You guys, I’m getting really giddy just writing about this.
It’s finally cold (aka under 70 degrees F) here in Los Angeles, which means…
I can use my oven!!
HELLO roasted chickens, braised pork butt, a zillion casseroles, lasagnas, enchiladas, BREAD & other baked goods.
I can hardly contain my excitement.
To celebrate, I made a classic:
*Cue singing* “Eggplant Parm you taste so good.”
And I have to say, it’s pretty drool-worthy.
Lots of gooey, bubbly cheese, rich marinara sauce, and tender slices of breaded eggplant.
It’s a great change-up from regular lasagna.
It sits a little lighter on the stomach as well, since you’re layering vegetables, rather than pasta.
This recipe is a little labor intensive, so it’s perfect for a long rainy weekend, or family dinner night.
You can get the whole family involved by setting up an assembly line! One person dredges the eggplant slices in flour, one dips them in an egg bath, the next coats them with panko, and the last person pan fries them to golden perfection. If you have younger kids, they can help with the assembly by sprinkling cheese or basil on each layer as it comes together. Working as a family speeds up the entire process & gets everyone super excited to try the finished dish. Yep, eggplant and all!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 45 mins
- 2 lbs eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 2 large)
- Kosher salt, for seasoning
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- Splash of milk or cream
- 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil, divided
- 2 (25 oz ) jars of your favorite marinara sauce
- 2 lbs freshly shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
- 1 (15 oz) can black olives, sliced (kalamata olives work well too)
Start by laying the eggplant slices out on paper towels. Sprinkle them liberally with kosher salt, and let them sit for at least 1 hour to help draw out excess moisture & reduce the bitterness of the eggplant. If you watch closely, you’ll see little beads of moisture leaching out from the eggplant while it sits. (Hooray powers of osmosis!)
Once the eggplant has been sitting for at least 1 hour, use a paper towel to dab off the excess water and salt & set the eggplant aside while you prep for assembly.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Set out one 9×13 baking dish, or two smaller 8×8 baking dishes.
Place the all purpose flour on a shallow plate and set aside.
Crack the 4 eggs into a medium bowl, add a splash of milk or cream, and beat with a fork or whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Place the panko on a large plate or dish, and add the dried oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese. Use your fingers to toss until evenly combined. Set aside.
Now get ready to dredge the eggplant! Have a large plate or platter ready to set the coated eggplant slices on before frying (you will have to work in batches unless you have a lot of helpers).
Start by placing the eggplant on the plate of flour & turning it over to evenly coat all sides. Next, dip & completely submerge the flour-coated eggplant slice in the bowl of beaten eggs. Pull it out of the egg mixture & let the excess egg drip back into the bowl. Place the eggplant slice on the plate of seasoned panko, and turn to coat evenly on all sides. Use your hands to pat the panko onto the eggplant as needed.
Place the panko-coated eggplant on a large plate or platter, and continue until you have coated enough of the eggplant slices to pan-fry one single-layer batch.
Add a few glugs of grapeseed oil to a large nonstick skillet. You want enough to coat the entire pan & leave about 1/4 inch of oil for pan-frying. Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering (resist the urge to add the eggplant before the oil is very hot, or else it will absorb the oil & become a soggy mess).
When the oil is hot, add the eggplant in a single layer. Pan fry for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the panko is nice and golden on each side. Remove from the pan & place on a paper towel lined tray.
Repeat this entire process until all of the eggplant slices have been coated and pan fried. I recommend wiping out the skillet between batches & using a new pour of oil to prevent bits of burnt panko from sticking to the eggplant slices.
Coat the bottom of your baking dish or dishes with a thin layer of marinara sauce. Add one layer of fried eggplant slices, coat liberally with about 1/3rd of the mozzarella cheese & parmesan, 1/2 of the fresh julienned basil, and 1/2 of the sliced olives. Coat again with marinara sauce & repeat one more time (eggplant + cheese + basil + olives + sauce). Next, lay the third and final layer of eggplant slices down & coat simply with marinara & cheese.
Place in the oven & bake for about 40 minutes, until the cheese is gooey & slightly browned, and the sauce is bubbling. If yours hasn’t browned to your liking, you can place it under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nicely browned top.
Remove from the oven & let rest for a few minutes. Slice & serve with a fresh salad or easy green vegetable side. (I served it with steamed green beans drizzled with high quality olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and flaky maldon sea salt).
Do you ever feel overwhelmed about cooking dinner?
I know I do sometimes.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that meals need to be complicated or follow a detailed recipe.
But they don’t! Weeknight dinners are best when they are easy, off the cuff, and use fresh wholesome ingredients.
I’ve recently been obsessed with serving things on a bed of spinach.
It’s so easy, refreshing, and quick!
Toss some spinach in a simple olive oil & vinegar dressing, and then top it with your favorite protein.
You can take this in so many different directions- asian with tofu & sesame oil, mediterranean with fish topped with feta, olives, & basil, Indian with curried chickpeas & paneer, & on and on!
This version is middle-eastern inspired, with sumac & tahini.
Sumac is a delicious middle eastern spice. It made by grinding the dried berries of the sumac bush into a course powder. It has a delicious tangy lemon flavor, and a vibrant red color. Just smelling it makes my mouth water! It’s a great way to add a vinegary tart flavor to dishes using a spice, rather than a liquid like lemon juice or vinegar.
