Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe: Gluten-free, Vegetarian

I'm going to classify my Eggplant Parmesan (Eggplant Parmigiano) Recipe as kind of traditional and sort of easy. Here are the ways that I make this fairly labor-intensive dish easier:

1) I don't salt or otherwise prep the eggplant in any way. I just buy a fresh, firm-fleshed one and slice it just before battering.
2) I don't use bread crumbs; I just use flour. I was surprised to learn that this is how Italians do it.
3) I use jarred tomato sauce. Classico is my favorite. If I have frozen leftovers, I use some of my own marinara sauce.
4) I don't mix anything for the cheese filling. I just use mozzerella, usually fresh.

My former roommate who is from Naples made this for me once, and her boyfriend at the time (now her husband) also made me a gluten-free version. Both came out rather well. Paolo made his with rice flour, which was very crispy and light. For some reason I've found that gluten-free flour mixes don't work very well for deep-frying. A combination of glutinous rice flour and white rice flour gives a crispy outside and a soft, tender interior to the breading. If you don't have any glutinous rice flour, simply using white rice flour for both layers of breading works too. Chick pea (garbanzo bean) flour is the second-best thing I've tried. It has a much stronger flavor and browns nicely. I used two coats of chick pea flour for the eggplant parmesan in the photos, but here I'll give the rice option for the flour breading, which I think works best for my taste.

This is a naturally vegetarian dish. The only thing I'm changing to make it gluten-free is the type of flour I'm using to bread the eggplant. If you eat wheat, you can do two coats of all-purpose flour. For a vegan/dairy-free version, you can simply serve the fried eggplant on its own with sauce, or you can bake the casserole without cheese. It's still great!

Recipe for Eggplant Parmigiano

First prep the breading. Put in a bowl big enough to accommodate the eggplant slices one at a time:

3/4 cup glutinous rice flour 
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together in another bowl the same size:

3/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp basil (optional)

Whisk in a third bowl the same size:

2-3 eggs
a dash of salt

Set the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat in your deep fryer or in a cast-iron skillet:

Olive oil (at least enough for the eggplant to float in, about an inch)

Cut into rounds about 1/2 inch thick:

1 large eggplant

Dip the eggplant slices, one at a time, into the egg and flour mixes in this order:
glutinous rice flour,
white rice flour.

Set them aside on a tray as you go, or fry as you go if the oil is hot enough. Fry the battered slices until golden brown, about 45-60 seconds per side. Set them aside on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain as you go. Slice into 1/4 inch rounds:

8-10 oz fresh mozzarella cheese

In a large casserole pan like this one, pour out enough of your tomato sauce to just cover the bottom of the pan, about:

3/4 cup tomato sauce

Place half of the fried eggplant slices in the bottom of the casserole dish in a single layer. Put most (or all) of the mozzarella slices on the eggplant slices. Put the rest of the eggplant slices on top of the mozzarella, and top everything with the rest of the tomato sauce. If you still have mozzarella slices, you may top the dish with those. Bake it in the oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on the top:

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.

Cook the dish for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the parmesan cheese is melted and browning on top. Serve hot on top of (or next to) pasta. Bon apetito!

If you're interested in seeing another traditional Italian pasta recipe, see my Pasta Carbonara recipe. It's easy and delicious!

Need a casserole pan?  Search online at Sur La Table (affiliate).


Anonymous said...

In about two months when I have two eggplant plants (is that they way to put it?) to harvest I'm rushing back here to try this delicious looking recipe. I'm holding out for the garden variety since I'm a bit scared-ie of this veggie!
Jess at Blog Schmog

Cheryl said...

That looks so good! I'm surprised you don't have to salt the eggplant. I was always told you need to remove excess moisture. Who knew? :)

Linda said...

I've never made eggplant Parmesan. I'm not sure my family would go for the big slices of eggplant, but I think I will give it a try. It looks great.

