For a good while now, I have been a rude host: I have neglected to introduce you, my dear readers, to the hostess of Mike’s Table. My partner in crime and someone who is as happy to be in the kitchen as I: Stephanie.
She is a truly lovely woman and both Ramya and I are blessed to have her in our lives. She was happy to ghostwrite, but I’d much rather she share the spotlight, so without further ado…onto the food, but this meal, brought to you by Stephanie (eaten by myself):
Although it’s been a couple years now, I remember how intimidating it was to cook for Mike in the beginning. Fully aware of his notoriety as a famous food blogger, I wouldn’t dare use one of his own recipes for fear that I might screw it up. So, every week I would scour the internet, read through all my cookbooks, and even search bookstores for ideas that would impress him without looking like I was trying. I specifically wanted to make meals for Mike that he hadn’t tried. For example, being Polish, I thought it would be fun to make paczkis.
One recipe that caught Mike off guard was a particularly fun dinner originally called “Inside Out Eggplant Parmigiana”. You take all the pieces of eggplant parmigiana but stack them high for the perfect combination of fresh, savory taste and elegant plating (an obvious must-have for a food blogger). Because I first made this as a vegetarian dish that highlighted the best of summer gardens, I made a believer in Mike that eggplant CAN be delicious! We recently made the meat lover’s recipe below; even three-year-old Ramya loves this and fondly calls the stacks “castles”. And so, I offer to you one of my favorite summer dinners – one that’s not only fun and delicious but also helped me to impress the infamous Mike’s Table and his daughter!
The recipe below will make about 8 servings and was inspired by this one from epicurious.
- Tomato Sauce
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
- 3-4 lbs tomatoes, chopped
- 1-2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- a handful of finely chopped basil
- “Bread” Patties
- 3 (1-pound each) eggplants
- olive oil for frying
- 1.5 cups plain dry bread crumbs
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 6-8 garlic cloves, minced, divided
- 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup water
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- hot red-pepper flakes (to taste)
- The rest of the stack
- 1 pound arugula, coarse stems discarded, coarsely chopped
- 2 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 pounds cold fresh mozzarella, cut into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices
Make tomato sauce:
Heat up a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the sausage, sautéing until cooked through (~10 min). Add the onion and stir occasionally for about 4 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another two minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes, sugar, and salt to the saucepan. Raise to a boil and then drop to a simmer leaving partially covered. Stir occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in basil and keep warm and covered.
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in the middle position.
Cut 1/3-inch-thick rounds from widest portion of eggplants (you’ll get 8-12 rounds). Brush each sides with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt. Bake on an oiled baking sheet, flipping each piece once, until golden and tender, about 20 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and keep warm, covered. Leave oven on.
Make egg patties and sauté arugula:
Stir together bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper, then stir in eggs and water.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Drop 4 rounded 1/3 cups of egg mixture into skillet and cook, turning once, until patties are golden brown and puffed, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Do this again to make another 4 patties to make 8 patties total.
If the pan is dry, add a little more oil (not much required) to pan so that you can wilt the arugula and basil, stirring constantly. Add a small pinch of salt and remove from heat immediately.
Arrange egg patties about 2-3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Top each with approximately 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, 1 slice mozzarella, 1 eggplant slice, 2 more tablespoons tomato sauce, another eggplant slice, and arugula mixture. (You may have extra eggplant slices. If so, you can always add another eggplant layer here if you’d like.) Bake until cheese melts, about 7 minutes. Serve remaining sauce on the side.