Sundancer: Because you are on tenterhooks, I'll just dash off the recipe right here before I head towards the kitchen to cook today:
Jellybeans' Eggplant Parmesan with a Twist
2.2lbs eggplants, sliced into 1/2-inch-wide rounds
Flour (for coating if you opt to fry the eggplant rounds)
Vegetable oil (3 Tbsp if you are roasting, more if you want to fry the eggplant rounds because eggplant soaks up helluva lot of oil if you fry it)
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 cups of mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
3lbs ripe tomatoes
Concentrated tomato puree
4 medium or 3 large onions (the more potent the better), peeled
1 bulb of garlic with the papery skin shucked off
Dried mixed italian herbs (or dried basil if you prefer a purer flavour)
3 or 4 dry bay leaves
2 Tbsp capers, chopped finely
Dried chilli flakes (from Asian supermarket--easier to gauge heat-levels than Mexican chilli flakes that vary in strength)
1 can pitted black olives
How I Do It:
1. Salt the eggplant rounds and leave to drain for an hour
2. In the meantime, make the tomato sauce:
a) Cut the onion into rough and large pieces, chuck 1/2 of them and 1/2 of the garlic in the food processor and whiz for a few seconds
b) Stick in the rest of the garlic and onions and whiz until they are properly diced but NOT TOO SMALL (we need the diced bits to be large enough so it doesn't melt in the cooking sauce)
c) Heat a good glug of the olive oil in the cooking pot, add the garlic-and-onion mixture and cook over moderate heat until translucent (about 5 to 8 minutes)
d) Blitz the tomatoes in the food processor into pulp in the meantime and add to the now-fragrant onion-garlic mixture.
e) Tip in the capers and if you want to add in olives, blitz the olives until they are finely chopped and tip it in now.
f) Give the now boiling sauce a good shake of the herbs, salt and pepper, chuck in the bay leaves and stir in a good 3 or 4 (or more) Tbsp of the tomato puree and stir until the mixture turns a wonderfully unctuous scarlet whereby the bits of black olives (if you have added them in) stand out in brilliant contrast.
g) Add in a shake of the chilli flakes if you want the sauce to be spicy.
h) Turn down the heat to the lowest setting and leave the sauce to simmer for about an hour while you...
3. ... turn your attention to the now-drained eggplant:
If you want to do it the traditional way:
Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels, dredge it in flour and fry over medium heat until each round is browned on each side (Warning: frying eggplant is so tempting and scrumptious that you might end up eating it before you even get to assembling the dish)...
If you are lazy and prefer a less-greasy eggplant like me:
a) Toss the eggplant rounds in olive oil until well-coated, then arrange them in a single layer on baking trays and bake them for about 20 to 30 minutes (until each side is browned) on high heat (about 200-220C)
By the time you are done frying/browning the eggplant, the sauce should be nice and thick and absolutely beautiful. Add in more salt or pepper if needed (adjusted to your taste, of course).
4. Now, preheat the oven to 180C (about 350F).
5. Grease a wide shallow baking dish or roasting tin
6. Spread a little of the tomato sauce on the bottom
7. Cover with a layer of eggplant
8. Sprinkle a few tsp of parmesan
9. Cover with a layer of mozzarella
10. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up (or the pan won't hold anymore), ending with a covering of tomato sauce and some parmesan cheese sprinkled over
11. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top and bake for about 45 minutes until it's bubbling and the top is browned.
It's not vegan but it has worked well for vegetarian friends and meat-lovers.
Happy cooking and let me know how the recipe turned out for you. I am going by British measurements and am curious to know if it translates well into American measurements. Please note that you can add more parmesan if you want. I always end up having to grate more to use in the end.
Tip: Any leftover tomato sauce is wonderful just heated up later and eaten with pasta. The spicy version with black olives is my variation of Puttanesca sauce that is usually chunkier. I just made it in a finer texture to use in my eggplant parmesan and my spicy roasted vegetable lasagne