For this month’s Recipe Redux challenge (creative cuts – fruits and vegetables) I chose to highlight one of summer’s most abundant vegetables – eggplant. The humble eggplant is among the most versatile of vegetables. It can be grilled, roasted, baked, fried, diced, stuffed, and rolled. You can put it on pasta or pizza, make a sandwich or dip with it, and use it in soups and stews. Eggplant takes center stage in a variety of classic dishes from divergent cultures such as Italian (eggplant parmesan), French (ratatouille), Mediterranean (moussaka), and Asian (stir-frys). And even as I’m writing this I know that I’m barely scratching the surface of the many uses and recipes for which eggplant is well suited. Since eggplant is so delicious and so plentiful this time of year, I’m sure no one will mind that I am adding to the unending list of uses for eggplant with this fun and festive recipe that’s perfect for summer – Crispy Oven Baked Eggplant Flowers. Flower shaped eggplant slices are dipped into a savory egg and olive oil mixture, then breaded and oven baked. The result is golden brown and deliciously crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside, pieces of eggplant that will knock your socks off!
Eggplant flesh is quite tender even when it’s raw so cutting it into flower shapes with cookie cutters is easy. I used a meat pounder to gently tap the cookie cutters into the eggplant slices but a flat-bottomed glass will work too. When shopping for this recipe look for an eggplant with a lot of girth so that the center slices of eggplant yield nice big flower shapes.
Eggplant is like a sponge and will readily absorb oil, resulting in dense and greasy eggplant. So, if you’re frying it, or dredging it in an olive oil mixture like this recipe calls for, it’s important to salt it prior to cooking. This will reduce its ability to absorb oil. After you’ve stamped out all the eggplant flowers place them on paper towel lined baking sheets, lightly sprinkle them on both sides with salt, and let them sit for 20 minutes, flipping them over after 10 minutes.
Bonus! You can use this recipe to make healthier eggplant parmesan. Most recipes for eggplant parmesan call for a three-step breading process and require that you pan-fry the eggplant. Ugh! So much work and sooo messy, not to mention the extra fat and calories. For a really easy eggplant parmesan dish just adapt this recipe. Instead of cutting the eggplant into flower shapes, leave the slices as is and continue with the recipe. Then, after the eggplant is baked, pour some marinara in a casserole dish and arrange the crispy eggplant slices in one layer on top of the marinara. Top each with a slice of fresh mozzarella and bake for 10 minutes or until the mozzarella is nicely melted and the marinara is warmed through. Sprinkle some fresh chopped basil on top before serving.
These Crispy Oven Baked Eggplant Flowers would be great as a party appetizer when served with Basil Avocado Yogurt Sauce. Heart shapes at Valentine’s Day or Christmas Trees during the holidays would also fun.
This is my first Recipe Redux challenge and I had so much fun developing this recipe for Crispy Oven Baked Eggplant Flowers! I’m thrilled to be part of the Recipe Redux family – a group with so many registered dietitians and talented bloggers who share my passion for healthy food. I look forward to getting to know you all!
- 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (Japanese style breadcrumbs)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling on the eggplant
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 large globe eggplant, about 1½ to 1¾ lbs., cut crosswise into ¾ inch thick slices
- 6 grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), halved
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two half sheet pans with a double layer of paper towels.
- Using flower shaped cookie cutters (2 and 2¾ inches in diameter) stamp out flower shapes from the center of each eggplant slice, avoiding the skin if possible. For the center cut-out on each eggplant flower use a small round cookie cutter, 1 inch in diameter, and/or the underside of a standard size pastry tip.
- Lay the eggplant flowers on the paper towel lined pans and lightly sprinkle both sides with salt. Let them sit for 10 minutes and then turn all the pieces over and let sit for another 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place two pie plates or other large shallow dishes side-by-side. In one combine the olive oil, egg, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. In the other combine the parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs.
- Transfer the eggplant flowers to a plate and blot away any excess moisture on the surface, Discard the paper towels on the half sheet pans and replace with parchment paper.
- One by one, dip the eggplant flowers into the olive oil/egg mixture, coating both sides. Next place the eggplant flowers in the panko/parmesan and coat them completely with the mixture. (Tip - spoon the panko/parmesan over the eggplant pieces and use the back of the spoon to press the mixture firmly into each flower.) Shake off excess panko/parmesan and place on the baking sheets.
- Spray each eggplant flower with olive oil cooking spray. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 25 minutes until golden and crispy. Place a halved grape tomato in the center of each eggplant flower. Serve with marinara or Basil Avocado Yogurt Sauce.
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