Eggplant Parm Stacks
Rach takes the classic combo of fried eggplant, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses topped with tomato sauce one step further with the addition of fresh chard.
For the eggplant:
- 6 roasted or peeled tomatoes with their juice, chopped (recipe follows)
- 2 medium eggplants, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (about 2 pounds)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) (divided)
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped or thinly sliced
- 1 small chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
- 1 sprig fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked and finely chopped
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1/2 cup cornmeal (a couple of handfuls)
- 2 teaspoons fennel pollen or ground fennel seed (optional)
- Vegetable oil, for shallow frying
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bundle fresh green or red chard, washed, stemmed and shredded
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
For the roasted tomatoes:
- 24 ripe organic vine-ripened tomatoes or large plum tomatoes
- Several cloves garlic, crushed
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for liberal drizzling
Salt the eggplant and drain in a colander, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, two turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, chili pepper, if using, marjoram, salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and sweat the onions for 10-15 minutes, until very soft and sweet. Add the roasted tomatoes and stir, then let the sauce thicken for 15 minutes, uncovered, over medium heat. Cook’s Note: The mixture should be very thick.
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
While the sauce cooks, make a breading station (three sections) for the eggplant: flour, beaten eggs, and panko breadcrumbs mixed with cheese, cornmeal and fennel. Coat the eggplant slices in order and arrange on a plate. Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium to medium-high heat and cook the eggplant for 3-4 minutes on each side. Drain the eggplant on a cooling rack, wipe out the skillet and repeat. Sprinkle the hot eggplant with a little salt.
When all of eggplant has been cooked, wipe the pan clean again and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon EVOO in the skillet over medium heat, add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the greens and wilt them, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Turn off the heat. Build stacks on a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet: eggplant, chard, tomato-onions, basil leaves, mozzarella and eggplant. Place in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the mozzarella. Serve immediately.
To make the roasted tomatoes, heat the oven to 500°F.
Arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet or baking sheets in a single layer. Scatter the garlic among the tomatoes, dress with the EVOO to coat and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes until they burst and the skins split and begin to char, about 30 minutes. Cool the tomatoes until they are cool enough to handle, then peel. Place the tomatoes in a bowl.