Tahini is another awesome middle eastern treat. It’s similar to peanut butter, except it is made by grinding sesame seeds. It has a nutty rich flavor that pairs perfectly with the sumac.
You might not be able to find sumac at your local grocery store, but it can be purchased online or found in middle eastern grocery stores. Tahini is typically available in the ethnic section of grocery stores, but if you still can’t find it, you can also purchase it online.
Try making this delicious & simple meal this week.
It’s super satisfying, yet leaves you feeling light & nourished, rather than bogged down & over loaded by your meal.
This is a classic recipe to always keep in your back pocket & riff on forever.
Crispy Sumac Chicken with Lemon Tahini Sauce
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time40 mins
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 medium shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup warm water, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground salt & pepper to taste
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (~6 oz each)
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground sumac (use lemon zest as a substitute if you need to)
- 1-2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
- 16 oz raw baby spinach
- Drizzle of apple cider vinegar
In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, shallot, & 1/4 cup warm water. Add more water as needed to get the sauce to have the thickness of creamy salad dressing. Season with a few twists of freshly ground salt & black pepper. Set aside.
Line a large cutting board with plastic wrap. Place one chicken breast on the board, cover with another sheet of plastic wrap, and use a meat mallet to pound the chicken into a cutlet that has a uniform thickness of roughly 1/2 inch. (If you don't have a meat mallet, you can use the bottom of a heavy frying pan to pound the chicken). Set the pounded chicken cutlet aside on a plate and repeat for the remaining 3 chicken breasts.
Crack the egg into a medium bowl, and whisk together with the Dijon mustard and sumac. Spread the panko on a large plate.
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then, one at a time, dip them in the egg mixture to coat. One at a time, press each chicken breast onto the plate of panko to coat well on both sides. Use your hands as needed to press the panko onto the chicken to create a uniform coating.
Next, drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. You want the oil to evenly cover the pan, and provide a slight pool for the chicken to pan-fry in. Warm over medium-high heat.
When the oil is shimmering, place two of the breaded chicken cutlets in the warm skillet and cook for about 4 minutes per side, until crispy & golden. Remove from the pan & set aside. Add another splash of oil to the pan and repeat the process for the other two chicken cutlets.
Add the baby spinach to a large salad bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Toss with your hands until evenly coated with dressing.
Place 1/4 of the spinach onto each serving plate. Top each with a chicken cutlet and drizzle with 1/4 of the tahini sauce. Season with additional black pepper & enjoy!
Fall is finally arriving here in Los Angeles.
We’ve dipped down into the low 70’s, rather than the typical low 80’s, and I couldn’t be more excited!
Fall makes me crave warm, comforting dishes.
Roasted meats, creamy pastas, squash of all kinds, and freshly baked bread.
Fall is such a fabulous time!
These slow-foods can take hours to make, so I have some quick & easy comfort-food recipes up my sleeve.
This is one of them 🙂
Sunflower seed pesto pasta with shredded chicken.
I mean, chicken & pesto are always a hit!
This is a 30-minute meal everyone will love.
Simply pan cook some chicken breasts in a mixture of olive oil and butter, shred into yummy morsels, & toss with some freshly cooked pasta.
Blend together a whole bunch of fresh basil, garlic, sunflower seeds, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil for a fragrant herbaceous pesto & mix it all together.
Finish with a sprinkle of freshly grated high quality parmesan cheese & flaky maldon sea salt & eat it up!
Sunflower seeds are an awesome alternative to expensive pine nuts.
It’s not authentic, but it still tastes fab. Walnuts & almonds work here as well!
I love to balance this rich bowl of pasta with some veggies.
Pan sautéed zucchini, a simple side salad, or any other fresh produce you enjoy makes a perfect complement.
It’s a great way to round out the meal & fill up with nourishing veggies.
- Basil is an amazing natural antibacterial. It contains a variety of natural oils that kill pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria, and S. aureus, which are common causes of food poisoning. Some researchers/anthropologists believe that humans began cooking with herbs and spices because of their antimicrobial properties. Since they helped us stay well, we developed a taste preference for them and continued to work them into our local cuisines.
Sunflower Seed Pesto Chicken
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Freshly cracked salt & black pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 lb dried spaghetti pasta
- 2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Flaky Maldon sea salt, for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with salt & pepper. Add the butter & olive oil to a medium skillet over medium-high heat until the butter is melted. Swirl the pan to coat evenly and add the chicken breasts. Cook 6-8 minutes on each side, until the outside of the breasts are golden and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate, and let cool.
As the chicken cools, add the spaghetti to the pot of boiling water & cook according to package directions.
While the pasta cooks, make the pesto. Place the basil, parmesan cheese, sunflower seeds, garlic, olive oil, salt, & pepper in a small food processor. Blend until smooth.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain & place in a large serving bowl. Shred the chicken breasts into bite sized strips and add to the bowl with the pasta. Pour the pesto over top & mix well by tossing with 2 large forks.
Plate each individual serving, sprinkle with extra cheese, fresh cracked pepper, and flaky maldon sea salt. Enjoy with a nice side salad.