Eggplant Parmesan

I'm totally still catching up on sleep from this past weekend.  (I know, you can never really "catch up on sleep", but you can get extra sleep to make up for being so tired . . . ).  One of the much anticipated and fun events of this past weekend was going to see Garrison Keillor and the crew put on A Prairie Home Companion.  It was a lot of fun, and this past week was the last episode of their 37th year.  37 years is a long time.  Speaking of 37 years though, my parents' 35th Wedding Anniversary was last night.  So they could have been listening to that show the whole time they've been married.  And 35 years is a long time, too.  At least when that's more than 1 1/2 times your age, it seems like a long, long time.
In celebration, they usually go out for dinner, but since NES made me eggplant parmesan for Valentine's day, I have wanted to make it.  I was skeptical about eggplant until I ate his eggplant parm, and I wanted to make it for my parents.  So, after saying for months I needed to make it sometime, mom and I decided that instead of going out last night, NES and I would make it for them.  And it was so much fun.
NES is a good cook.  And his favorite "genre" of cooking is Italian.  He learned how to make eggplant parm (the RIGHT way) from KEB, who is also a good cook.  I suppose you could say that I learned from both of them, as KEB taught me how to fry eggplant and NES taught me how to put it together and was my consultant as I tried to shop and do the prep work for last night's dinner.

I have learned that the single most important step -- one that even some restaurants miss! -- is dehydrating the eggplant.  This just made it all the more frightening, as I was on my own for this step.  I had to do it Wednesday night, because by the time NES came to help me cook, it would have been too late.  So, I peeled the eggplant, which really ended up being two small eggplants, and sliced them to about a 1/4 inch thick.
Then I put them on plates, salted them pretty heavily, and let them sit in the fridge overnight.  They have a pretty funny consistency when they are done dehydrating.
But while they were doing their dehydrating thing, I spent the morning making pasta.  With my new pasta machine.
I've tried pasta by hand before.  Pasta by hand is a long and arduous process, and I don't really intend to do it again.  Especially now that NES provided me with a pasta maker.  It was still a long process, and my arm did get tired by the end, but it probably cut the time in half.  Or more.  The pasta came out amazingly thin, and I think next time I'll try a thicker setting, but hey, it dried and cooked really fast.  (In dramatic contrast to last time)!
Making pasta feels like such an Italian thing to do.  When I was putting the flour directly on the counter to be mixed with the egg for the dough, I felt like I should be in an old Italian villa somewhere.  And then the crazy eggs began.  We have jumbo eggs at the moment instead of large like we usually get.  So, I didn't make the indent in the flour big enough for both eggs.  Ok, fine, it oozed a little bit.  Then, I turned around after throwing away the eggshell, and the whole second egg had oozed out.  Ok, annoying.  But then I realized that there were three yolks.  There were definitely only two eggs.  So one of the eggs had a double yolk.  Crazy.
It took a while to get the dough to absorb all the flour, but using slightly wet hands seemed to help incorporate all the flour and make the dough softer on the outside.
Then, the pasta machine worked its magic.
Seriously, it's magic.
Then, I left it alone to dry for the afternoon.  And finally got to have lunch.  And look at one of the year's worth of Everyday Food magazines that Mimi gave me.  Yes.

After my lunch/magazine break, it was time to start prepping for dinner.  Before NES came, I made a salad, and started cutting up a pepper and onion for the sauce.  He jumped right in when he got here.
He stir-fried the pepper and onion in a pot with a little olive oil until they had softened, and we added some fresh basil from the garden, plus a clove of minced garlic.  Then he added a 28 oz. can of crushed tomaotes, oregano, salt and pepper, and let it cook for a while over medium-low heat.  If there had been a second can, it probably would have prevented having to use about half a jar of store-bought sauce.
Then it came to the eggplant.  The important part.  After it's sat in salt, it needs to be rinsed and patted dry.  That was my job.
Then it gets dipped in flour, a mixture of egg and milk, and breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  In that order.  No questions asked.  Again, my job.  The ends of my fingers got all globbed with goo.   It was kind of fun, actually.
And, yet again, we had a double yolked egg.   Twice in one day!
Then NES fried the eggplant in canola oil.
He basically just keeps flipping and watching them to make sure that they don't burn.  I can't help you with frying . . . that's another thing I have yet to conquer.  Well, try.
With the sauce and eggplant done, it was just a matter of layering eggplant,
and mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then repeating till everything was gone.
Make sure the top is nice and covered with cheese.  That's the part that really counts.
Then, while the pasta water was boiling, we put it in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 or so minutes.  Really, you just want the cheese to be melted and the whole thing to be heated through.
Meanwhile, the pasta took almost no time at all to cook.  That's how thin it was.
And also meanwhile, I was running around like crazy trying to get the table to look how I wanted it.
Mom and Dad weren't quite treated to the restaurant-environment I was hoping, but it was pretty close.  And the food was better.  Well, I think it was.  And even if it wasn't, it was made with love, so that makes it better.

Oh, and my diploma finally came yesterday!  I'm officially a college graduate!


  1. And it was a very good meal. Thanks to both of you. :-)


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