Today is my little sister’s 30th birthday, which I can’t quite believe–she’s the baby! Tho, given that “the baby” is barely 20 months younger than me and I’m rounding 32…here we are. I wanted her to come to New York so I could throw her a fabulous party, but instead she had to go to Germany for a science conference. So I can’t do what I would like to do to celebrate her (see her in person, bake her a cake, chat all day) but I can send her emails and fbook messages, and I can make this recipe she taught me for eggplant parmesan.
Growing up together on our mother’s awesome home cooking and the special food we only had when our father was in charge of dinner (cut up hotdogs fried in butter spring to mind…), my sister and I have endless food associations and memories. I learned to love mushrooms when she was a vegetarian and wondered how on earth she could dislike coconut and peanut butter when we were kids. We twirl our forks in the same way when we’re fidgety at the table. And since we’ve gotten older, we’ve shared cooking successes and failures, talking on the phone while we grocery shop or make dinner. Our recipe repertoires overlap so much that we often find we’re making and craving the same thing–I remember visiting her in Alabama for the first time and realizing that, tho we’d never talked about it, we both kept our recipes in white three-ring binders on our counters, and that each of us had my friend Molly’s mother’s recipe for sausage and cream pasta on a handwritten card stuck into the cover of the binder.
And, we share new recipes. Whenever one of us makes something delicious for the first time we pass it on, as Joie did with this eggplant parm recipe she picked out of one of our mother’s healthy cooking magazines on a visit home. She’s a much more experimental and adaptive cook then I am (I stick like obsessive glue to recipes, but I’m working on it), so when I ask her to share a new favorite I know I’ll seldom get an exact copy of someone else’s recipe. And sometimes, she rewrites recipes in a way that is almost more fun than the food itself…as demonstrated by the recipe below that she emailed me several years ago. So tonight I made her eggplant parm, along with some kale (sauteed in olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice), and toasted my sister who is far away in Germany, but also as close as the next thing I cook.
you take mr. eggplant-1 medium to large good lookin’ fella will do ya, and slice him up into about 1/4 inch thick rounds.
then you brush the slices w/ the olive oil, sprinkle them w/ the garlic salt and the pepper.
then you apply the storebought italian breadcrumbs to the slices via your own chosen method, i favor shaking a bunch of breadcrumbs out onto a plate and then pushing the eggplant slices into them.
do both of these steps on both sides.
thennnnn you wanna lay out all of your slices on a cookie sheet & place them under the broiler (i think the recipe says something like 5″ from it?) for about 5 minutes per side (you’ll need to watch them rather carefully because they do like to burn a little on top, but if they do, it’s not that big of a deal, you can’t taste it, really).
then you take about a fourth of a cup of storebought marinara sauce and spread it around on the bottom of your 9×13 glass baking dish.
then you layer your eggplant slices on top of that.
then you toss on top as much of a jar of drained and chopped up roasted red pepper slices as you desire (I think they call for a full jar, and that is a LOT).
then you sprinkle around 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes if you’re into that sort of thing.
then you spread around some more marinara then you top with about 2 cups shredded mozzarella and however much parm you desire for i cannot remember how much it is supposed to be.
and then bake him uncovered, at 325 until delicious, or somewhere around 40 minutes. mostly you just want the cheese good and melty.