Eggplant parm without the breading

 Eggplant parmesan has always been one of my favorite foods on this Earth. There are not too many versions I don’t love, paper-thin slices stacked high, rounds breaded and fried and baked in a casserole, even thick chunks of eggplant roasted and drizzled with sauce and cheese. My daughter inherited my love of eggplant, but really preferred the traditional version, breaded and layered with cheese and sauce. But since she has celiac disease, we had to come up with a gluten-free version. She tried making bread crumbs with Rice Chex cereal, tossing  it into a food processor until ground fine. She was not unhappy with the result, but it wasn’t quite working for me.
So I suggested that we skip the breading altogether, and just sear the eggplant quickly in a hot pan,  then layer with cheese and sauce, and, if  crunch is desired, add some gluten-free bread crumbs on top. I threw on a few basil leaves for garnish and flavor.
We both loved the result, plus, it was so much quicker and simpler than all that dipping — in egg and then bread crumbs. And, if you look at the nutritional information, so much healthier, too.

Eggplant Parmesan
 Makes 4 servings
2 medium eggplants, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or in a jar
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin rounds
Fresh basil leaves, optional
1/4 cup bread crumbs,  optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until smoking hot.
3. Place as many eggplant slices in the hot pan as will fit without crowding. Sear the eggplant for about 2 minutes on each side. Repeat with the rest of the eggplant slices.
4. Meanwhile, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a medium casserole pan.
5. Lay the eggplant slices on top of the sauce as you remove them from the stove, and lay a slice of cheese on top of each round. Top with more sauce.
6. Continue layering eggplant, cheese, and sauce.
7. Finish with a layer of cheese, and top with bread crumbs, if desired.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through, with the cheese melted on top.
— From Maureen Fitzgerald
Per serving: 326 calories, 16 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams sugar, 21 grams fat, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 950 milligrams sodium, 10 grams dietary fiber.

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