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Eggplant Parmesan - total time 1 hour


The first time I gave up meat for Lent, I thought it was going to be difficult to find enough recipes to keep from getting bored.  That part ended up being pretty easy.  It was eating at restaurants that ended up being complicated.  If there were any vegetarian options, it was usually limited to something super cheesy and probably pretty unhealthy, which seems like an oxymoron... unhealthy vegetarian.  Most menus (at the time) didn't have vegetarian selections, so I would ask the waitress for something without meat.. and they would always give me a blank stare and then ask me if I wanted a different kind of meat instead.

Now when I go out to eat at restaurants, I notice there are more vegetarian sections in the menus... and they usually have more than one item listed... and some of them are actually healthy and not loaded with cheese.  I'm not sure if I am just noticing it more frequently now because I am looking for it more often, the restaurants I go to now are more likely to have vegetarian, or if it really is a trend (probably helped by Meatless Mondays).

So back to that first time going meatless...  We were welcoming a new associate to our team and went to this family run Italian restaurant.  It was a Friday during Lent and the only vegetarian item on the menu was eggplant parmesan.  Nearly everyone at our table ended up with this dish.  It made me wonder if everyone really liked eggplant parmesan or if there had been other meatless dishes would there have been more variety at our table.  And really, why weren't their more vegetarian options at an Italian restaurant?!  There are so many to choose from... baked raviolitortelini soupgnocchibaked broccoli alfredomanicotti... just to name a few.

I haven't had eggplant parmesan since that day, not because I don't like it, actually I do really like it.  There are just so many recipes out there!  So, with it being eggplant season, I decided to make this vegetarian Italian classic.

1 eggplant
1 cup milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup fresh mozzarella
.25 cup parm, shredded
3 tbsp butter
2 cups tomato sauce
salt and pepper

1.  Cut eggplant into half inch thick slices.  Salt and lay on paper towel for about 20 minutes, blotting away moisture every five minutes.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine bread crumbs, salt, and pepper.  Dip eggplant slices into milk and then coat in bread crumbs.
3.  Melt butter in pan over medium heat.  Pan fry bread crumb covered eggplant slices.
4.  Cover casserole dish in tomato sauce.  Place pan fried eggplant in casserole dish.  Top with mozzarella and then with parm.
5.  Bake for 20 minutes then broil for two minutes or until cheese is slightly browned and bubbly.  Let rest for a few minutes and serve.

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