I had grand visions of a beautifully elegant birthday dinner party (like the one in Julie and Julia where she has candles and flowers and a “table-scape” that would put Sandra Lee to shame). While I did send out a cute invitation, and I did have my party dress on; I did not however have candles, the table wasn’t set, and I was no where near ready when people showed up…but I didn’t really care :)
I was having fun rockin’ out in the kitchen in my twirly dress and apron, and all of my wonderful friends were more than happy to help put together the final assembly on the appetizers and pour me a glass of wine. They really know me!
The best part about the fabulous dinner party…besides the food and wine? It definitely made me love my friends even more. I’ve been living in DC for a year now, and it’s been amazing. I love this city for all of the adventures and people it has presented. This instantly became one of my favorite quotes,
“We fall in love with places for the same reasons we fall in love with people. They become part of us forever.” – Laurie Anderson
Now on the 8th place I call home, this quote truly resonates with me :) Here’s to many more wonderful people and places!
Now for the dinner party break-down!
We started with:
~Phyllo dough pockets of caramelized onions and gruyere (thanks Liz!)
~Stuffed mushrooms (thanks Meg!)
~Roasted tomato caprese stacks…DE-VIIIIIIINE. (Recipe coming soon!)
For the dinner, we had:
~A simple arugula salad and some nice crusty bread
~The Ultimate Eggplant Parmigiana
For dessert, the lovely Caitlyn made:
~Tirimisu birthday cake (two cakes…spoiled, I know :)
To make the eggplant extra over-the-top, the eggplant is first breaded in panko and pan-fried to make it super crispy. **Taste-test the eggplant – you gotta make sure it’s just right ;) The official term is “batch control,” but when it comes to me it’s simply, “I love eggplant so much, and I just can’t help maself!” You layer the eggplant gems with mozzarella and parmesan, home-made tomato sauce, and fresh basil. Top the whole thing off with more cheese and brown it in the oven.
Here’s what I did:
The Ultimate Eggplant Parmigiana
*Adapted from Michael Natkin’s Herbivoracious
Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish and preheat the oven to 400.
Peel and slice lengthwise (about ½ an inch thick):
-3 large or 5 small globe eggplants
Layer the eggplant in a colander, sprinkling a heavy amount of salt over each layer to draw out and drain any liquid from the eggplant (so our eggplant parm isn’t soggy). Top with a cast iron pot or a plate with cans on top to weigh it down. Let sit for about 30 minutes.
While the eggplant is draining, prepare the tomato sauce. Sauté for about 10 minutes on medium heat:
-1/2 an onion, finely diced
-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Once that is a nice golden brown, add:
-1 large can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
-1 large can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
-A splash of good red wine to the sauce (I used a cabernet)
(You can just use one type of tomato, but I like the flavor that each kind contributes to the sauce.)
No need to add salt because the eggplant will have some salt left from the draining process. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes, and keep it warm until you’re ready to layer it in the dish.
Heat ¼ inch of vegetable oil in a large pan, and set up a station for dredging your eggplant. You’ll add more as you go, but to start, you’ll need:
-A plate with about ½ c. all purpose flour (you’ll probably end up using 1 c.)
-A shallow bowl with 4 beaten eggs
-A plate with 1 c. panko bread crumbs (you’ll probably end up using 3 c.)
First wipe away any excess salt off of the eggplant. Press the eggplant into the flour; shake off the excess. Dip the eggplant in the egg. Press the eggplant into the panko, and then fry each eggplant in the hot skillet for about 3 minutes per side until they’re golden brown. (They should be cooked – the oven time is mainly to melt the cheese.) Transfer the eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil. Repeat until all the eggplant is cooked.
Slice/grate/chop, and set aside:
-about 12 oz. thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
-about 12 oz. freshly grated parmesan
-2 big handfuls of basil, chopped
To assemble, start with a layer of eggplant on the bottom of your prepared dish. Spoon enough tomato sauce on top to cover the eggplant. Sprinkle with a handful of each of the cheeses and some basil. Continue layering until you’ve used all of the ingredients, but make sure you end with a layer of cheese!
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned.
To serve, mix together and top a slice of the eggplant with a spoonful of:
-1 ½ c. vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
-1 handful of fresh basil, chopped
-Salt and pepper
-1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Enjoy! You really earned it!!!
*French phrase for fun
Quelle cata! Où sont vos perles?!
What a catastrophe! Where are your pearls?!