Like many people, I can be seduced by fried foods. And I love nothing more than a slice of eggplant, well seasoned, lightly breaded and fried to perfection. But the truth is that I hate actually frying anything. Aside from the oil spatter (which I have to clean up – yuck!) the house always smells for days and then I am stuck with oil to discard safely. And the extra calories. Don’t even get me started on greasy fried foods cooked in oil that wasn’t quite hot enough or was burned because the oil was too hot. But this Oven “Fried” Eggplant is everything that I love and nothing that I hate about fried food.
What is really great about this Oven “Fried Eggplant” – aside from the results – is that it teaches you a method which you can almost endlessly riff on to please your palate. The seasonings I used are Italian-leaning, but you could just as easily sub in Indian or even Asian spices. And my husband and I ate this as a light supper with a delicious salad and a simple tomato sauce to dab on top. However, let your imagination be your guide rather than your limit. Layer the slices in a stack with slices of fresh mozzarella and thick slices of tomato and serve with arugula tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette.
These wonderful Oven “Fried” Eggplant slices would make a great layer stuffed into a pita with slices of hard-boiled egg, hummus and Israeli salad or pickle for a delicious take on a Sabich sandwich.
Are you a fan of chutney or raita or tzatziki? Think how amazing this Oven “Fried” Eggplant would be with these instead of a tomato sauce? You could even make this as an appetizer with a variety of sauces and allow your guests (remember them?) to choose their favorite.
The key to making this work is two-fold – well maybe three-fold: 1) You have to slice your eggplant just the right thickness. Too thin and the eggplant will burn. Too thick and it won’t cook through before the breading burns. 2) You need to have a broiler and a shallow, heavy aluminum pan. 3) You have to watch it. If you have a convection oven, which I don’t, there is no need to turn the pan – only the eggplant needs to be turned over once. But without a convection oven, I rotated my pan halfway through each side. This really wasn’t difficult or even a big deal and the total cooking time is only about 16 minutes. But it’s not a great time to get busy with something else.
So enough chatter. Let’s cook up some Oven “Fried” Eggplant! This recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene. Frances and I have made many recipes from here, and they are always accurate. ANd it’s an interesting read.
Well, okay, a word first on choosing your eggplant. The eggplant should weigh about 1 to 1.5 pounds and be firm. If you want to double the recipe, that’s fine, but don’t choose a larger eggplant. Choose two instead. The larger the eggplant, the more the more likely you are to have bitter seeds. And you do NOT want that.
With an eggplant weighing one to 1.5 pounds, you should not need to salt your eggplant first to draw out the bitterness. This would work with almost any type of eggplant that comes in at around this weight. I just wouldn’t use really small ones. And while I did not make mine vegan, you can make this using an egg substitute. To make life easy for yourself, use a good store-bought brand of tomato sauce. You can doctor it with seasonings you like or buy it pre-seasoned. It doesn’t have to be hard to be good!
For other wonderful eggplant recipes:
Yield: About 6 servings as a appetizer or 3 to 4 as a dinner with salad or pasta
Seasoned Breadcrumb Mixture (You can skip this and used purchased Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs if you are feeling lazy. The herbs and measurements are a suggestion.)
2.5 cups dried bread crumbs (Panko or regular)
1.5 Tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1.5 teaspoons dried onion powder
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper (or Aleppo pepper)
1 medium eggplant, about 1 to 1.5 pounds
2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
2 Tablespoons Canola oil
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
About 4 ounces of tomato sauce
Mix all of the ingredients together for the seasoned bread crumbs and place in a dish that will be large enough to hold the largest slice of eggplant.
Lightly oil or coat with non-stick spray (I used EVOO) one large, heavy metal baking sheet. (You could use two but why clean up more than necessary). Set a cooling rack over a second baking sheet or over paper towels or parchment. Set aside.
Cut off and discard the ends of the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into circles that are 3/8-inches thick. Size matters here. Use a ruler for the first one.
Preheat your oven to broil and place your baking rack 5 to 6 inches from the heat source.
Beat the eggs (or egg substitute) with the Canola oil in a dish that is deep enough and large enough around to fit the largest slice of eggplant. (I used a pie plate.)
Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg mixture and allow the excess to drip back into the dish. Immediately coat both sides of the eggplant with the breadcrumb mixture by laying it in flat, applying a small amount of pressure and then turning it over to repeat. Lay out the coated eggplant slices onto the prepared pan.
Broil the eggplant slices for a total of about 12 to 16 minutes. Turn the pan halfway for each side unless you have a convection oven so that you get even browning. Flip the slices halfway through. As soon as the slices are done, place them on the cooling rack to keep them crispy while you continue cooking any remaining slices. I did 2 batches.
When you are finished with all of the slices, arrange them on a platter. Sprinkle chopped parsley, basil or cilantro over the top. I grated a bit of parmesan as well, but honestly, it isn’t necessary.