My apologies chicken, but eggplant has upstaged you today. Not just any eggplant, but little baby ones. I have to say they are pretty cute for a vegetable. I saw them at a local market and the cooking lightbulb immediately turned on, begging the question- What ever can I do with these? Well, I didn’t wait to contemplate the answer, and home I headed with a bag full.
When I think of eggplant, I think of eggplant parmesan, and that is one of my favorite dishes. I felt these little guys might be too delicate & tiny to slice, then bread into a parm, so I decided to make Baby Eggplant Parmesan Bakes with all of the same Italian flavors!
I have seen recipes before to slice and dice these. but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it! I know we can achieve some crunch by pressing some toasted breadcrumbs into the scored eggplant halves, and top with fresh buffalo mozzarella. Then we’ll serve up on a bed of fresh marinara with basil, and we now have baby eggplant parm perfection!
- 10 baby eggplant, fresh
- 1 package fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese (round)
- 1 jar good marinara, like Rao's (or homemade!)
- 2 cups dry Italian bread crumbs
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 T Fresh chopped Italian parsley
- ~ 2 T grated Italian cheese blend (like parm reggiano)
- S&P (to taste)
- Fresh basil, (enough for garnish of 20 eggplant halves)
- Slice buffalo mozz into small segments rounds, (about size of eggplant), enough for 20 small halves & set aside.
- Rinse eggplant & slice off top green stem, slice into halves, lengthwise.
- Rub a bit of kosher salt onto flesh side of baby eggplant halves, to draw-out some fluid that can be bitter, let sit about 15 minutes).
- Dab off drawn fluid from surface of halves and score flesh, without piercing skin at bottom, into criss-cross pattern (this will make groves to press our bread crumbs into).
- In a pan on stove lightly toast the dry bread crumbs on medium-low (takes about 8 min or so)
- In a mixing bowl combine bread crumbs, chopped parsley, garlic, grated cheese, S&P to taste, and ~1T of EVOO, or enough to make dry mix combine, but not saturated) Mix well.
- Press small amount of dry mix onto surface of eggplant halves, working down into groves. Coat surface well.
- In a large flat skillet on stove, add a bout 1T of oil to coat pan. Place eggplant halves in pan, skin side down. begin to cook on medium-low.
- In another pot warm marinara, set aside for plating.
- Cooking time may vary, but watch eggplant to see how tender they become. When they appear flatter and tender throughout (you can poke with fork to sees). About 10 min or so.
- Add a slice of mozz that covers top of eggplant half. I put a lid on for a second to help melt, but remove quickly doesn't get soggy. Let mozz melt.
- Prepare shallow serving bowl with enough marinara to coat bottom, then arrange eggplant bakes on top.
- Top each with fresh basil, & serve!
Also, watch the eggplant to see when it is finished cooking, as this will vary with their size and your stove. I recommend under oiling the toasted bread crumb mix, as you don't want it to be saturated because it will not crisp-up much more on the stove top.
This is a really great meal with a salad!
They may be babies, but you’d never know from the taste! These guys are more tender than regular eggplant and less bitter. They make an amazingly easy dinner or unique appetizer, and I recommend getting some while they’re in season! I will for certain be having them again very soon…