Chosen Bites: Reinventing mom's favorite recipe

Chef Laura Frankel offers her modern twist on Eggplant Parmesan as well as a great tomato confit and green tea cake for dessert.

Eggplant parmesan 311 (photo credit: Wiki Commons)
Eggplant parmesan 311
(photo credit: Wiki Commons)
This is not your mother’s eggplant Parmesan. This Roman style, modernized version of the classic dish will reinvigorate your table. My problem with eggplant Parmesan is that you spend all this time breading eggplant, crisping it up and then drowning it in sauce and covering it with cheese. What happened to the crisp part? What happened to the eggplant for that matter? It was buried under layers of stuff.
My version is more eggplant salad than gooey, mushy eggplant dish. I crisp my slices of eggplant with crunchy panko breadcrumbs, then sandwich confit tomatoes, cheese (optional for pareve) and fresh basil leaves between the eggplant slices and top the eggplant with more tomatoes and basil.
While the end of summer is best for eggplant, this dish is perfect for Shavuot and can easily be prepped and popped into the oven for a quick reheat.
Eggplant Parmesan
Serves 6
3 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1 inch thick slices (you will need 12 slices)
Kosher salt for purging*
½ cup flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 ½ cups unseasoned panko breadcrumbs
24 fresh basil leaves
1 cup confit tomatoes (see recipe below), or favorite tomato sauce
24 slices Mozzarella cheese (optional)
½ cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
Olive oil or canola oil for frying
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.Place the eggplant slices on a wire rack or cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Heavily cover the eggplant slices, on both sides, with the kosher salt. Let the eggplant sit for one hour. (see below for explanation)
2.Rinse off the salt and pat dry the eggplant thoroughly. Place the flour in a pie pan or container that can accommodate the eggplant. Place the eggs in a separate container. Place the breadcrumbs and fresh herbs in a third container.
3.Heat a large sauté pan with about ½ inch of olive oil over medium-high heat.
4.Place the eggplant in the flour and dredge to coat completely. Dip the eggplant in the eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs. Fry the eggplant in the hot oil until it is golden brown, flip and fry on the other side. Transfer the eggplant to a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Repeat the process until all the slices are browned.
5.Transfer six eggplant slices to another sheet pan. Spoon three tablespoons of sauce on top of each slice. Top with one slice of mozzarella cheese and a basil leaf. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place a second slice of eggplant on top of each eggplant. Spoon additional sauce, more cheese and basil on top. Bake the eggplant until the cheese has melted (about 15 minutes). Serve with green salad and fresh herbs lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil
*The practice of salting eggplant before cooking is not to remove bitter juices. Eggplants are made of mostly water held in small cells. Not removing the water before frying would result in soggy, greasy eggplant. By purging the cells of the water we remove the water and collapse the cells so they do not absorb the oil during frying. This keeps the eggplant crispy and keeps it from being greasy.

Tomatoes are my favorite summertime market vegetables. I wait all year long for tomatoes and cannot seem to get enough of this sweet, juicy fruit. When I cannot think of ways to serve the tomatoes all of us in my family are “saladed” out-I poach these beauties in olive oil. By poaching the tomatoes, I extend their shelf life for weeks. Store the tomatoes in the olive oil in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Use the fragrant and tasty olive oil for sautéing or making vinaigrettes.

Tomato Confit
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
12 heirloom tomatoes or favorite tomato
1 cup whole basil leaves
6 large peeled garlic cloves
6 whole black peppercorns
Place all the ingredients in a deep stainless steel pan or casserole. Place in a low oven at 200 for 6 hours until the tomatoes are soft and very fragrant.
The tomatoes can be used in sauces, salads, and vinaigrettes. The soft and delicious garlic can be mashed and added to sautés, vinaigrettes and sauces. Save the olive oil and sauté with it, make vinaigrettes with it or confit more tomatoes.

I love cooking and baking with teas. Tea as an ingredient adds flavor, complexity and in the case of this cake, a bright green color.
This cake recipe is a classic French cookie recipe turned cake with the added ingredient of Japanese Green tea or Matcha.
Matcha or Japanese green tea is a fine ground, powdered, high quality green tea and not the same as tea powder or green tea powder. While Matcha is a bit expensive, the tea delivers not only a beautiful color, but also more antioxidants, pound for pound, than blueberries, pomegranates and spinach.
This cake is a snap to put together and the layers can be easily baked ahead of serving and frozen for up to 12 month.
Matcha powder is available in fine tea shops, online or in some gourmet shops.

Green Tea Financier Cake
3 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups ground almonds
12 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons Matcha green tea
Garnishes: melted white chocolate, melted dark chocolate, fresh berries, lightly whipped cream, sea salt
1.Place the butter in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. The butter will foam and separate into white solids and liquid. Then, as it continues to cook, the butter will turn a rich nutty colored brown. Do not walk away from the pan as it can go from perfect brown to black very quickly. Once brown, set aside the butter.
2.Mix the sugar and almonds together in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the egg whites and vanilla, place the pan over low heat, and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, heat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and the mix is runny, slightly white and hot to the touch, about 2 minutes. 
3.Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour, then gradually mix in the brown butter and green tea. 
4.Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the batter to create an airtight seal, and chill for at least 1 hour.  (The batter can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
5.Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter 2 8-inch cake pans.
6.Divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake the cakes until they are lightly browned and a tooth pick, inserted, comes out clean (about 25-35 minutes.)
7.Cool on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and unmold the cakes. Drizzle with melted chocolates and sea salt and serve with berries and lightly whipped cream.
Shavuot is fast approaching, and as well as spending time with family and eating cheesecake, the festival is traditionally associated with the mitzva of “bikkurim” – to represent the time when farmers brought the first fruits to the Temple.

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