Stove Top Eggplant Parmesan

 in Kitchen

Inspiration is a very tricky thing.  Sometimes it is with you in full force, propelled on it’s own leading you from project to project with ease.  Yet other times, inspiration is low or confusing, you may feel like it is hiding and needs to be sought out.

As a haiku writer I take most of my inspiration from nature.  The moment of a bird landing or taking off, the cooperation of bugs and ants, the slow drive of a snail through grass, the hungry appetite of caterpillars and the slow precarious formation of cocoons.  The colors of flowers often inspire poets, as do the color of eyes. I am inspired by the change in skin texture on a pepper or eggplants and the slow maturing patterns of a melon or squash.

As a cook inspiration is more available and ready by the day.  As I’ve mentioned before cookbooks were my first true culinary inspiration, I flipped through them like I did my grandmother’s recipe cards.  I imagined the preparation, materials and movements, my brain dancing around me as I mentally prepared the dishes. There is one recipe book that I will probably never hold again, yet brought me countless inspiration.  The drawings and thick old pages from a generation gone before my time, a book from the 50s or 60s alive with recipes for the young chef. Little children stood on stools as they stirred bowls of cookie mix and pastry dough.  Recipes so complicated that even in my numerous rereadings I could never fully understand all the steps. The images however were rooted deep in my mind as I demanded to stand at the counter with my grandma, on a stool of course, measuring and mixing any recipe they would allow me to help with.  I waited in from at the stove like the little illustrations patiently watching my baked goods rise and cook, perhaps my first act of mindful meditation. In that way grandma became and inspiration for me when I started to live away from home and I mimicked her dishes, and desserts, as often as I created new ones, and can even be found throwing a towel over my shoulder as I moved around the kitchen wooden spoon in hand.

The internet however, changed everything again.  By my last year in highschool I was already using the internet daily and when I went away to college that only skyrocketed.  Apart from hilariously distracting and seemingly endless internet cartoons and doodles I started to read blogs for the first time.  It was still in the years before Julia and Julia the movie came out, and public displays of cult following in food blogs wasn’t yet something we kept track of or cared about.  In those days there was only one big name, Smitten Kitchen. Deb was already a forefront food voice as a witty writer who cooked, like me, out of a terribly tiny space with little to no fancy utensils.  Of course in the years her arsenal and supplies have grown, but she hasn’t lost what inspired me first about the blog. Deb is straight forward, doesn’t fuss with too many fancy ingredients, absolutely in love with making things from scratch and rarely does the same thing twice. Even as early as 2011, Savor was already rightfully enamored with her read their write up to learn more about her powerful home style cooking blog.

Smitten Kitchen was a no-hold bar learning experience for me as week after week, Deb detailed techniques for cutting, styling, brazing and even deglazing.  I was fascinated by the terminology I was learning as well as the food dishes. It is never a boring day when we peak into Deb’s kitchen and there is never a secret hidden either. The recipes I have tried from her have never failed me, and I continue to use her pizza dough as the only pizza bread I personally make.  Just as I knew when the next XKCD was going to be published, I knew when Deb Perelman was due to update the world with a new post. As more and more vegan voices come into the world I find myself on Minimalist Baker, Oh She Glows and the wonderful Vegan Richa more than not. However, Smitten Kitchen still has a strong spell of inspiration over me and I make sure to check in.

That’s how two of my great inspirations came together this week. In my garden the pepper and the eggplants are producing and I had to start cooking them up.  At the same time Smitten Kitchen released a new bred recipe and it so happened to be vegan. The day after she posted I was already in the kitchen whipping up the new focaccia and dreaming about the baba ganoush  I would put on top of them. Of course, as inspirations goes it is often a picky thing and my taste buds got sidetracked by the chef I live with and I was pushed into craving parmesan. Maybe I’ll still make a baba ganoush one day soon, there are plenty of eggplants. Or maybe not, I recently learned most of the eggplant’s nutrients are in the skin, maybe I won’t be peeling them so often after all.  

Today I give you my recipe for eggplant parmesan made on the stove top, and I encourage you to try your hand at making focaccia bread via Smitten Kitchen.  I have had success baking this recipe for eggplant rounds as well if you want to limit your oil content. If you want to make these gluten free and can’t find breadcrumb substitute I suggest ground flaxseed mixed with chia.

My egg substitute is made from oatmeal and is not negotiable for the crispness of this recipe.
I’ve tried dipping only in water before breadcrumbs and the result is not very positive.

Lastly, salt water your eggplants.
This is something my inspiration of a chef taught me.  
Thank you Mike! You have forever changed my relationship to the eggplant.  
The tingly, prickly sensation you get in your mouth from eating eggplant is what makes the experience so difficult for so many people.  However, if you soak your cut eggplant for 1 hour in very salty water (1T per eggplant) all the bitterness is sucked out of them.

Stove Top Eggplant Parmesan

1 eggplant
4 T ground oatmeal
a pinch of salt
2 T water
(or ground flax seeds mixed with chia seeds)

Marinara Sauce
Cheese of choice

First cut eggplants into round 1 cm thick and soak in salty water for 1 hour.
Meanwhile prepare the marinara sauce.

Removed eggplant from water and let air dry 5-10 minutes.  
Meanwhile prepare the oatmeal egg dip by mixing the oatmeal, salt and water and letting the water absorb for 5 minutes. If the mixture is too dense thin with water.
You want something that is like egg, thin but sticky so you can coat your eggplant.
Cover eggplant in egg substitute, press gently into breadcrumbs and immediately fry in hot oil in a normal or cast iron skillet.  Cook until both sides are brown and the eggplant is soft about 5 minutes in total.

Make into a sandwich, or eat over pasta or even enjoy with a salad. I like them enough I sometimes eat them plain or dipped only in marinara.

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