Stacked Eggplant Casserole and Tossed Garden Salad

Everyone knows what Eggplant Parmesan is, or at least some version of it. The real McCoy is made with the small, long Italian eggplant, which is sliced very thinly longways, put under salt to remove the bitter juices, drained, rinsed and dried. Then the slices are floured and deep fried and then layered with tomato sauce, grated Parmesan cheese. It is then baked until bubbly and browned. The result is delicious but very greasy because the eggplant absorb so much oil during the frying. Of course each Italia "casalinga" or housewife has her own particular recipe. Some bread the eggplant, others flour it then dip it in egg and again in flour before frying, some use only Parmesan cheese, other add ricotta or mozzarella or both, some use plain tomato sauce and others use a meat sauce. Well... after 35 years of cooking and many  more years of observing others cook, this is my version! It is lighter because the eggplant is not fried but baked in the oven (like my mom taught me!). And then, in honor of my mom (who ALWAYS serves a salad with the meal), I made a deliciously different garden salad.

Ingredients for Stacked Eggplant Casserole for 2 dinner size portions or 4 side-dish portions

1 medium sized eggplant
1 small fresh low fat mozzarella
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bread crumbs
1 egg
1 clove garlic
1 sprig of fresh basil, washed
1 small can tomato puree
Corn oil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Procedure: Pre-heat oven to 450° F.
Wash, dry and slice the eggplant. I like to slice it on the thick  side because I like for the flavor of the eggplant to come through.

Break the egg into a small dish. Put the breadcrumbs in another small dish. Beat the egg and dip each slice of eggplant first into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs to coat well.

Line a cookie pan with oven or parchment paper and arrange the breaded eggplant slices in the pan.

Drizzle each slice with corn oil (or the oil you usually use for frying), then turn each slice twice so that both sides are oiled.
Bake in a very hot oven for about 15 minutes, turning the slices once while they are cooking.

While the eggplant is baking, make the tomato sauce. Sauté a clove of garlic in about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
When the garlic is browned add the tomato puree, add salt to taste, freshly ground black pepper and the fresh basil leaves. Allow it to cook for about 15 minutes.
Watch the video below to see the sauce cooking and hear it bubbling. I can't let you smell it, but I am sure you can imagine how the aroma fills the kitchen!
By now your eggplant is done. It wont' be greasy and it will be perfectly crisp. Taste a slice like this! you may want to serve them sometime just like this as a delicious appetizer or side dish! You can make the casseroles in single serving ramekins or in a  9" square ovenproof dish. I used 2 ramekins.  
Slice the mozzarella into thin slices and grate the Parmesan cheese.Put a little sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish and start stacking the crispy eggplant slices, placing a slice of mozzarella on each eggplant slice, then more sauce, a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, and so on, ending with an eggplant slice, sauce and cheese. 

Bake the eggplant in a 450°F oven for about 12 minutes.
While the eggplant is baking, make your salad.

For the salad you will need a mix of garden greens, a seedless orange, a handful of pitted black olives, a few shelled walnuts and almonds, extra virgin olive oil and the balsamic vinegar of your choice.
I cheat! I buy a mix of garden salad leaves that are washed, dried and ready to eat! Use the mix of greens that you prefer.

Peel and slice the orange, arrange the greens in a salad dish, garnish with orange slices, olives and nuts. Season salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle the salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I used a balsamic made from apple juice for a smoother, fruitier flavour

By now the eggplant casserole is done. Remove from oven and serve piping hot. You can serve the salad either before the meal, as a side dish or after the meal, however you prefer!

And... as Julia Child would have said had she spoken Italian...BUON APPETITO!!

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