Recipe: Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping

Breaded Eggplant with Fresh Tomato Topping

Breaded Eggplant with Fresh Tomato Topping

Breading is a good way to begin getting to know eggplant, since the breadcrumb coating adds familiar flavor and a nice texture.  Those who are experienced eggplant eaters will also like the possibilities presented by a nice breaded eggplant fillet.  Layer, roll or top with different sauces, cheeses and nuts for some fast but interesting meals.  In this recipe, the eggplant is topped with a fresh tomato mixture that is just barely cooked, so it remains very fresh tasting.  In terms of timing, it can be helpful to prepare the topping ingredients first, but wait to cook them until the eggplant is baking so they don’t get overcooked.

Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping

Preheat oven to 400 (F). 

Slathering the eggplant into the herb mayonnaise wash

Slathering the eggplant into the herb mayonnaise wash

Step 1:  Prepare the “Wash”  In a wide cereal bowl, whisk together with a fork:

  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. milk (cow, goat or soy)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To this mixture, stir in:

  • 1/2 to 1 cup freshly chopped basil (or a combination of basil, parsley, thyme and oregano, with basil being the predominant herb)

Step 2:  Prepare the Breadcrumbs  On a dinner plate, spread

Slicing the eggplant 1/2" thick

Slicing the eggplant 1/2" thick

Step 3:  Prepare the Eggplant  Slice:

  • 2 small eggplant or 1 medium eggplant into 1/2″ rounds

Step 4:  Bread the Eggplant   Lightly oil a cookie sheet with olive oil.  Using your hands, slather each eggplant slice with the mayonnaise wash, then lay each side in crumbs, lightly patting crumbs so they stick into the wash.  Lay on oiled cookie sheet.

Step 5:  Bake  Place cookie sheet in oven and bake eggplant about 5-10 minutes, until slices are lightly browned and tender when stuck with a fork.  Remove slices to a serving platter.  While eggplant bakes, prepare Tomato Topping. 

Step 6 Prepare Quick-Cook Tomato Topping

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lrg. onion (preferably sweet) diced to ¼”
  • 4-6 med. cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)

Bake eggplant until lightly browned and tender when stuck with a fork

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until lightly browned.  Add garlic and pepper flakes and saute another couple minutes, then stir in the following:

  • 2 cups vine-ripe, farmers market tomatoes cut into ½ -1” dice (or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bring to a simmer and cook just 5 minutes until tomatoes just begin to soften.  Remove from heat promptly and stir in:

  • ½ cup fresh, chopped basil (or the same mixture of herbs used in mayonnaise wash)

Step 7:  Assemble and Serve  Top each baked eggplant slice with a spoonful of tomato topping and serve immediately with:

  • Freshly grated Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese (optional garnish)

How to Make Healthy, Whole Grain Breadcrumbs

Transform throw away crusts into kitchen gold

The previous post talked about “breading,” an easy building block cooking technique used to create dozens of different, interesting dishes.  Get ready to start experimenting with this technique by making your own breadcrumbs.  Save money by using up old crusts and stale bread that would otherwise go to waste.  Help the environment by keeping food out of  landfills, where it produces methane, a far worse contributor to global warming than carbon emissions.

Out of the Breadbox Bread

Good News for Gluten Free Eaters: Enjoy breaded dishes by making crumbs from your favorite GF bread, like Out of the Breadbox, at Vitamin Cottage.

Start with Whole Not Half  Healthy breadcrumbs can only come from healthy bread, and that means bread made from 100% whole grains, like whole wheat, oats, brown rice and millet.  In the ingredient listing for a bread, the single word “wheat” is code for “white flour.”  Skip that brand and look for one made entirely from whole grains.  Whole grains are so delicious and nutrition rich; why waste money on breads made with half grains, especially when it’s the halves with all the calories and few of the nutrients that go with them!

Gluten Free  Good news for gluten free eaters:  You can use gluten free bread for crumbs.  Be sure it’s whole grain, like Food for Life’s Millet Bread which makes really flavorful crumbs.

Using Food Processor to Make Crumbs

Act Ahead: Whenver you end up with a couple crusts or stale slices, toss them in the food processor and give them a whir.

Act Ahead  Don’t wait until preparing a breaded dish to make the breadcrumbs.  Then you’ll be saddled with the extra step of a  toasting them in the oven to dry.  Instead, weave the process into your normal kitchen routine.  Here’s an example:

  1. Whenever you end up with a crust or two, simply toss them in the food processor.
  2. Process the crumbs when, e.g., you’re next unloading the dishwasher.  Push the button and unload the glasses.  Once the bread has been transformed into crumbs, dump them on a plate.  Put the plate on top of, e.g, the microwave.
  3. Give the crumbs a stir or two over the next couple days to make sure the bottom ones get exposed to air.
  4. Then, while heating something in the microwave, pour the dried crumbs (make sure they are completely dry)  into a storage container; put the plate in the dishwasher.
Large Breadcrumbs

Large crumbs are great for gratin toppings, meatballs and so on. . .

