½tsp crushed red pepper flakes

¼C finely chopped basil leaves

3C panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp pepper

1Tbsp Italian seasoning

**********

Prep Work

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

 

 

 

***************

Getting Started

Heat 1Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.

Add the minced garlic, basil, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes,.

Remove from heat.

********************
Prepping the Eggplant

 

 

 

*******************

Cooking the Eggplant

Mist the tops of the eggplant with some olive oil or cooking spray.

Place eggplant slices in the oven. Cook 20 minutes at 425°F, turning the slices over at the half-way point…until nicely browned.

Remove from oven.

Let cool to touch.

 

Once baked or fried, lay the cooked,  lay the slices on wire cooling racks. This will keep your eggplant from getting as soggy.

 

 

*********************

Breading the Eggplant

Set up three  bowls===one for the flour, another one for the egg, and a third one for the breadcrumb mixture.

Pour flour into the first bowl.

Whisk the eggs until smooth. Place in the second bowl.

Stir together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, 1tsp salt, and Parmesan cheese in the third bowl.

Let the bowls sit out while you are waiting for your eggplant to absorb the salt.

Working one at a time dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour, then dip in the beaten eggs, and then dredge in the breadcrumb parmesan cheese mixture.

Set on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices.

More information about the breading process can be found in my previous post…Dreading the Breading.

 

***************

Layering the Dish

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 pan.

Place a third of the eggplant rounds in a single layer over the sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Repeat this process three times…kinda like making lasagna.

Sprinkle the top of the dish with the cheese.

 

 

*****************

Baking the Dish

Cover with foil.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for about twenty minutes…until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top.

Remove from oven.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot, topped with more chopped fresh basil.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Ratatouille

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Baked Eggplant

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Eggplant…The How

Eggplant has slightly bitter flavor and spongy texture that many people say that they don’t care for, but how many of these people have had eggplant dishes that have been prepared so that the eggplant becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor…so that the eggplant absorbs cooking fats and sauces to enhance its flavor.

Eggplant can be cooked many different ways, including…

  • baking
  • barbecuing
  • currying
  • deep frying
  • grilling
  • pan frying
  • pickling
  • roasting
  • steaming
  • stewing
  • stir-frying

We have already discussed several of these cooking methods in previous posts…such as this posts about Facts to Never Forget about Frying Foods and Pan-Frying 10

In the next few posts we will be looking at the other cooking methods mentioned above as well as some recipes using eggplant….recipes including\ Eggplant Parmesan and Ratatouille.

But before you can make any of these dishes, you must obviously have an eggplant, right?!

When choosing an eggplant, look for one that is firm and somewhat heavy for its size…with smooth, glossy skin and an intense purple color….stay away from any eggplants that are withered, bruised, or discolored.

Once you get your eggplant home, stick it in the refrigerator until ready to use it.

And before you start cooking with eggplant, there are two important facts to remember.

First of all, you need to remove any bitter taste from the eggplant that you can. You can do this by first washing the eggplant, trimming off the green end, and perhaps peeling the skin. This will keep your eggplant from being as bitter and also will keep the eggplant from absorbing too much oil as it is being cooked.

Then slice the eggplant into 1/2″ disks and set them in a colander or on a cooling rack set over baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. This process is known as “sweating.” Before you start cooking, remove any moisture from the surface of the eggplant,

Another way to keep the eggplant from being so bitter and to help the eggplant maintain its shape as it is being cooked is to soak the eggplant in salt water. This process is called “brining,”

Also always use only a stainless steel knife to cut your eggplant. This will keep the eggplant from turning black.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Eggplant…The Why

*************

Brain Power

The skin of the eggplant can make you smsrter and keep you that way by…

  • acting as an antioxidant
  • facilitating blood flow to the brain
  • helping to carry nutrients into your brain cells
  • helping to prevent memory loss and other age-related mental decline
  • moving waste out of your brain cells
  • protecting brain cell membranes from damage
  • serving as an anti-inflammatory

******

Cancer

Eggplant contains polyphenols, anthocyanins, and chlorogenic acid….all of which help prevent and fight existing cancer by…

  • acting as a anti-inflammatory
  • blocking the enzymes that help cancer cells spread.
  • preventing new blood vessels from forming in an existing tumor
  • serving as an antioxidant

 

 

**************

Cholesterol

The fiber found in eggplant…(2.4 grams per 1C) may help control cholesterol levels.

