Thick rounds of eggplant with a crisp coating and meltingly tender insides make really good cutlets that you can eat Italian sandwich-style.
- 1 large eggplant (about 1 3/4 pounds)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 foot-long very fresh loaf of Italian ciabatta or batard
- Walnut Pesto
For Mollie's Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 250°F. Set up a rack in a baking tray on which you can put the cooked cutlets.
- Slice off and discard the eggplant top and bottom. Use a sharp knife to cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. You should end up with 12 to 14 rounds.
- Break the eggs into a pie pan, then beat with a fork or small whisk, adding the teaspoon of water as you go. Combine the panko, Parmesan, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. Have a second dinner plate (or two) ready to hold the coated eggplant slices. Have some damp paper towels ready, as well, to wipe your hands, as needed. One at a time, dip the eggplant slices into the egg then let any excess egg drip off back into the bowl. Put each moistened round into the panko mixture, pressing it down firmly, so the crumbs will adhere. Then turn it over, and press the second side into the crumbs until it becomes completely coated all over. Shake off any extra panko mixture, then transfer each coated slice to the other plate(s).
- Place a large (10- to 12-inch) heavy skillet over medium heat and wait for about a minute. Pour in about a tablespoon of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Carefully transfer the coated eggplant slices (as many as will fit in a single layer) to the hot pan. Cook undisturbed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Use a metal spatula to carefully loosen each piece, keeping its coating intact (you don't want to lose any of this delicious stuff to the pan). Flip it over, and cook on the second side for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the coating is evenly golden all over, and the eggplant becomes fork-tender. (You might need to drizzle in additional olive oil as you go, if the pan seems dry or the coating starts to stick to the pan.) Transfer the cooked slices to the rack in the baking tray, and put the tray in the oven to keep them warm while you repeat the cooking process with the remaining slices.
- Optional: Mix a tablespoon or two of the pesto into the vinaigrette, whisking to blend.
- Slice the bread in half lengthwise, and in quarters across to prepare it for open-face sandwiches for six people. Toast it lightly, if desired, and then spread each half with a layer of pesto. Place several eggplant cutlets (whatever fits nicely – okay to cut them into half circles) on each spread slice, and then drizzle lightly with the pesto-infused vinaigrette. Serve right away.
For Mollie's Vinaigrette:
- Measure the garlic, salt, and vinegar into a small bowl or a jar with a tight fitting lid. Use a small whisk to stir until well blended. Keep whisking as you drizzle in the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will thicken as the oil becomes incorporated. Cover tightly, and refrigerate until use. Immediately before using, shake well or stir from the bottom.
- Yield: About 2/3 cup (easily multiplied), approximately 10, 1 tablespoon servings
*Nutritionals do no include Mollie's Vinaigrette