Now you’ve got large crumbs to use for gratin toppings, in meatloaf and meatballs, etc.  To use crumbs for breading, I recommend one additional step:

The Fine Grind  Breading works best when the crumbs are very fine.  They do a better job of sticking to the food and creating an even, solid coating.  That’s why flour and cornmeal are such good breading ingredients.  Breadcrumbs can be made into a perfect breading ingredient by simply running them through the food processor again, after they are dried the first time.  I wait and do this when I’m making a dish, and only fine grind as much as I need, leaving larger crumbs for other uses.

Small Breadcrumbs

. . . but for breading, process again after they are dried for a small, fine crumb

No Food Processor?  An immersion blender with a chopper attachment is a good, and much less expensive, alternative.  If that option isn’t available, there’s always a rolling pin.  In the days before all our specialized electric appliances, we broke crusts into large pieces, dried them and then crushed with a rolling pin.  Putting them inside paper or plastic bags minimized the mess.

Ready to do experiment with breading?  Check out the next post on Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping,  which makes use of plentiful late summer and early autumn produce.

How to Bread Fish, Meat and Vegetables

One building block cooking technique, dozens of dishes

Here at EveryDay Good Eating, we like to take the mystery out of cooking.  We believe everyone can make–and deserves to enjoy–deliciously healthful food, everyday.  That’s why we teach basic, building block cooking techniques that can be mixed and matched to create a wide range of dishes.  Breading is a perfect example.  It’s an easy and inexpensive technique that can be applied to lots of different foods to create dozens of different dishes.

Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping

Breading eggplant adds fast elegance to this somewhat bland vegetable, creating a perfect palette for a fresh tomato topping

Why We Love Breading  Who doesn’t end up with bread crusts that no one wants?  Turn them into breadcrumbs and they won’t end up creating environmental havoc in a landfill.*  Meanwhile, you’ll save grocery dollars and end up with a form of kitchen gold.  Coat an ordinary food with breadcrumbs and suddenly it gets a welcome flavor boost and becomes something special, especially beneficial for blander foods like eggplant and zucchini.  Breading also helps retain moisture for delicate foods like fish and chicken breasts that dry out  easily when cooked.

Basic Breading Technique 

  1. Dipping Eggplant in a Wash

    Step 1: Dip the food in a "wash," here a mixture of olive oil, milk, mayonnaise and fresh herbs

    Dip a food in some kind of “wash,” like egg or milk

  2. Coat it with breadcrumbs
  3. Fry or bake until the breading browns and crisp.

Those are the basic elements of breading, although you’ll see dozens of variations in recipes.  Sometimes, sturdier and moister foods (like chicken breasts) aren’t dipped in a wash at all, or foods are dipped in flour before the wash.  The liquids used for a wash can vary from recipe to recipe.  Finally, delightful variety can be achieved by including herbs, spices and other flavors with the breadcrumbs or by swapping the crumbs for different flours, cornmeal, crushed corn flakes or cracker crumbs.

Dipping Eggplant in Whoel Grain Breadcrumbs

Step 2: Coat the slices in finely ground breadcrumbs. Here we used whole grain, gluten free crrumbs.

Making It Healthy  Breaded foods are often equated to unhealthy foods.  Think chicken nuggets, fish n’ chips and eggplant parmigiana style.  These  foods are coated thickly with white breadcrumbs then thrown in a deep frier where they absorb ungodly amounts of bad fats.   Don’t let these examples dissuade you from experimenting with this easy and delicious technique.

  • Simply use a 100% whole grain breading, whether that’s breadcrumbs, flour, cracker crumbs, etc.  While whole grain breadcrumbs can be difficult to find at grocery stores, they are easy (and free) to make.  Check out this blog on making breadcrumbs, paying particular attention to the note on giving them a second “Fine Grind” after they are dried.
  • Fry in healthful oils, like olive and safflower.
  • Use moderate amounts of oil.  Surprisingly, browning can be achieved nicely with just a tablespoon of oil.  Be sure the oil is very warm to hot (but not smoking) before adding the food so it isn’t just absorbed by the breading.  Although the second side will brown well enough in the skim of oil remaining after the first side is browned, additional oil can be added to brown the second side more thoroughly.  In this case, remove the food after browning the first side, scrape out any remaining bits so they don’t burn, add another tablespoon of oil and heat before adding the food on its second side.
  • Preparing Breaded Eggplant for Baking

    Step 3: Fry or bake. Here the eggplant is baked, but because of the oil in the wash, there was no need to spray slices with additional oil to get a nicely browned crust.

    Bake as an alternative to frying.  The hot air circulating in an oven does a great job of browning and crisping breaded food, if the weather isn’t too hot for turning on this appliance.  Best results are achieved by spraying the food with a little oil before baking.

Ready to try a breaded dish? First, find out how to make your own free, healthful, whole grains crumbs.  Next, check out the post on Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping,  which makes use of plentiful late summer and early autumn produce.

* Food waste produces methane gas which contributes far more to global warming than even carbon emissions.

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