Eggplant also contains chlorogenic acid, a key antioxidant that lowers the levels of “bad” cholesterol and reduces your risk of liver disease.

 **********

Eye Health

Eggplant contains two specific antioxidants—lutein and zeaxanthin—which are hrlp prevent age-related macular degeneration and vision loss.

******

Heart

As far as the heart, eggplants can lower your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease because of the fiber, antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and many other nutrient that it contains

Eggplants…

  • act as an anti-inflammatory
  • help prevent heart-threatening plaque from buildup up around the walls of your arteries.
  • relax artery walls

***************

Weight Control

Eggplants can contribute to weight management because of their fiber content and low calorie count. The fiber found in eggplant supposedly helps you feel fuller for longer.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Eggplant…The What

Eggplant has had an interesting part in folklore around the world for many centuries,. For example, eggplant in India, the eggplant was believed to cause people to go insane….yet according to the Kama Sutra eggplant is erotically stimulating when rubbed onto the penis…male organ. or whatever yuou wanna call it, so much so that is causes a month-long erection.

The poor eggplant was also accused of causing health problems—such as liver problems, inflammations of the mouth, leprosy, fever, headaches, and even cancer. 

As far as to whether eggplant is a vegetable or fruit…kinda like with the tomato….it’s actually neither.

Technically eggplant is a berry…but at the same time as being a berry, it is also related to the tomato and potato…which makes it even more confusing.

Eggplant has a spongy, absorbent that makes it the perfect base for all sorts of dishes from all sorts of different cuisines around the world….(more on this later)…

As far as how eggplants are grown, they are tropical plants with a typically spiny stem, large leaves that can grow to eight inches,  and white or purple flower that grow up to four feet tall.

And when you think about eggplants, you probably picture this glossy purple long and egg-shaped thing…

But actually eggplants, like we learned with just like we learned with pumpkins, can be a variety of sizes and shapes and colors, including…

  • black…as the Burpee Hybrid
  • dark purple…the typical eggplant…which is a long football shaped vegetable that is about…that can range anywhere from 4 12″–10″ long and 2 123 1wide
  • green with white stripes,,,Louisiana Lon Green
  • multicolored…such as white at the stem and then bright pink, deep purple or even black on the actual vegetable
  • orange and the size of Ping-Pong balls
  • purple…ranging from faint purple-pink to reddish-purple and dark purple
  • white…smaller and egg-sized…also known as Easter white eggplants, garden eggs, Casper or white eggplant
  • yellow and round

So let’s start looking at why how to add eggplant to New Year health resolutions..

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dark Chocolate…The How

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Choosing Chocolate Chock-full of Nutrition

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dark Chocolate…The Why

Dark chocolate, especially any 70% dark chocolate or higher, contains many nutrients—such as antioxidants, fiber, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium that may help lower your risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, and improve brain function, alleviate stress, and lower your risk of diabetes.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dark Chocolate…The What

In our quest to add more antioxidants to our diet, we havec talked about alfalfa sprouts… blackberries…broccoli…and corn…

…all of which may not seem very appoealing…

But there is one source of antioxidants that we can probably all warm up to…

Chocolate…

Specifically dark chocolate…

People have been enjoying chocolate for about four thousand years…starting in Central America by the Mayan population who enjoyed the chocolate as a fermented beverage that was mixed with spices or wine and had a bitter taste. These people used the chocolate beverage for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.

Chocolate was brought back to Europe from these groups of people in the early 1500s by Spanish explorers…and the Europeans soon started adding honey and cane sugar to to make the bitter chocolate sweeter.

.But where does chocolate come from?

Actually chocolate is deived from the the seeds of a cacao pod….which are fermented, dried, and roasted. After this process the shells of the beans are separated from the inside of the cocoa bean and then ground into a liquid called chocolate liquor…which is then processed further to produce cocoa solids.

There are basically three different types of chocolate…

  • Milk Chocolate
  • White Chocolate
  • Dark Chocolate

All chocolate contains the chocolate liquor mentioned above…as well as perhaps additional cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, and flavoring…what makes them different is the milk content.

Milk chocolate contains 10-50% cocoa solids,

White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids at all and simply consists of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.

Dark chocolate usually refers to chocolate that doesn’t contain milk.

For decades most people ate only milk chocolate…but as dark chocolate has been noted as having health benefits. this decadent and delicious treat has become more mainstream.

Speaking of the health benefits of dark chocolate, let’s take a closer look…