TURN ON THE OVEN…
As predicted, the weather here has turned from brilliant fall to grey winter practically overnight. It is officially what I like to refer to as bath season. I love taking baths, and have since I was a little girl when my mom would get out of her bath and I would climb in, the water having cooled down to the perfect kid-friendly temperature. But now I prefer my baths to be on the slightly scalding side. In fact, as I learned during my pregnancies, there is nothing sadder than a luke warm bath. You know what else is sad? The fact that I am approximately 7 (seven!) months behind on my Vogue reading… something I plan to remedy this winter.
Other things I have been working towards… I have been practicing my egg poaching technique, attempting to read a new book every month (currently reading How To Eat A Small Country by Amy Finley), getting an early start on Christmas gift making, obsessively listening to the Spilled Milk Podcasts with Molly Wizenberg of (Orangette) and Mathew Amster-Burton, and, of course, cooking a lot of food.
I recently did an interview where I told the editor of our local magazine that my favorite season for cooking was summer. I realize now that that was an accidental lie. I love all the freshness of summer… the herbs, the sun warmed tomatoes… but I’m more of a cozy socks, sloshy glass of red wine, oven on from noon to nine kind of cook. The kids are always wrapped up in layers of fleece and everything feels incredibly easy, warm, and cozy. My outings are short and are usually to buy candles, more whisky for hot toddys, ingredients for some kind of one-skillet-dish, more wine, or to grab disc of Call the Midwife from the mailbox.
Last night Kyle, Gigi and I were cozied up on the floor reading lots of books with her before bed, my favorite of the bunch being, One Morning In Maine. The house smelled like ratatouille, and I had a little glass of red wine nearby. I said to Kyle, “THIS is so much better than summer.” There’s much less work to do outside so we seem to spend so much more time together, cuddled up in blankets on the floor, reading… or together in the kitchen, cooking.
Kyle is the bread baker in our family. In the fall and winter he bakes bread nearly every weekend. The oven is always warm, and the house smells of clean laundry and baking bread. I often look for a dish that can hop into the oven for a little bit after the bread comes out, and accompany the freshly baked bread on the table. Lately I’ve been making a lot of eggplant parmesan. I love eggplants whether they are roasted, grilled, fried… In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say they are my favorite savory berries (did you know they are considered a berry!?).
This recipe is simple to prepare, using simple ingredients, but the result is completely indulgent, comforting and delicious.
This Eggplant Parmesan is simple, cozy, and delicious. It’s the ultimate comfort food. It’s indulgent and satisfying without too much work. I crave this dish all year round, it’s one of my favorite fall and winter dishes.
2 large eggplants, cut into 1/4” thick discs
8oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 ball fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated or shaved
1/2 cup pesto all purpose flour
extra virgin olive oil (this recipe uses a lot of olive oil)
freshly ground black pepper
1 jar marinara sauce
Cover a work area with a single layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Lay the eggplant slices out on the towels in a single layer, sprinkle with a small pinch of kosher salt, flip, and sprinkle a little more salt on the second side. Top with another layer of towels, place a cookie sheet on top of that, and a heavy book on top of the cookie sheet. Let the slices sit under the weight for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your pan-frying area. You’ll need a casserole dish with a cup or so of flour, mixed with a little freshly ground black pepper. You’ll also need a pair of tongs, a frying pan or skillet, olive oil, and a cooling rack lined with paper towels.
After 20 minutes, pile the eggplant into a dish and discard the towels. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a frying pan or skillet over medium high heat, until shimmering. One at a time, dredge the eggplant slices with a little flour (it will stick to both sides but not the skin), shake to get rid of the excess flour. Working in small batches, fry a few of the eggplant slices until golden, flip and cook until the second side is golden. Add more oil to the pan as needed, you don’t want to cook them in a dry pan, even if that means adding it between flipping the eggplant slices. Once both sides are golden, carefully transfer the eggplant to the lined cooling rack, allowing them to cook and letting some of the oil drain out. Repeat with all the eggplant slices.
Preheat the oven to 350º F. In a large skillet or casserole dish, spread a thin layer of marinara sauce, followed by a layer of eggplant slices, a little pesto, a little marinara, a little sprinkle of the grated mozzarella. Repeat, beginning with the eggplant until you get to the last layer of eggplant. Top the dish with a little pesto, marinara, torn pieces of fresh mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese. Transfer to the oven and cook for 30-45minutes. Until the dish is heated through and the cheese on top is golden and bubbly. Remove it from the oven and let it rest for ten minutes or so before digging in.