Crispy Baked Eggplant with Florentine Meatballs

Made the baked eggplant with florentine meatballs for dinner last night.  Added a side of pasta and my homemade parmesan crisps.

Florentine Meatballs (Makes 12 meatballs)

Adapted from Rachel Ray

Ingredients

1 bag fresh baby spinach

1 pound (1 package) ground turkey breast

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

3/4 cup bread crumbs, 3 handfuls

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or oregano

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Coarse salt and black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat tablespoon of olive oil in skillet until hot; add onion and cook for three minutes, then add garlic and stir constantly for one minute or so. Add spinach and stir down until totally wilted.  Set aside to cool. Drain off any liquid.

Beat egg with a fork in small bowl. In large bowl, add breadcrumbs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, egg, turkey and cooled spinach/onion/garlic mixture.  Form into about 12 large balls.  Spray a cookie sheet, so meatballs don’t stick and place meatballs on cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and coat with olive oil spray, if you have it.  Cook 20 minutes or until cooked through.  (You can bake for a bit less time if you finish them in the heated, simmering sauce, as I like to do).

Baked Eggplant (Makes about 6 servings or 12 rounds, from small to large)

Adapted from Food Network

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 24 ounce jars of store-bought tomato sauce (I used tomato-basil; you can use homemade, too. If you aren’t serving with pasta and meatballs, you could use 1 jar)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips

1 medium-large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds

1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I used gluten free)

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs (I used gluten-free)

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced (I used shredded, as that was what I had)

1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan (reserve some for sprinkling eggplant before serving)

salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place lightly salted eggplant rounds between two cutting boards and weigh down with books to let the eggplant weep.  After one hour, dry eggplant with a  paper towel. (The original recipe skips this step, but I was always taught to do this to make sure the eggplant isn’t bitter!)

Heat an 18-by-13-inch sheet pan in the oven for at least 10 minutes while you bread the eggplant. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the breadcrumbs, red pepper flakes (if using), Italian seasoning or oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Line up 3 shallow dishes; fill one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one with the breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt and pepper. Dredge an eggplant slice in the flour (tapping off excess), then dip in the egg, and finally dredge it in the breadcrumbs. Check both sides to be sure the breadcrumbs are sticking to the eggplant. (I laid out a sheet of wax paper and placed the breaded pieces of eggplant in a single layer, until all were complete).

When all the eggplant slices are breaded, carefully remove the heated sheet pan from the oven and brush it with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the eggplant on the sheet pan in a single layer. Bake until the undersides are crisp and browned, 8 to 10 minutes, then flip the slices and continue baking until they are golden on the second side, 8 to 10 minutes more.  While eggplant is baking, heat tomato sauce in saucepan; you’ll need a lid later if you are finishing the Florentine meatballs in the simmering sauce. Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees. (Get your water boiling if you are going to serve with pasta).

Top the baked eggplant with a ladle of the tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Return the pan to the oven and bake, rotating halfway through, until the cheese melts and browns and the sauce is bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.  Watch the time here; they can get done sooner. Serve with florentine meatballs and a side of pasta.  Ladle remaining sauce over pasta, meatballs and eggplant. Top with torn basil and additional shredded parmesan before serving.

Tips:  I do not cook all of the meatballs when it’s just Roy and me.  I freeze them uncooked, dated and marked in a freezer bag to have for another dinner.  Once defrosted, I cook them up and they taste as good as freshly made. Twelve meatballs provide several dinners for us, paired with pasta. (Always toss any freezer bag that has held uncooked poultry meat.) I also froze enough of the baked eggplant rounds for another meal; we will see how they heat up.

2018-03-14T20:40:53+00:00 March 15th, 2017|Recipes|0 Comments

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