Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dinner Last Night...Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan


My version of Eggplant Parmesan

I really like Eggplant Parmesan, but I don't like the soggy messes that most restaurants serve, so I came up with my own version and I like to call it Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan.  I bread and deep fry the eggplant like I do with Japanese foods like Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet) and use Panko (Japanese bread crumbs). I then put the eggplant on top of spaghetti with some cheese and tomato sauce.

Scratch Made Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti sauce is so easy to make if you have a little time.  It tastes much better than buying bottled brands like Ragu or Prego or even Rao's. I make it the typical way by sauteeing onions & garlic then add the seasonings while I saute to let the flavors bloom.  I add a little bit of chile flakes to give it a kick.  I also add a little bit of tomato paste (the kind that comes in a tube) and fry that up with the onions.  A couple of other stuff  I add that may be a little unique is a small piece of anchovy, the type you'd put in a caesar salad and little bit of beef bouillon...I know, I use bouillon a little too much, but I like that it adds more flavor and a richness to everything I use it in :o)  For this I used canned chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce and cooked it for about an hour, so it wouldn't be watery.  I cover it, but leave just a little bit opened, so it can vent and then uncover it for the last 30 mins.  I also added sauteed mushrooms at the end.

Slicing Mushrooms

When I get button mushrooms from the grocery store I take off all of the stem.  Alot of times, the stem is a little mushy.  I then slice it thin. Sometimes I go to a mushroom farm in Ventura and then I use the whole stem.  It's amazing what the flavor difference is when you get it from the farm!  I love eating those raw!

Sauteeing Mushrooms

Since these were going into a flavored sauce, I just put a little bit of salt and pepper to flavor it and of course used olive oil to saute it.  I add these to the tomato sauce about the last 15 mins of cooking.

Dry, Wet, Dry...

The tomato sauce was a little on the salty side since I used a different salt than I usually do, so I only flavored the egg wash with a little bit of salt & pepper.  I left the panko and flours as is.  I first sliced and then salted the eggplant and let it sit for about 30 mins, I'm not really sure if I even need to do this, but some people say that it gets the bitterness out.  I'm used to using Japanese eggplant, not these huge globe ones, so I'm definitely not an expert on this...lol  I like to leave the skin on because I think it looks prettier;o)  I like to use the Japanese panko instead of the Italian breadcrumbs because the panko gives it a fluffier texture.  I first dredge the eggplant in the flour (dry), then in the egg wash which has egg, a little bit of water and a little bit of milk (wet), then put it in the panko (dry).  I then deep fried in oil at about 370 degrees until it browned.  I usually try to use a thermometer in the oil to monitor the temperature or when I'm lazy, I use the chopstick method...stick a wooden chopstick in the oil and it's ready when a lot of bubbles stick to it :o)

In the Toaster Oven

I topped the fried eggplant with fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and then used the toaster setting until the cheese melted and was a little brown on top.  It's best to do this asap after frying the eggplant, but it can sit out for about an hour because it will crisp up some in the oven.  Of course if you are making a lot, this can be done in the regular oven.  It's just convenient using the toaster oven when you are making small batches.  The toaster oven is my best friend;o)

Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

First layer is spaghetti, then tomato sauce, then the fried eggplant with the Mozzarella cheese, a little more tomato sauce, some grated parmesan cheese, chopped parsley and then basil for garnish.

Cocktail Hour on the Beach...

When we spend time at the family vacation house, my favorite time to be on the beach is watching the sunset. We usually have martinis then I make some sort of nibbleys.  This night it was a charcuterie plate w/grapes & crackers.  Simple, but good;o)

Charcuterie...

There's an amazing cheese store in Santa Barbara called C'est Cheese. They make the best grilled cheese sandwiches using 3 cheeses.  They also have the greatest selection of cheese and dry meats.  That's where I got the Buffalo Mozzarella for the Eggplant Parmesan and they even had fresh ricotta cheese which I'm going to make pancakes with for breakfast.  This has: Jamon Iberico, Soppressata, Mahon Cheese, Rocinante Cheese & Quince Paste.

Another beautiful time on the beach...

I love the set up we have on the beach.  We found some short small tables a few years back and they are perfect for our cocktail hour;o)  This was an easy snack, the only thing I "made" was boiling the fava beans, I put a little salt on and eat it like edamame!

23 comments:

  1. Your Charcuterie plate and eggplant parm look so good! You're so lucky to live on the beach and be able to have your own happy hour!

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  2. Hi KEcker! I cooked spaghetti today too! Actually was thinking to make a simple bento outta it since it's been quite sometime I last made for Messy but ended up with nothing bcoz Cheeky had slight fever & I had to help Messy with her sch project which took me so many hrs to finish... :(
    Eggplants are one of my fave! I love your Scratch Made Spaghetti Sauce! Looks delicious! What's beef bouillon? What can I use besides that coz my parents don't take beef... :(

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  3. Looks delicious and I am going to make it but this is eggplant parmesan, there is nothing deconstructed about it.

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  4. Linds, thank you! I wish we lived up here :o) It's my father/mother-in-laws place and we are fortunate enough to spend a lot of time up here!

    Lyn, sounds like we are on the same wavelength:o) I hope that Cheeky feels better soon! It must be hard to have a sick child :o( How long does it take to make one of your fancy bentos? Beef Bouillon comes in either powder, paste or cubes. They also make chicken & veggie ones too. Some people don't like it because it tastes too artificial, but I like to add just a little to stuff where you can't even tell it's in there!

