Labor of Love Eggplant Parmesan

Submitted by Juliana Pash, Downingtown Farmers Market Manager

It has been a warm fall but what made me decide to endeavor eggplant parm on one of the last summer-like days? Maybe the picture of the many beautiful layers? Maybe the idea that summer produce is almost gone so I needed to make the most of it?  Whatever had attracted me, I decided to cook Bon Appetit’s Best Of Eggplant Parmesan.

The main ingredient of eggplant was truly my starting point.  They are such a beautiful, seductive vegetable with their shiny, deep purple skin.  Although not my favorite vegetable, the idea of a truly good eggplant dish intrigued me to endeavor a few hours of enjoyable cooking.  Thank you Nuneviller Farms for the beautiful eggplant!

If you could smell the aroma!

If you could smell the aroma!

This is dish that you can make in one day but I chose to make the marinara sauce the night before.  As dinner was cooking I got the sauce to the point of getting in the oven while I watched a couple of hours of TV before going to bed.  The house smelled wonderful and I was getting excited about putting the dish together the next day.  (Note, I carefully used an immersion blender to puree the sauce the next morning.)  Now the real fun was about to begin!

Sauteed Eggplant 

Sauteed Eggplant 

I peeled and sliced the eggplant then, while it was “draining”, I gathered all the other ingredients and tools I would need to assemble the dish.  I grated cheese, chopped herbs, and combined these with the breadcrumbs as preparation for the sautéing of the eggplant.  This step was the most time consuming, but the most mouthwatering, as the eggplant fried up to a golden brown with a wonderful smell.  I ate one piece straight out of the pan!  It was now time for assembly.

Ready for the oven . . . 

Ready for the oven . . . 

If you are one for order, this part of the recipe is for you.  You have 3 layers of sauce, cheese and eggplant topped with a final layer of cheese before putting it in the oven.  A bit of non-stick spray on the underside of the foil so it wouldn’t stick and the hard part was done!  Since it needs to cook for more than hour, you have plenty of time to clean the kitchen and relax before dinner is ready.  As the recipe states, letting it sit for at least 30 minutes before serving is best, even letting it cool and then reheating it the next day if needed.

The final product was impressive.  My family loved it and I have enjoyed the leftovers.  It really does stay in place so that it looks pretty on the plate. There was plenty of sauce and I would recommend serving this extra on the side or spooning a bit on the top of each serving.  

Why a “Labor of Love”? Well, working at the market is something that I love and believe in and my family supports me and enjoys all of the foods that are sold at our market.  Although eggplant is the main attraction here, this is just one of amazing items that I bring home.  Truth be told, this dish was a lot of work but with some good music and a bit of extra time this “labor of love” was worth every bite!   I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.