Can you say absolutely delicious? That is exactly how to describe this dish! You must try it.
Now Baby Lady loves Lidia’s Bastianich. She loves her cookbooks, her cooking show and her flagship restaurant, Felidia. When her TV show is on, we faithfully watch. Her show had not been on PBS for a while but returned the beginning of January. It was while we were watching Lidia’s Italy in America that she made this dish. It looked and sounded very intriguing. First, it’s baked, not fried. Second, it includes zucchini and eggplant. Now I love eggplant parmesan. It’s one of my favorite dishes. It is a versatile dish that reheats great as a left over. We don’t cook it because we don’t fry a lot of foods and traditional eggplant parmesan uses fried eggplant paddles. I’m also not overly fond of baking crusted dishes as a substitute for frying. Nevertheless, the manner in which she made the crust was different and piqued my curiosity. We had to give it a try so we did, with our modifications, of course. The net out was this unbelievably delicious meal. You have no excuse not to try this dish. You will like it. You must be warned, however, that this is not a quick meal so I would definitely reserve this for a weekend project to feed the family or entertain friends.
For the crust
- 3 cups dry bread crumbs
- 3 cups Panko
- 5 cups grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup milk
- 1½ cups All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 1 Tbsp crushed oregano
- 1/4 cup crushed red pepper flakes
For the Parmigiana
- 2 medium-size, firm eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
- 2 medium size, firm zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 14 ounces fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
- 12 cups marinara/tomato sauce (see recipe)
- 1 pound low-moisture mozzarella, shredded
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Salt eggplants all over with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Layer in a large colander set in the sink. Lay a plate over the eggplant and weight the top with cans to help press out excess liquid. Let drain about ½ hour, then rinse and pat dry.
In a large vessel, toss together the breadcrumbs, panko, 2 cups parmesan, seasonings and olive oil. Mix together.
Set up your assembly line. Dredge the eggplant slices in flour
then the egg wash
then the breadcrumbs, pressing in the crumbs to make sure they adhere.
Lay the eggplant slices on parchment lined sheet pans, without touching.
Repeat the process with the zucchini.
Bake eggplant, rotating the sheet pans halfway through baking, until cooked through and crumbs are crisp and golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add smashed garlic and sauté until just golden, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the spinach with any water clinging to the leaves, season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt, cover and cook until wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure the bottom of the pan is not dry, adding water a tablespoon at a time if necessary. Once the spinach is wilted, uncover and cook until spinach is tender and excess water is gone, about 4 minutes.
To assemble the eggplant, spread ¾ cup of the marinara/tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. I used my roasting pan because it works.
Layer the baked eggplant, in an even layer.
Spread with enough marinara/tomato sauce to cover with a thin layer.
Sprinkle with parmesan and the shredded mozzarella.
Spread all of the spinach in one layer.
Now, add the baked zucchini.
Spread with more marinara/tomato sauce to cover.
Sprinkle with more mozzarella and parmesan.
Top with an even layer of the remaining eggplant.
Spread remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining grated Grana Padano.
Tent the baking dish with foil, so it is not touching the cheese and bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake until cheese is browned and crusty and sauce is bubbling all over, another 15 minutes.
Let cool and set 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.
Serve & enjoy!!