Every year I plant a few new plants to test them out. One part of the test is to see how they grow and produce. The second part of the test is to see how they taste and whether we can make good use of the product. A number of plants have been abandoned over the years for issues with either of these. For example, we tried growing strawberries and blueberries (you had to see that coming if you know how much time I spent in Maine) and both failed to grow, as did asparagus. This year I decided not to grow one of the peppers I grew the last couple of years, not because it did not grow well or taste well, but because I could not find a compelling enough use for them. The “holes” left in the garden from removing these plants are where I try new varieties. Last year’s star new variety was Japanese eggplant.
The eggplant variety I grow is named Orient Express. They are long and thin. They cook fast and easy, no salting or frying required, and the skins are tender enough that no peeling is necessary. The primary reason I started growing eggplant was to make cabonatina. Make it we did and it tasted great. With successful growing comes the inevitable issue of excess production. We tried all kinds of recipes. Now that the eggplant are ripening again, I have been refining what I started last year. As you can tell, patience is a key component.
Last year, using traditional methods, I fried the eggplant rounds after dredging in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs, all gluten-free. That took a lot of time and added a lot of oil and bread crumbs, two things I don’t need more of in my diet. So, this year I tried baking the eggplant rounds without frying them, then making as usual. It was a very tasty success. The sausage I used was homemade spicy Italian sausage (that is not on the blog yet). I realize most people are not as obsessive as I get, so use whatever Italian sausage, spicy or not, that you prefer. I also usually make this and most recipes on a two-oven Aga. If using an Aga, I did all this in the upper oven. I also usually eat them as an appetizer, but they could easily be substantial enough for dinner.
Baked Eggplant Parmesan Bites
- 1 Japanese Eggplant (or more depending upon your needs)
- 1/4 Cup Marinara Sauce
- 1/2 Pound Italian Sausage, spicy or mild
- 10 Fresh basil Leaves, sliced thin
- 2 Pieces Provolone Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds, or lengthwise. Spray a cookie sheet with oil. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer. Cook for about 8 minutes, until just cooked through. You can do this step ahead of time and refrigerate until needed.
Cook sausage until cooked through and a bit crispy. I do this in the upper oven also.
Put a small amount of marinara sauce on each piece of eggplant. Don’t use too much. Put a small amount of sausage on top. Put a few slices of basil on top of the sausage. Top with a piece of provolone cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake about 8 – 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and browned. You can also broil on Hi for about 3 minutes.