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).