Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nourishing Eggplant Parmesan

Is it just me, or is the price of grass-fed meat going up just a little above your comfort level too??

Ok, it's not just me then? Whew. That's a relief.

While I'll never stop supporting my local rancher {because his meat's amazing and he's just a nice guy}, I am having to rein myself in a little on my meat purchases. Meat-less meals are making appearances on our table more often than in the past. I will never advocate vegetarianism because I don't believe it's healthy {you can read a slew of articles supporting this here}, but I will cut back on the use of our precious grass-fed beef if it means staying in the black.

Today's recipe is a meal all by itself. You are more than welcome to serve a salad or some sourdough alongside this Nourishing Eggplant Parmesan, but believe me, it's not necessary. This meal is filling all by itself. We eat it solo. And, let's be honest here, who doesn't love a good reason to fry something?

There are several steps to this meal...but it's so worth it!

Serves 4-6

First, you need to get started on this homemade marinara sauce. It's not a hands-on sauce by any means, but you will need to start it about two hours before you plan to serve. Here's how:

4 TBSP olive oil
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
4-5 large cloves garlic, minced
3-4 lbs. fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 2 cans crushed tomatoes)
2 tsp. sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 (6oz.) can organic tomato paste
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a small stock pot, saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, tomatoes, salt, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low, and allow to gently simmer for 90 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and add the tomato paste, basil, and pepper. If you used fresh tomatoes, you will need to puree with an immersion blender before allowing to simmer for 30 minutes more. If you used canned tomatoes, you can skip that step. Your sauce is ready!

When your sauce is nearly complete, like it only needs about 45 more minutes, you can begin working on the star of the show: FRIED EGGPLANT!

Here's what you'll need:

1/2-3/4 cup fat of your choice*
1 medium eggplant, sliced 1/8-1/4" thick
1 cup raw milk
2 pastured eggs
1 cup bulgur wheat (sprouted wheat)
1 TBSP fine salt (I used Orsa Rock Salt)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked pepper

As with all breading and frying, an assembly line is the quickest and most efficient way to get this job done. Place the sliced eggplant first. Next, lightly beat the two eggs with the milk in a shallow bowl. Finally, combine wheat, salt, basil, oregano, and pepper in another shallow bowl, and stir together well. Line up in order on your counter top and get busy! Dip the eggplant slices in the egg/milk wash, coat with the breading, and place on a plate. I like to get all my eggplant breaded BEFORE frying because it's a pain in the neck to have to stop breading, wash your hands, flip frying eggplant, and get back to breading before it burns.

{The Assembly Line}

Melt your fat of choice in a cast iron, ceramic, or stainless fry pan on medium heat and FRY! After several batches, you may need to clean up your oil and get all the burned crumbs of breading out. This makes the oil last longer and keeps it from imparting a burned taste to your eggplant. I usually fry about 2-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and nicely crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate or pie pan.

While you've got a batch of eggplant in the pan, get some water boiling for the pasta in another stock pot. We use Tinkyada Brown Rice Spaghetti-style Pasta.

*Home-rendered lard or tallow or coconut oil are good fat choices for this meal. These oils have high smoke points and won't turn rancid during frying. I used lard, but only because I am out of tallow. Tallow is my preferred fat for frying. I would not recommend olive oil or butter for frying. And PLEASE don't use vegetable oil! To read the skinny on fat, check out this very informative article.

Serve just like regular ol' spaghetti, giving everyone 2-3 slices of the fried eggplant. We like to top our eggplant off with a bit more sauce and a generous sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese.


crazy4boys said...

Thank you for another great vegetarian recipe. You're like you, love the meat, think it's super healthy, but can't afford to eat it all the time.

I wonder if you can bake the eggplant (with healthy fats)? I don't like the smell of frying in my house...I usually only do it when the weather is nice and I can open all my windows.

Lindsey said...

I used to hate frying too for the same reason. Then I started using high-heat fats like coconut oil, tallow, and lard and the frying smell went away. No smoking either! I've never roasted eggplant with breading on it, but I have roasted it with just olive oil drizzled on it and sea salt and pepper. Yum!