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by Marisa Olsen

Many of you know that I love eggplant. I'll take eggplant in many forms: grilled, roasted, sautéed, and fried. It's one of my go-to dishes when dining out. Like Portobello mushrooms (another favorite), eggplant can be hearty but also a "light" entree choice and a great option if you're going vegetarian.  I tend to order eggplant outside of the home because I'm usually not successful in cooking this vegetable.  It takes awhile to "sweat" out the eggplant juices and then the pesky thing seems to just eat up all of my olive oil, somewhat ruining my healthy ideal of this veggie.  
On a recent Sunday, I decided to face my challenge and bake an Eggplant Parmesan. I scoured recipes and finally settled on the Cook's Illustrated version, knowing the publication is quite reputable in the food world (a yearly subscription costs about $35 a year).  Spoiler alert: It went quite well.

As I read the recipe, I immediately felt comforted because the introduction to the recipe is all about finding a lighter, fresher Eggplant Parmesan that still maintained that meaty quality--without frying. When sweating out the eggplant I used kosher salt. Once the eggplant had lost its excess water, I created dipping stations with flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese, and thoroughly coated the eggplant. Once the eggplants were coated, I drizzled with olive oil and baked the slices. Meanwhile, I prepared my own marinara sauce. (I went rogue and made up my own version.)  Once the sauce simmered for about 15 minutes and the eggplants were crispy, I assembled the ingredients in a baking dish, alternating sauce, eggplant, and fresh mozzarella, and finished with Parmesan and fresh basil on top. This meal was a huge hit. I plated the Eggplant Parmesan with some whole wheat pasta and made a simple Caesar salad. I would recommend this dish any time of the year.

Restaurant Review: Pasta Beach, Boston, MA

Upper West Side Eatery: Jacob's Pickles