These two texts are from years ago, back when my husband and I weren’t cooking at all, or if we did the recipes seemed to be long and arduous and more like huge weekend projects (with no guaranteed delicious successes) rather than quick weeknight solutions. I found them while going through our test history during one especially nauseatingly sappy moment last week and it reminded me of a time with lots of take out and quite honestly, stressful exchanges we could count on every Monday through Friday around 4 or 5 or 6 pm. And then, late in 2011, something changed.
Texts like these started to diminish when I started buying stock for the week on Sunday nights (for the record, this is very American.. I tried the more chic and Parisian route of stopping at the store or farmer’s market during the week after work, which will occasionally work now, but when we first started out buying our supplies with a plan for the week was lifesaving) and wrote out our Monday through Thursday night plans. The best part I didn’t see coming? Leftover lunches. It’s a shame those two words together have such a negative connotation, for good reason I suppose, but when you’re dinners are delicious and good and then they turn into leftovers for an easy lunch the next day, well. . . nothing short of perfection in the form of a breakfast for lunch turkey burrito or pita with hummus and chickpeas and a mint yogurt dip.
Up until I tried tinkering around with eggplant Parmesan myself, it seemed to be this elusive dish served in authentic Italian families with lots of loud members over bowls of pasta or the specialty you could order at a place called Maggiano’s if you were lucky enough to get invited to a graduation party or birthday dinner and it was like, eggplant: so good and so fancy because it’s not meat but filling and nearly as delicious… There are lots of ways to make it, some fry the eggplant, most all call for breadcrumbs and and egg mixture with flour, and almost all these ways guarantee an incredible dish. Me? Give me the version with fresh basil (this guy’s secret weapon) with a $2 jar of organic marinara and an assembly process that doesn’t involve anything fried and is done in just over 30 minutes. That version is our weeknight go to best friend, our spur of the moment dinner guest secret weapon, our vegetarian star meal etcetra. No pesky texts involving Chipotle required.
Quick and Dirty Eggplant Parmesan, slightly adapted from this Mario Batalli recipe here
**serves 2 as a main (2 eggplant ‘cakes’ each, or 4 as a side, we ate it amongst 3 (Hi beloved dinner guest!) with leftovers of this Quinoa tabbouleh here)
1 large or 2 medium sized eggplants
about 2 cups marinara sauce of your choice
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (reserve some for garnish if desired)
1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 p/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or an Italian blend in those packs, or a big tub of grated Parm)
a bit of good olive oil
salt and ground pepper to taste
for the eggplant
Preheat the oven to 450′.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice each eggplant into 6 pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick (12 slices total). Lightly season each disk with salt and pepper and a small amount of olive oil and place the sheet. Bake the eggplant for about 10-15 minutes, until the tops begin to brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let a cool a bit. Decrease heat to 350′.
for the topping ingredients + assembly
Meanwhile, prep your basil and slice your mozzarella.
After the eggplant has baked and is out of the oven, lower oven temperature to 350′. In an 8 by 12-inch brownie pan or an equally large glass pan, place the 4 largest eggplant slices down first. Spread a bit of tomato sauce over each slice and sprinkle with a pinch of sliced basil. Place one slice of mozzarella over each and sprinkle with of grated cheese (Parm or whatever you are using). Continue to layer like this, eggplant slice, basil sprinkle, mozzarella slice, Parmesan sprinkle, until each eggplant ‘cake’ has 3 eggplant slices each and all the ingredients are used. Season with a bit of ground pepper. Put back into the oven until the cheese melts and the tops brown a bit, 20 minutes. Remove and top with the remaining basil slices.