    Anon, thanks! I just call it deconstructed because it's not layered up like lasagna and baked together as most recipes do.

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  5. The reason you salt the eggplant first, is to extract the water from it. Since you're frying it, it will absorb the oil and become soggy. A lot of restaurants skip this step in the interest of time, and it's a BIG mistake. I always salt my eggplant before doing anything to it for at least 45 minutes to an hour. I layer my eggplant parm like lasagna so it not only absorbs the oil, but also the sauce and there is no room for extra moisture.
    ~R

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  6. How pretty! That eggplant parmesan looks AMAZING. I wish I had an eggplant in my kitchen right now so I could whip this up tomorrow. Maybe next week... :)

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  7. Eheheh, you are right, eggplant parmesan sometimes could be really soggy...I love it...but I love your version too...Those eggplants look so crispy...

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  8. Hi KEcker! Tks for your concern:) Cheeky is better now. Lucky it's just a mild sudden fever due to sudden change of super humid weather. Kept her away from sch just for today. It's more difficult with babies & young toddlers coz of their non-stop whinning but sometimes if the older kids get too sick, they'll get cranky and that's the time that's difficult :(
    Haha talking about the time I took for making bentos I think you'll freak out! I stayed up for the night and dilly dally coz I don't like to rush especially when it comes to decorating things, I'll sure to mess up all! hee... :P but if it's just a simple one, maybe about half hr.
    Ohh.. the beef/ckn/veg bouillons are something like the seasoning cubes... actually personally I don't really like using those too unless if the dish really needs to have some added :)

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  9. Rachael, thanks for your input :o) I did know about taking the moisture out, I do that with tomatoes too for salsa and certain sauces.

    Lindsay, thank you so much for your sweet compliment :o)

    Mika, thank you, yeah, I like the crispyness of the eggplant too!

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  10. Lyn, glad to hear that Cheeky is feeling better :o) I forgot about all the humidity you have out in Singapore! That is one think I would not be able to live with...lol Wow, you really are dedicated to your bentos! Well, time well spent since they come out so pretty!

    Yes, bouillon is basically soup base. Some are very salty, so that's why I just use a little bit in a big pot.

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  11. Tks Kay! :)
    Yes! The weather here is getting more and more unpredictable and has already gone hay-wired few years back! For me who can withstand hot weather better than cold also can't stand it but I'm opposite, I can't stay in cold countries. LOL
    Tks for your sweet compliments, actually I just started to make bentos in Feb so I still have got alot to learn from other bento mommies! :)

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  12. delicious combination of flavours

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  13. now that looks like a delicious eggplant parm, I love eggplant but I like it to retain its texture and taste, yours looks like it did that very well!
    the fresh mozz is a nice touch! Your charcuterie plate looks so very very good, I do love good meats and cheeses!

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  14. Thank you both, Torviewtoronto & Chef Dennis! Both your comments put a big smile on my face :o)

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  15. I luuurrrvvveee the eggplant!!!

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  16. Hi Kay! Ohhh I never cooked Eggplant Parmesan although I cooked Chicken Parmesan before. Seriously, your picture totally convinced me that I must make this very very very soon! I love deep fried crispy eggplant (either tempura or panko or corn starch), and I love spaghetti with tomato sauce. Why I didn't combine together?! Does your husband complain when there is no meat? My husband would...so eggplant won't be a main dish and if I cook this I have to make chicken or something on the side (mendokusai ne). I can't wait to try this! Do you think it's weird if I use meat sauce instead of tomato sauce? I'm just lazy cooking another meat dish... LOL. Hey Kay, these pictures were perfect by the way. Very nice shots!

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  17. Sorry one more thing. Which brand has tomato paste in tube? I sometimes need just one Tbsp. and this will be so helpful!!!

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  18. Nami, you always make the nicest comments:o) Thank you! Making the eggplant this way is like frying Japanese food;o) Oh yeah, meat sauce would be great with this...maybe even better! My husband is pretty good about not complaining about my food. He's even ok when I make tofu dishes without meat and he will even eat natto! Using the thick cuts of eggplant is like having meat;o)

    I use Amore brand of tomato paste lately. I forgot the other brand I've used in the past...
    These tubes are so convenient! I usually only use about 1 Tbsp just like you! The cans are too big. If you can only get the can, you can freeze the extra in 1 Tbsp batches.

    http://www.amorebrand.com/products/tomato-paste

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  19. I construct the heck out of my eggplant parm, but I love your approach. And that meat and cheese platter, oh my. Beautiful photos.

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  20. Ohh this is by far my favorite..oh wait I have more of your favorites... I am just loving food that you are presenting to us!!!
    Perfection!!!

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  21. Hey Kay, thanks for the link. I think I've seen this brand but I was hesitant to buy "toothpaste" like product. LOL. I checked where to find it and it's at the closest supermarket. Life is good. And I'll try with "thick" eggplant + meat sauce combination. Wish me luck!

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  22. Greg, you are funny! Thanks for the nice compliment!

    Sandra, you are too sweet :o) Thank you, you really put a nice smile on my face!

    Nami, yes, like toothpaste packaging...lol I really like it because you can just use a little and save the rest like hamigaki;o)

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