Diane-The Whole Gang said...

Wow, that sounds good and looks good. I'm passing this one on to my vegetarian son who can eat dairy. I can't. He'll enjoy making this dish and then taking in the leftovers for work.

Gina said...

Jess - I have some eggplant growing in the garden, too. You already know where that's going to end up: in my favorite eggplant dish, Eggplant Parmesan!

Cheryl - Fresh young eggplants aren't bitter, so that's not a factor. I've heard people swear by salting for removing moisture, but I have never had a problem cooking eggplant, and I never salt. It's so much easier!

Linda - this dish is very rich and flavorful. The eggplant itself is not overwhelming. Maybe your kids will like it!

Diane - Save a few slices of the breaded eggplant for yourself (you can use chick pea flour or something else if you want) and just eat it with tomato sauce over pasta. It's vegan! With the cheese, Eggplant Parmigiano will be a really filling and satisfying vegetarian dish for your son!

Todd Brown said...

Gina made this for me the other day, and it was AMAZING. And I don't even like eggplant parm. At least, I didn't. Thanks for the dinner, and the recipe!

Amy Green said...

Great time saving tips! Sharing your shortcuts is so helpful. I love eggplant and will have to try this recipe. Sometimes I just slice it, add salt & pepper, pop it under the broiler and use it as the 'bread' for an open-faced sandwich. It is very satisfying, just like you said.

Brian said...

I'll have to try this. It looks great. I have never really cooked with eggplant. I bought one a while ago to grill but it went bad before I got around to it. See, I said I was a procrastinator.

Gina said...

Todd - You're welcome any time!

Amy - that sounds like a good sandwich! I like broiled eggplant, too. That's the ticket for making a low-calorie eggplant parmesan.

Brian - when I procrastinate on the eggplant, I regret it! It actually has a pretty narrow window for being ready. I've definitely ruined a few myself, so I would know!

l'actrice said...

I have to try this out. It just sounds so yummy and not difficult at all, Gina!

Gina said...

Iris - thanks, it's easy! I think I did all the prep work, including frying the eggplant, in about 40 minutes. Then the dish just cooks for 20 minutes. Easy!

Dana aka Gluten Free In Cleveland said...

Eggplant Parmesan is probably my favorite food of all time - and I can't say that I've had a real legitamate version of it since going GF. (I've made it debreaded, which can be really good, but it's not exactly the same.)

I like the idea of using flour - and using glutinous rice flour with regular rice flour, and I will have to try it out. Think I can use an all purpose blend instead of the reg. rice flour?

Great pictures, they're making me hungry!!

Gina said...


I have not had good luck using a flour blend. The glutinous rice/white rice flour combo is the best that I've come up with for deep frying in general. For some reason the blends I've tried have had a component that didn't do well fried. Thanks for reading and good luck! Eggpland Parmesan is one of my absolute favorites as well. I hope my recipe helps!

Cinde said...

Hi Gina,

I finally made your eggplant parmesan recipe and it ROCKED! I am a cheese fanatic so I did add quite a bit more cheese than the recipe called for. :) It was the best eggplant parmesan I have ever had, gluten free or otherwise. May I post the recipe on my Gluten Free Taste of Home website and link it back to you?

Gina said...

Cinde, You may absolutely post this recipe on your blog. The amount of cheese always varies according to my mood;) If you link back I'd love it! I bought some of the ingredients to make your cake doughnuts but I haven't gotten my friend with a fryer to coordinate yet.

Cinde said...

Great, thanks Gina!

Let me know how you and your friend like the donuts.

Tammy said...

I just made this and oh my was it good! I opted to bake rather than fry. I simply drizzled the finished rounds with some evoo and baked at 400 until they browned. They baked up beautifully and stayed crisp on the outside. Thanks for the recipe!

Gina Kelley said...

Tammy - Thanks for the comment! I've often wondered if I could just bake these guys. Now I know how!