Friday, October 9, 2009

Baked Eggplant Rounds with Tomato Salsa

Eggplants are not my favorite vegetables. I think they’re beautiful—the plump, purple plants always catch my eyes in the grocery store. I stop and admire them and just as often walk on by.  I don’t care for the mushy texture once they’re cooked. But my husband loves eggplant, so over the years I’ve looked for recipes we can both enjoy.

My dear friend Marcy turned me on to this eggplant recipe that creates crispy, crunchy rounds that sail past “yuck” straight into “yum.” We usually serve them as a side dish with fish (swordfish or salmon) but they also make great leftovers (see Tips and Tidbits for ideas) and healthy snacks. 
Baked Eggplant Rounds with Tomato Salsa

Eggplant Rounds
2 large eggplants, cut into ½-inch rounds
3 eggs, whisked
1 ½  cup flour
1 ½ cup panko crumbs (dry bread crumbs can be substituted if you can’t get panko crumbs)

Tomato Salsa
2 tbls. olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. dry red pepper
1 lb. plum tomatoes, chopped (or 1, 28 oz. can of tomatoes)
1 tbls. balsamic vinegar (stirred in at the end)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Put whisked eggs, flour and panko crumbs in three separate bowls or pans (pie or cake pans work great for dry ingredients). Take sliced eggplant rounds and coat in flour, then dip them in the egg mixture, and finally roll them in the panko crumbs until completely covered. Place the rounds on a cooking sheet. Repeat process until all the eggplant rounds are coated. Cook for 50 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

While eggplants are cooking make the tomato salsa. Sauté onions and garlic in oil over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until soft (not brown). Add tomatoes, thyme, and red pepper and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Top each eggplant round with a tbls. or more of the tomato salsa. 
Munch! Munch!

Tips and Tidbits
These rounds reheat beautifully. You can microwave them or put them in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes to get them even crispier. Take them to work for a great afternoon snack.

You can also make other meals from them including: 
Vegetarian main dish: Cook as directed and serve with pesto pasta and a salad.
Pizzettas: Top eggplant rounds with turkey pepperoni (heat for a minute in the microwave first), add a dollop of the tomato salsa, sprinkle some light mozzarella and broil for 3-5 minutes.  

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